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Authors: Martin Greig

The Road to Lisbon

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The Road to Lisbon

 

First published in 2012 by
Birlinn Limited
West Newington House
10 Newington Road
Edinburgh
EH9 1QS

www.birlinn.co.uk

Copyright © Martin Greig & Charles McGarry

The moral right of Martin Greig & Charles McGarry to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988

All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.

ISBN: 978 1 78027 084 5
eBook ISBN: 978 0 85790 190 3

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Typeset by Iolaire Typesetting, Newtonmore
Printed and bound by Cox & Wyman, Reading

 

To Charles Anthony McGarry, 1931–2007

 
Acknowledgements

Our appreciation goes to all at Birlinn, especially Pete Burns, who bought into the idea and proved a knowledgeable and trustworthy sounding board throughout. Thanks to agent
Mark Stanton, who believed in it from the start. Hugh ‘The Mamba’ MacDonald steered us away from perils and pitfalls, as is his way.

Martin
: Huge thanks to Nicola Middleton for loving support, and George and Eileen Greig for doing what they have always done for me. To Neil White for ludicrous football
analogies and Alan Partridge-isms . . . and Graeme Broadley, who liked an early draft and fell for Delphine. To John McGeady who provided vital feedback in the early stages. Michael
Gormley’s love for the written word first inspired me as a teenager at St Thomas Aquinas Secondary in Glasgow. Without his formative influence, this book would not exist. Finally, to Charles,
an exceptional writer and friend. It was an absolute pleasure.

Charles
: I am indebted to my family, especially my mother Anne and my late father Charlie, and my dear friend Stuart Rivans, for their unstinting support and encouragement.
Thanks to my brother-in-law Bill Wright and Paul Coulter for their invaluable help with our promotional film, and to my sister Clare for helping set it up. To my Uncle Jimmy, whose kindness freed
up so much writing time. To Des Mulvey for his inspirational stories. To Mr Gormley, who once advised ‘write what you know’. To Martin for the original idea of
The Road to
Lisbon
. His determination and positivity ought to be bottled and widely distributed.

 
Contents

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Bibliography

 

Day One

Friday, May 19th 1967

Particles of dust swirl in the shaft of sunlight. Steam rises in gentle wisps from the mug in front of me. Outside, in the corridor, footsteps grow louder,
louder . . . then fade away. Silence. I look up at the board, read out the names.

Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld and Lennox.

The team. My team. My wee team. European Cup finalists. Four down, one to go. Inter Milan. Helenio Herrera. The best team in the world.

I smile to myself, but I have never felt more serious.

I can sense it, see it in their eyes. Confidence, presence, a lightness of spirit. Belief. A steady, unshakeable belief that I have nurtured but that was there already, part of
their characters. Belief greater than gallusness – built on expectations of excellence and success.

Two years in the making. Two years of searching, honing, crafting. Panning for gold. Putting the fear of God into them, physically and mentally. I think of the casualties, the ones
who wilted, who couldn’t stand the heat, the lash of my tongue. I’d get in their faces, scream, threaten, abuse.

“I’m the boss, I’m the fuckin’ boss. Can you handle that?”

I’d look right into their spittle-flecked faces, into the whites of their eyes.

“Can you fuckin’ handle it?”

Some would crack. Look at their shoelaces. Fold.

“You can’t handle me? I’m just one man. How the fuck are you gonnae handle 100,000 baying for your blood?”

Weak men. Hearts the size of peas. No good to me. No good to Celtic Football Club. Kick them aside, like garbage in the street.

Then, the ones who held your gaze. Not defiantly. Steadily. Who looked right at you. Through you. Never flinched. Then went out and proved you wrong. Went out and rammed those words
down your throat.

I needed to know, to search deep into their characters, to get inside their heads. Know what made them tick, what they could handle, whether they would be ready when the moment
came. The moment is now.

I have said it all along. Nine months now, banging the same drum. “I think this could be a season to remember.”

1966-67. The season where it all comes together. I watched for the looks on people’s faces every time I said it. Nods. Disbelieving nods.

It’s gone to his head.

Getting too big for his boots, the Big Man.

But it wasn’t swagger. For 18 months, I watched the pieces coming together. Our moment in history awaited us; this was no time for false modesty.

The signs were there. Off-field bonds there for all to see in an on-field unity. An unspoken understanding of each other’s games, controlled aggression, instinctiveness,
imagination.

A knock at the door. It is Sean Fallon. The Iron Man. My former playing comrade now my right hand. He speaks in his familiar heavy Sligo accent.

“This time next week we’ll be European champions, eh?”

“Too right, Sean.”

“That’s the boys ready, Jock. Well, Jimmy’s still in the bath. He was covered in suds and singing
The Celtic Song
when I left him.”

“Tell him if he’s not washed and dried in five minutes flat I’ll fuckin’ drag him out the front door with his trousers round his ankles in front of all those
fans.”

Celtic to the core, is Sean, solid as a rock. We have come a long way together. From the moment we met in the Parkhead dressing room in 1951 I could sense his character. With some
others I felt a coolness in the handshake, a failure to make eye contact. Not with Sean. Since he first held out his hand, nearly crushing the bones in mine, and I watched those features light up,
I knew I was dealing with someone different; someone who would look past background, age, everything; someone whose look searched for the humanity in others. A couple of years later he made me his
vice-captain. Our friendship was cemented in Ferrari’s restaurant in Sauchiehall Street, lost afternoons shuffling salt cellars around. Myself, Sean and Bertie Peacock, me talking 19 to the
dozen and the other two listening closely, only occasionally interrupting.

“You’ve got it all worked out Big Man,” Sean used to say, as the waitress rescued her salt shaker from the makeshift tactics board.

Now here we are on the edge of making history. The Press having been trying to second-guess my selection. The fans talk about little else. I give nothing away. Before I leave the
office, I will wipe the names off the board in case someone spots them. I am completely settled on my starting 11. No injuries, no dilemmas. They have only played together six times, but proved
themselves more than capable of coping with anything. It is the same 11 that clinched the title away to Rangers and the Scottish Cup against Aberdeen. Their disciplined performance in the second
leg against Dukla Prague in the semi-final was further proof that these were players capable of delivering when the pressure was at its most intense.

I look at the board, scanning the names again. The chosen few. I repeat them.

Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld and Lennox.

Silence broken again, this time by the phone.

“John, Bill here. How you feeling?”

“Prepared, Bill. We have the players, we have done the work, and the rest is down to the big man upstairs. And wee Jimmy, of course.”

“Well, at least you know you can rely on wee Jimmy,” laughs Shanks, but then his tone changes.

“John, I’ll never forget two years ago against Inter in the semis. We hammered them in the first leg. The boys were glorious that night. Poetry in motion. Hunt scored
early and Anfield exploded. Never heard anything like it, John. 3-1 it finished. We had a goal disallowed too.

“Then the second leg. Two of the worst refereeing decisions in history. They win an indirect free-kick and the boy chips it straight into the goal. The referee gives it. A
sick joke. Then Tommy Lawrence bounces the ball on the ground as he prepares to punt it upfield. Their man sneaks in, takes the ball off him and scores. I had to be held back. If I’d got my
hands on that referee I would have throttled him.

“I can see his face now, John. As I’m sitting here talking to you, I can picture his face in my mind’s eye. We could have been the first, John, but now it’s
up to you. You and your boys.”

“I hear you, Bill. I want to win this trophy for so many reasons. I want to do it in style, too.”

“Ah John, this is your moment. I can feel it. I’ll be there to cheer you on. See you after the game. With that big cup.” He laughs and rings off.

Shanks knows where I am at this moment. He knows the journey. The journey from the blackness. The darkness. Two miners taking on the world; Shankly and Stein, a friendship that has
survived no little meddling from the football gods. It is just over a year since we were denied a place in the Cup Winners’ Cup final by Shanks’ Liverpool. I close my eyes and think
back to that fateful night. 2-1 down on aggregate but then Lennox scores in the last minute at Anfield to put us through on away goals. Through to the final in Glasgow. No question in my mind that
we will win it. Hampden Park. Imagine the size of the crowd! I am hugging Sean when I glimpse it from the corner of my eye. The offside flag. An outrageous decision. Then the final whistle, the
recriminations, the bottles raining down. Anger. Disgust. I stand at the side of the park and wait for the Belgian referee, waiting to unleash my fury and desperately trying to avoid Shanks;
shunning the handshake that would feel like a dagger through the heart from an old friend.

Bill has his pain. I have mine. Football has decreed that they are intertwined. But redemption is on hand. The phoney war will soon be over.

“How do you go about breaking down the most stubborn defence in world football?” the Press ask me.

Every day the same question and every day the same answer.

“It is not all about the Italians and how they set themselves up. We have a plan, we have a way of playing, we have a philosophy.”

I leave one part out. We have Jimmy Johnstone. I close my eyes again and watch him go, driving at them time and time again. Wearing them down, crushing their spirit. The best
defenders in the world reduced to rubble by a little red-haired Scotsman. I can see the joy in his face as he attacks again and again and again, streaked in sweat, skin pinking in the Portuguese
sun.

“This is your stage, son,” I will tell him in the minutes before we leave the dressing room. “This is your destiny.”

And Jimmy will respond because the bigger the stage, the bigger Jimmy becomes. A 5ft 4in giant.

January 1965, Stein’s Hibernian reserves v Celtic reserves, Easter Road, half-time.

“Jimmy Johnstone.”

He glances round at me, cautiously.

“Mr Stein,” he replies.

“Jimmy Fucking Johnstone.”

“Yes, Mr Stein.”

“What the fuck are you doing here,” I say.

“Peeing, Mr Stein, same as you.”

Then that wee smile. Part charm, part defiance.

“I know you are peeing, son, but it’s your football talent you are pissing on. What I want to know is what you are doing playing in a reserve game in front of two men
and a dog? Never mind pissing into the fuckin’ bowl, you’re pissing your talent down the drain. Not one of those clowns out there could lace your boots, but here you are, on a
fuckin’ Tuesday afternoon, running rings round the stiff-ersed defenders that aren’t even good enough to make the Hibs bench . . . and making yourself feel good. Well, you may be happy
kidding yourself son, but yer no kidding me. I know you. I’ve seen you play. You should be somebody. You’ll know by now I’m coming back to Celtic. Mark my words, when I get my
hands on you, Johnstone, you’ll no know what’s hit you. Now finish yer fuckin’ pee, the second half is about to start.”

BOOK: The Road to Lisbon
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