21 May 1979
Today sees a guest article from TWISTSNTURNS as he recalls a certain glorious night from just over forty years ago. See if you can guess what it’s about!
Having made my first appearance in December 1958, at a somewhat challenging ( for my mum) 10lbs 4ozs, the stars had aligned to determine I would celebrate my 21st birthday in 1979. Who was to know back then that the event wouldn’t be the biggest of my year?
That events on a football field would see far bigger celebrations in the twists n turns family?
By the time May 1979 arrived, as a 20 year old I’d completed an engineering apprenticeship and was ‘time served’.
( incidentally , if you were born on 21/5/79, you are a Gemini. Birthstone? Emerald! Was never in doubt was it)
Loved the folks I was working with. Hated the type of work, but the people were great. No thought had gone into my choice of career. Billy Connolly once remarked that when the gates in the Glasgow schools closed, the shipyards opened theirs and he just joined the queue. In similar fashion I’d seen a local engineering firm was hiring apprentices. £10.14p a week. I thought “ that’ll do for me” and that was as much thought as I gave it.
As I alluded to, the type of work wasn’t for me but I saw the apprenticeship through, mainly because of the great friends I’d made. One of them, Brian, a welder and a Celtic fanatic, was to be my companion on that historic Monday night in May 1979.
(There had been something in the air in May that year. Snow! The coldest May on record at the time and probably still is to this day. )
To say Brian was slightly built would be akin to me telling you Dave King was a bit of a fibber. Skinniest fella I ever knew. Whenever Brian was at my mums her motherly instinct used to kick in. She’d insist on making him a meal.
On the night of the match, the temperature had risen in parallel with the tension. We left work in my newly bought, second hand Hillman Avenger, and headed to my mums. It was her who bought me that car. My dad had sadly passed away on New Year’s Day the year before, and mum used some of the money she got to get me the car. On reflection, my dad would’ve loved the events that were about to unfold. He introduced me to Celtic games when I was 8 years old . I think he saw it as an integral part of religious education. Confession, Communion, Celtic, Confirmation. So the key players outside of my parents, up to that stage in my life had been Father McKinnon, Cardinal Gray, Stevie Chalmers and Father Gallagher.
Back at my mums, and as was, and still is her way, she’s gone into caring mode. Pre match dinner with an extra big serving for Brian as she attempts to fatten him up.
The problem with that is one I’m sure many of you will empathise with. Eating on the day of a Celtic match is hard enough, but eating on the day of a league decider v them is nigh on impossible.
The meals were partially eaten, and we set out to Celtic Park.
Oddly, all I recall about the journey is that we were both un-typically quiet. I cannot recall where I parked, it certainly wouldn’t have been near London Road, and I cannot remember walking to or entering the ground.
The match for the greater part, is also a blur. What strong recollections I do have are of Johnny Doyle standing over Alex McDonald just prior to being sent off, and Murdo’s screamer.
Oh, and the silence. Silence? In that atmosphere?
Yes silence. I’m sure you’ve noticed it, that silence which in reality probably lasts a second, but seems like much longer, when they score? The ball hits the net, silence, then that sickening roar from the other end of the ground.
So those were my only recollections throughout that match up until Murdo let fly, with one notable exception. The bear. Roy Aitken. He seemed to be everywhere. I wish I knew how much ground he covered that night. In defence, midfield, going forward. He was everywhere. This wasn’t tactics. No one teaches you to play like that. Centre back? Old fashioned right half? Holding midfielder? No. This was a tactic born playing street football called “ gerrintaethum”, and he did.
When Murdo decided to test the competence of the guys who put the nets up, it was game over. Until that point, at 3-2, every second seemed a minute and every minute seemed an hour. “Please blow, cmon clock countdown quicker”
At 4-2? I didn’t want the final whistle. They had gone. We had won. 10 men had won the title. Unbelievable.
We celebrated inside and outside the ground, the street parties were already in full swing. I was glad Brian was as slightly built as he was since I think I carried him most of the way to the car, stopping only to hug complete strangers who were happy to reciprocate.
We spoke on the way home about making it back in time for the highlights but of course the ‘strike’ put paid to that particular plan. The only slight on an unforgettable night.
If I can finish in traditional Oscar winning style:
So many people to thank for my being able to celebrate my 21st year in such unforgettable fashion. My mum of course. What timing! My dad who introduced me to the hoops. Every Celtic supporter inside and outside the ground that night for creating the gladiatorial atmosphere. The ref and Johnny Doyle for ensuring the “10 men” part, and of course Brian for being the one who shared the moments with me.
However, my biggest thanks goes to
Robert Sime ‘Roy’ Aitken.
I still think big Roy is the main reason 10 men won the league. More of a hero than Murdo in my eyes. Up there in my book with the Lions, Paul McStay, Henke et al.
Back in 1975 when I was aimlessly wandering into that engineering company, little did I know that a man born a week before me was setting out on his journey as a Celtic player, and could never have envisaged the part he was to play in my life, or the lives of millions of Celtic supporters.
Roy ‘the bear’ Aitken . Legend.
TWISTSNTURNS,many thanks indeed for this article. You’ve brought back a few good memories,that’s for sure! What a bloody night…
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