THE death of Bobby Murdoch has brought about the first gap in the most famous Scottish club side of all time, the Lisbon Lions of 1967.

He was born in Lanarkshire in 1944 and for the next 20 years that county would produce international players as if from a conveyor belt. In that period there were more than 30 capped players within a 10-mile radius of Motherwell.

That was the football background of Bobby Murdoch who came from the noted nursery of Our Lady's High School, Motherwell, followed by a brief sojourn with the junior Cambuslang Rangers.

His early days at Parkhead gave promise that he would be a reasonable inside-forward but nothing more. The omens were not too promising. There was a lack of systematic coaching at Parkhead which had held back the development of such genuinely potentially fine players as Mike Jackson and John Divers. Bobby Murdoch, slightly behind them in the queue, was better placed to profit from the arrival of Jock Stein as manager, and, indeed, he was the first major beneficiary of that change.

Stein's great strength as a manager was not so much the spotting of raw talent as the knack to see that someone was not being used to the bounds of his ability. It took him less than a couple of games to realise that a run-of-the-mill inside-right might make a quite exceptional wing-half.

He mentioned this to the club chairman, Bob Kelly, who replied with his customary brusqueness that Murdoch was never a right-half. ''Watch the match on Saturday and you'll see whether he is or not,'' was Stein's rejoinder.

What did Murdoch bring to his new role? In his early days particularly he seemed tireless and no morass of a pitch could inhibit his strong and direct running. He was a firm tackler, perhaps not a classical wing-half save in one particular, the ability to switch play with the long and devastatingly accurate pass. There was comparatively little loss of scoring power as Johnstone and Auld could be relied upon to hit the goal line and cut the ball back for the on-rushing Murdoch and Gemmell. The former had a powerful and controlled shot which he was never reluctant to unleash.

Even from wing-half he regularly rolled in between 10 and 20 goals per season.

His strength enabled him to go up and get back when he had to. Late in that most famous match of all, the European Cup Final of 1967, it was Murdoch who burst down the left-hand side and delivered the shot-cum-cross which Steve Chalmers diverted into the net.

Murdoch was tailor-made for the attacking role which so brilliantly balanced the total reliability of John Clark on the other flank. The latter would deal with what little eluded Billy McNeill in the middle. Suddenly Bobby Murdoch found himself a key component of a side which was a byword in Europe, a side which for the next three years was without doubt a leading contender for the European Cup.

No career is without its occasional reverses and with his physique Bobby Murdoch was always going to have difficulty in keeping his weight at fighting pitch. That situation was as yet by no means crucial. The domestic honours were coming thick and fast, eight League Championships four Scottish Cups, and five League Cups being his tally.

The biggest honour was not anything tangible but rather it was the sheer exhilaration with which the Celtic team played. Supporters came from the ground not only satisfied but in some strange sense uplifted.

The Leeds team of that time was successful but essentially grudging. They played like misers to Celtic's millionaires.

By 1974 Stein had hard decisions to make. The Lisbon side needed dismantling. Jack Charlton at Middlesbrough needed one or two bits of fine-tuning. Stein went down to Ayresome Park, had a look, and suggested he transfer Bobby Murdoch.

Occasionally he would regret his generosity because Murdoch's technical nous took the English side immediately back to Division One and of course Murdoch would go on to both coach and manage them.

If his total of caps, 12, seems comparatively modest it has to be remembered that international caps were harder won in his day and other strong candidates for the right-half position were Pat Stanton and John Greig.

At times like these certain phrases get overworked. We say things are historic, we shall not see his like again. But Bobby Murdoch and the team he played for were historic and no future European winners will come not only from the same country but the same city.

Those of us who saw him will never forget that blend of strength and subtlety which he displayed as he ploughed through the mire and spray of so many Scottish winters.