As the late Tommy Gemmell said himself, it was one of the “lowest moments” of his career - but that didn’t mean he couldn’t have a laugh about it.
Too often in football, whether it be fans, players or media pundits, there’s a failure to appreciate the lighter side of the game. Yes it is serious business, but there’s also a wonderful irreverence to it all.
That was something Gemmell embraced when the Celtic legend agreed to go on BBC2 comedy programme Fantasy Football. The show, hosted by David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, was a late-night, alternative football talk show which ran from 1994 to 1996.
In the show’s Phoenix From the Flames segment, Gemmell, purporting to have been invited on the assumption he would recreate his famous goal from the 1967 European Cup final, is instead informed by the hosts they would rather act out his notorious kick on Helmut Haller.
For those previously unaware, Scotland were trailing Germany 3-2 in the dying seconds of a World Cup qualifier when Gemmell drove forward with the ball. As he neared the edge of the penalty area, Haller purposely tripped the full back, with no foul awarded. Enraged, Gemmell turned and immediately went after Haller, who was brought crashing to the deck with one mighty kick of the Scot’s right boot.
Gemmell was sent off and, as further punishment, found himself dropped from Celtic’s League Cup final squad the following Sunday by manager Jock Stein. He would stay for two further years, which including scoring in the 1970 European Cup final as Celtic lost to Feyenoord, but his relationship with Stein never fully recovered.
“If it hadn’t been for Haller, there is every chance I would never have left Celtic,” Gemmell later said.
A regretful moment though it may have been, Gemmell saw the lighter side of a Scottish international booting a German opponent in the backside. And, in an unforeseen bonus, he got the opportunity to boot the men who’d later be responsible for the Three Lions song.
As Frank Skinner later said: “Tommy must have had a fantastic day. We flew him all the way down from Scotland, gave him a couple of cans of beer and he had the chance to kick two Englishmen up in the air.”