Happy Lisbon day!

This day 45 years ago I was a seriously happy nine year old Bhoy.

I was recently asked to ransack my memories of the 25th May 1967 by Paul Larkin.

He asked people to relate their favourite Celtic goal and what it meant to them.

When you’re asked to do this by the “Green & White Writer” you have to step up.


Here are my memories of that day in May 1967 that form a part of Paul’s book:


It was decades after I witnessed that goal that it was explained to me what I had done with it for all the years since it had been scored.

Anytime the Lisbon Lions were mentioned I was, once again, a nine year old Bhoy standing right in front of the small black and white telly in our house in Baillieston.

I can see the little round table that had been pressed into service to hold the telly when it was brought into the house.

My grandmother fussed about whether or not to leave her doily on the table.

My mother, ever the worrier, had warned that the telly would make the thing go on fire.

This all sounded incredibly exciting and I would be able to help as I had a fireman’s outfit of my own.

You only see good outcomes from stuff like this when you’re nine.

After my grandfather had lifted and laid the telly several times to order my mammy’s mammy finally stated that she would find a good home for the fine lace matt.

He harrumphed his displeasure as the woman of his life had finally made her mind up.

It was just as well his wagon building job gave him arms like Popeye.

At each side of the fire place there were large alcoves.

The telly sat on its wee table underneath the one of these built in recesses.

The wee TV was under the one that was home to a beautiful statue of the some saint or other.

I think this might have been the first live game I had ever watched by way of Logie Baird’s invention.

This was probably the third Celtic goal I had ever seen on the telly.

The first one I remember was a shot from the edge of the box by Joe McBride in a league game, the second was Tam Gemmell’s “terrible dunt”  to level the score in Lisbon, but the one I captured and kept that day was, for me, the most important in Celtic’s history.

There was ample evidence that day, even for a nine year old, that Giuliano Sarti was some kind of a superman.

He seemed capable of feats of agility that I had only seen attributed to Spiderman in my super hero comics.

The Italian in black truly was a marvel.

Playing the game of his life Sarti seemed unbeatable.

Even after Gemmell’s equaliser the Inter goalie continued to leap across his goal and deny Celtic the lead.

With a few minutes to go it was pure, beautiful, inventive football that had the ball stabbed past Sarti for the second time that day in May.

Everything about that goal epitomised the way that Stein wanted his Lions to play.

A left back feinting and twisting inside the penalty box  being double marked and then slipping it  to  the edge of the  area. There the man that big Jack Charlton said was “the best passer of a ball I ever worked with” was waiting.

Without hesitation Bobby Murdoch knew what to do.

His shot drilled towards Inter Milan goal.

At the final second Stevie Chalmers intervened to re-direct the shot from six yards.

The Inter keeper had no chance.

Flat footed on the goal line Sarti finally appeared human.

It was 2-1.

Helenio Herrera’s Catenaccio had been defeated by guile, speed, skill, but most of all by resolve.

Chalmers was off the drawing board for a Jock Stein centre forward and it was fitting that it was his quick, decisive intervention which had wrong footed Sarti.

Physically quick and mentally agile he had a predator’s instinct inside the penalty box.

Set up to defend their slender lead the Italians didn’t have anything in the tank for a fight back.

Recorded history tells me that Chalmers’s goal was on 83 minutes.

When the final whistle went Stevie’s strike had been decisive.

My Celtic scarf was raised in triumph in Estádio Nacional by my uncle.  As he celebrated in Lisbon I whooped and danced in front of the telly in Baillieston.

Although the goal appeared to be a brilliant bit of improvisation by Chalmers that wasn’t the opinion of my grannie’s cousin Jimmy Gribben.

I remember him that summer in the house with “the Grib” telling my grandfather that Jock had worked this one on the training ground.

For any other manager this sounds fanciful, but not Stein.

Afterwards with the attention to detail that only a nine year old boy can muster in such matters my Subbuteo Lisbon Lions recreated that goal past the helpless Sarti again and again.

Many years later on a business trip to the Portuguese capital I found some space in my schedule and I knew what I had to do.

I went back to my hotel in the main Russio square.

I had packed a Celtic shirt for the journey I came down to the taxi rank and got in. The Man simply said “Estádio Nacional?” I did not demure.

When I was dropped off outside I immediately recognised the main stand where Caesar had lifted the cup, but I couldn’t see a way in at first.

I then went around the side and found myself in a small courtyard with a café.

An elderly gentleman was sitting there with some chilled out staff when he saw me in the hoops he was transported back to that day in May.

“Ah Celtic Glasgow! Jimmeeee Johnstone jogador bonito!!”

Jinky was, and remains, my all-time Celtic hero, but as I walked up to the pitch it was those two goals I was thinking about.

I went down into the underground dressing room area and standing at the foot of the steps, just like Bertie Auld, I broke into the Celtic song.

My voice bounced off the low ceiling.

The day was gorgeous.

I took off my shoes and walked barefoot on the turf.

I went to the end where the goals went in and paced them through.

First I was Jim Craig with the lay off, then Tam Gemmell’s with the rocket shot.

Then I scored the winner all over again!

Gemmell to Murdoch to Chalmers.


The sprinklers were on and I was happy that they cooled me down during this performance art.

I walked back out of the stadium permanently smiling just I had smiled all those years earlier.

I got on the train at Cruz Quebrada and headed back into the city that is in the heart of every Celtic supporter.

When I got back to Russio I went into a cyber café and logged onto Celticminded.com.

I shared the experience with my online buddies and wondered if it was in fact near to the anniversary as someone else was running my schedule that week I had lost track of day and date.

It was indeed near the anniversary.

It WAS the day itself!

On the 39th anniversary of that day in May 1967 at pretty much the exact time of the match I had the place to myself.

I started smiling all over again.

Psychologists concerned with researching how human memory works have evidence that highly emotional events are captured visually.

“Flashbulb memory” is the term they use for it.

When I occasioned across this term during a psychology lecture the significance of the term hit me and finally, in my forties, I realised what had happened inside my nine year old brain on the 25th May 1967 as Stevie prodded the ball into the back of the net.

My memories of that day in May 1967 could not be more emotional and that is why my synapses snapped the image.

All of these years I have carried that monochrome photograph in my head.

Despite seeing  that beautiful goal many times in colour for me it will always be on our black and white telly on my grannie’s wee table next to the alcove.

I smiled all that summer as only a nine year old can.

I’m smiling now.

Champions of Europe.

Thanks Stevie!


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