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 James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I know that, when you have a lot of members wishing to speak, you often ask for a motion to be moved to extend the debate, but I was wondering whether I could get an extra 30 minutes for this speech, because there are a number of things that I would like to say and I have had a problem curtailing it.

1967.What a time to be 14! The Beatles, Motown, girls and Celtic. I will never forget Thursday 25 May 1967, when my dad, my brother Brian, my Mum and I all crouched round our wee black-and-white television at 5.30 pm. Kick off comes and goes, and nine minutes into the game the referee works his hardest to ensure that we will not be smiling at the end—it is a conspiracy—by giving a penalty against my dentist. I still say that it was a ludicrous decision. Batter, batter, batter! Yet, nothing gives. Then, in the 63rd minute, justice begins to be served. My dentist attacks from the right-back position, knocks it over to Danny Kaye, and it is one each.

It sounds like an old movie, does it not? After that, it was just a matter of time until, charging up from the left-back position comes Danny Kaye, who slips the ball to Bobby Murdoch—the greatest midfielder of all time—whose shot is stuck into the back of the net by Stevie Chalmers. There is utter mayhem in Lisbon on the pitch, in the stadium, in most houses in Scotland and, I suspect, in houses of football supporters around the world—especially in my house, of course.

I remember a number of things about the match, outside of the goals and the performance. When that second goal went in, I got soaked as my dad’s tea went flying all over the place as we all tried to reach for the ceiling at the same time. My other brother, Michael, came in from the room where he was doing his homework, asking what all the noise was about. I know, I know: we despaired, too.

“Top of the Pops” followed right after the game. I remember that because, hey, I was 14 at the time. Another thing that I remember is the fact that I had the opportunity to go to the game with my uncle, but I never got to go, for two reasons. One reason was financial difficulties—it was not uncommon back then not to be able to afford to do those sorts of things. The other reason was that I had been grounded. So remember, kids: if you are lucky enough to support a great team, make sure that you behave. Otherwise, who knows what the consequences could be?

By the way, for the benefit of younger folk—which, looking around the chamber, I think is everybody here—“my dentist” was Jim Craig, and “Danny Kaye”, who was an American film star of the time, was Tommy Gemmell.

That result was larger than me, my family, Celtic or even Scottish football. It changed things. It changed the way people thought that the game should be played. For years, “cattenacio”—score, then defend at all costs—had been the way, and it had been hugely successful. Inter Milan had won the European cup twice and were expected to win it for a third time in four years, especially when they went 1-0 up, but they could not live with the whirlwind that was Celtic—42 attempts at goal to Inter’s five, and 10 corners to Inter’s nil.

After that game, teams realised that they could win by playing the Celtic way, so we started to see teams such as the great Dutch teams Ajax and Feyenoord take up the mantle. However, Celtic were not done. In the subsequent years, they had one quarter final, two semi-finals and one final of the European cup. Unfortunately, they lost that final to one of those up-and-coming teams—Feyenoord.

Celtic were one of the great European teams. That year—1967—changed how Scottish football thought of itself. Ludicrous as it might sound now, Scotland could have made a claim to being the best footballing nation in the world in 1967. Kilmarnock reached the semi-finals of the fair cities cup, Rangers reached the final of the European cup winners cup and Scotland won the unofficial world cup by hammering England 3-2 at Wembley with a quite scintillating display.

Outside of football, it was fitting, too. Celtic played stylish football at a time when modern life was changing and when young people started to see themselves as more than appendages to their parents and to become more adventurous in how they lived their lives. In Glasgow, to be young was exciting. Music had Motown, the Beatles, Hendrix and the Doors, and there was the continuing expansion of modern culture. For us, Celtic’s victory fitted in well.

However, I think that the place where it might have made the most difference was in the working class areas of the west of Scotland, particularly among the Irish communities. It made us feel a real sense of pride in our achievement—and we did think that it was our achievement. A team full of working class lads, all born within 30 miles of Glasgow city centre—I say to George Adam, wherever he is, that that is the real centre of the universe. The city came together and we celebrated as one. We Celtic fans cheered Rangers on against Bayern Munich the following week, and shared in their disappointment when they lost 1-0.

Outside of football, in modern culture, 1967 was the most exciting of years in many ways. The first heart transplant was done that year by Christiaan Barnard. I have talked about the Beatles a number of times, but I will just say that “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released that year, along with “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”, the best double A-side of all time. The first North Sea gas was pumped through the pipeline. Of course, there were downsides: Muhammad Ali getting five years for refusing to be inducted into the US Army, Otis Redding dying, and Peter and Gordon—Google it—splitting up.

I was extremely lucky to come across a number of the Lisbon Lions in later years. As I said earlier, Jim Craig was my dentist for a short time in Mount Florida. Billy McNeil and John Clark were my son’s management team when he was at Parkhead. I spent a few nights chatting to the wonderful Bobby Murdoch when he had a pub in Rutherglen. I sang and cracked jokes with Jinky and Buzzbomb Lennox at a few Celtic do’s. The great thing was that they were all gentlemen—all down to earth and happy to chat. It is hard to imagine the same scenario with the modern-day superstars—remember, Jinky was the Messi of his day.

It would be terribly remiss of me not to mention the other four Lions: John Fallon, the first substitute in a European final; Charlie Gallagher, a wonderfully gifted player who crossed for Big Billy to score the winner against Vojvodina in the quarter final; John Hughes, the unluckiest player, who missed out, and a player who could beat a team on his own; and, of course, Joe McBride, who finished that year as Scotland’s top scorer, despite being out injured from the new year.

For parliamentary posterity, let me just remind everyone again of that team: Simpson, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Lennox and Auld.

As I have mentioned before, I was 14 in that glorious year. During the summer I made a friend on holiday and, like with most holiday friendships, we lost contact, but recently made contact again through social media. When I said that I was having this debate, she sent me this poem by her father, John Mulligan. I want to read out the last verse of it. It highlights perfectly what that great day meant to so many people and how it is a day that we will never forget.

This is about when the winning goal goes in.

“Through tears of joy, I see it yet,

Lying so peacefully in the net.

The watches are out, just minutes to go,

Boy oh Bhoy has this been a show!

Came the final whistle, the final scene.

(Get that sideboard ready, Mr Stein).

The sun sinks slowly in the west

And weary bodies lie down to rest.

And if that night some men are smiling in their dreams

They are living again the Lisbon scenes.

And going over this great, great day,

1967, Thursday the 25th of May.”

Hail, hail!