Celtic’s European Cup Win (50th Anniversary)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 25 May 2017.

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Photo of Gail Ross Gail Ross Scottish National Party

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak in the debate, and I thank James Dornan for bringing it to the chamber.

On 25 May 1967, Glasgow Celtic Football Club was the first British and first non-Latin team to win the European cup. It did so with a team all of whom were born within 30 miles of Celtic Park; indeed, all but one player was born within 10 miles of Celtic Park. The Lisbon Lions defeated Inter Milan 2-1 with goals from Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers. Incidentally, Tommy Gemmell scored the first goal—and Celtic’s only goal—in the 1970 European cup final, which they lost to the Dutch side Feyenoord, and he also scored Celtic’s first-ever goal in the European cup, against FC Zürich in 1966.

Celtic won every competition that they entered in that famous 1966-67 season. They won the European cup, Scottish league division one, the Scottish cup, the Scottish league cup and the Glasgow cup.

Some say that the attendance at the European cup final was 45,000, and some say that it was 70,000. We can safely say that, whatever the attendance was on the day, many more people have since seen that famous game on television and the internet.

Of the approximately 12,000 Scottish fans who made the journey to Lisbon, many travelled in the Celticade, which was led by the Celtic fan and Glasgow

Evening Times reporter Dani Garavelli. Perhaps even Mr and Mrs Adam were part of that: who knows? A hundred cars made the trip in the Celticade. Unfortunately, one unlucky fan woke up in Glasgow after getting a flight home and realised that he had left his car in Portugal.

Before the game, the manager, Jock Stein, told his players:

“If you’re ever going to win the European Cup, then this is the day and this is the place. But we don’t just want to win this cup, we want to do it playing good football—to make neutrals glad we’ve won it, glad to remember how we did it.”

Not just neutrals, but communities and fans from all sides of the footballing world, were brought together by what was a truly inclusive win.

I will move forward in time slightly, to the early noughties, when I used to work in a hotel in Glasgow. When Neil Lennon first signed for the club, he stayed in the hotel for his first few weeks. One day, he came down for breakfast and I gave him my Celtic strip to sign. He took it away and the whole team signed it. It was 2001 and, that season, Celtic won the treble, which was the first time that they had done so since the 1968-69 season, when the team had consisted of most of the Lisbon Lions.

More recently, names such as Sutton, Tébily, Moravcik, Mjällby, Lambert, Agathe, Valgaeren, Smith, Larsson and, of course, Martin O’Neill have been etched into Scottish football history. I am sure that there are many other names that could have been put forward since then.

That hotel was also the temporary home of Donegal Celtic supporters’ club on match days. I remember arriving for work at 6 am on Sundays, to find them still in the lounge, playing guitars and singing Celtic songs. Some days, I would be lucky and get a spare ticket to a game.

In a speech about Celtic, it would be remiss of me not to mention one of my other past jobs, working for a charity called Football Aid, which is based here in Edinburgh, was set up by Celtic trustee Craig Paterson and has a vice-patron in Celtic ambassador Danny McGrain. One year, I attended a charity match at Celtic park with Tommy Boyd and Paul Lambert. I can say that I have scored a goal at Celtic park, but I should probably confess that there was no one else on the pitch.

I could fill up most of the afternoon with tales and stories. As James Dornan did, I struggled to get my speech inside the time allowed. However, I will leave members with thoughts of Jock Stein. Bill Shankly said of him:

“A great manager, my pal for years, a great man as well, with a heart of gold who’d give his last shilling. Aye, Stein, he’s the best.”


Glasgow Herald wrote:

“Arguably the most important man working in this nation at this time.”

A message on a bunch of flowers left on the night he died in Cardiff said, “Jock! Heroes live forever!” The man himself said:

“Celtic jerseys are not for second best. It is the jersey worn by men like McNeill, Gemmell, Clark, Auld, McBride and Chalmers. It won’t shrink to fit an inferior player.”

To those names, I add Simpson, Craig, Murdoch, Johnstone, Wallace and Lennox—and let us not forget assistant manager, Sean Fallon.

Presiding Officer, it may have been 50 years ago, but that remarkable game will live long in the memories of football fans all over the world.