Celtic vs Leeds: 50 years on from the original Battle of Britain

While most of planet Earth was praying to the heavens for Apollo 13, the original Battle of Britain produced a match and an atmosphere that was out of this world.

And saw a crash landing for Don Revie’s Leeds United.

The champions of Scotland and England met in the second leg of a European Cup semi-final 50 years ago tonight.

The US space crew – later ­immortalised in a Tom Hanks film – had failed to make a lunar landing after taking off on April 11 and their fate was literally up in the air.

But for 90 minutes at least, the European club record crowd of 135,505 at Hampden Park, and football fans on both sides of the border, were starstruck by Celtic against Leeds.

“Some people were talking about the moon, but everyone we knew was more interested in the football,” said Hoops ­legend Bertie Auld, now 82.

“We’d won the European Cup (in 1967), but there was still a bit of a superiority complex about the teams in England.

“They expected to beat us, the English media dismissed us, even Revie was a bit cocky.”

The match saw the meeting of two of the top managers of the era – Jock Stein and Revie – and featured huge names like Billy McNeill, Jimmy Johnstone, Billy Bremner and Jack ­Charlton.

With Leeds wearing ­English white with red socks, ­national pride, as well as a place in the final, was at stake.

“I don’t think there will ever be a bigger club game, with the same hype surrounding it, the quality of the players on both sides, the size of the crowd and the ­atmosphere,” said Leeds legend Eddie Gray.

“There have been other ties ­between Scottish and English teams, of course, but that one ­transcends the lot.” Celtic won the first leg at Elland Road 1-0 through an early George Connelly strike.

The second leg switched from Celtic Park to Hampden to increase the crowd and not even Eddie Gray’s “Celtic-daft” family were supporting him.

“My younger brother, Frank, was in the throes of coming down to join Leeds at the time, but he was in the ground supporting Celtic that night at Hampden,” said the Glaswegian, now a Leeds United ambassador.

Bremner, another Scot, drew the tie level after 14 ­minutes. “What a goal – top corner, an absolute beauty from wee Billy,” recalled Celtic’s David Hay. “There was never such a silence in a football stadium as when that went in.


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