Jim Craig was a thoroughbred in every way
Supremely fit, who on his day,
could compete pound for pound with an Olympic Gold Medallist –
now this is a true story and that’s why I tell you this
Lynn Davies beat him in a long jump event,
but athletics came second to football in the end.
But, at first, his priority was to study dentistry….
it was something that he thought might become his identity.
Whilst getting his teeth into studying he played as an amateur
and trained twice a week at Parkhead without any real overtures
Until Jock Stein arrived and liked what he saw –
an attacking full back, comfortable on the ball.
Jock signed him full time when he finished his qualification, he could see where Craig could fit into his permutation.
He slotted in quickly and acquired a nickname
Jim Craig was dubbed ‘Cairney’ and the reason this became
was because of a programme on TV at that time –
‘This Man Craig’ starred John Cairney, you may hae mind?
Once he got in the team he was seldom left out,
with his talent and brains his place was never in doubt.
He always did things with a touch of class – he never ‘hoofed’ the ball when he could see a pass
and despite that he played against the very best,
few bettered Cairney, as most would attest.
A consistent performer throughout the campaign,
Lisbon would bring him everlasting fame.
Not just because he was chosen to play
and became one of the Lions on that famous day
but because of a special moment on sixty-three minutes
when Celtic equalised and they knew they could win it!
Cairney collected the ball as he’d done many times
Inter filed back, defending, in an organised line.
Now Jock’s rule was that both full backs had to dovetail –
if one was attacking the other was detailed
to stay back in defence to provide some cover.
But Craig and Gemmell did it their way ……and their lives changed forever.
So here’s Cairney, taking a pass from Bobby Murdoch
moving the ball up to the defender who is looking to back off.
He’s patient because out of the corner of his eye
he sees Tommy Gemmell arriving at the ‘box’ on the fly.
He waits and he waits – there’s still no danger sign
until Craig rolls a pass to Gemmell, simple but sublime.
The timing and the pace just had to be right,
so that Tam could catch it with all his might
and catch it he did and blasted it into the net –
a fantastic goal no-one can forget.
So, take a bow Jim Craig because what you did then,
I could watch over and over, time and again.
Pride of Lions by Tom Brown is the story of the Lisbon Lions in verse. Due for release March 2018. Extracts published here every week.