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Six degrees of separation: From Gould to Astle

10 November 2015

From a goalkeeping coach to a goalscoring King

YOU'RE all aware of the game I’m sure, the idea that by six simple steps, everyone on earth can be connected to everyone else – a bit like using Luis Suarez’s dental records. We have a simpler method and today, we will be tracing the lineage that goes from Jonathan Gould, our goalkeeping coach, all the way through to the King himself…

Come into The Hawthorns prior to the five to three rush on matchday ad you will see JONATHAN GOULD warming up our goalkeepers prior to the game. It’s a return to the club for Jonathan, for he was also here on the playing staff back in 1992 when his dad, Bobby, was the gaffer.

Perhaps the best days of Jonathan’s playing career came up at CELTIC. He went there in August 1997 and in six years in Glasgow, he won two SPL titles and three League Cups to boot to boot. That’s a pretty decent haul by anybody’s reckoning, but at Parkhead, they tend to hold the club to even higher standards, primarily those set in the days of Jock Stein, most notably in 1967.

That was the year when Celtic became the first British team to carry off the European Champions’ Cup with a side that has gone into the history books as the LISBON LIONS. Fourteen of the 15 man squad on duty were born within a 10 mile radius of Parkhead, making their achievement yet more remarkable as they broke the mainland’s stranglehold on Europe’s premier trophy. Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers were on the mark as they beat Internazionale of Milan, already twice winners of the European Cup, 2-1.

The name “Lisbon Lions” comes from the fact that the game was played in the ESTADIO NACIONAL in the Portuguese capital. The trophy was originally supposed to be presented on the pitch after the game but a supporters’ invasion stopped that and it was eventually presented to Billy McNeill only after he had been taken outside the ground and back into the main stand under armed guard, McNeill holding the cup aloft in front of an estimated crowd of 70,000 fans. 

The stadium was pretty unusual in that it had one open side to it, the rest of the stadium being the classic bowl construction. Perhaps that’s why it never played host to club football, except in 2003 when the mighty SL BENFICA briefly played there when the original Estadio da Luz was demolished to make way for a new one in which Benfica currently play, a stadium that played host to the Champions League final last May when their old foes, Real Madrid won their 10th crown.

Benfica were the first team to take the European Champions’ Cup away from Real Madrid, ending their run of five straight wins by winning the cup in 1961 and 1962. Yet they are best known in this country for the one they didn’t win, the final of 1968 at Wembley when Matt Busby finally achieved his destiny with MANCHESTER UNITED, his visionary take on European football, which cost us the Busby Babes, rewarded as United beat Benfica 4-1 at Wembley Stadium. 

United were midway through their semi-final with Real Madrid that year when they came to The Hawthorns to take on the Throstles in the First Division, Albion having qualified for our own Wembley trip two days earlier by beating Birmingham in the FA Cup semi-final. The United game was one of those proper epics that echo down the ages, Albion running out 6-3 winners. Our centre-forward was getting his eye in for the cup final, because JEFF ASTLE notched three of the six.

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