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LOCAL HEROES: THE LISBON LIONS
FIRST PUBLISHED: Four Four Two, June 2007
By Chris Hunt

 

In late May 1967 Glasgow witnessed a migration unprecedented in British football, when some 12,000 Celtic supporters left the city in pursuit of the European Cup. With all flights fully booked, the exodus continued by car, mini-bus and coach, a cavalcade of fans leaving from Parkhead for the long drive to Lisbon’s Estádio Nacional. Awaiting this green and white army were the mighty Inter Milan, European champions twice in three years and a team with the meanest defence on the continent, thanks to their coach, Helenio Herrera, the high priest of catenaccio.

 

In 1967 the European Cup was in its twelfth season and had been totally dominated by what were quaintly referred to in the British press as ‘Latin clubs’. Only Real Madrid, Benfica and the two Milan teams had lifted the trophy and a victory for outsiders Celtic would have been deemed a shock of colossal proportions. But Jock Stein wasn’t taking his team to Lisbon just to make up the numbers.

 

When Stein became Celtic manager in March 1965 he inherited a nucleus of homegrown players who had come through the ranks at Parkhead, many of whom he had worked with as the club’s youth and reserve team coach years earlier. With a few choice buys, a little judicial tinkering and plenty of tactical forward thinking, Stein fashioned a side of world beaters from this group of local boys, all famously from within a 30 mile radius of Celtic Park.

 

Soon Stein’s side could boast an indomitable team spirit that had been forged on a five-week tour of North America the previous summer, and by the time they arrived in Lisbon these players had already won every trophy set before them that season. Not only an intelligent student of tactics but a seasoned practitioner of the mind games needed to unsettle his opponents, Stein laid his cards on the table two days before the final. He made an announcement through the press aimed directly at Herrera.

 

“I am now going to tell him how Celtic will be the first team to bring the European Cup back to Britain, but it will not help him in any manner, shape or form: we are going to attack as we have never attacked before,” said Stein. He concluded with a stark warning for the big stars of Inter Milan. “Cups are not won by individuals,” he said. “They are won by men in a team, men who put their club before personal prestige. I am lucky – I have the players who do just that for Celtic.”

 

On May 25, 1967, Jock Stein’s team did just that and in the process, not only did they expose for the first time the weaknesses of catenaccio, but they carved for themselves a little piece of history.

 

 

THE INTERVIEWEES

 

IN MAY 1967…

 

BERNIE BOYLE was a 29-year-old draughtsman and a fanatical Celtic fan.

STEVIE CHALMERS was 30 years old and the Celtic centre-forward.

JOHN CLARK was the 26-year-old Celtic left-half.

JACKIE CONNOR was a 44-year-old bookmaker and friend of Jock Stein.

BOBBY LENNOX was 23 years of age and played on the left wing for Celtic.

BILLY McNEILL was an established Scottish international and was the 27-year-old captain of Celtic.

JACK MARSHALL was a 43-year-old a wholesale confectioner. He first saw Celtic play in 1936 and even followed their fortunes from a POW camp in World War II.

ERNIE WILSON was a 25-year-old unemployed, soon-to-be-divorced Celtic fan.

 

 

THE BUILD UP

 

Bobby Lennox: “At the beginning of the season I don’t really think the European Cup was on our horizon at all to be fair. I think we thought we were just going to enjoy the adventure.”

 

John Clark: “Once we got by the first stage of the European Cup people started looking up and saying, ‘There’s a team in Scotland that seems to be doing well’. Every time we progressed to the next stage we got more confident about ourselves.”

 

Jackie Connor: “At that time the players mixed with the fans. Everybody knew Bertie Auld, big ‘Tam’ Gemmell, wee Jimmy Johnstone. They were OUR team and every one of them was friendly with the fans.”

 

Billy McNeill: “We were all very local boys. Bobby Lennox had come the farthest and that was only 30 miles away on Ayreshire coast. The rest of us lived virtually next door to the ground. Having come through the ranks at Celtic without any real success was the thing that stimulated that group of players. We were very determined, very positive in our attitude to the game. When Big Jock had come back to Celtic in 1965 he realised the potential and really got us playing to our full.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “When Celtic got through we just couldn’t believe that our team was going to play in the European Cup final. Even if we didn’t win, the thought of just being there was just terrific. Even friends who were Rangers supporters were wishing me luck when they heard that I was going. They told me not to come back to Glasgow without the trophy.”

 

Jackie Connor: “Who had ever heard of a team of local boys from Glasgow getting to the European Cup final. Everyone thought that it would be an impossible feat to beat Inter Milan. They were the top team at the time and Helenio Herrera was reckoned the best manager in the world. It was fully understood that if they scored a goal you just packed your bags and went home. They were the unbeatables.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “I think they had won the European Cup twice in the previous three years and they had also won the world club championship – they had a lot of good players.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “Everybody was very excited, no doubt about it. If you look at pictures of people leaving for this game, they were going dressed in suits and collars and ties. A workingman in Glasgow wouldn’t wear a collar and tie unless he was either going to church on Sunday or going to something special like a wedding or a funeral. These guys went to that game dressed in collars and ties because it really was something special.”

 

Jackie Connor: “There had been nothing seen like the contingent that went out to Lisbon. Celtic fans just took over all forms of transport and a lot of guys even set off in old bangers and you’d wonder how they were going to get out of London Road, never mind get to Lisbon.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I saw on the news that the fans were leaving by car and coach and that’s when it really got to me that I had to be there. I would have done anything bar murder or rob a bank to see my team play in the European Cup final. But I’d just been laid off work from my job as a fireman on the old steam engines and I just couldn’t raise the money to go, so I gave my scarf to a friend, John McCabe, so that if I wasn’t there, at least my scarf got there.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “I had been due to travel out on a charter flight that a local pub had been running but they overbooked the plane and I was one of the people they let down. I phoned about trying to find a spare seat on a plane but with no success I drove to Glasgow Airport and explained my predicament. I must have been sat there for an hour when I was rushed onto an aircraft, where I found myself seated next to my boyhood hero, Charlie Tully, who had played for Celtic for many years. I arrived in Lisbon at six o’clock the next morning.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I was sitting in my house a week ahead of the game, desperately wanting to go when I had a brainstorm. I decided to sell my house. I told my wife that I was moving in with my mother and got managed to get a deposit on the house and this got me to Lisbon. When I came back I still had to go through with the deal to sell and needless to say it didn’t go down very well with my wife. It had been a kind of a trial separation, but it was looking liked I would be staying on for the kids. Of course when I broke the news of what I’d done, that was goodbye to my marriage. It was worth every penny. I’m sure my family didn’t see it like that at the time but I had to get there.”

 

Billy McNeill: “For about four or five days before we left Glasgow for Lisbon we had been down at Seamill, which was a hotel down the Ayreshire coast that we would use for training. It was a relaxed training session and during the course of those four or five days we started to hear the names of the Inter Milan players and how the ‘Big Man’ thought they would set themselves up.”

 

John Clark: “Jock Stein had been invited out to Milan a few years earlier to watch Herrera’s methods of training. Little did he know at the time that he would be facing Herrera in the European Cup final maybe two years hence.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “We knew about Facchetti and all these guys, they were great players – Mazzola, Bicicli, Burgnich, they were all top men at the time. They were a team of internationals.”

 

Jackie Connor: “I was a bookmaker at the time and I’d made Celtic favourites to win the final, which was ridiculous. I took out an advert in the newspaper – everyone thought I was off my head but it got me plenty of publicity.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “As fans we weren’t afraid of Inter because we knew little or nothing about European football. For that particular game I would say the vast majority of fans stepped on board an aeroplane for the first time in their lives.”

 

 

LISBON

 

Billy McNeill: “We went to Lisbon early on the Tuesday morning and the game was on the Thursday. We did a reasonable training session on the Tuesday evening and after the game Jock announced the team at a press conference – two days before the game. I think that was to let Inter see that we weren’t afraid of them.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “Jock was always a move in front of everybody else and he would have done that to upset Herrera.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “The team was exactly as had been expected. That team had played in the second leg of the semi-final and it had played the last couple of league games. If there had been a change in the team it would have been a surprise.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Herrera was trying to get the Portuguese to support Inter Milan but I think most of them came for the underdogs and supported us, which was great for us, but we had a massive support with us anyway.”

 

John Clark: “We were the underdogs by a mile, but we were a team full of confidence in our own ability and teamwork, plus we had an excellent manager who prompted us all the time and made sure our feet were on the ground. We concentrated a lot on what we were asked to do and we did it thoroughly.”

 

Jackie Connor: “Celtic fans knew that they had a chance because the team didn’t play like everybody else. The backs – Jim Craig and big ‘Tam’ Gemmell – were actually forwards, which had never been seen before. They were up beside the wingers Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Lennox every game. Whenever Gemmell or Craig got the ball they were at liberty to go up the pitch and that baffled other teams because they couldn’t work out how these guys got the freedom on the park.”

 

Billy McNeill: “On the Wednesday morning we did a training session at the stadium. Inter Milan switched their training so they could sit and watch us, but that only helped to make us more determined.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “We thought they were having a good laugh at us, that we were a nothing team. I honestly believe they thought they’d only to turn up and they’d win. They sat there laughing, so the boss just said to us, ‘Okay, we’ll show them very little, we’ll just muck about’.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Big Jock had everybody playing in different positions. We had as much fun watching them as they did watching us. Jock said, ‘You go and play left-back Bobby and Tommy Gemmell will go and play centre-forward and Billy McNeill will go to the sidelines’. At that session nobody played where they would have normally. The cat and mouse stuff had started.”

 

John Clark: “Jock was a bit of a psychologist that way. The Italians were overconfident, but these guys were the superstars of the football world at the time.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “We stayed in a hotel called the Palácio in Estoril and it was absolutely wonderful. It was a beautiful hotel set in lovely gardens with a fabulous swimming pool, which we didn’t use because Big Jock wanted to keep us out of the sun. The build up was great and everything that could have been done was done for us.”

 

Jackie Connor: “I was very friendly with Jock Stein and I knew a lot of the players. We would often go to training and spend time with the team at their hotel when they were playing away, but for the Inter Milan game they were kept more to themselves than usual. Any other game they were free to do more or less what they liked, but for that game Jock didn’t even allow them to take their strips of at the hotel in case they got sunburnt.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “I shared a room with Jimmy Johnstone as usual. Although he was a great player he was he was a bit of a worrier. He’d be saying, ‘But they’ve got Facchetti and they’ve got Mazzola’. I’d say, ‘But we’ve got you and Billy and Tommy Gemmell, we’ve got great players in our team too’.”

 

Billy McNeill: “We were so relaxed on the night before the game. There was a lad called Brodie Lennox who had a country club not far from the hotel and he’d invited us to his house. He put on a meal for us and we watched England play against Spain on his television. We walked back the hotel afterwards.

 

John Clark: “On the way back the trainer Neil Mochan took us on a short cut but it came to a dead end and we had to climb over a fence. On the eve of the European Cup final we were climbing over a fence to get back onto the road again.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “When we got back to the hotel we had a wee cup of tea, as usual. There were be a few nerves but there were more nerves the next day.”

 

 

THE DAY OF THE GAME

 

Stevie Chalmers: “It was a Holy Day Of Obligation and you’re supposed to go to mass.”

 

John Clark: “A friend of ours, Father Bertie O’Reagan, was in Lisbon and when Jock Stein found out it was a religious day he asked him if he would he say Mass for the players who had to go. We’d been brought up in the religious way and you always kept to your rules. It worked out for us and God looked after us.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “There were four non-Catholics in the team – Ronnie Simpson, Tommy Gemmell, Willie Wallace and Bertie Auld – and they obviously didn’t go to church, but they didn’t think anything of it because it often happened when we were playing away and they would just make a joke about it. But it wasn’t a team of sectarianism in any way, we were all working together.”

 

Billy McNeill: “It was important because a lot of the lads were good living and religion was an important aspect of their lives, but it was also good because it ate into the morning and it gave us something to concentrate on.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “The majority of Celtic fans were Catholics, so the chapels were packed with fans and I think it helped win over the Lisbon people. The locals were expecting these cold-hearted Scots and there we were, not only singing and dancing in the main square and showing off our colours, but attending Mass too.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “It was the first time I’d been abroad and when I arrived in Lisbon all the Celtic fans were gathered in the plaza in the city centre, but who was the first face I saw but John McCabe – and he still had my scarf wrapped round his neck. So I ended up at the game with my scarf.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “The kick-off was at five o’clock so when we got back to the hotel we had our lunch and got away to our beds and spent the afternoon resting.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “We had the team-talk at the hotel. Jock just said, ‘You know it’s been a wonderful season and this can be a season that we can all look back on with great fondness. It can be the best season of our careers’.”

 

John Clark: “He told us was that we had a chance to make history, that the opportunity was there and the platform was there for each and every one of us to make history.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “On the way to the stadium I think the coach driver went the wrong way, but we were at the back of the bus singing songs so we wouldn’t have particularly noticed anyway.”

 

Billy McNeill: “The stadium was set in a national park and it was chaos around the ground, but we got there eventually and I think sometimes things like take your mind off the game and you can relax.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “We arrived 50 minutes before kick-off, which suited us perfectly. We came into the stadium, walked up the tunnel and onto the park. The Celtic support were already in, thousands of them. We waved to the supporters and then went back into the dressing room. There was no time to sit about and worry or get too nervous.”

 

Jack Marshall: “I flew in just for in time for the match. Approaching the ground we were jammed in the traffic and getting held back, so I jumped out of the mini bus coming to the stadium and I held up the traffic so we wouldn’t miss the match. We got us in just in time. It wasn’t a big ground but it was marvellous, with beautiful surroundings and with trees along one side.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “When I first saw the stadium I thought it was spectacular. It was three sided with a wee press box along one side and I could picture Billy going up to collect the cup at the top of the podium.”

 

 

THE GAME

 

Bobby Lennox: “Jock could usually be like anything with the players, depending on what side of the bed he had got out of, but before that game he was wonderful. He got us all at ease and talked to us all before the game and he was very calm and relaxed. We had been given the bench in the shade and Inter were given the bench in the sun and when we went out they were sitting on our bench. Big Jock had to threaten them to move them on.”

 

Billy McNeill: “We came out of the dressing room and through a courtyard, before going into a long tunnel. They held us there for a while. I remember turning round and the Italian team were looking absolutely magnificent. It’s quite an inspiring strip, the blue and black stripes, the black shorts, black stockings, the tanned legs, the athleticism of their team and the handsome Italian faces. Then out of nowhere Bertie Auld, a real Glaswegian character, started singing ‘The Celtic Song’ and we all joined in. You should have seen the expressions on the faces of the Italians.”

 

John Clark: “They must have got the shock of their lives – how do you deal with a team singing a football song seconds before they walk out to play in a big game.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “The next thing we were up the steps and suddenly the green and white scarves went up from the big Celtic support. It was wonderful.”

 

Billy McNeill: “The biggest thing I had to do as captain was in illustrating to the team that we had nothing to fear. I had to swap pennants with their captain, Picchi before the kick-off. We exchanged words but I didn’t have any Italian and I don’t think he had any English, but you always manage to get through.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Right after kick-off Bicicli ran past me and planted a kiss on the side of my cheek and then just carried on. I guess he was kind of excited. It’s different if you score a goal and your team-mates plant one on your cheek but that was strange.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “In those days the Italians played very defensively and they marked man-to-man. One of our plans for the game was for our forwards to take their defenders to stupid positions because they were going to follow us, leaving spaces for our fullbacks to attack. Left-back Tommy Gemmell had six or seven shots on goal inside six or seven minutes, really good shots. We played the game an awful lot quicker than the Italians. Now they were all superb players but they were not used to people coming at them, which is what we did.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “There was a kind of calmness amongst the fans before the game that was shattered in the seventh minute when the penalty was given.”

 

Billy McNeill: “With catenaccio in vogue then, the worst thing we wanted to do was concede an early goal. I don’t know what happened to Jim Craig because we pushed out to keep the game as tight as we could and all of a sudden Jim was five yards behind us. Although he swears he didn’t bring Cappellini down, it looks now as though he did.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “With just seven minutes gone I thought it was never a penalty, but when you look at it now it was. At the time, though, you think you’ve been hard done by.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “There was a sinking feeling among the fans when Inter scored, but a chorus of ‘Hail, hail’ went up and the whole crowd just started to lift themselves again and we knew it was just a matter of time until Celtic were going to score. There was just wave after wave of attack as they hit the woodwork three times. I don’t know if Sarti ever had a game like it, but I’d certainly never seen a goalkeeping display of the like in my life.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Before the game we’d heard that Sarti, the goalkeeper, was the weak link in the Inter team but he was absolutely great for them.”

 

John Clark: “Jock had told us that Inter were a team who would want us to come to them all the time and the more you come to them, the more you’ve got to be on your toes, because they liked to hit you on the break. When they got the goal with the penalty kick, that’s more or less what they did, but they didn’t realise that we could come at them all night.”

 

Jackie Connor: “Celtic were playing the game like they were down at Barrowfields where they trained. They had no anxieties at all.”

 

Billy McNeill: “At half-time Jock Stein calmed us down just a little bit because we all thought that the referee had done us in just a little bit by the penalty kick. He hadn’t as it happened, but I think it suited Big Jock that he could have a wee go at us. He said, ‘Never mind concentrating on what the referee had done, we can’t do anything about that, it’s what we’re gonna do in the second half that’s important’.”

 

Jack Marshall: “I was with this feller who was bursting for the toilet at half-time. Inside the ground there was lots of shrubbery and trees. He went in there and the next minute he came out with two policemen with their guns out and they were going to arrest him.”

 

Jackie Connor: “Big Jock had a theory and I know this from talking to him. They had no chance of scoring against that mob if they were in the Inter penalty box, so they had to get it ball outside the box – and that’s where our goal came from.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “The two full backs had got up the park at the same time, which shouldn’t really have happened, but just shows how much we were on top.”

 

Jackie Connor: “The ball was passed back from Craig to Tommy Gemmell and the next thing the ball was in the back of the net, through about eight Milan players. The place erupted then.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “When Tommy Gemmell’s goal went in it was probably one of the most beautiful goals that you’ll ever see in a European Cup final. I’ve never hugged so many people in my life.”

 

John Clark: “It was a thunderous shot from 25 yards out. It was unstoppable.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I jumped up and a Portuguese chap in a Celtic scarf got hold of me and he was shouting, ‘Celtic, Celtic’. I was on cloud nine.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “When the ball went in we all jumped on top of big Tommy. It was relief and pleasure – all the emotions at one time. We know when that went in that we were going to win the match.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “If we’d have got beaten we’d have got credit for going there and putting up a good performance, but I didn’t feel as if we were in awe of these people – we really took the game to them and let them worry about it.”

 

John Clark: “In the 83rd minute Bobby Murdoch hit a tremendous shot across goal. Whether it was going in or not I don’t know, but Stevie Chalmers prodded it in and made it 2-1 for us.”

 

Jackie Connor: “I was in ecstasy. I was jumping up and down – I think I nearly squeezed my wife to death.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “People say that was quite lucky – but Jock Stein had us working on that move at least three times a week.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Stevie must have done that a thousand times in training – the ball came through and he pushed it in the corner of the net.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I think I burst out crying. We were going to be European Champions, the first British team to do it. The way Celtic were playing they probably could have moved up the park and scored a third goal, but they just played it about. It was wonderful.”

 

Billy McNeill: “After we scored the second goal I was convinced that we would be up against it, so I said to John Clark, ‘This is when we’ve got to win this, we’ve got to play’, but they didn’t. I think they were a spent force. They’d underestimated the ability that we had in that side and I think they also underestimated our fitness. The conditions were ideal for an Italian team, but we were running and chasing and hunting right to the last minute of the game. By the end of the game they were a much more tired team than we were.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I remember Jimmy Johnstone running down time at the end of the game and he took the ball for a walk. Three Inter players came round him and were desperate to get the ball back. Jimmy gave a wee drop of one shoulder and then a wee drop of the other – then he was away. He left the three of them for dead.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “I’ll never forget the final whistle – I was in the centre circle near John Clark and the two of us jumped into each others arms and jumped about deliriously. ”

 

John Clark: “Bobby Lennox and myself were hugging each other on the halfway line and that’s the last I can remember about the final whistle because then the crowd broke onto the field.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “After the equalising goal I had moved down, along with hundreds of others, to this big wall that ran around the pitch. On the other side of the wall there was a small moat and armed Portuguese police stood facing us. When the final whistle went a few fans jumped over on to the grass. It was a trickle to start with – I watched a man who was the same age as my father jumping over and thought if he can do it, I can too. It was the only time in my life I ran onto the park.”

 

Jack Marshall: “A lot of the fans fell into the moat and had to be pulled out. By the time they got to the park they were kissing the grass, doing the highland fling and cutting bits of the grass out. I just sat and laughed at all these characters going cuckoo.”

 

Billy McNeill: “A few of the boys had to make a mad dash to Ronnie Simpson’s goal – the ones with false teeth had kept them in Ronnie Simpson’s cap in the goal so they could put them in quickly for the presentation, but Ronnie forgot to bring them when he ran up the pitch to join us. Thankfully they were still there. It was astonishing that no-one had taken the bonnet as a souvenir.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “I changed jerseys with Bedin, who had been marking me. Then I tried to get to the dressing room. By that time there were thousands of Celtic supporters on the park and it was very difficult to get off because the people were wanting to take your jerseys, your boots, anything as souvenirs.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I jumped onto the park and headed for what players I could see. I got hold of big ‘Tam’ Gemmell and hugged him and I chased after Bobby Lennox. I feel sorry for the players, as they were getting strips ripped off them. I saw Billy McNeill and the scratches that man had on his back were unbelievable, just from people trying to get the strip off him. Two big heavy men were shielding him and trying to get him into the tunnel.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Once the crowd started to get on the park we all scattered back into the tunnel and the changing room. I think it was Burgnich that I met in the tunnel and the two of us swapped strips.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “It was chaos in the dressing room. It was mostly reporters and friends of the manager. Bill Shankly was there and he congratulated everybody and said what a great man Jock was.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “There was an announcement, first in English, then in Italian and Portuguese, saying that the presentation of the trophy would be delayed.”

 

Billy McNeill: “I remember Big Jock coming to me and saying that I and myself and the assistant manager Sean Fallon had to go and get the trophy. At the time I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about because we were back in the dressing room and we were jumping up and down for joy.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “It was only Billy McNeill who was taken through the crowd up to this huge balcony with pillars on either side of him. I think the fact that the Celtic fans had invaded the pitch then prevented the team coming out again.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “We didn’t know the cup wasn’t there or that Billy wasn’t there. The dressing room was chaos.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “We stood in a massive crowd and waited for the trophy to come up. We saw the green and white strip coming out and it was Billy and when he raised it I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. I can still see him now - that big smile of his when he held it up.”

 

Billy McNeill: “Having seen the footage of the presentation so often I know what happened, but I don’t have any distinct recollection of it. The Portuguese police didn’t think it was safe for us to go back across the pitch so they decided to take us back to the dressing rooms around the outside of the stadium in a police car. But before they took us there it seemed as though every policeman on duty had their photo taken with the cup. Not with us, but with the cup.”

 

Stevie Chalmers: “Certainly it would have been nice if we’d had a lap of honour but thousands of these people came from Glasgow and some of them left themselves skint for years. They would all want to celebrate at the same time as us – and with us. So although we didn’t get a lap of honour, the fans at least got their money’s worth when they got onto the park.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I was on the park a good hour after the game, kissing the grass. I ran into the net where the goals were scored and I was swinging on the crossbar. If my family had seen me they would have got me locked up.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Later on that evening when we were sitting in the restaurant, when Billy came in with a box and gave us all our medals. It’s probably the worst presentation of medals in the history of the European Cup.”

 

 

HOMEARD BOUND

 

Bernie Boyle: “We took the coaches back into Lisbon. I think we had time for a couple of beers and then it was out to the airport. I think I was home at one o’clock and in my bed. My wife often says I was home quicker from Lisbon than I’d ever been from Aberdeen.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “When the busses left for the airport the locals were lined up on the streets clapping us at one or two in the morning – mothers, kids, grannies. Some of us hadn’t slept for two days but our adrenaline kept us going. I threw my Celtic shirt into the crowd. We owed the locals of Lisbon a big thank you because they were terrific.”

 

Jack Marshall: “It was different three years later when we got to the European Cup final again. I went to Milan to see Celtic play Feyenoord and that time locals didn’t like us at all because we’d beaten Inter in Lisbon.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “I’ve read stories that some fans ended up staying in Lisbon and getting jobs. There were definitely lots of fans who lost their passports and there were delays. Hundreds of passports were on laid out on tables at the airport waiting for people to claim them.”

 

Jackie Connor: “I think some of the planes flew out with maybe a dozen people missing.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “At the airport we heard a roar as the Celtic team arrived with their wives. Jock Stein made all the players come out and they were singing ‘Hail, Hail’ with the fans. One of the fans shouted to Tommy Gemmell ‘How are you doing Tam?’ and I remember him saying ‘Top of the world’.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “The day I came home I dressed my car up with flags and took my brother and two sons to the airport to see the team come home. Thankfully a policeman who had a leaning for Celtic told me to go round to the back entrance as that was the way the team were coming out and I followed right behind them all the way through Glasgow and back to the ground. When we were just about to turn into Celtic Park a police sergeant on horseback came galloping after me, so I abandoned the car. A friend of mine behind the railings shouted ‘Bernie, you made good time back’. He thought I’d driven all the way back from Lisbon to Celtic Park!”

 

John Clark: “The best thing that happened was when we came back to Celtic Park – that made up for not getting the cup presented the right way. The streets were lined with people all the way from the centre of Glasgow to Celtic Park. We were put on the back of a lorry and we went round the track three or four times, getting our lap of honour.”

 

Bernie Boyle: “When I got home the following day I went round to visit my dad. In his lapel he had a sprig of white heather with a green, white and gold ribbon – he was a very committed Celtic man, but that was the first and only time I saw him with colours on. He gave me a big hug and he said ‘Were you on the pitch?’. I wondered whether I should tell him because he was kind of strict, but I said, ‘Yes, I was Dad’. He said, ‘I thought you would be, I was on it myself looking for you’. I could not believe that my father had done such a thing, but that just shows you that everybody was just caught up in the euphoria of that occasion.”

 

Ernie Wilson: “Maybe I shouldn’t have but I had dug up a big bit of the pitch and brought it home in my bag. I took it in the pub the next day but everybody grabbed big chunks of this turf and I ended up with just a wee spot that wouldn’t fit in a box of matches. My mum put it in a plant pot in the window and she said, ‘It’s always there if you need it’.”

 

Jackie Connor: “After that game for the first time ever I sent a letter to Big Jock Stein and thanked him for everything he had done for Celtic.”

 

Bobby Lennox: “Winning the European Cup was the making of the club. After that everyone knew about Celtic. We even beat Real Madrid two week later. They’d won it the previous year and they kept saying they were the real champions, but we went a beat them 1-0 on their own patch in front of 135,000 people.”

 

Billy McNeill: “It was Di Stefano’s testimonial. It was a fantastic evening and the game was very competitive. Bobby Lennox scored the goal for us – and afterwards there could be no doubt that we could be called true European Champions.

 

Bobby Lennox: “That just proved to Europe that we were the best team. We entered five tournaments that year and we won all five of them.”

 

 

 

© Words copyright Chris Hunt 2007