THE Hollywood script-worthy achievements of Celtic’s 1967 European Cup winning team, the so-called Lisbon Lions, demand to be admired by football fans of any persuasion even half a century on. Which was fortunate if you were a non-partisan attendee at this concert marking exactly 50 years since the immortal 11 beat Inter Milan 2-1 to become the first British club to lift the trophy. Not that there were many non-partisan attendees at The Hydro on Thursday night – as the surviving Lions and a procession of other assorted hoops legends and entertainer fans were rolled out in celebration of arguably Scotland’s greatest ever sporting achievement, with proceeds going to the Celtic FC Foundation.
Celebrate ‘67 Live ****
In the interests of full disclosure, I’m a long-suffering Dunfermline Athletic supporter, meaning I could at least take some pride in the knowledge that we gifted the Lisbon Lions their towering figure of a manager the late Jock Stein – a fact that the evening’s most decorated footballing guest, Sir Alex Ferguson, a Dunfermline player in 1967, likewise took some pleasure in as he recounted his memories of the era and playing under Stein. Some mischievous booing aside whenever he mentioned “the other mob”, as he jokingly put it, Ferguson’s welcome reception, classy words and very presence – as a Govan man much more closely associated with the blue half of Glasgow – spoke volumes as to how loyalties seem to get left in the dressing room when it comes to that great Celtic team.
Emotions were high from the off. “I’m greetin’ already,” host Elaine C Smith joked through tears, after the evening began with a tribute to victims of the terrorist atrocity in Manchester (the knock-on effect of which was bulked-up security and searches and a much-delayed start time). Much of the spectacle was calibrated to tear-jerking effect, as period VT footage played on big screens showed the young Lions – all but one of whom famously hailed from within 10 miles of Celtic Park – banging in the goals and being mobbed by fans, while Susan Boyle powered out I Dreamed A Dream, tenor John Innes – replacement for a sick Russell Watson – blasted Nessun Dorma, and Les McKeown’s Legendaries sang Shang-A-Lang.
The pure entertainment value was negligible at times – Johnny Mac and the Faithful doing The Brendan Rodgers Song was plainly an entirely partisan pleasure – but that was beside the point. For his part, the current Celtic manager had probably the most unenviable task of the night as – following a Q&A with legendary ex-Celtic bosses Kenny Dalglish, Martin O’Neill and Neil Lennon (huge cheers in their honour all round) – Rodgers was paraded in front of an audience ripe with expectations for his tenure following an unbeaten title-winning season. But he handled it all with dignity, speaking modestly of the immense legacy he inherits.
It fell to the biggest Bhoy of them all to stylishly cap off the evening, as Rod Stewart flew in his full band at his own expense for a compressed headline set. In his role as maximum lad among lads – punting footballs into the crowd, attractive girls in mini-kilts variously playing fiddles and performing drum solos and tap-dance jigs all around him – he could not lose, especially not with squad of songs including Maggie May, You Wear It Well, Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? and more at his inimitably gravelly-voiced disposal.