HIS goal, a classic poacher’s effort that was turned in instinctively from just a few yards out after a thunderous drive from his team mate Bobby Murdoch, with just seven minutes of the match remaining ultimately clinched Celtic’s momentous 2-1 victory.

Would the Glasgow club, though, even have been in the position to triumph over their formidable rivals Inter Milan in the European Cup final at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon in 1967 had it not been for Stevie Chalmers?

The striker, whose death at the age of 83 was announced by his former club yesterday just six days after it emerged his old captain and friend Billy McNeill had passed away, was integral to the famous result and not just because he pitched in with the winner.

Jock Stein, the Celtic manager, recognised before kick-off that his team wouldn’t be able to approach the meeting with Inter like any other game and expect to prevail.

Their opponents, who had won the tournament in two of three previous years by deploying the negative Catenaccio system favoured by their coach Helenio Herrera, were too defensive and too experienced to succumb.

So Stein changed his tactics accordingly and the centre forward was handed an important role.

“Chalmers was always a very selfless player,” said Pat Woods, a Celtic author, historian and lifelong supporter who was in the 45,000-strong crowd in Lisbon, yesterday. “He did an awful lot of work that went unnoticed off the ball.

“L’Equipe’s report on the final singled him out for that – his intelligent running off the ball that made space for the likes of Murdoch to come through and bombard the Italian goal. He drew defenders away, pulled them out of position.

“That was the game plan. Celtic weren’t going to win throwing crosses into the box. They knew they would have to work the Italian defence and work them hard. They needed someone to draw them out, to make space. Chalmers did that.

“Stein understood exactly what was required. He knew his side couldn’t play the traditional way. He promised before the game that Celtic would go out and attack, which they did. But he also appreciated that they would need to wear the Italians down. In the end, that was what happened. They put Inter under so much pressure they were punch drunk at the end.”

It was fitting, after putting in such a powerful shift up front in the Portuguese evening sun, that Chalmers, who was the grand old age of 31 at that stage in his career, should be the man to sew up the victory.

“He wasn’t a scorer of spectacular goals, but he was a really good striker, a great finisher from close in,” said Woods. “Look at his position for the winning goal. He comes out of nowhere. But he was there to touch the ball into the net.”

Chalmers was always self-effacing about his role in the victory. “It was the moment that changed everything,” he once said. “But there were some terrific individual performances from our players on the day in Lisbon. We won the European Cup as a team.”

It was a wonder that Chalmers was still around to play football, never mind as a professional at such a high level, at all. He contracted tuberculosis-meningitis as a young man of just 20 in 1955 and was given just three weeks to live.

He spent six months in the Belvidere Hospital for Infectious Diseases near to Celtic Park and only recovered after receiving pioneering treatment from Dr Peter McKenzie, a Rangers supporter.

He made a full recovery and went on to win Scotland Juniors representative honours while playing for Ashfield Juniors. It was during his three years at the Possilpark club that he caught the attention of Celtic.

He signed for them in 1959 and scored the first of his 236 goals – only Jimmy McGrory, Bobby Lennox, Henrik Larsson and Jimmy Quinn have scored more in the 131 year history of the East End club – in a league game against Raith Rovers away in his first season.

Chalmers found himself in a side that included Jimmy Johnstone, Billy McNeill, John Hughes and Tommy Gemmell. But they struggled until Stein took over in 1965. The new manager was immediately impressed with the work ethic, unselfishness and ability of the player he inherited.

He won four League Cups, four Scottish titles and three Scottish Cups, not to mention that European Cup, in the space of the next five years. He also won five caps and scored three goals, including one in a 1-1 draw with Brazil, for Scotland. Not that he was one to bask in the glory of his accomplishments. “Stevie was always very modest,” said Woods. “You couldn’t really get him to talk about his achievements. He was such a nice guy, he really was.”

After spells as a player with Morton and Partick Thistle he worked as a youth coach as well as in a variety of other roles at Celtic. His sad passing yesterday will be mourned by all who knew him and everyone who ever saw him play.