Jim Craig has recalled the “reassuring presence” fellow Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld always provided in the dressing room of Jock Stein’s great Celtic team.
Craig joined the chorus of tributes being paid to Auld following the former Celtic, Birmingham, Hibernian and Scotland midfielder’s death at the age of 83.
The former Celtic right-back, who joined the Hoops from Glasgow University Football Club, remembered Auld’s crucial input ahead of the European Cup quarter-final against Vojvodina on the way to their 1967 triumph.
“To say I was nervous is something of an understatement,” Craig wrote on the Celtic website.
“Just before the match, Bertie Auld suddenly appeared beside me as I was washing my hands in the bathroom and launched into a tirade, pointing out that I had no reason to be nervous, as I was holding my place in one of the best teams in Europe, all the boys in the side were right behind me and I had just to play my normal game.
“At the time, it was just the boost I needed and I was always grateful for his input.
“It was typical of Bertie, whose presence in the dressing room was always good for the team. As a player, he was very sharp over the first few yards and a fine passer of the ball, scoring more than a few important goals at vital times. Another strength was his confidence.
“With Bertie in the dressing room, it was likely to be noisy and full of laughter, a very essential ambience for success. I, for one, always found his presence very reassuring. For a number of years, Bertie was an essential part of one of the best teams in Europe yet was always easy to deal with and ready to help.
“During his career at Celtic Park, and also after his retirement, there can be few other players who have kept up such a great rapport with the Celtic support, attending functions all over not only his native Scotland but also south of the border and North America.”
Bertie was always at the centre of things, happy to spend time talking about the club & recounting stories of when he & his team-mates were the Kings of Europe & one of the best teams in the world.— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) November 14, 2021
Celtic captain Callum McGregor sent prayers to Auld’s family on behalf of the current squad of players.
“I will always feel really lucky to have known Bertie,” the Scotland midfielder said. “Coming through the ranks at Celtic, it is people like Bertie you look up to and not only for his achievements on the pitch but just for the way he was.
“It was so humbling to be in his company, to know what he had achieved for Celtic, but also just to spend time with a brilliant man and a proper legend.
“He just always had huge drive, passion and energy and a tremendous love for the club.
“He loved the fun that football could bring to people and he had that infectious warmth and spirit which gave so much to anyone that met him.
“We will remember Bertie with such love and affection, we are privileged to have known him and today we are all thinking of Bertie’s family.”
McGregor’s predecessor as Celtic captain, Scott Brown, was “devastated” to hear the news.
The Aberdeen player said: “He was the happiest man in the world and always had time to share his amazing stories with supporters, players and staff. Bertie lit up a room when he walked in and filled it with lots of laughter (and singing!)”
Former Celtic managing director Fergus McCann described Auld as a “great player and a fine person”.
“For me and my generation, in the 1960s, he was a Celtic star,” McCann added.
“Then, much later, in my time at the club, I saw that his personality, especially his great sense of humour, was a benefit to all who knew or dealt with him. He will be greatly missed.”
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou added: “Big, special football clubs are built on major figures like Bertie and we should all forever be grateful to him for all he achieved and all he was. I know his spirit will flow through Celtic forever.”
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