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PROTRACK » Pro Running HISTORY » 40 years ago - McNeill flies on a day there was a tragedy

40 years ago - McNeill flies on a day there was a tragedy

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Watching Fox Sports News today and saw that Celtic had beaten Rangers in the traditional new year derby. There was a tribute before the game to the 66 people who were killed at Ibrox in 1971 when 100,000 jammed into the stadium and people fell to the ground, literally having the air squashed out of them. It led to Ibrox being made into an all seat stadium.

The tribute to that tragedy 40 years ago reminded of the passage in George McNeill's book, where he makes mention of the disaster as it occurred on the same day he ran 2nd off scratch to stablemate Wilson Young in the 1971 New Year Sprint.

On page 30, George writes:

"The Scotsman reported on the handicap under the heading: "Young Wins Sprint - McNeil takes the Glory." It's story began: "Wouldn't it be something to see a British sprinter in the Olympic 100 metre final next time round? There is a runner of that class in Scotland. But he runs for money. On Friday at Meadowbank he covered 110 metres from scratch in 11 seconds dead, in a heat of the Skol New Year Sprint. That is about ten yards inside even time - and a world record. His name is George McNeill, he lives in Tranent. He is only 23 years old and little known outside of Scotland and the professional 'game.' On Saturday with the wind gauge at zero, he ran a cross-tie in 11.10 seconds and a final in 11.15 seconds - and was beaten by a man with a six-metre start. That is world-class running. The times leave the Commonwealth sprint figures in the shade and look good against the Olympic results.

"McNeill was beaten by 18 inches in the final by Wilson Young, a friend he went to school with and himself introduced to Scotland's top professional training school run by Jim Bradley in Edinburgh."

My 11-second sprint was not ratified, because only two timekeepers were present instead of the required three. TV cameras recorded but did not screen the run. For on that New Year's Day, disaster at Ibrox killed 66 football spectators. Lesser happenings were jettisoned.

The Scotsman noted that i was taking my trainer with me to Australia in four days. I paid his airfare with the £500 nesting in the bank, since I was being sponsored.

The trainer had improved me 5½ yards to win the British sprint title, then improved me a further 1½ yards to the 11-second heat. He had done precisely what he had undertaken to do, had worked a near miracle in me. I was finding that I liked miracles."

"Let's Go While We're Young"

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