TODAY SAW THE PASSING of the great Celtic and Scotland full back, Tommy Gemmell, immortalised ‘Lisbon Lion’, and formidable warrior in the green and white hoops for a decade between 1961 and 1971. Tommy, a driving force of nature from his defensive berth scored in two European Cup Finals for Celtic, most memorably the pile driving hammer blow that bulged the much-fancied Inter Milan’s net in 1967.
The Craigneuk, Wishaw man played on some 418 occasions for the Bhoys, scoring a remarkable 63 times and making 18 appearances in the Dark Blue of Scotland. The Celtic defender was also a fearsome penalty taker with a success rate of 34 goals from 37 attempts. It is my belief that the Celtic side of that era was not only the finest club side in the world but certainly the best I have witnessed in my fifty-something years of watching the beautiful game. That every player in that side hailed from a reasonably close radius of Glasgow made their greatness even more notable. it is a great and wonderful player indeed that can dominate in that kind of company for such a prolonged and consistent period.
It was a memorable night indeed 25 May 1967 when I ran home from playing football on the local recreation ground with my friends to find a place with my dad in front of the small black and white TV in the corner of the room. Although dad and I were died in the wool Hibs fans, Celtic represented not only themselves but also Scotland that night and we sat in great excitement whilst home-grown Celtic imposed themselves on the great Milan giants of the game. Dare I say even, a team of our own ‘ilk’ in Celtic, speaking as a Hibs fan.
Tommy was hugely instrumental that night and we cheered wildly when his rasping right-footer from the edge of the penalty area hit the net to do Celtic and Scotland proud. The first British team to win the trophy, as is sometimes overlooked south of the border I have to add.
European Cup winners, 1967 Celtic ‘The Lisbon Lions’
Even as a youngster, I was always struck by Tommy’s great likeness to the superb entertainer, Danny Kaye. So alike, they seemed almost interchangeable at times. It amused me today to read in an obituary that Tommy himself was very aware of this fact and indeed saw himself as a master entertainer!
Big Tam was not a man to be messed with though as West German internationalist, Helmut Haller found out to his cost after taking a sly kick at the Celtic man in a 1970 World Cup qualifier against Scotland. Tommy chased Haller down and simply kicked him up in the air after the whistle had blown. The full back would tell a tale in later years that he was ‘still looking for his foot’ after the incident! Unfortunately, Celtic Chairman, Sir Robert Kelly was not amused, claiming that Tommy had besmirched the name of Celtic with his aggressive behaviour which resulted in Celtic Manager, Jock Stein dropping him for the Scottish League Cup Final the week after. Not best pleased, Tam immediately slapped in a transfer request which he later withdrew. Damage, perhaps lasting, had been sustained to his relationship with the legendary Parkhead Manager though.
Tommy later played 39 times for Nottingham Forest and on 94 occasions for Dundee before retiring to a stint in management with Dundee and Albion Rovers. He will be remembered for his dynamism, power and irresistible, surging ability from his defensive position. He was most certainly one of Scotland’s greatest men.
God Bless, Tommy. Sleep well.
Tommy Gemmell 1943-2017 ‘Lion of Lisbon’
Hibernian yesterday completed the signing of former striker, Derek Riordan from Celtic after a torrent of rumour regarding a possible deal. Fans’ nerves were stretched to breaking point waiting for the Messiah-like return of the former golden boy of Easter Road until an announcement during the evening. Although the talk of a return seemed well-substantiated, it was far from a formality with Hibs having to comply with Celtic’s wishes regarding a sizable sell-on fee.
Hibs’ pre and early season form has been poor and erratic and Derek’s return will give a great boost a to a beleaguered club board and concerned and angry supporters alike. It’s just the fillip required at Easter Road and one can almost feel the tides of goodwill and optimism flowing from club’s faithful fans today.
The rarest commodities in football are surely true goalscorers- those that have the happy knack of being in the right place when it matters and able to despatch the ball into the back of the net in a variety of methods. Derek Riordan is just such a player. Not for him the most robust aspects of the game as a very slimly built forward player it must be stated. His tackling won’t trouble too many apart from nuisance value but his talents are far more valuable in and around the opposition penalty area where he excels like few others. A study of Riordan’s goals is an examination of how to score in a myriad of ways. Twenty-five yarders, tap-ins, mazy dribble and finishes, all taken with a cool clinical precision. Hibs are very fortunate indeed to have the player, who is also a life-long fan of the club back in the fold. It is perhaps a regret to the player and at the same time incredible, that the Glasgow club seemed unable or unwilling to unleash his considerable talents too often. That is for them to reflect upon. In the meantime the whole of Leith (and those of us further adrift) with a love of the old club will be celebrating and have a new spring in our step today.
DEREK RIORDAN IS BACK!
There – I’ve quoted the name. The one that’s tripping off practically every Hibs supporters lips at the current time. Presently Derek remains sitting out his contract at Celtic, shorn of match fitness by manager Strachan who appears to have taken personal exception to the young goal scorer and who has consistently refused to play him for the Glasgow club during his own at Parkhead.
At the time of writing – and this situation is a dynamic one that could change at any moment, the transfer window in Scottish Football is due to close on Monday and the usual rumour-mill is wound up to full speed. The Hibs online communities are beside themselves to discuss the possibly of a Messiah-like return to Hibs of the slimly built hit-man. Literally scores of forum threads have been dedicated to the subject rendering the persuing of those messageboads almost unreadable at times.
As those with an interest know, Derek left Easter Road around two years ago amidst a bad atmosphere and one of recriminations around the manner of his departure. He was seen by many to have sold the club short financially at that time and one of the many rumours surrounding his exit was that CEO Rod Petrie had played hardball with the youngster and in turn the player had responded accordingly. Of course this is just one of the theories and perhaps we will never know the truth.
I can’t let the sad death of former Celtic footballer and manager pass without paying my respects on here. Tommy passed away yesterday after succumbing to the skin cancer that he was diagnosed with in 2006 and it is terribly sad to view how rapid his decline was.
Tommy was a man who commanded respect from those inside football and out. His playing career with Celtic spanned thirteen years and contained 353 appearances and 52 goals confirming him as a cornerstone at Parkhead. Continue reading
Well that time of year is almost upon us again – Halloween. Like many events around the calendar appears to have grown from a single-day happening into a ‘season’ that has been overtaken by commercial considerations. For similar read Guy Fawkes Night, and Valentines Day.
Legend tells us that October is the most important of days in the satanic year and once marked the Celtic New Year. It is significant in that it arrives at the end of the growing season and therefore became known as a ‘festival of death’. Continue reading
Sometimes it’s interesting to look back on your words from the past. Occasionally one ends up with egg on the chin of course and sometimes one’s views are vindicated. I read back this article from a couple of years ago and despite a George Burley-inspired dash by Hearts and the current robustness of Hibs’ form, I wonder if anything has really changed?
The below is from a questionnaire by Colin Illingworth of http://www.squarefootball.net in August 2005. It asks fans of Aberdeen, Celtic, Hibernian, Hearts and Rangers about the prospect of the Old Firm being separated for the first time in ten years and whether this could be the year that a team outside the Old Firm could win the SPL title for the first time since Aberdeen 20 years ago. Continue reading