In fact before the advent of European football it is arguable that the cup was the blue riband event, bringing much glory to the successful teams and players, and the end of season bragging rights.
I feel quite saddened when I hear younger fans dismiss the cup competitions. My own view is that any cup is a trophy to be savoured, not simply that they can be marked up on the totem pole of the club’s achievements but because some of the best days I have had as a Tim have been at Cup ties – not just finals but matches in the earlier rounds – and I always feel great disappointment when we go out of any cup competition, no matter the stage.
The League Cup is referred to nowadays as the ‘diddy cup’ and yet we have had some golden days in pursuit of that trophy. The 7-1 game speaks for itself, but the 1965 League Cup final broke the hoodoo of losing finals to the Huns and established a new belief in our club that the times were indeed a-changing.
The lost final to Raith Rovers was not dismissed as a diddy event. The scar tissue still remains and the pain is easily recalled but when Wim the Tim led the Hoops to victory over Dundee United the green shoots of recovery were in evidence and we rejoiced in the manner of a people who had been delivered from bondage. That was one of the best days I have had following the Celts.
I met Fr. Willie Boyd, parish priest in Irvine before the game. When we chatted about our prospect I ventured the hope that we would be winning 3-0 with twenty minutes to go and could sing them home. We had many victories down the years, but most were close fought affairs and the tension right to the end was often palpable, I wanted so much for an enjoyable day rather than a tense scrap to the finish.
When Burley scored right on cue to administer the coup de grace the stadium rose and the anthems of light boomed out over Mordor – pure magic it was.
My best memories however are of the Scottish Cup. Down the years I can recall few league matches without an effort, but many Scottish Cup ties are fresh in my mind and the sheer excitement remains with me to this day.
One of the earliest was a quarter final against the Hibs where we came back to equalise late in the game against a fine team who happened to have a fantastic goalie called Ronnie Simpson. When Steve Chalmers brought us level with minutes remaining it was joy unconfined.
Losing the final later that season to a Stein inspired Dunfermline was sore – perhaps more so because we had played well only to lose to another brilliant display of goalkeeping and two gross errors by our young defenders.
We had no such consolation when we lost the final in 1962. Hard though it is to admit it, we were totally outclassed by a fine Rangers team and for first time we left Hampden in droves long before the final whistle. It was bad enough having to watch a ritual humiliation but to have to listen to the hymns of hate pouring out of the Rangers end was unbearable.
There was a thread on KDS the other day asking about the most important goal we have ever scored. For me there was only one candidate, Billy McNeill’s terrific header from Charlie Gallagher’s corner in the 1965 final stands out as the ‘shot heard around the world’. That goal, which won us the cup for the first time in over ten years, sounded the news that ‘Celtic are back’ and life would never be the same again.
In the years that followed we were victorious on many fields and the Scottish cup was garlanded by green and white ribbons on many an occasion, while at the same time we learned what it was like to expect to be champions after many years of famine, but no matter how dominant we were, the cup finals brought their own joys and memories. George Connolly’s goal against the Huns; Dixie’s hat trick against the Hibs; Harry Hood’s penalty which proved to be the winner; Paul Wilson’s double versus Airdrie – memories are made of such moments.
For what it is worth, I disagree with George’s assessment on the Lostbhoys podcast last week that the 4-0 game was anything other than a rout. It was hard fought until Lennox scored the second, but the second half was an exhibition and Stevie’s goal was the icing on the cake. There was a break in from the Uruk Hai following his solo effort, an event which was immortalised by the great John Rafferty in his Observer column the following day.
He suggested that these misunderstood souls at the Huns’ end had simply been trying to go home, having seen enough, but that the Glasgow polis – sadists to a man – had forced them back on to the terracing saying ‘aye ye’’ll watch it’.
In the post Stein years we had George McLuskey’s diverted shot which caused the riot, Davie Provan – the first time a final goal had been scored from a free kick in the history of the competition and the centenary final to clinch the double.
Was there ever a sweeter moment than Joe Miller’s treble buster – I think not.
Had it not been for the Scottish Cup, Tommy Burns’s tenure as boss would have been trophyless and don’t let anyone tell you that Pierre’s goal mattered not. When Martin won the treble, Henrik’s double which clinched it were as welcome as any goals in that glorious season.
I think possibly because two of our most recent wins were uninspired events, one following a dreadful collapse in the final minutes of the league season, the memories of those days were not golden.
Should we reach the final this year and hopefully bring the trophy home to Paradise, it will not simply be a consolation – a meaningless bauble. It will at least show that this team for all their faults and failings are – after all that has gone before – winners, and it will make the job of the coach next season – whoever he is – much easier than if we finish with a bare cupboard. Particularly, as it seems clear, we will need to overcome the Forces of Darkness to achieve this goal.
So let us have none of this dismissal of the cup. It could well prove to be the talisman that this team needs – as in 1965 when the cup showed that Stein’s team could deliver the goods – it might be the stepping stone to greater success in future.