As a west of Scotland politician, I have always steered clear of mentioning football allegiances, but my wife tells me that it is time to come out. My dad, his dad and his dad’s dad before him were born and brought up in the shadow of Parkhead in Glasgow’s east end. My dad supported Celtic because it was his local team, and he used to tell me about the club’s charitable origins, which always impressed me as a youngster.
I was only three when Celtic won the European cup, and I guess that my father was pretty excited, although I do not remember it. I spent many years under the impression that we were somehow related to the late Ronnie Simpson. My dad told me that we were, but, despite extensive research, I have never been able to establish the connection. If there is anybody out there who knows better, please get in touch.
The Lisbon Lions played a swashbuckling style of football that was entertaining and full of flair—that is how football should be played. That they were all young men from within a few miles of Glasgow was remarkable. As the motion suggests, we will never see such a feat again. Last year’s winners, Real Madrid, had only two Spaniards in their starting XI. That Celtic made it to a second European cup final—they were unsuccessful the second time—was also incredible.
The first Celtic game that my dad took me to was the last for the Lisbon Lions captain, Billy McNeill—the 1975 Scottish cup final against Airdrieonians. Fittingly, Celtic won 3-1 in front of a 75,000 crowd, and Caesar lifted the cup.
We used to travel up from Carlisle for the odd game, and it was all a big adventure. When I eventually moved to Glasgow for work, I followed the team through thick and thin, including the “Super Caley Go Ballistic” game, which was a particular low point. I was lucky enough to be at the UEFA cup final in Seville in 2003.
My work had a team, which played in a charity match against Chick Young’s Dukla Pumpherston, and I lined up against one of my football heroes, Danny McGrain. He never played in a tougher game. Then Gerry Collins body-checked me off the park.
My dad met my wife for the first time on the Parkhead terraces during a less successful period, when it was quite easy to find someone on the terraces. Quite why she married me after that is anybody’s guess—especially when I decided to become a season ticket holder.
Football has changed greatly since 1967. It has become big money and international. That is not something to be sad about, however. Celtic fans have been lucky to see the likes of Henrik, Lubo, Di Canio and Pierre, and Rangers have had Laudrup, Albertz, Gazza and Filip Šebo, although some of their greatest stars were home grown—Baxter, McCoist, Durrant and Barry Ferguson.
Whoever one supports, seeing local talent come through the ranks is great, but we will not see another team of Scots make it to the heady heights that Jock Stein’s men achieved in Lisbon that day. For Scotland to have produced the first British team to win Europe’s premier trophy is something that all of us should celebrate, whoever we support—and that includes Murdo Fraser and Adam Tomkins.