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 George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I thank James Dornan for bringing this debate to the chamber to congratulate Celtic. Mr Tomkins has arrived, after everything. To sit here and still talk about Celtic’s success 50 years later—all that I can say is, “Football fans, what are we like?”

Some people might find it strange that I am taking part in the debate, as I am not a Celtic fan and I am not from Glasgow. I am, of course, a proud Paisley buddie and support our local team St Mirren, but I, too, have a 1967 Celtic European cup story, which is surprising given that I was not born until 1969.

My mother and father were married in 1967 and, bizarrely, they thought that it would be a great idea to take their wee Triumph Vitesse and drive all the way from the centre of the universe in Paisley to Portugal. With the motor industry in the UK being the way that it was, we can understand how that could probably be quite a difficult job for them. Their holidays until that point had consisted of just trips to Blackpool. Even their very romantic honeymoon that year had been in the granite city of Aberdeen; to her death, my mother still said that she had never even seen the northern lights—I have no idea what she was talking about in that scenario.

Members will be aware just how much of an undertaking that journey was for my parents. They left with their friends Tam and Sheena McKee, who had been married at a similar time. They drove through England, France and Spain and finally made it to Portugal, only to get lost in the middle of Lisbon. They ended up watching the game on a terrible black-and-white television in some cafe at the edge of town, but they still talked about the fact that they got the opportunity to be there and to see the match there.

As James Dornan and Willie Coffey have said, what a year for Scottish football 1967 was. Not only did Celtic become champions of Europe, but their rivals Rangers made it to the final of the European cup-winners cup. Kilmarnock reached the semi-final of what was then the fairs cities’ cup—the fairs cup—which eventually became the UEFA cup; I think that that tournament was changed in every year of its existence back then.

It was quite a year for Scottish football. We even had the audacity to go down to England on 15 April and absolutely hammer them 3-2. England were then the champions of the world, so Scotland were literally at the pinnacle of football in 1967. It was not such a great year for my team, St Mirren, as they were relegated from the old first division and ended up in the second division. However, as in all football stories, there is a happy ending, because they came straight back up into the top flight in the next season.

When we talk about Scottish football in 1967, we cannot help but mention the great Jock Stein, who was born John Stein on 5 October 1922 in Burnbank, Lanarkshire. He was part of a dynamic group of Scottish managers: Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and—we always speak about the three of them—big Jock himself. Jock Stein played for Celtic and Albion Rovers as a centre half and took up management as the result of an injury. Who can forget the time when he moved on to Scotland and, after the 1978 world cup, got us into the 1982 world cup finals? Who can forget that night in Ninian Park in Cardiff when he died before the end of the world cup qualifier, not knowing that Davie Cooper had scored the goal that got Scotland through to the next round?

Jock Stein was a man who lived and loved football and wanted to play it in the correct manner. The Lisbon Lions were a pure example of that. Jock Stein put it better himself. He said:

“I think it is important to win a match, but I think what is even more important is the manner in which you win.”

That is what our national sport should be about.

I close with the words of an esteemed sports writer, Hugh McIlvanney, who said that Jock Stein was

“The greatest manager in the history of the game. You tell me a manager anywhere in the world who did something comparable, winning the European Cup with a Glasgow District XI.”

The team will be remembered by us all and, to paraphrase the late, great Bill Shankly, they will be forever immortal.