A Hard Lesson
There’s been a bit of talk,lately, of cup finals and the first one you attended. Everyone appears to have attended a winning cup final.
That was not my experience, but mines was certainly character building and made me appreciate the victories that were to come.
My first cup final was Celtic 2 Rangers 3 in 1973. I was 9 years old
This final, for those of us old enough, is mainly remembered for Tom Forsyth, scoring the winner,with his studs, from about 2 inches out.
For me the whole occasion was a lesson in life and literally some hard knocks.
My Dad, hmmm, again a lot of you had good relationships with your Dad, you are the lucky ones, that’s not the case for all of us and it wasn’t the case for me. He did give me a love of Celtic and wildlife, which I’m grateful for, apart from that, life wasn’t so good.
He was a bully, thought he was a hard man and it was his way or the highway.
The first thing I remember about the occasion was queueing up for the tickets at Hampden. I vaguely recall my Dad waking me and my Mum and saying we had to get to Hampden as cup final tickets were going on sale. He had read it in the morning paper, no social media in those days, you queued up.
He went back to bed to read his paper and me and mum went to Hampden, we were told to get main stand tickets. My first lesson was soon to follow.
The queue was a mixture of Celtic and Rangers, fans, no segregation,in these days either, although that was not an issue for me and indeed, far more members of my family were Rangers supporters rather than Celtic. It was two tickets per person, we could get 4, we only needed 3. The guy behind me, who I had been talking to for hours, asked me to get him an extra one for the old North Stand, above the north enclosure, a Rangers end ticket. He gave me the money, no cards in those days and I obliged.
When I excitedly arrived home with the tickets and told me Dad about helping the man, he went crazy and gave me a right few punches. If I was getting an extra ticket, I should have done it for a Celtic fan. That certainly dented my excitement as well as my jaw. Thankfully, I still see a human,not a supporter of a team, that man had entertained and been kind to a 9 year old for hours and deserved the extra ticket. It’s important to remember because, particularly in these days of Social Media, it’s easy to dehumanize a whole fan base.
As the days approached, the excitement built,and by the time match day arrived, I could hardly sleep.
We arrived at the Hampden, having walked from Shawlands passed the Mount Florida end, yip for those that know the area, past the traditional Rangers end and a long walk with thousands of Rangers fans. I have to say, as far as I remember this was incident free. That was my Dad though, he thought that was funny.
I don’t have any great memory of any first impression of inside Hampden, but I do remember thinking wow look at the crowd.
The game itself was a classic, except we lost. Celtic shot into the traditional Celtic end in the first half. Kenny scored a cracker, to put us one up, Rangers equalised, then Alfie Conn scored early in the second half, sadly he was still a Rangers player then and hadn’t joined Celtic yet. We then equalised from the spot, John Greig punched the ball off the line, in what would be a red card offence these days, misery followed when Forsyth made it 3.2. Jinky had a goal disallowed for offside, despite being 9 years old at the time and being 60 metres away, I can confirm it was never offside, I know this, because everyone around me was saying that.
I was as disappointed as any 9 year old would be but I was now very fearful, my Dad never took defeats well.
On the way home, I remember him saying we will take the number 5 bus from Mount Florida to St Enoch, he knew it would be full of Rangers fans but he didn’t care. He said so.
The bus journey was hell, we were the only Celtic fans on it, the Rangers fans were celebrating and mocking us. Oh spot the loonies was one of the chants, I recall. Although the song that still haunts me to this day, Dawn, Tie a yellow Ribbon. They were singing tie blue and white ribbons around the Scottish Cup and as I discovered they hadn’t won the cup since 1966, so we’re singing its been 7 long years, my Dad was now muttering that he was going to smash someone, I just didn’t know, at that moment, that it was going to be me.
I don’t mind admitting I was scared on that bus, but you do find an inner strength. I then made a huge schoolboy error. A Rangers fan showed me some kindness and I reacted badly, the Rangers fan said ignore them son, it might be your turn to win it next time and gave me 50p.
I tried to second guess my Dad, I reckoned he would be raging if I accepted the money, so I told the man to stick it and threw it out the window, what a mistake that was, my Dad was raging at my behaviour and punched me, a few times, no one interjected, back then it happened to some children and probably a good few on the bus thought that little Dick deserves it, my Dad then said I would regret it. 50p was a fortune, back then, for a boy from the schemes, in fact it was 5 weeks pocket money. I instantly regretted it, worse was to follow, when we arrived home, I was given another few blows and told my punishment was no pocket money for 5 weeks. I certainly had plenty of time to think about the error of my ways.
46 years later and that final still sticks in my mind. It taught me a lot, my Dad was a bully, accept kindness when it’s given and that Celtic don’t win finals all the time. It makes the victories all the sweeter and I always have made sure I enjoy the moment,and oh aye, that Rangers fan was right, I was back at Hampden a year later, without my Dad, as we beat Dundee United 3.0 to lift the cup. I can still recall, as if it was yesterday, that sweet taste of victory, the loss had made me appreciate the victory even more.
Today, these are good times, we have just enjoyed a double treble, and indeed a 7th consecutive trophy, something I never thought I would see. It’s important to remember though, sometimes we lose.