Having grown up a Rangers fan in Glasgow during the sixties and early seventies I am surprised that I haven’t ended up in Kerbala, Nadjaf or somewhere in the south of Spain flogging myself. However, the fact that Rangers in those days also had a very good side saved me from the temptation to whip big chunks out of my back later on in life. Yes, Celtic were just better. Indeed, from about 67, when they won the European Cup, to 1974, when Athletico Madrid literally kicked them out of the same competition in the Semi Finals, they were as good as it gets.
Nevertheless, Rangers and Scottish football in general were also in a healthy state and I remember when I went to Ibrox to watch Rangers play Bayern Munich in the Semi Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup that I, and everyone else apart from the 1,000 or so German fans in the 80,000 crowd, expected Rangers to win. They did, 2-0, after a 0-0 draw in Munich on an evening when another 80,000 fans were watching Celtic across the city in Parkhead lose in the semi-finals of the European Cup to Inter Milan on penalties.
However, it is to 1967 that I have to go back and the highlight has to be Celtic winning the European Cup. At my school most of the kids were upset that Celtic had not only become the first British side and indeed the first non-Latin side to be champions of Europe, but that they were the first Scottish side, For my part I contented myself with the fact that Rangers were going to beat Bayern Munich in the Cup Winners Cup final in Nurnberg a week later, they didn’t, they should have but they lost on penalties after extra time, I cried and little solace was gained from the fact that a month earlier Scotland had beaten England, the reigning world champions, 3-2 on their own turf.
Back on those days I was still waiting for Rangers to become European champions and Scotland to win the World Cup. However, I was never more aware that this is never going to happen than last week, when I watched Rangers lose 1-4 at home to a nothing special Romanian team in the Champions League and Celtic stumble to a 0-1 defeat at home to a nothing special Hamburg SV team. Yes, these are dark days for Scottish football and at fifty-three it is much more likely I will never see Scotland participate in another World Cup finals than I will see them win the World Cup.
Nevertheless, thanks for the memories and even although I was a Rangers fan no masochistic streak and no inferiority complex developed because of Celtic winning the league nine times in a row. Celtic might have been winning everything, they might have been beating “us” most of the time but then “we” were beating just about everyone else in Scotland and, indeed, in Europe and then there was the football. There were those moments of magic; standing behind the goal at the Rangers end in a 90,000 crowd at Ibrox watching two very good teams play out a 2-2 draw on a day Celtic clinched the title, watching one particular moment of magic from “Jinky” Johnstone when he scored one of Celtic’s goals and despite the hate around me I could appreciate that I had seen something special. At Wembley I watched a Scottish team play the world champions off of the park and I watched another great Scottish player, the by this time not so slim Jim Baxter, tease the English. Yes, there was Jimmy Johnstone, Jim Baxter, Dennis Law, Bobby Lennox, John Grieg, Willie Henderson, Billy Bremner, Eddie Gray, Charlie Cook, etc etc etc and even when they had gone or we had Kenny Dalgleish, Graham Souness, Alan Hansen and a few others appearing on the scene.
Finally, Jimmy Johnstone was asked at the beginning of the nineties how he thought the Celtic team from 1967, a team where all the players were from within 25 miles of Parkhead, would perform against the then present team. He replied diplomatically, “probably a draw”, but was then quick to add tha,t at the time of the question, the team from 67 were all over fifty. Watching them struggle against Hamburg as they did last week I would expect the team from 1967 to get a draw with the present Celtic team and that is without “Jinky”, who passed away a couple of years ago.