Fifty years on – those Thistles still sting!
It’s just occurred to me, looking forward to the Sunday’s 2021 League Cup Final, that it marks 50 years of supporting Celtic as my first ever game was the 1971 LCF – yes, THAT one!!!!
Amazingly, when I left the house that day, it wasn’t with the intention of attending the match. I just happened to be passing the Chapel House of St Flannan’s in my home town of Kirkintilloch with 3 friends just as our Priest, the legendary Fr Mick O’ Connell, was leaving for the game.
“Going to the game boys?”.
“Would you LIKE to go?”
And off we went in his big black Daimler!
As we drove along,Father assured us that we were guaranteed to see goals as the team that contested the previous European Cup Final were up against newly promoted Patrick Thistle.
We arrived at Hampden and we were amazed at the number of people milling around. We’d never seen such a crowd in our lives! We approached a large metal gate and Fr announced to a steward that he clearly knew that he had brought 4 orphans along – and in we went!
The ground was a mass of green and white. Well, except for one wee old guy in front of me who was standing with a large bag between his legs containing his carry-out. Judging by his attempts to pin his large yellow and red rosette to his jacket he had already partaken!
The game started and sure enough after 10 mins the first goal duly arrived. Unfortunately, it was at the wrong end! Another arrived five minutes later, this one too at the wrong end!
“Well, they’re making a game of it“ was the general consensus.
However, when a third was conceded in 28mins the laughter turned to frowns of concern as those around me started to question when Celtic had last gone 3 behind and won.
It’s probably a measure of Jock Stein’s status that it wasn’t until a fourth goal was conceded in 37 mins that people started to question whether it had been a good idea to drop Jim Craig for a young Davie Hay due to a midweek indiscretion.
Incidentally, the wee guy in front had thrown his rosette into the air at the first goal and at each subsequent goal so by half time he still hadn’t managed to pin it on to his jacket!
Strangely, apart from a consolidation goal by young Kenny Dalglish (whatever happened to him!) this is just about all I can remember about that day when the 11 year old me was plunged into a lifetime of supporting Celtic. I can’t remember the journey home or even if I informed my parents that I had been to the match!
My last memory of the day was the sense of disappointment at half time – as many of those around me started to melt away to the solace of a pub declaring loudly that “ it just wasn’t our day”, – with the sickening realisation that my first ever Celtic game was over by half time – and not in a good way!
Over the years I’ve found it quite easy to accept defeat gracefully. When we lost the 1994 final to Raith Rovers I stayed on to see them presented with the trophy. I was one of many who applauded PSG off the park when they beat Celtic 3-0 in Europe the following year and I even stayed behind in Seville to cheer our team up the tunnel – although I’m pretty sure i booed Deco!
I put this attitude largely down to my Celtic debut as it was a painful lesson that in football nothing is certain.
In a strange quirk of fate in what I consider as kismet when I took my kids to their first ever Celtic game in 2000 it was the night “super Caley went ballistic!” Bloody Thistles again!
I’m confident of a victory on Sunday. I’ll be disappointed if we lose but I’ll accept it manfully. I’ll tell you what though, 50 years on – those Thistles still sting!
above by Billybhoy