Authors: Martin Greig
My smiling big cousin Nicky welcomes us in his rather tired, croaky voice.
“Alright boys? How’s tricks?”
Nicky has a very intense, simpatico quality about him. His handsome face is lined with experience, his eyes are slit-like, his brown hair is shaggy and he is growing a beard. He is wearing
sandals and his shirt, cut from a geometric-patterned fabric, is unbuttoned almost to his waist, exposing a hotchpotch of beads and medals.
“Christ Almighty Nicky, what happened to you – did you rise from the dead after three days?”
“You’re still as wide as the Clyde, Eddie.”
He turns to me and we grin at each other.
“How’s it going wee cousin?”
“No bad. Yourself?”
“Grand. How’s that auld uncle of mine? I heard he wasn’t keeping so well.”
“Ach, he’s surviving.”
“Tell him I was asking for him.”
“I will, Nicky.”
We are shown into the living room. I nose approvingly at a work-in-progress, a study of a nude redheaded girl lounging on a couch, set on an easel by the window. Above the mantelpiece hangs a
large Bauhaus reproduction. An ancient mantle clock ticks away, five minutes slow, alongside which sits a jumble of ornaments. A miniature Blackpool tower, a brass Shiva, a plate with a lurid
painting of Cobh waterfront, a picture postcard of the Bay of Naples, a Virgin Mary perched inside an oyster shell with fake carnations at her feet and around her neck, a wind up musical drinking
decanter with a rotating dancer, a dusty portrait of King George V.
“How’s life in the enemy camp?”
“Fabulous. What a fucking place this is Timothy. Fucking amazing. It’s a grand time to be here. Anyway, you still going wi’ that cracking wee girl of yours – what’s
her name, Donna?”
“Christ,” interjects Eddie. “Imagine riding that wee darling! Ya lucky bastard!”
I shoot him a glance.
For a split second Rocky and I make eye contact. I take a seat. We hear the front door opening and closing, and then Nicky’s flatmates file in. Albie: small, bespectacled, earnest;
Barbara: floral, smiling eyes, cascades of gorgeous chestnut hair; Nicky’s girl Margaret-Mary: rotund, introspective, long straight blonde hair; Austin: charming, foppish, quintessentially
English. They descend like exotic birds into a drab British garden. Genial introductions are made but I can sense a mixture of awkwardness and scorn from Rocky and Eddie.
Then she walks into the room.
“Ah Nicky, these must be our house guests – welcome everybody!”
Her confident French tones instantly invigorate the atmosphere. Her hair is auburn. It is loose and wavy, and it perfectly frames her exquisite wide cheekbones. It is parted in the middle, then
it falls to her shoulder blades and over on one side onto her bosom.
Rocky is quickest off the mark, as usual.
“Raymond Kevin Barry Devlin at your service!”
He leaps to his feet and kisses her hand for fuck’s sake.
“But everyone calls me Rocky.”
Delphine Marie Robin,” she smiles. What a smile. The whole room lights up. Something moves inside of me. Christ, I’m a sucker for a redhead. I’m
a sucker for a pretty girl. And she is really pretty. I am surprised at my reaction; I didn’t think it possible in the immediate wake of Debbie’s harsh truths.
“I am so embarrassed to meet you like this; we have been at an all-nighter.”
“Oh really, where?” asks Rocky.
“At the UFO club.”
“Who was playing?”
“Tomorrow, Arthur Brown. Have you heard of Pink Floyd?”
“Aye, he’s terrific. Good auld Pink.”
Her lip curls slightly and she turns away from Rocky. She looks at me. Smiles at me. She is smiling right at me.
“Delphine, this is Eddie,” interjects Nicky.
“. . . and Mark,”
“. . . and Tim.”
She walks over to me. She is walking right over to me.
“You must be Nicky’s cousin.”
“Yeah . . . p-pleased to meet you.”
I take her hand nervously in mine. Don’t know whether to kiss it or not, or to stand up and kiss her cheek, like I’ve seen French folk do in the pictures. So I just sit there like a
fud holding her fingers as she stands there in limbo. Fuck. I glance over at Rocky, who looks as though he is about to explode with mirth. I could happily smack him in the mouth right now.
“I can see the family resemblance. Nicky has told me loads about you. You are an artist too? Nicky says you are very talented.”
is her accent!
“That’s very nice of him. I just daub away, really.”
“Aye, he’s a
dobber,” suggests Rocky to snorts of laughter.
One-nil to you, Rock.
1966-67. We hit the ground running. Domestically, we are rampant. The template is laid down. Every player knows his role, the standards required, the
expectations to be fulfilled. Unity of purpose. Fellowship, friendship, systematic success. The first Old Firm league game of the season. Bertie Auld scores in the first minute and Bobby Murdoch
strikes three minutes later. Auld and Murdoch then start to take control; keeping possession, spraying passes short and long, opening the game out. Rangers chasing shadows; out-fought and
Auld and Murdoch.
I played them together last season a couple of times, but it was in pre-season that they finally cemented their partnership in central midfield. A match made in heaven. Auld,
aggressive, dynamic, swaggering, bristling with self-confidence, but not just a ball-winner; gifted, a great passer, too. I moved him from outside-left to a central role beside Murdoch, where he
could be in the heart of the battle and get forward more.
I brought him back to the club before I had even returned myself, the deal done while I negotiated my exit from Hibs. The chairman wasn’t sure about it. They had history, but
it wasn’t about personalities, it was about winning. The chairman wants to win more than anyone. He wants to win playing attacking, attractive football. The Glasgow Celtic Way. He believes in
the Corinthian spirit, the concept of fair play and respecting your opponent. I share all those beliefs but I know the realities, the harsh realities of the professional game. I know that not
everyone shares those same beliefs. There are some who set out to ride roughshod over those principles, who interpret fair play as weakness. My team always sets out to live up to those principles,
but they must always have an edge. We need men who can impose themselves mentally and physically when battles start to rage; men who know that the path to playing the kind of football we excel in
can be a tough, physical one; men like Auld.
I needed winners and Auld was a winner. In my first game back, on March 10th 1965, he scored five.
“Auld played well today, chairman,” I said afterwards. He just nodded but I held his gaze, long enough for him to get the point.
Don’t ever question me on football matters. Don’t ever try to pick my team. This is my team. MY fuckin’ team.
Then there is Murdoch. Cool, calm, elegant and authoritative, a beacon in the middle, directing play like a conductor directs his orchestra; then, trotting off after 90 minutes with
barely a bead of sweat on his brow. The engine of the side. He was an inside-right when I arrived. Bobby Murdoch. A bloody inside-right.
I said to Sean: “Can you believe anyone ever thought Bobby Murdoch was an inside-right? We’ve got a visionary on our hands, a bloody sea captain not a galley slave. He
should be in the thick of it, dictating everything with that range of passing. Plus, he’s physical. Look at those shoulders, Sean. I wouldn’t like to be on the end of a shoulder charge
from Bobby. He’s no afraid to use his strength. He’s our man, Sean. Inside-right, indeed! What a joke. He’s a wing-half. I can build my team around this boy, Sean. Just watch me.
Just fuckin’ watch me.”
At the start, the chairman wasn’t convinced. Before the 1965 Scottish Cup final, he called me on it.
“Murdoch at right-half? He’s not a right-half.”
I looked at him and smiled.
“You’ll see on Saturday that he is.”
Auld and Murdoch. Murdoch and Auld.
I watch their partnership with growing excitement and realise that I can take a step back. Poetry in motion. The team that manages itself.
A season to remember . . .
The anticipation is building. I can feel it. Christ, I can see it. I am standing in the boardroom looking down Kerrydale Street and watching the huge crowds snake up London Road
towards the stadium. There is a carnival atmosphere as supporters sway along, shoulder to shoulder, a sea of bunnets, their tones cutting through the drizzle.
“Are attendances up this season?” I turn to ask the chairman.
“Up? Yes, Jock you could say that. We got 41,000 last week for Airdrie. It takes us twice as long to count the gate receipts these days.”
“That’s good news because we need them. We need them all. This is going to be a long season and the players will need all the encouragement in the world. We can’t
create history on our own.”
Europe. No-one mentions Europe. But I can think of little else.
“The league will remain our priority,” I tell the Press before our first-round tie with Zurich, playing along with the myth that Europe is a sideshow, a mere distraction
to the real business of domestic dominance. But even as I speak the words, as I watch them scribble them down intently, I am looking over their heads, gazing on some distant European horizon.
Silently raising the stakes. A greater prize shimmers in the distance. The European Cup. Celtic has its legends, but we don’t want to live with history, we want to become legends ourselves.
The only way for a team to be considered truly great in modern football is to be victorious in major European tournaments. That is where the real quality is. That is where we deserve to be
competing. This might be the first time we have entered the European Cup, but we are ready. Does anyone suspect what I believe this team to be capable of?
My team. My wee team . . .
The first leg of our tie with Zurich. The Press have written them off as no-hopers. Seven Swiss internationalists in their squad, along with two Germans and an Italian, is proof
enough of their quality; as is their domestic trophy haul and the fact that they reached the last four of the European Cup two years before. Their manager, Ladislav Kubala, has done his homework.
He pinpoints Auld, Murdoch and Johnstone as the main threats to his side’s chances. He is right. They try to stop us by any means. Johnstone spends most of the early stages face down on the
Parkhead grass after being sent spinning in tackle after tackle. The early goal we hoped for doesn’t come and the game slips into a familiar pattern. I glance at my watch, willing the arrival
of half-time. That is when a manager earns his money. I have to instil confidence and organisation. I have to find solutions to problems the players haven’t realised exist yet. With any other
team that could be a tall order. With this team it simply involves a shift in emphasis. My half-time message is short and to the point.
“Get the ball out wide to Tommy Gemmell and Willie O’Neill. Let’s drag them into different areas, make them think, get them turned.”
After 64 minutes, John Clark switches the ball to Gemmell, who thunders a shot from 40 yards into the roof of the net. The game starts to open up and, soon after, Joe McBride scores
our second. The result gives us a cushion to take to Switzerland.
The plane grinds to a halt on the tarmac at Zurich airport. The seatbelt light goes off. The players start to get their bags out of the overhead lockers, stir crazy after a
seven-hour journey from London. I tell them all to sit back down and pay attention.
“Gentlemen, if you are feeling anything like me then you’ll be knackered. You’ll be stiff as boards and you’ll be desperate to get some fresh air. Well,
there’s only one solution to that. We’re going to head straight to the stadium for a training session. Get that bloody stiffness out of your legs.”
A gasp of disbelief sweeps around the plane. Their faces fall.
An hour and a half later we are putting them through their paces inside Zurich’s stadium. The Swiss weren’t expecting us but our surprise arrival has attracted an
audience. It must be 80 degrees. The players troop out. They can’t even look at me. They fuckin’ hate me in this moment. Hate me with a passion. But they know better than to mess
They respond to the presence of the Zurich officials. The edge is there, the statement is clear.
We’re here to do a job on you.
“I told you this was a good idea,” I say to Jimmy as he jogs past.
“No bother for me, boss. Better than being stuck in that bloody plane for hours.”
Our visit to the stadium allows some last-minute preparations. I pace out the size of the pitch and am pleased to discover that it is only one yard smaller in length and width than
Celtic Park. That means there will be no need to adjust the tactics that I have already settled on.
We have 17 players in the travelling party. Too many. The Press think that the extra bodies mean we will pack our defence.
The presence of reserve centre-half John Cushley leads one to suspect that Celtic’s policy in Switzerland will be one of containment,
read one report.
I had a quiet chuckle to myself at that one.
After the training session my secret weapon comes out. The magnetic tactics board that has been gathering dust in my office. The 6 × 4 board that holds the key to our European
success. The canvas on which I can fully express my philosophies and beliefs.
The first leg had been a bruising affair. Zurich defending like demons and kicking everything that moved. Us probing patiently before the two late goals. The Swiss claimed Joe
McBride had committed a foul in the lead-up to the second goal. They will be out for revenge and I don’t want to risk McBride getting caught up in anything. For that reason, Bobby Lennox will
replace him. They can kick Bobby all day – if they can catch him, that is – and he will never react. His pace will be important, too.