Lisbon ’67—- On a wing and a prayer, a mortgage and a man called Freddie!

2 Nov

Good Afternoon,

On 12th April 1967, My Father and mother took the unusual step of deciding to remortgage their house. The reason for this decision was not that a new kitchen was needed, or an extension needed to be built or anything else like that. No the decision was made when the final whistle went at Celtic park with the result that Celtic had beaten Dukla Prague by 3 goals to 1. The oul fella had argued that if Celtic won by two clear goals then the trip to the bank was on. What he had in mind was a gamble but Stein’s team did not lose two goal advantages– and he had seen enough of Dukla that night to believe that Celtic would go to Lisbon.

By the following week, he had collected the money raised and he had spent a fair part of it!

A sizeable sum had been spent by the time Celtic kicked off in the afternoon match in Prague. As there was no football coverage on TV he had to call back by phone from London to my mother to find out the score from Prague. With no mobile phones in those days he had to call from a phone-box in the Tottenham Court Road. I would guess that he was slightly nervous, and his nerves were made all the worse when he could not get a word out of the mother on the phone– all she did was cry!!

Presuming that the unimaginable had happened, he began to try and calm her down over the phone, telling her that though they had lost a few quid, everything would be OK and that it was not the end of the world —— he would make the money back again. Somehow, the mother managed to blurt out four words: ” We won– we’re through!”– and that changed the tone of the conversation totally.

Putting the phone down the father scurried off about his business.

Not long after, a man politely knocked on the door of his boss. The Boss man was a small bespectacled man in a dapper suit.

” Sorry, sir, but there is a man in reception asking to see you and who says that it is urgent. When I asked him what he wanted, he said that he wanted to hire every one of your planes for three days in May. He is clearly deranged and I have called for the police and an Ambulance– but in case there is a commotion I suggest you stay in here for the time being”.

“What did he want the planes for?” said the boss

” Some rubbish about a football match and a team from Glasgow— He says that Celtic are in the European Cup Final in Lisbon.”

” And are they?”

“I don’t know– I just thought he was mad!”

The Boss man then picked up the phone and called the Daily Express and asked where the European Cup final was to be played and who was in it. Lisbon was the correct answer and as for the participants– well that would be Glasgow Celtic and either Internazionale or CSKA Red Flag who were to play that night.

The Boss man came out to the reception to meet with another small bespectacled man who had the remainder of the remortgage money in his bag.

” Hello” said the boss man ” I’m Freddie Laker.”

For those too young to remember Freddie Laker, he started Laker airlines in 1966 and tried to establish the company as a charter company flying people and mail all over. He later went on to be knighted and to challenge British Airways on their transatlantic routes. His was the first real budget scheduled airline, but in 1967 no one had ever heard of him and no one had tried to book all of his planes at once!

Ultimately the oul fella flew 19 planes to Lisbon. He knew and saw that not only were the team capable of remarkable things but that the Celtic support would travel in vast numbers to the Portuguese capitol. Some drove, some trained, but the majority flew and this was the first mass airlift of football fans in Europe. That is often forgotten. In those days the final was played somewhere and the majority of spectators were local to the chosen stadium. The travelling football army was a Celtic first and each time it has had the chance to invade foreign soil for a final it grows from the time before—- Lisbon, Milan, Seville.

I still have unused tickets for that day in May 1967. I also have treasured photographs of my dad and my grandfather with his chosen guest who he took to Lisbon to see Celtic lift the cup. He , like many others, had no doubt that Stein’s team would win. The Guest was one of my Dad’s favourite players and someone he would have put into his all time favourite Celtic team. The Player and guest was one Charles Patrick Tully.

Much has been written about that day in Lisbon, but what sticks with me is that how different things are now compared to then, how the world and the game has moved on.

In 1967 loads of people in England and elsewhere did not follow European football at all. Other than Real Madrid coming to play the final in Glasgow,the event was not much covered in the British Isles. There had been a general feeling within the English FA that Europe was not for English teams. Further it was a Latin dominated event.

However among those who did follow European Football there was a feeling that the free flowing football of Real Madrid was a thing of the past. The Inter team played an unbeatable form of football, cynical football, professionally efficient football– get in front and kill the game.This was the new way.

Barry Davis had a great series on radio 5 a number of years ago called the great European teams and in it, he concluded that the Celtic team of 1967-72 was undoubtedly the best team in Europe going by consistent results. But the key was that everyone of a neutral hue wanted them to win. Inter’s dearest player (Suarez) cost £250,000 in 1967– which was a fortune then. It was a team designed to stop Madrid and later Benfica and to dominate football with it’s all efficient system.

For the press, Lisbon ‘67 was good against bad, light against dark, football against the anti footballing ideology of Herrera— the only man who would manage Barcelona on three separate occasions in three separate decades. The idea that Stein could produce this local team which played such magnificent football was like a fairytale– the stuff of Hollywood.

In any good fairytale or movie script the would win——and win they did. A friend of mine, who is a Rangers fan, described it as the day Celtic THRASHED Inter Milan by two goals to one. It was a footballing lesson– a beating to beat all beatings. A masterclass in entertaining attacking football.

Yet that game brought about so much more than just a win. It was the precursor to total football in Holland. It deeply influenced how the Brazil team of 1970 would play against many of the same players in an Italy shirt in the world cup final 3 years later. The pictures also advertised this idea of the vast travelling football support and of course the Freddie Lakers of this world realised there was money in football charters.

On 25th May 1967 the footballing world shifted on its axis. There was a new style of football abroad, and for the first time there had been a mass movement of fans abroad to follow a football team– and they were dressed in Green and White hoops!


11 Responses to “Lisbon ’67—- On a wing and a prayer, a mortgage and a man called Freddie!”

  1. Steveo November 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    Great read BRTH & one of ur shorter pieces. Long time lurker as they say keep up the great articles! Oh for a 2-1 win on wednesday!!

  2. the good and the great November 3, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    BRTH – what a fantastic story. I always look forward to your written work and tweets.

  3. martin o'neill November 3, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Bravo sir! Inspirational writing as usual.

  4. campsiejoe November 3, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    By God, you don’t half take me back to some of the best of times

    • Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan November 3, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Yes right enough—- you have your own wee bit of history to throw into that story– a great time to be in and around all that. One day in Lisbon—- better than a year in any other place………

  5. Martybhoy November 3, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Magnificent evocative writing, sir. Chapeau!!

  6. slimshady61 November 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Great ‘short’ story BRTH – a true demonstration of faith in action.

    And despite all his critics, Gerry McNee gives a very moving account of this episode at greater length in “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

    Without the fans, Lisbon would not have happened. My late father-in-law was one of those who parted with £35 for his first ever venture beyond these shores – it was worth it, not only did he see the Celts win, he came back with one of the corner flags.


    • Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan November 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm #


      And you’ll never walk alone was written largely in my parents living room!! Even I am mentioned in it.

      The only issue I have with Gerry is that his recalling of the Burton/Taylor events are not accurate— but hey what the hell.

      Glad you enjoyed.

      • slimshady61 November 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

        I suspect drink may have been taken in Budapest.

        In a drinking contest between McNee and Burton, it’s a toss up who would have won.

  7. Carntyne November 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    Lovely piece BRTH.

    I lived in London in May 1967, and I’m afraid the press there were none too complimentary of Celtic’s victory.

    I remember the Evening Standard article which was of the opinion that “…this result shows that Inter-Milan have passed their peak, beaten by a team with no stars, (sic) just an eleven who happen to play well together as a team!”

    Three years later, after forecasting that Leeds United would use their European Cup semi-final tie with Celtic as a training excercise for the Final, they trotted out the same “past their peak” nonsense.

    Their opinion of Scottish football remains consistent to this day.

  8. January 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    I’d have to check with you here. Which is not something I usually perform! I enjoy reading a blog post that will make people believe. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

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