Celtic 1967 – the only quadruple winners

JOCK STEIN said it all really: “I want to be remembered for the football we played”. He was referring to Celtic’s first European Cup final appearance against the formidable Inter Milan in Lisbon and the possibility of defeat, something that Stein’s side were unaccustomed to experiencing.

Fifty years on, the quality of Celtic’s football in that glorious season and the scale of their achievements is still being talked about. Celtic and Jock Stein pointed the way ahead for European football and although they never won the competition again, they will forever be remembered as the team that broke the stranglehold of the infamous catenaccio.

Europe had become bored of Italy’s vice-like grip on the major prizes. Inter and AC Milan had won three European Cups in four years and the defence-minded style of Italian clubs was stifling the life out of football. From 1963 to 1967, Italy’s Serie A was characterised by cautious – although highly technical and skilful – football that yielded fewer and fewer goals. Just consider that in 1966-67, the average goals per game in Italy was just 2.0 – compared to 3.00 in England, 2.73 in Spain and 2.92 in Germany.

Goals were plentiful at Celtic, in fact, in 1966-67, they netted 111 in 34 Scottish First Division games. Stein preached attacking football that was fast, cultured and richly entertaining. He believed that making a good team into a great team relied on injecting unpredictability into the equation. In players like Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Murdoch and Bobby Lennox, Celtic had the flair and guile that took an efficient and consistent team into the stratosphere.

But as well as individualism, Celtic’s big strength was the way the player with the ball was supported by the entire team. You could argue that Stein’s Celtic were the forerunners of Dutch “Total Football”.

Celtic’s success in 1966-67 came in Stein’s second season in charge at Parkhead. A modest footballer by all accounts, he became Celtic’s first protestant manager when he took over in 1965. In that first campaign, Celtic won the Scottish League and Scottish League Cup and were runners-up in the Scottish Cup and semi-finalists in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup. It was a very good start.

Nobody could have foreseen just how dramatic 1966-67 would become. Celtic warmed up for the serious business with two important pre-season victories, 4-1 against Manchester United and 1-0 away at Real Madrid. Once the league got underway, Stein’s men went 16 games unbeaten before Dundee United beat them 3-2 on New Year’s Eve. By then, Celtic had already won the Scottish League Cup, Bobby Lennox’s goal proving enough to beat Rangers 1-0.

They had also reached the last eight of the European Cup, the competition that Stein described as, “the one that matters”. They had worked their way through the first two rounds with few problems, beating FC Zurich and Nantes home and away.  Johnstone was in irresistible form in France as Celtic won 3-1, prompting the media to nickname him the “flying flea”. Johnstone, who was more commonly known as “Jinky” in recognition of his tricky runs down the flank, was only 22 at the start of 1966-67, but he had already been capped by Scotland. Stein initially considered that he was too much of a luxury player, but Johnstone won him round and it is often forgotten that in 1967, he finished third in the European Footballer of the Year poll.

Bill Shankly said it all when he told Stein he had become immortal

Johnstone was not the only player who could provide that spark of genius. Bobby Murdoch, complimented by Stein as “Just about the best player I had as a manager”, was a sophisticated performer. Another youngster, Murdoch stayed with Celtic until 1973 when he joined Middlesbrough because he needed fresh challenges. He had won everything you could as a Celtic player by the age of 22.

Most of Celtic’s team were yet to reach their prime. Goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson was heading for 37 after a career in England with Newcastle United, where he won the FA Cup twice in the 1950s. But Jim Craig (23), Billy McNeill (26), John Clark (25), Tommy Gemmell (23), Murdoch (22), Johnstone (22), Willie Wallace (26) and Bobby Lennox (23) had years ahead of them. Steve Chalmers was 31 at the turn of the year.

They had to rely on skipper McNeill, who acquired the nickname “Cesar”, a reference to the 1960 film, Ocean’s Eleven, to get them through the quarter-final of the European Cup against Vojvodina. Celtic lost the first leg 1-0 in Yugoslavia and it was a last minute goal from McNeill that gave them a 2-0 turnaround in the second leg. “We had an in-built confidence that we could not lose,” said John Clark some years later. Celtic’s players believed that the Vojvodina tie was the toughest on the way to the final, but they made life difficult for themselves in the last four.

Celtic took one step towards the final by beating Dukla Prague 3-1 in the semi-final first leg at Parkhead but Stein, uncharacteristically, discarded his attacking beliefs for the second leg in Prague. Celtic played negatively and ground out a fractious 0-0 draw in the Juliska Stadium. They would meet an Inter Milan side that had been crowned European champions in 1964 and 1965, the team of Helenio Herrera, the arch-exponent of catenaccio

Meanwhile, domestic honours had to be secured. On April 29, four days after reaching the European Cup final, Celtic won the Scottish Cup by beating Aberdeen 2-0 at Hampden Park in front of 126,000 people. Willie Wallace, who had been bought from Hearts for £ 30,000 in the close season, scored both goals.

Celtic were agonisingly close to winning the league, but slipped up at home against Dundee United, losing 2-3 for the second time in the season to the Tangerines. On May 6, the “Old firm” derby at Ibrox Park ended in a 2-2 draw and it was enough to give Celtic the championship. Jimmy Johnstone scored both of Celtic’s goals. In the stand was one Helenio Herrera Gavilán, laughing and enjoying the atmosphere of his first Glasgow derby.

And so, the green and white half of Glasgow decamped to Lisbon for the European Cup final. Estimates suggest that between 15,000 and 20,000 travelled to Portugal for the game on May 25, 1967 but Celtic versus Internazionale has become one of those moments in football folklore that has become a classic “I was there” situation. If everyone who claimed to have been in Lisbon that day was in fact present, 20,000 would probably become 200,000.

It is fascinating how Lisbon and the players who made history have become woven into the social history of Glasgow. Nobody could deny that Stein’s Celtic did not deserve to be crowned Europe’s finest on that sunny evening. It was Scotland’s triumph, but it was also Britain’s big breakthrough. There was also a certain symmetry with England’s World Cup win, but cynics would argue that the achievement of winning the European Cup against a mean spirited team that had dominated the competition in recent years, was even more worthy of praise.

This was also, importantly, a victory for home grown talent. The Celtic team that lined-up against Inter all came from within a 30-mile radius: Simpson, Craig, Auld and Chalmers were all Glasgow-born. Both McNeill and Clark were from Belshill, 10 miles south-east of Glasgow. Murdoch grew up in Rutherglen, Johnstone was born in Viewpark, North Lanarkshire and Wallace in Kirkintilloch. Gemmell was born in Motherwell and Lennox was a Saltcoats lad. Very few teams have had such a concentration of origins.

Inter were a feared team and had beaten Torpedo Moscow, Vasas Budapest, holders Real Madrid and CSKA Red Flag of Sofia on the way to Lisbon. But in the weeks leading up to the final, something had started to go wrong for Herrera’s side. With 28 games played in Serie A, they were four points clear of Juventus at the top of the table. But five winless games later, including a 1-0 defeat against Juve, Inter were one ahead of their rivals.

Inter were not at full strength for the final. Luis Suarez, the former Barcelona forward and Herrera acolyte, was now 32 and injured. Jair, the Brazilian winger who had won the European Cup for Inter in 1965, was also sidelined. There were rumours that Sandro Mazzola, one of the all-time greats of Italian football, was also struggling for full mobility.

Nevertheless, Inter were favourites, but Jock Stein was not going to psyched out of the game. He showed his team the 1960 final on cine film, seeking inspiration from the great Real Madrid side that lit-up Hampden Park. There was talk about how Inter would set themselves up and how the smothering tactics that had so incensed Benfica in 1965 might be repreated against Celtic. “The formation is not as important as the attitude,” said Stein, who had studied Herrera’s methods at length a few years earlier. He told his team to “got out there boys and play your usual game”.

Herrera, an exponent of mind games, tried to whip-up local support, but he had underestimated the damage done by his team in 1965 when they had squeezed the life out of Benfica and Eusebio.

British sides had not generally fared well against Italy in the 1960s. In the European Cup, Everton and Liverpool had both fallen foul of Inter and Manchester United had lost to AC Milan in post-Munich 1958. Chelsea and Leeds, in the Inter-Cities Fairs’ Cup, had better results, although they had felt the wrath of Italian defences and crowds.

Celtic had the stamina and the skill to upset an Inter team that included Mazzola, Giacinto Facchetti, Angelo Domenghini, Mario Corso and Tarcisio Burgnich. They went into the game with the instruction not to concede early given Inter’s penchant to close-up once they were ahead. But in the seventh minute, they fell behind to a Mazzola penalty. Celtic came back strongly, though, and they were denied by the woodwork and goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti, a custodian who had perfected the art of the “sweeper-keeper”.

Celtic eventually equalised in the 63rd minute, a piledriver from Tommy Gemmell, who had been one of their outstanding players. Stein’s men dominated and had something like 49 shots during the game. Celtic laid siege to Inter’s goal and only Sarti’s brilliance kept them at bay. “Inter are like a crenelated wall, ramparts and watchtowers,” was how David Goldblatt, in his marvellous book, The Ball is Round, described the constant pressure and Inter’s ability to cope.

Journalists in Lisbon were quick to praise Celtic’s ability to take the game to the Italians. “They’ve all go Stein’s heart..there’s a bit of the big man in all of them.”

Six minutes from the end, Inter cracked, but it took a clever, and apparently planned, deflection to win the game. The shot came from Bobby Murdoch and it was Steve Chalmers that touched the ball home. Some called it a fluke, but Chalmers admitted it was a move that had been practised for weeks. It didn’t matter, Celtic hung on to win 2-1 and for a wee while, Lisbon belonged to Glasgow.

Hugh McIlvanney described it thus: “Pockets of Celtic supporters are holding out in unlikely corners, noisily defending their own carnival atmosphere against the returning tide of normality, determined to preserve the moment, to make the party go on and on.”

Somebody else described it as “Dunkirk with happiness”, while the Portuguese press said that Inter had paid the price for refusing to play entertaining football.

They had also been throttled by their own tactics. As Inter retreated after scoring so early, Celtic’s energy and pace swamped them. It enabled players like Murdoch the space to flourish. Patience had also been key for the Scots.

Bill Shankly, discussing the game afterwards, with his compatriot, Stein, leaned over and said quietly: “John…you are immortal.” But the last word on the game goes to Herrera, never a man to value a defeat. “Celtic deserved to win. We lost, but the match was a victory for sport.”

But how right the bard of Anfield was. Stein and his team had made history, playing in a style that lifted the heart and suggested the dark art of catenaccio was not the way ahead. A few days later, Inter’s castle was stormed again as they lost their final Serie A game at Mantova, allowing Juventus to win the scudetto. Herrera’s world was crumbling and he stayed just one more season before moving to Roma.

Celtic continued to win trophies under Stein – between 1965-66 and 1973-74, they won nine consecutive Scottish League titles, five Scottish Cups, five Scottish League Cups and of course, the European Cup. In 1970, they reached the final again but lost to Feyenoord. They almost repeated their all-conquering march of 1967.

The Celtic team that won the European Cup has become, like Stein, immortal in the eyes of Celtic fans and anyone who cares about the history and culture of the game. “The Lisbon Lions” probably all deserve a statue in their honour. This was, after all, a team of the people…


Ajax, Barca, Bayern among Europe’s great treble winners

BAYERN MUNICH’s 2019-20 side joined the illustrious list of teams that have won the treble of domestic league and cup and Champions League.

The Bavarians’ success was remarkable given they changed their coach earlier in the campaign, appointing Hans-Dieter Flick as head coach. Flick had been the number two at Bayern and had filled similar roles with RB Salzburg and the German national team. Prior to that, he was coach of Hoffenheim in the regional league. While Flick inherited a team, he rekindled the fire at Bayern and won three major prizes. Bayern Munich joined eight previous winners of the “treble”:

Bayern Munich 2020

IT should be noted that Bayern Munich had won the previous seven Bundesligas when they clinched the title so there was already strong momentum at the club. Bayern started 2019-20 a little out-of-sorts and after a 5-1 defeat in Frankfurt, coach Niko Kovač was sacked. Hans-Dieter Flick took over, initially on an interim basis, and Bayern transformed their season. The CV-19 pandemic disrupted football but by the time the lockdown came into effect, Bayern were top of the table and had made their mark in Europe, including a stunning 7-2 win at Tottenham. Goals were not a problem for Bayer, especially with Polish forward Robert Lewandowski in the form of his life. After lockdown, Bayern won all nine of their league games, averaging three goals per game. In the DFB Pokal, they beat Bayer Leverkusen in the final 4-2. Meanwhile, their UEFA Champions League campaign saw them win every single game, scoring 24 goals in six group games and then beating Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate in the round of 16. The quarter-final with Barcelona resulted in a phenomenal and seismic 8-2 victory against one of the favourites. After Lyon were comfortably beaten in the semi-final, Bayern’s 1-0 win in the final against PSG confirmed their status as Europe’s best team in 2020.
Games played: 51 (Lge, Cup, Europe) – win percentage 84.31%
Team: Manuel Neuer, Niklas Süle, Benjamin Pavard, Javi Martinez, Jérôme Boateng, Alphonso Davies, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba, Thiago, Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Perišić, Leon Goretza, Serge Gnabry, Corentin Tolisso, Thomas Müller, Kingsley Coman, Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski.

And here’s the others…

Celtic 1967

Jock Stein’s team actually won five cups in 1966-67: the European Cup; the Scottish League; the Scottish League Cup; the Scottish FA Cup; and the Glasgow Cup. Critics will look at Scotland today and say, “so what?”, but in 1967, the best Scotland had to offer was every bit as competitive as south of the border. Celtic in 1967, including the excellent Jimmy Johnstone, beat Inter Milan, the dark princes of catenaccio, to become the first British side to win the European Cup. Back at home, Celtic lost just twice in 34 league games and beat Aberdeen 2-0 in the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park in front of 126,000 people. For good measure, they disposed of Rangers in the Scottish League Cup final. Some might say that in the European Cup, they had an easy run to the final, beating Zurich, Nantes, Vojvodinia and Dukla Prague, but Inter Milan, coached by the godfather of defensive football, Helenio Herrera, were a tough nut to crack. Sandro Mazzola gave Inter the lead after seven minutes from the penalty spot. Tommy Gemmell levelled just after the hour mark and six minutes from the end, Steve Chalmers scored the winner. Legend will tell you that Celtic fans are still arriving back from Lisbon after celebrating this unlikely triumph.
Games played: 49 (Lge, Cup, Europe) – win percentage 77.55%
Team: Ronnie Simpson, Jim Craig, Tommy Gemmell, Bobby Murdoch, Billy McNeill, John Clark, Jimmy Johnstone, Willie Wallace, Steve Chalmers, Bertie Auld, Bobby Lennox

Ajax Amsterdam 1972

Ajax provided the perfect antidote to catenaccio, “total football” – a fluid system that called on any member of the team to play anywhere at any time during the game. An emerging Ajax reached the final of the European Cup in 1969 and were cruelly exposed by AC Milan, but a year later, Ajax’s rivals, Feyenoord, won the competition. In 1971, Johan Cruyff and his team-mates won the cup and a year later, they retained it by beating Inter Milan. Dutch football was in the ascendancy and Cruyff was becoming Europe’s – if not the world’s – top player. Ajax scored 104 and conceded 20 goals in 34 Dutch league games, and Cruyff scored a quarter of them. On May 11 1972, they made it “Double Dutch” as they won the KNVB Cup, beating Den Haag in Rotterdam. Twenty days later, they returned to the Dutch port to beat Inter Milan 2-0, both goals scored by the irrepressible Cruyff. On the way to winning the competition for the second time, Ajax beat Dynamo Dresden, Marseille, Arsenal and Benfica.  There was a wonderful liberated feel about the way Ajax played, in many ways, they were highly representative of the era itself, all long-haired, bead-wearing and trendily-dressed. If ever a football team was “cool”, it was Ajax. Games played: 48 – win percentage 87.5%
Team: Heinz Stuy, Wim Suurbier, Barry Hulshoff, Horst Blankenburg, Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan, Gerrie Muehren, Sjaak Swart, Johan Cruyff, Piet Keizer

PSV Eindhoven 1988

PSV Eindhoven, the team linked to electronic giant Philips, became Holland’s top side as Ajax declined. They were not as glamorous as the Amsterdamers, and they relied a lot on the Danish national side that threatened to steal the show at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico. Four of that squad – Ivan Nielsen, Jan Heintze, Soren Lerby and Frank Arnesen – were in the PSV team that reached the European Cup final. PSV beat Benfica on penalties in the final after a goalless draw. Also in the team was Ronald Koeman and Wim Kieft. They comfortably won the Dutch league, finishing nine points ahead of Ajax. And they beat Roda JC in the KNVB final.
Games played: 49 – win percentage 73.47%
Team: Hans van Breukelen, Eric Gerets, Ivan Nielsen, Ronald Koeman, Jan Heintze, Søren Lerby, Berry van Aerle, Gerald Vanenburg, Edward Linskens, Wim Kreft, Hans Gillhaus, Willy van de Kerkhof, Anton Janssen

Manchester United 1999

There have been fewer more dramatic European finals than United’s 2-1 win over Bayern Munich, with two goals in a matter of seconds – from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunar Solksjaer  – breaking the hearts of Bayern. United’s team, including the home-grown talent of David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, the Neville brothers and of course, the evergreen Ryan Giggs, was one of the most successful in the history of the British game. They finished one point ahead of reigning Premier champions Arsenal, thanks to a 20-game unbeaten run to the end of the campaign, and beat Newcastle United in the FA Cup final. In Europe, they beat Juventus and Inter Milan and had earlier played Bayern and Barcelona in the group stages. If ever anyone had it hard on the way to the final, it was United.
Games played: 59 – win percentage 57.63%
Team: Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Jesper Blomqvist, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Henning Berg, Jaap Stam

Barcelona 2009

You would be forgiven for believing that Barcelona have won everything for the past few years, but they’ve only achieved the treble twice – in 2008-09 and 2014-15. In 2008-09, they won 27 of their 38 goals in La Liga, scoring 107 goals in the process. In the Copa Del Rey, they thrashed Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the final. Meanwhile, in Europe, they beat Manchester United 2-0 in Rome with goals from Samuel Eto’o and the rising talent of Lionel Messi. Games played: 62 – win percentage 67.74%
Team: Victor Valdés, Gerard Piqué, Yaya Touré, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Sylvinho, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, Rafael Márquez, Dani Alves, Éric Abidal, Seydou Keita, Bojan

Inter Milan 2010

Jose Mourinho picks up prizes wherever he manages, and in his two-year stint with Inter, he won everything in his second season. Inter won Serie A in his first season by a street mile, but in 2009-10, they were run close by Roma, who finished just two points behind. Inter also beat Roma in the Coppa Italia, with Diego Milito netting the only goal. The Argentine striker was the matchwinner in the Champions League final, scoring both goals as Inter beat Bayern Munich 2-0. It provided Mourinho with the perfect farewell.
Games played: 56 – win percentage 66.07%
Team: Júlio César, Maicon, Lúcio, Walter Samuel, Christian Chivu, Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso, Wesley Sneijder, Samiel Eto’o, Diego Milito, Goran Pandev, Dejan Stanković, Thiago Motta, Suleyman Muntari, Mario Balotelli

Bayern Munich 2013

Bayern had been an emerging force for the past few years – beaten Champions League finalists in 2010 and 2012, so their dominance of European football in 2012-13 was no great surprise. Only Bayer Leverkusen beat them this season, 1-2 at the Allianz Arena. They finished a massive 25 points ahead of second-placed Dortmund and scored 98 goals.  VFB Stuttgart were beaten 3-2 in the DFB Pokal final. The Champions League saw some stunning performances – a double over both Juventus and Barcelona, and a memorable display in London as they put Arsenal in their place. This Bayern side had flair – Robben and Ribery – as well as the traditional German qualities of power and strength in Schweinsteiger.
Games played: 53 – win percentage 84.91% 
Team: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Jérôme Boateng, Dante, David Alaba, Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, Mario Mandžukić,  Mario Gómez

Barcelona 2015

With a spectacular forward line that included Lionel Messi, Neymar and new signing Luis Suárez, who scored 122 goals between them in all competitions, Barcelona were a fearsome attacking force in 2014-15. They were pushed all the way by rivals Real Madrid in La Liga, but finished two points clear at the top. In the Copa Del Rey, they beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1. In Europe, they disposed of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in the knockout stages before meeting Juventus in the final. In Berlin, Barca won 3-1, thanks to two goals in the last 20 minutes.
Games played: 60 – win percentage 83.33%  Team: Marc-André ter Stegen, Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitić, Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Neymar, Xavi, Rafinha, Pedro.

Other clubs have won a European prize and completed the double at home: IFK Göteborg (1982), Porto (2003 and 2011), Galatasaray (2000) and CSKA Moscow (2005).

So, according to our data, Ajax 1972, with a win rate of 87.5% were the most impressive champions!

“Big fish” Rangers still trailing Europe’s elite

ALONG with their Old Firm rivals, Celtic, Rangers continue to enjoy the status of being Scottish football royalty, earning way more money than every other club in Scotland. The Gers’ finances for 2020-21 underlined the gulf between the Glasgow duo and the rest of Scotland, but it also highlighted the challenge facing Rangers in competing with Europe’s top names.

With an appetising Europa League encounter with Borussia Dortmund on the horizon, Rangers will be reminded of how far they still have to come. Dortmund may not be Bayern, but the Ibrox club will be only too aware that they were once in the same ballpark as BVB and met them in the 1967 European Cup-Winners’ Cup. In 2022, they will be the underdogs.

Rangers won their first Scottish Premier title in a decade under Steven Gerrard in 2020-21, but their losses increased by 43% to £ 24.7 million. The last time Rangers made a profit was in 2013.

The club’s revenues dropped from £ 59 million to £ 47.7 million (-20%), largely due to a dramatic fall (-49%) in matchday income, which was partially offset by increases in both broadcasting (+39%) and commercial revenues (+9%).

Rangers’ wage bill rose by 10% to £ 47.7 million, which entirely absorbed the club’s revenues and was a marked difference from 2019-20 when wages were 73% of income. By way of comparison, Celtic’s wage bill totalled £ 51.7 million and was 85% of total earnings.

Scottish football still appears to be undervalued by many people. According to data produced by football analyst Swiss Ramble, the TV deal, for example, is paltry compared to many leagues, just € 34 million per annum compared to the € 3.6 billion awarded to the Premier League and € 2 billion paid to La Liga. The total income of the two leagues is also eye-opening; the Scottish Premiership generated € 221 million while the Premier League earned € 5.1 billion.

Consequently, matchday income is far more important to Scottish clubs than their counterparts across many leagues. Overall, 48% of revenues is derived from matchday, although Rangers’ matchday cash amounted to 38% in 2020-21. By contrast, matchday income amounts to 13% of Premier League income, 11% of both France’s Ligue 1 and Serie A, 15% of La Liga and 16% of the Bundesliga’s revenues.

One area that Rangers need to improve is in their player trading activities. Over nine seasons, they have made less than £ 10 million in profits from player sales, versus the £ 100 million made by Celtic.

Rangers have started the 2021-22 season reasonably well and are top of the table once more, although they have been beaten. They went out of the Champions League rather cheaply but they go into 2022 with the Europa League play-off awaiting them. In November, they lost manager Gerrard to Aston Villa, replacing him with Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The odds are they will probably retain the league title they won earlier this year, but can they make a splash in Europe?