Originally penned by Jonathan Foley in December 2021.
All connected with Celtic felt a pang of grief hit them recently with news of the sad passing of Bertie Auld. One of the few remaining members of the famous Lisbon Lions who left this life at the age of 83.
Known for his devilish and occasionally risqué humour, Auld was known to have touched the hearts of so many he met down through the years.
“A man who always had time for an autograph or a photo,” as an emotional John Hartson told Sky Sports New on the morning after the news had broken. Going by the floods of posts online by fans who wanted to express their sympathies, it seems that Hartson’s words spoke the truth.
Other famous faces in Scottish football also went public with their memories of him. Former Scotland manager, Craig Brown, fondly recalled how Auld had no qualms about wearing his European Cup winners medal around his neck.
“‘When you get one of these Craig, you can talk to me about football,’” Brown recalled with a smile about the playful banter with his old friend. All in good-natured fun, of course.
Inevitably, it was at Celtic were he’ll forever be immortalised.
Having been signed by the club twice, his second spell, which commended in January 1965, was to be of huge importance to the future success that would follow.
Auld had often plied his trade in the outside-left position, but under Jock Stein’s tactical innovation, he was molded into a more central midfield role. Essentially forming the best midfield lineup the club ever had.
If Billy McNeill was the leader in the defensive arena and with Jimmy Johnstone being the entertainer on the wing, Bertie Aul was truly the heartbeat of the team.
Aside from his aforementioned role in Celtic’s historic European Cup win in 1967, Auld also went on to help the club lift three league titles and four Scottish Cups during two spells with the club and scoring 85 goals in the process.
On that day in Lisbon, his antics in the tunnel have become the stuff of legend.
As the Celtic and Inter Milan lineups were waiting to ascend the staircase that would bring them to the pitch at the Estadio Nacional, nerves and jitters were understandably in abundance.
It’s worth noting at this point that this was an era where players of a club were often the same people who grew up supporting the club as children. Auld was no exception to that.
As boots clattered in anticipation of the signal to start the walk towards the field-of-play, Auld is remembered for starting up a rousing rendition of ‘Hail, Hail! The Celts Are Here!’
While their Italian counterparts looked on in bemusement, his Celtic teammates clapped, cheered and sang along in unison. The mood became that of excitement.
All of a sudden, the men in green and white were raring to go and, as for that particular game, it will always remain the most famous in the club’s history. Much of it down to ‘wee Bertie.’
In 2017, and in days of better health, Auld appeared on a BBC Scotland documentary, ‘Glasgow 1967’, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of that most special occasion.
During filming, he took the crew on a tour of Panmure Street. His local neighborhood where he plied his trade as a footballer in the streets of his part of the city.
As he discussed his memories, he joyfully recalled the sing-songs the boys from his tenement block used to sing on the way to school matches.
He could vividly recall which house was his, the names of everyone who lived on the street and what number adorned their doorway. No small feat considering this was the post-war period he had grown up in.
Amid all his laughs and jokes, he made sure to point out the goodness within those people during such austere times.
“Somebody, whether it was your own mother or somebody else’s … they always made sure that you had something to eat,” he told with just a bit more emotion than usual.
As alluded to earlier, and throughout much of this article, Auld’s footballing ability – where he was known to be a bit of terrier – was matched by the warmth of his kindness and wit off it.
There is one story about him having a war of words with a referee which we’d love to tell you about.
Unfortunately, some of the language involved in it would be a tad too colourful for this paper right now, but if you feel like looking it up, it will have you in stitches of giggles.
For now though, it’s time to say farewell to one of Celtic’s greatest even though his name will never be far away from the lips, hearts and minds of the faithful.
Bertie Auld: 1938-2021.