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Saturday 21 October 2017

Celtic Lisbon Lion Auld to 'miss everthing about' friend Tommy

Celtic’s Bertie Auld. Photo credit: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Celtic’s Bertie Auld. Photo credit: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Celtic great Bertie Auld feels like he has lost a family member following the death of fellow Lisbon Lion Tommy Gemmell.

Gemmell has died aged 73, leaving seven surviving members of the first British team to win the European Cup.

The Motherwell-born left-back, who scored in two European Cup finals, was one of a famous group of players all born within a 30-mile radius of Celtic Park who shocked Inter Milan and the football world in the Portuguese capital in 1967.

Auld said: "We are one. A family. Just like the Celtic support. We are a family in the dressing room.

"We brought happiness and entertainment to the terraces and that was so important because the Celtic supporters deserved that and I know that Tommy was one of their big favourites."

Auld said Gemmell loved being nicknamed 'Danny Kaye' after the lookalike American entertainer because he saw himself in the same role.

"He was a Lisbon Lion and he could entertain," Auld said. "I will miss everything about him."

"He was a very strong person and if anyone needed help he was there."

The man who set up Gemmell's Lisbon equaliser, Jim Craig, also paid tribute.

Craig wrote on Twitter: "Devastated re the passing of my pal and roomie Tam Gemmell. A Great Celt & character. My friend. Dealt with his illness with dignity. RIP.

"Tam also left a legacy perhaps never to be emulated in Scotland. Two EC Finals: a goal in each."

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell recalled how Gemmell and the rest of Jock Stein's side, which dominated Scottish football and became a European power, laid the foundations for the modern-day Parkhead club.

He told Press Association Sport: "One of the privileges of my job is that you get to meet your heroes and Tommy was certainly one of them.

"He was very welcoming and supportive when I took this job on, a very humble man and he didn't let you down as a hero.

"That team inspired me - the underdog, 11 local lads, a unique achievement for Celtic and Scotland.

"It is the basis of the modern-day Celtic. Jock Stein, the Lisbon Lions and everything we have done since then.

"And that is our aspiration, to get there again and try to match that."

Lawwell recalled arriving inside Celtic Park just in time to see Gemmell score an early goal in a European Cup tie against Benfica in 1969.

And he added: "I also remember watching the Scotland game in (West) Germany, on the television when Helmut Haller went past Tommy and nicked him and he turned round and blootered him. So there are real great memories of success and fun.

"He was larger than life and he was a leader as well. He was one of the best full-backs in the world in his time, if not the best."

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, who played under Gemmell when he was Dundee manager, also paid tribute.

The former Celtic boss said in a statement: "Tommy was a joy to watch on the pitch, and as a pioneer of the attacking full-back role was years ahead of his time.

"Throughout his career he earned the respect and admiration of his fellow professionals and fans alike, and his contributions to Scottish football cannot be overstated."

The news came following confirmation over the weekend that Lions captain Billy McNeill has dementia.

Former Celtic striker Frank McAvennie told Press Association Sport: "It has been a horrible week all round, really, with the news about Billy as well and now Tommy - two great men.

"I remember the Lions when they were playing. I was only a wee boy but I got to know them through the years when I played for Celtic and it was great.

"They are always about the place. I was on a couple of trips with Tommy and his knowledge of the game was incredible. He will be sadly missed at Celtic Park."

Rangers joined Gemmell's former clubs, Dundee, Nottingham Forest and Albion Rovers, in passing on their condolences while former Celtic players such as Chris Sutton and John Hartson joined fans who paid tribute on Twitter.

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