In an international week there is often little to discuss. So, if you disregard our injury problems and the greatest goal ever disallowed so ludicrously in international football, we are not left with much.
Sadly, the passing of Robert Auld formally of Celtic and Birmingham City fills the gap. I unashamedly dedicate this week’s blog to the ‘wee man’.
All about Bertie
With Transfer deadline day unheard of in 1961 Bertie signed for Blues after the domestic season had finished. Blues had one more fixture to fulfill, the second leg of the 1960/61 Fairs cup semi-final against the mighty Inter Milan.
Holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg in the San Siro, Blues repeated that score line with Jimmy Harris netting a brace. One from a superb cross from Auld’s sweet left foot. (Younger readers may be interested to know that there is no such thing as a sweet right foot. ED)
I remember the game well. On a warm spring evening Blues humbled one of Football’s World Giants. Bertie Auld was an instant hero as he taunted the Italians and was well ‘tackled’ for his impudence.
Bertie joined Blues from Celtic with a reputation as a bit of a wild child and a poor disciplinary record had slowed his progress. Being in a fresh environment helped him show off his talents with an unprejudiced referee’s eye, for a while at least.
Bertie was small in stature but was as tough as they came. The first notable incident was an act of extreme sportsmanship however. Against the dreaded foe from B6 their keeper Nigel Simms had been flattened by the Blues’ forward on-rush. Simms was staggering round barely conscious. The ref called for the game to continue but Auld who was about to take a corner, saw Simms distress and tapped the ball out for a goal kick. He then simply trotted back to the halfway line with the Blues team so the player could be treated.
In those days the concept of giving a gifted player a viscous tackle to slow him down or test his courage was obligatory. Bertie would take such treatment and hand it back with interest.
In December 1963 versus Fulham, Bertie was being hacked from behind by Johnny Haynes. In those days no-one laid down and Bertie had had enough. The sweetest right hook sent Haynes crashing to the floor. Maurice Cook, the Cottagers wing half charged in to exact revenge but the ‘wee man’ repeated the blow and Cook, a foot taller and 2 stone heavier hit the deck in a heap. Without waiting for the ref to speak, Bertie marched off.
Bertie was no thug but Ron Yeats of Liverpool, another colossus, suffered at the end of a ‘Glasgow Kiss’. Two Espanyol defenders were also treated similarly.
These incidents detracted from how good a footballer Bertie was. His cross for Ken Leek’s opener in the 1963 League Cup was a thing of beauty. In that Fairs Cup tie with Espanyol scored the winner and was Blues last European goal-scorer until Nathan Redmond’s 2011 strike against International of Portugal.
In 1965 with Blues slipping down to Division 2 Celtic tempted him back. Jock Stein played him as an inside forward and that is where he played in the 1967 European Cup Final. Stein was credited with the amazing conversion but the truth was that Auld played his last games at St Andrews in that position.
Bertie Auld was and will always be a class act!
I remember the night match in which Bertie Auld floored “Big” Ron Yeats of Liverpool with a passion. It was only my second attendance at St Andrews and the sending off of Ron Yeats (for the initial violent conduct) and Bertie Auld (for retaliating) sparked the loudest rendition of “Keep Right on” which I have ever heard at St. Andrews.
For the record, Blues beat Liverpool 3-1 that night and survived relegation the following Saturday by beating Sheffield United 3-0 at home.