The only thing sharper than Bertie Auld’s attack is his wit.
The former Celtic midfielder who provided the steel to Jock Stein’s plucky Scotland side as the Lisbon Lions conquered Europe has died aged 83. But Bertie, or Ten Thirty as his teammates called him, wasn’t a brooding thug making sinister threats while wearing boots.
Alder did most of the damage with his tongue, leaving his opponent stuttering for answers. Few escaped the verbal bashing of the master of the one-liner. During a game at Old Firm, Rangers defenseman John Gregg asked Alder how much money the Celtics would get for winning. When the basketball player said £5 a person, Greg replied: “We have £10”. But that only left the door open for Alder to fight back: “Yeah, but we have guarantees.”
His sarcasm is usually quickly followed by a flash of his trademark toothy grin, showing he meant no harm. Born in March 1938, he was the eldest of eight children of his father, Joe, a crane operator, and his mother, Margaret, who made their living selling fish and fruit from horse-drawn carriages.
Pressed for time, he often had to share a bed with his siblings in their small two-bedroom house on Panmure Street – a short walk from Patrick Thistle’s Firhill venue in Glasgow’s Maryhill area.
This continued after he signed with the Celtics in 1955 after a stint with junior side Maryhill Harp. In his autobiography, Auld recalls that after then-Parkhead owner Jimmy McGrory handed him his first full-time contract, Auld’s mother gave him a “treat”—he could choose which part of his bed he would sleep in. side.
“Well, one of my brothers sometimes had a little problem holding the water,” he recalls. “So I immediately said, ‘I’m going to have a crew cut!’”
Alder – who also passed and scored more than he tackled – had two stints at Celtic Park, but the first six years coincided with a barren period for the basketball team.
A series of clashes with Bob Kelly – then chairman of Celtic, who at times even had the final say on team selection – led to his sale to Birmingham for £15,000 in 1961.