The Catalans’ first visit to Parkhead in 1964 saw them hand Celtic a passing masterclass.
Barcelona’s superstars will descend on Celtic Park on Tuesday night when they take on Neil Lennon’s side in the Champions League. Meetings between the two clubs have become fairly regular in recent years. They’ve clashed six times in the Champions League and twice in the UEFA Cup ties since 2004. But it’s 49 years since the Spanish giants first strutted their stuff at Parkhead.
On December 2, 1964, Jimmy McGrory’s side welcomed Barcelona to the East End of Glasgow for the second leg of an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup tie. Celtic had lost the first leg at the Nou Camp 3-1, with a John Hughes’ goal offering them a glimmer of hope of a comeback in the return leg.
That, however, never looked likely. The game ended 0-0 and the visitors bossed the game from start to finish. Celtic centre forward Stevie Chalmers recalls it was a frustrating evening for the Hoops.
“Barcelona were very much the iconic team back then, much as they are now,” he says. “They were such a stylish side, they passed the ball wonderfully well and it was very difficult to get the ball back off them because they were so good at keeping it in tight situations.
“Actually, the way this current Barcelona team pass the ball around is very similar to what it was like for us facing them almost 50 years ago. We couldn’t really get close to them at Celtic Park.”
He said: “We had lost 3-1 in Spain. We’d been two goals behind and John Hughes had pulled one back but unfortunately we lost a late goal which really did put Barcelona in a strong position. But we just didn’t get going in the second leg.
“They were so good on the ball and we never troubled them. I remember going off injured. It was a frustrating night.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say you were beaten by a better team and they were certainly that. They were a great side. They were one of the two biggest European clubs at that time, along with Real Madrid.
“We were delighted when we drew them because we wanted to test ourselves against the best. It was disappointing to go out of the competition, but a great experience to play against Barcelona.”
After 13 seasons at Parkhead, during which, of course, he scored the winning goal against Inter Milan in the 1967 European Cup final, Chalmers moved to Morton in 1971 and ended his career with Partick four years later. Now aged 76, he’ll take his seat in the Parkhead stand on Tuesday night.
“I go to all the games because I host a table for the girls who sell the club pools,” he says. “It will be another special European night at Celtic Park.”
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