THE LION KINGS; Celtic Make History as First British Side to Lift Europe's Greatest Prize

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European Cup Final

No game in Scottish football has surpassed the potency of this European Cup victory. It was the pinnacle of achievement not just for boss Jock Stein and his Lisbon Lions but for the nation and its love of the game.

The year was a vintage one, with Scotland beating the World Cup winners England and Rangers reaching the final of the European Cup Winners Cup. And while there have been memorable occasions since, the decline of Scottish football can be traced from that day in Portugal in 1967.

Unlike its successor, the Champions League, which has the primary aim of enriching wealthy clubs, the European Cup had sporting integrity and was open only to clubs that had won their national leagues.

Celtic qualified by edging out Rangers by two points to lift the title. That, though, had been the club's first championship win since 1953-54, and only their second since 1937-38.

Celtic were in a bad way before the arrival of Stein from Hibs in March, 1965, despite already having the bulk of the players who would go on to lift the world's most prestigious club competition just 26 months later.

Stein's impact was immediate, with Celtic winning the Scottish Cup in 1965, their first trophy for eight years. Yet the club's minutes revealed that he wanted to sell Jimmy Johnstone at the end of that season, a very rare lapse of judgement by the manager.

Celtic embarked on their first European Cup in September 1966. They easily beat Zurich 5-0 on aggregate in the first round and followed up with a 6-2 demolition of Nantes.

The quarter final proved much tougher. This time Celtic were drawn against Vojvodina, of Yugoslavia andlostthefirstlegl-O.In the return leg, ittookalast minute goal fromBilly McNeill to give Celtic a 2-0 win.

Vojvodina were the toughest team Celtic played during that campaign and the semifinal, against Dukla Prague, was much more straightforward. Stein's side won the first leg 3-1 and then played defensively in Prague to ensure they would reach the final in Lisbon.

By May 27, andthematch against Inter Milan, Ronnie Simpson, Tommy Gemmell, Willie WallaceandBobbyLennoxhadnotonly helped win Celtic win their first domestic treble but played for Scotland in the famous 3-2 win over England at Wembley. …