AS anniversaries go, the 55th may not be a landmark that sparks such joyous celebrations of the Lisbon Lions as we witnessed five years ago, but it may well be the most poignant to date.

A date that no Celtic fan needs reminded of has rolled around once more, with today the anniversary of their team becoming the first British club – and still the only Scottish club – to lift the European Cup following the famous 2-1 defeat of Internazionale in the Estadio Nacional.

Mournfully, with each passing year, the Lions who remain to mark the occasion dwindle in their number. But each one of them will retain their place in the history of Celtic, and in the affections of the supporters, forevermore.

This is especially true of the latest of their number to pass on, with Bertie Auld’s death in November at the age of 83 a particularly cruel blow to all of those associated with the club, and in particular, all of those fortunate enough to know him.

‘Ten-Thirty’ was the heartbeat of that Celtic dressing room back in 1967, and remained the life and soul of the club until the bout of illness that ultimately led to his death last year.

Jim Craig, one of the four remaining Lions who started the final in ’67, will always remember his friend fondly, but admits that his passing means this year’s commemorations will be tinged with a touch of sadness, and the day will be all the more poignant without him.

“Yes it will be actually,” Craig said.

“He was very perceptive on the day of the game, because he noticed we were starting to get a bit worried about what might happen.

“Then we were going up the steps to go out, that’s when he famously started singing ‘The Celtic Song’, and we all joined in. You could see the Inter players looking at us and thinking ‘What the hell is this?’

“It was quite a day, quite a day.

“We are going to have lunch at Celtic Park. Fifty five of course isn’t a great big celebration, if any of us make it to the 60th that might be more of an occasion! You’ve got to keep your eye on the numbers now.

“The club is putting that on for us, so the four survivors will be there, plus the reserves that are still around as well.

“It will be an emotional occasion, because I keep thinking about the boys [who have passed away] at different times as well.

“When I’m asked questions about that era, you can’t help but mention these guys like wee Jinky, who is still one of the best players I’ve ever seen in my life.”

As well as the stars of the show though, Craig makes a point of mentioning those players who were denied a shot at immortality by playing in Lisbon, but without whom, none of the Celtic players would have had the opportunity.

“We had a very tiny squad of players back then, but we had players who played a major part in the early rounds,” he said. “I’m talking about Willie O’Neill, Charlie Gallagher, and Joe McBride especially.

“If Joe had been fit, he would have been the first name on the teamsheet, so you then ask the question; which of the two strikers who played on the day wouldn’t have played?

“Joe played his last game in Boxing Day of ’66, and he still finished the season as top scorer in Scotland. It was incredible.

“I hated him at school by the way, he was about three years ahead of me, and I really disliked him intensely despite never meeting him.

“The reason was, I was captain of Glasgow Schools under-18s, captain of Scotland under-18s, and they always kept saying to me ‘Ah you’re doing well Jim, but you’ll need to do a lot better if you want to be as good as Joe McBride’. It got on my nerves!

“But then about three months after I got to Celtic Park, he arrived as well from Motherwell, and you couldn’t have met a nicer guy. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.”

Nobody could have foreseen how things would have worked out for the team that Jock Stein assembled from almost the immediate surroundings of Celtic Park back then, with Bobby Lennox famously the player born the furthest distance away – 30 miles down the road in Saltcoats.

Stein is lauded for the miracle he worked to take those men to the top of European football, but Craig isn’t about to let his old boss take all the credit.

“This is modesty on my part, but people always say it was due to Jock Stein coming in in March 1965, but I point out that I arrived in January 1965!” he laughed.

“No, but full praise has to go to him. He came in and took a faltering team and a club and just made all the difference.”

Sound familiar? Fifty-five years later, and current Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has had a similarly restorative effect on the club’s fortunes.

Whether that takes Celtic anywhere near the European Cup is a vast improbability given the gulf in resources that now exists between the Scottish champions and the continent’s elite clubs, but Craig is in no doubt that Postecoglou’s keen sense of Celtic’s history will make him eager to make a mark in the Champions League next season.

“This is a great opportunity for them, because they’ve done well in winning the league and the League Cup, but Europe is where the big boys are, and Celtic fans regard their team as one of the big boys,” he said.

“That’s what they’ve got to strive for, having success in that particular competition. I don’t mean winning it, but always being in and around the quarter-finals or the semi-finals.

“It’s a tribute to him in the first place that he has taken on the challenge, and it is a tribute to him that he knows so much about the background of the club, particularly when you think he has come from Australia.

“He’s an intelligent man, and he will know that for all the praise you get for winning domestic trophies, you still have to do well on the European scene. That’s where you have to make your mark.

“It would have been good in my view for Scottish football, for instance, to see Rangers win the Europa League. They played well enough, but unfortunately when they got near the goal they were just lacking a wee bit, and that let them down.

“All credit to them, I think they’ve been a credit to the Scottish game this season, and it’s up to Celtic now to make sure they are doing something next season.”