Today (21 February) marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most remarkable Old Firm (as we called it back in the day) games that I have witnessed. A day in which the fans never gave up on the team when they were behind for a long period and when the players displayed the correct balance of skill and commitment needed to win such fixtures. Celtic won 3-1 in the end but in truth it should have been 4 0r 5. This is a short story I wrote some time ago which describes the events of the day through my eyes as a 14 year old schoolboy.
He had been given strict instructions by his Father to be outside Donnelly’s bar at two o’clock. By the tone of Dad’s voice he had known that he should not be late. He wouldn’t be because he would not miss the Celtic – Rangers clash for anything.
He and his Father would both be in Glasgow that morning but for different reasons. Dad would take his part in the demonstration against the closure of the car plant in Linwood, Peugeot it was named but everyone still referred to it as ‘Chryslers’. The owners had announced its imminent closure and the government would not intervene with a package to save the plant. Along with the destruction of the other heavy industries in the early 1980’s people at last decided to make a stand and an estimated 25,000 protestors were to converge on the City. The Prime Minister of the day had stated that there was no such thing as ‘society’ but they would prove her wrong as Trades Unions, Church leaders, community groups and the general public would come together in a show of unity, with the obligatory pipe band to lead them.
The spirit of the day had rekindled tales he had been told of the work in by the unions in the Clyde shipyards ten years previously. He had only recently discovered that the ‘UCS’ logo on Dad’s overalls stood for ‘Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ and not ‘Unity Creates Strength’ as Dad had told him. He felt guilty at not going on the demo with Dad but the lure of the latest Roxy Music LP meant that a visit to HMV would win the day.
He was at Donnelly’s for ten to two and by twenty past Dad had still not arrived. Just as he began to fret, the old rusty yellow Ford Cortina came into view, packed, but with one small space kept especially for him. He thought it ironic that the same men who marched arm in arm that morning would now make their different routes towards Parkhead and the green end or blue depending on their allegiance.
At the match small flakes of snow dropped gently from the sky creating a Christmas card impression. The snow fell silently giving him a strangely comforting feeling, perhaps that’s why he was not overly concerned when Rangers scored first.
Celtic then had a perilous 2-1 lead with mere minutes remaining. Roy Aitken, Celtic’s powerful young defender, embarked on an amazing 50 yard run from defence, which culminated in him scoring the third goal. The old Jungle, now in full voice with the realisation of a Celtic victory, reminded him of the book he had read where the St. Etienne manager had described the Celtic fans in 1968 as ‘howling banshees’. He liked that description.
After the final whistle the fans exited the stadium from the Celtic end and the Jungle into Janefield Street, creating a bottleneck like two streams flowing into a river. It was quiet now, the slow pace giving them time to catch their breath after the excitement. One loud roar pierced the air. HAIL !!!…and within a second the entire street burst into voice with the Celtic song.
His face tingled, the hairs on his neck stood up and his eyes swelled. If he could only bottle this feeling and sell it he would make a fortune. He would be a millionaire.