I am talking about "reminiscing": the act of, as the dictionary puts it, "recollecting and telling of past experiences and events".
The human mind is a very complex area and, when it comes to dealing with matters of the past, it appears to want to recall only the good moments. Certainly, when I think back to my own childhood, the sun always seems to have been shining with the rain clouds far away. Unfortunately, the climatic statistics of that era would tend to disagree with that recollection.
Just occasionally, though, statistics tend to support some of our recollections. For those of a certain age, the decade of the 1960s is fondly recalled for several reasons, including music and perhaps the Scottish domestic football scene. Now, whether one likes the songs of that era is very much a question of taste but, as the accompanying table shows, a number of Scotland's clubs did the nation proud with their performances in European competition during that particular decade.
The jewel in the crown, of course – and I realise I could be accused of bias – was Celtic's winning of the European Cup in 1967, which occurred 45 years ago today. This match has been the subject of much attention through the years and the incidents are well known, so I will merely deal with those which were pertinent to me or which I specifically recall.
The first occurred when both teams came out of their dressing-rooms and gathered at the foot of the steps leading up to the pitch. We had already seen the Inter players while assessing the state of the playing surface in the days before the match but this was the first time that we had been up close.
Frankly, they looked fantastic, bronzed and oiled round the face, their jerseys, shorts and socks of such quality as to be straight off a Milan catwalk. We, by contrast, having been occasionally exposed to the sun over the previous two days, displayed skin colours ranging from pale pink to blotchy red and most of us had our hair cut short, not quite the fashion of the time. If the contest had been decided on appearances, they would have won hands down.
A certain penalty decision was the first crucial moment of the match and I must confess to being involved. My aim was quite clear. My immediate opponent, Cappellini, had come off the wing to the inside-right channel and was bearing down towards the penalty box. Now, I had already worked out that he was all left foot so it did not take a high IQ to decide he was going to pull the ball to his left at some point before the shot for goal. I merely timed my run slightly across his path so, when we unsurprisingly collided, I was astonished when the referee awarded a penalty. In fact, as the game footage shows, I was claiming for a goal-kick in our favour.
In my opinion, it was, and remains, one of the worst decisions in the history of European football. At the interval, the Boss [Jock Stein] merely said: "Forget it, we're doing okay, just keep the pressure on." After the match, though, I was waiting for the verbal coup de grace, and he did not disappoint me. "You were careless, Cairney, you were careless." However, the slight smile of victory as he said it softened the criticism.
Next up was the equaliser, in which I also played a part, laying on the square pass for Tam Gemmell. Shortly before that, I had given an even better one into the path of Bobby Murdoch's right foot, who, most surprisingly, let it run on to his left and was then crowded out. When I chinned him about it, he told me that he had been suffering from a "dead leg" on his right, hence his reluctance to shoot. I could not argue with that.
Gemmell always mentions that he was screaming his head off as he came forward and that I could not hear him. Of course I could. My mum could hear him and she was back in Glasgow. One Italian defender had already come out to block any shot from me and all I was waiting for was another to do the same. Once the second one rushed out, the pass went sideways and Tam came forward to toe-poke it into the net (I only say that because I know it annoys him).
That goal gave us a real boost; we increased the tempo even further and it came as no surprise when Stevie Chalmers got on the end of a low cross (just as we had rehearsed numerous times in training) to knock in the winner.
It had been a wonderful occasion for the whole team and we all look back on it with fondness. My main memory of the match, though, had nothing to do with me, with the near constant siege on the Inter goalmouth or even the goals themselves. It came when our goalkeeper "Faither" Simpson, raced out of his goal to deal with a breakaway attack by the Italians, reached the ball some distance out from his penalty area and just as the leading attacker got there, back-heeled it across to John Clark and safety.
It might have looked cool and calm but believe you me, at that moment – and I have spoken to all of them about it – the defence nearly had a collective heart attack. Even when I think of it today, I cannot help but shudder.
Every article or book about the side that day mentions the fact that we were all born within a 30-mile radius of Celtic Park. The reason for that specific number was the presence on the pitch of Bobby Lennox, born in Saltcoats.
Yet if we consider the birthplaces of the other 15 players who made up Celtic's first-team squad that season – Simpson (Glasgow), Craig (Glasgow), Gemmell (Craigneuk), Murdoch (Bothwell), McNeill (Bellshill), Clark (Bellshill), Johnstone (Viewpark), Wallace (Kirkintilloch), Chalmers (Glasgow), Auld (Glasgow), Fallon (Blantyre), O'Neill (Glasgow), Gallagher (Glasgow), Hughes (Coatbridge), McBride (Glasgow) – you will notice that they were all born within a 10-mile radius of Celtic Park.
Can these days ever return for Scottish football? Well, there would have to be an input from several sources and the following scenario is meant to be simplistic rather than detailed.
First, parents must try to encourage their offspring to adopt a healthy lifestyle right from the beginning and take part in any sporting endeavour on offer.
Second, schools and education authorities must recognise the importance of physical education and make it an essential – and regular – part of the curriculum.
Third, local authorities must try to use some of their admittedly stretched budgets to build or maintain the indoor training areas which are essential in the Scottish climate for the young, and the not so young, to practise and improve their skills and fitness.
Finally, the Scottish government, whomsoever that may be, must take the initiative in such ventures, not only making them a crucial part of their plans for health and fitness, but provide the necessary finance.