It has been a very sad day with the news of Tommy Gemmell’s passing.
That gut-wrenching feeling of horror and despair when you realise that someone you treasure – be it family, friend or hero – never gets any easier to bear no matter how many times you experience it. Nor should it, because each loss is awful in its own right, and – terrible though it may be – the grief and anguish serves as a very profound tribute to those who have gone. It is a reminder of just how special they were.
Everyone’s thoughts are with Tommy Gemmell’s family tonight, but also with others who were close to him. Anyone who has seen Bertie Auld paying tribute to Gemmell today would undoubtedly have been moved by both his touching words and his own visible raw emotion.
Auld can speak with authority about Gemmell the groundbreaking and net-bursting footballer, Gemmell the Celtic legend, Gemmell the man, and Gemmell the friend. So when he speaks in such glowing terms, you know without a shadow of a doubt just how special Tommy was.
Not that any Celtic or football fan (or indeed Inter Milan player in 1967) needed reminding. As others have written in glowing and more erudite pieces, Gemmell was an outstanding footballer and ambassador for the club and game as a whole.
If he had done nothing other than score that thunderous equaliser against Inter he would have been a legendary figure for evermore. No matter how many times I see that goal, I find myself saying or thinking “Ooft!”. A brilliant strike on the biggest stage of all. Total class.
But of course, as was shown by his other European Cup final goal (how great is it to be able to say THAT?!), his status as an integral part of one of the greatest teams the world has ever seen, his trophy haul at Celtic (and Dundee), his career statistics, his revolutionary style of play, and the way he conducted himself in the decades after his retirement, Tommy Gemmell was about so much more than one goal in an iconic game.
All of it, ALL OF IT, should give us reason to smile. Even on this most sad of days.
Ill health may have dogged the latter stages of his life, and death has now taken him, but the memories and the legend will live on.
So do feel sad. It’s right to do so. But please take a moment – in fact take several moments – to remember an amazing career and a life well-lived by a remarkable man.
And yes, do watch THAT goal another million times.
RIP Tommy Gemmell [1943-2017]