26 Sep Celtic can cause City problems
Bertie Auld admits Celtic might not strike fear into Manchester City the way Jimmy Johnstone affected English teams in his era, but the Lisbon Lion is encouraged by the attacking options Brendan Rodgers has ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash.
Auld recalls seeing Leeds full-back Terry Cooper crumbling at the mere mention of the acclaimed Celtic winger after Don Revie’s side had been beaten in the 1970 European Cup semi-finals.
And, while Celtic may never have a talent like Johnstone in their ranks again, Rodgers has utilised wide players Scott Sinclair, James Forrest and Patrick Roberts to good effect in his first few months in charge at Parkhead.
Former City winger Sinclair has scored in each of his first six league games while a rejuvenated Forrest hit his fifth goal of the season in Celtic’s 6-1 win over Kilmarnock.
Auld played in the Jock Stein-managed Celtic side which won their first European Cup meeting with an English team, beating Leeds home and away. Johnstone, the subject of a documentary film to be aired on Friday night on BBC ALBA, terrorised Cooper as Celtic won 2-1 at Hampden in front of 136,505 fans.
The 1967 European Cup winner later bumped into Cooper on holiday in Majorca and witnessed the effect Johnstone had on the England international.
“We were sitting at a golf club and having a bottle of San Miguel and I promise you, Terry Cooper was coming down one of the holes towards the bar,” the 78-year-old told Press Association Sport.
“And I shouts: ‘Terry, there’s Jinky!’ And I’m not kidding, he dived to the ground and said: ‘See you, you’re trying to spoil my holiday’. Jimmy was the type that could have done it each and every time. He had everything in his locker.
“You need width and one thing about Jock, the first thing he did was get width and played with Jimmy and Yogi (John Hughes) and Bobby Lennox at times, he switched it about. And Jock had options.
“I still feel we need a couple of players, but I like Sinclair and I like the big centre-forward (Moussa Dembele), he is starting to look the part.
“Sinclair is the type of player that Celtic supporters love, someone who is going to take it from defence to attack and get by players.
“Brendan has got a bit of life about Forrest, he has brought him back and he is starting to believe in himself.”
With Dembele and Leigh Griffiths scoring 18 goals between them, Celtic have two serious contenders for the central striker’s role too.
Auld added: “Even the right-back, (Mikael) Lustig, he is scoring goals from set-pieces. We have options and that’s what football is all about, scoring goals.”
Auld was speaking to publicise purpleTV’s film, which evoked a range of emotions for the former Hibernian and Partick Thistle manager, who regularly accompanied Johnstone during hospital visits after his good friend was hit by motor neurone disease, which claimed his life in 2006.
“It was heartbreaking for me, to see the wee man speaking,” Auld said. “He was holding court the way he always did when he got the opportunity.
“And then on the park, exciting and entertaining. Seeing things on the park was great because, when you get a wee bit older, you wonder at times, did that really happen?
“I’m glad I saw it. It was sad because he was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on that screen.
“I used to take him to hospital to see specialists but never at any time did he ever turn round and say: ‘Why me?’ He was never sad. He always said: ‘I’ll beat this, Bert’.”
:: Jimmy Johnstone, produced by purpleTV, will air on BBC ALBA, Friday September 30 at 9.30pm.