Gerry Crawley with A Celtic State of Mind – Four boys stole the jerseys, and Ten Men Won the League’

The ground-staff boys had been working on the day of the 4-2 game. We were all going to the match that night, and had a plan to make it even more special…

We had a habit of hanging around Neilly Mochan’s boot-room all the time. Guys from the first-team squad would come in and we’d get sent to fetch whatever it was that they needed. I remember Joe Fillipi came in one day for a new pair of boots, and Neilly gave him pelters:

“Boots? Boots, son? What do you want with a pair of boots?”

The fact that he did this to a first-teamer in front of the young boys had us all in stitches. Neilly was winking to us to let us know it was a wind-up, but that’s how he would keep the first-team players’ feet on the ground. It wasn’t just the youngsters he did it to.

We all had to go through that grounding process at some point with Neilly. He was a huge character around Celtic Park in my time there, but he already had legendary status as a player in the 1950s. Whenever I wanted a break from my daily tasks I would just ask Neilly about the goal he scored in the Coronation Cup final:

“I hit the ball so hard, son,” Neilly would start. “It must have been from 45 yards out. The goalie didn’t have a chance.”

Neilly loved telling us the old tales, and it was a welcome relief from our daily chores. He spent a lot of time with us to help us on our way in the game. You could just tell that he was a really decent human being, who certainly had a positive impact on me.

Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind

The ground-staff boys did manage to get one over on him on the night of the 4-2 game – at least, I think we did. We knew where Neilly kept the spare match jerseys; he stashed them in one of his many secret stores. The jerseys that we found had a large white square with black numbers on the back of the hoops. They had been used in a European game, and UEFA had enforced that numbers be worn on the hoops for the benefit of the TV cameras. From what I recall, these tops had only ever been worn once, and we managed to borrow four of them – numbers 13, 14, 15 & 16 – for Charlie, Danny, Willie and me to wear at the game. I don’t think that Neilly was aware of what we were up to.

After training, I went back to Kilsyth with Danny Crainie. Danny went to the games on a supporters’ bus, which was a better option for me than travelling on public transport from Knightsbridge with the hoops on.

When we finally arrived in the Jungle, people noticed these four boys wearing unusual Celtic tops – you couldn’t buy these ones in the shops. They were asking us about them, but we daren’t tell anyone how we’d got our hands on them.

At the time, I thought that Rangers were physically strong and ponderous, whereas Celtic had pace, verve and were an exciting team to watch. It was a peculiar night. I remember that the game swept from end-to-end, that it was a really open encounter. Then Doyley got himself sent off by reacting aggressively, but that was part of the makeup of the team back then.

I wasn’t surprised with Celtic’s comeback. Even when we went down to 10 men, I remember thinking that our group of players had the right character to pull it back. It was a really good bunch of lads with a fantastic team spirit.

Murdo MacLeod, whose shot to score the fourth was so typical of him, was nicknamed ‘Rhino’. That was on account of the way he charged around the park, bumping people over.

Danny McGrain had come back from a long-term injury in the new year and he made a huge difference that season. Now and again, he would give me a run home after training. He was the captain of Scotland, but he would offer me a lift if we were finishing at the same time. I would never let him drop me off at my house because I was slightly embarrassed about where I lived. I would get him to drop me off a quarter-of-a-mile away. That more or less sums Danny up. He was the club captain, but he wanted to get the ground-staff boy home safely.

Vic Davidson had been one of the Quality Street Kids back in the day. He left Celtic Park, but returned for Billy McNeill’s first season in charge. The young lads would sometimes be asked to report for first-team games to help out with the boots and kit. We were all skint, which meant I didn’t have a coat. Vic used to give me his jacket so I wouldn’t freeze for 90 minutes. I look at how football is today in terms of what the young players earn, and compare it to my time when I had to borrow Vic Davidson’s coat. It’s night and day.

Bobby Lennox was another player who was brought back by Billy. I remember that the chat at the time in the reserve dressing-room was, “What is he doing that for?” We just viewed Bobby as another player ahead of us in the pecking order. I remember thinking the same when Davie Provan came in from Kilmarnock. I loved him as a player, but I looked at him as being another body ahead of me.

With us ‘borrowing’ the jerseys from Neilly’s sacred stash, followed by such a memorable victory, I vividly remember the day and night of the 4-2 game. It was a hell of an effort after Doyley’s red card. There were a few players in our side who were capable of doing that at the time – Tam Burns was like that early on in his career; he would do daft stuff and get caught up in the emotion of the moment. But it was part of his makeup and no one would have wanted him any other way.

I hadn’t been home after the game, as I was staying with Danny Crainie. We had to report to Celtic Park the next day as normal, so I put the Celtic top on underneath my clothes, waited for an opportunity, then sneaked into the bogs in the away dressing-room to take the hoops off. Then it was a case of getting the jersey back into Neilly’s store. I think all four tops made it back, and Neilly never knew they’d been away. Or maybe he did but decided to turn a blind eye to his ground-staff’s capers? Even if he found out, how could he have been angry the day after ten men won the league?

Watch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind

Leave a Reply