Nine-in-a-row… Again!

ed players celebrate

 

So the season finished with Celtic in top gear heading for more trophies before the world closed down. If you want thoughtful perspective on this situation then you’ve clearly logged on to the wrong reading material here – this is a football fanzine.

The biggest losers from the football shutdown were Celtic. Here at NTV Mansions we were pretty confident that the Hoops would see out the season without dropping any further points. We were averaging 3 goals a game and even the domestic match we didn’t win saw us go until the last kick of the ball to rescue a point at Livingston.

Going to Ibrox certainly held no fears for us. We had a point to prove after the last two performances against them and we were going there will a full squad.

Of course since the league shut down we’ve had to endure all manner of dickery from across the city to try and take the shine of this season. Not a chance zombies. You had your chance and let’s face it, you absolutely shat it. Hell two weeks before the shutdown their own captain was in the press saying they have a problem handling it when they are favourites. That’s their captain talking! Of course as soon as there were no games to be played he started giving interviews about how their dressing room has a winning mentality. Damn shame no one told Killie, Aberdeen, Hearts (twice), Hamilton or St Johnstone about it.

Sadly we won’t get to finish the league season on the pitch. Hopefully the cup will be held in abeyance until football restarts.

The truth is the league table doesn’t lie: Celtic are the best team in the country by a clear distance so enjoy the stay at home celebration as much as you can.

Champions again. Stay safe.

Remembering Tommy Burns

Tommy’s entry in an Alphabet of the Celts by Eugene MacBride, Martin O’Connor and George Sheridan covers the flame haired maestro’s playing days, Andy Murdoch looks back at TB’s career as seen from the Jungle and Average Joe Miller reflects on the day of Tommy’s funeral.

Jock Stein signed Tommy Burns as a full professional in 1974 and envisioned him as a first team man of 1977: “Doesn’t he have class! The way he passes the ball he could develop into another Baxter or Auld. His left foot makes the ball talk.”
Sure enough, Tommy won his first championship medal in 1977, won another in 1979 and his first Scottish Cup badge against Rangers in 1980. He was the schemer of the flag sides in 1981 and 1982.

In the Feyenoord Tournament played in Rotterdam in 1982, Ruud Gullit, Wim van Hanagem and Wim Kieft all played but the Man of the Series was Tommy Burns.

He won his first cap against Northern Ireland at Hampden on May 19th 1981. His control was “impeccable” and “he showed a willingness to take defenders on” but Tommy himself felt as if he drifted out of the game in the second half which cost him his place at Wembley on May 23rd, although he travelled with the squad, along with Davie Provan and Danny McGrain. Tommy had to wait until 1988 for a crack at the English.

Scotland were short of real class at the 1982 World Cup and Tommy, the man who could thread a needle with his left foot, was having his best season yet. On May 14th Jock Stein announced his name in the initial 40 from which the squad for Spain would be picked but, despite a fair game versus Wales at Hampden on may 24th, Tommy seemed unable to do enough to impress big Jock and was ultimately not selected for the final party of 22.

Against Sporting Lisbon in the European Cup on November 2nd 1983, Celtic took the field 2:0 down from the first leg. Tommy ran amok and Celtic won 5:0. Dynamo Kiev took precautions against that sort of performance on October 22nd 1986; they whacked Tommy hard and early.

By then he had another Scottish Cup medal (1985) and another championship badge (1986) for his collection.

This out-and-out Celt celebrated the Centenary Year by scheming the double home.

The way he played had to be seen to be believed. Celtic could be running about like headless chickens then on would come Tommy. Rationality restored.

At Celtic Park on November 12th 1988, “he guided a free-kick into the heart of the Rangers defence, a slanting and deceptive ball and one that so baffled Butcher that the big England defender glanced into his own net for the equaliser.”

Tommy played his last game for Celtic during the first half hour of the friendly versus Ajax on December 6th 1989 before being summoned off to admit the heir apparent, Steve Fulton. He removed his boots and threw them into the Jungle in farewell.

At Rugby Park, the fans chanted his name from beginning to end of the match against Hamilton on 25th April 1992 demanding he be made manager. He was duly appointed and took Killie into the Premier Division on May 15th 1993.

An all-time Celtic great, he was appointed to succeed Lou Macari as manager of Celtic in 1994, much to the widespread approval of the fans.

Celtic career:
App Gls
League 353 52
L Cup 70 15
S Cup 43 11
Europe 34 3

Total 500 81

Tommy Burns

In my list of favourite players as a teenager, many years ago, Tommy Burns came after people like Dalglish, McGrain, McStay. But having said that the finest 15 minutes of midfield football I ever saw was produced by Tommy Burns against Dynamo Kiev at Celtic Park on the 22nd of October 1986.

Kiev had players such as Blokhin, Belanov and Rats. They had destroyed Athletico Madrid in the cup winners cup final the previous May and their team was the basis for the Soviet national team.

But they couldn’t handle TB that night. He had them chasing shadows, until one of them stamped on his knee and finished his season. It also had a major impact on ours; four days later we lost the league cup final thus giving Souness his first trophy as a manager.

Had Burns played would we have won? We can never say for sure that we would, but you could certainly say our chances would have been enhanced.

I always thought Tommy Burns had a habit of producing that extra bit just when we needed it; the Centenary Cup Final was like that. Paul McStay had been having a fantastic season, but United had put the shackles on him pretty tight that day. During the second half, when Celtic were a goal behind, it was Tommy Burns running the show, demanding the ball, spreading the game out, even playing some nice passes with his right foot.

The following week he came on as a substitute for Scotland at Wembley. In his book – brought our shortly afterwards – he said he would be eternally grateful to the Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh for that because he now had one cap for each of his children.

His lack of any real international career was used as some as evidence that there was an anti-Celtic bias in the selection of the national team. Tommy himself never thought that. He always believed that Jock Stein (not noted for his anti-Celtic sentiment) simply never stopped thinking of him as “wee Tommy from the Calton”. Again, in his book he cites that as the real reason he wasn’t picked for the 1982 World Cup squad. There was also the fact that Scotland had an unusually strong midfield at that time.

In December 1989 Tommy was allowed to leave his beloved Celtic for £50k to join then second division Kilmarnock. He had several offers from Premier and First division clubs, but new Kilmarnock chairman Bobby Fleeting convinced him that Killie could make back in to the top division and stay there (from 19 years distance we can safely say he was right).

TB’s first game for Killie was against East Fife at Bayview, in December. A come down from the premier league to say the least and the day could scarcely have been worse. First the team bus broke down in a blizzard, the players had to be ferried to the ground in a fleet of taxis, which due to the delay in getting there had to double as changing rooms, the game went ahead but was eventually abandoned due to the weather. After the game Burns commented to one of his new team mates that he thought he would die due to the cold during the game.

But things got better for him at Killie. They were promoted from the Second division and in 1992 TB was appointed manager (they had offered it to him as a temporary post, but he insisted on it being full time).

He took them to the Premier League in 1993, even went to Ibrox and won in the autumn of that year and took Killie to the Scottish cup semi where they lost out in somewhat controversial circumstances to Rangers (the winning goal from Hately may not have crossed the line).

But in the spring of ‘94 Fergus McCann took over at Celtic Park. The Celtic manager at the time was Lou Macari who had publicly supported the old board. His days were numbered.

The final fixture for Celtic that season was a friendly at Old Trafford. Tommy was there as a guest. Shortly after that he resigned from Kilmarnock and joined Celtic as the new manager.

Within one year he had ended the 5 years trophy drought, bringing back the Scottish cup. The following season he led us back to the newly rebuilt Celtic Park and put together the best Celtic team since the Centenary team he had starred in.

They were a joy to watch. Boyd and Hughes were strong at the back, McNamara and Donnelly inventive and exciting on the right, Collins and McKinlay were a threat from the left and up front Van Hooijdonk was deadly. At the heart of it all McStay had one last marvellous season.

But despite the statistic of losing only one league game it still wasn’t enough to prevent Rangers again lifting the league trophy.

His last season as Celtic manager was an acrimonious one as player disputes and disagreements with Fergus McCann intensified. At the end of the season he was told his contract as manager would not be renewed. He was offered the role of running the youth academy. He declined the offer.

His teams at Celtic had always tried to play football. For him there was always only one direction in which Celtic should play and that was toward the opposition goal. He always had the players’ backing, always had their point of view in his mind, possibly as a result of his occasionally fractious relationship with managers he had as a player himself.

Those were possibly the things he lacked as a manager; the cynicism to pull his players back and kill a game; the mind games that Jock used to play (“I’m thinking of dropping you”) to get a bit extra out of the players and maybe the fact that to be a successful manager you have make decisions (such as looking a young player straight in the eye and telling them they aren’t good enough) that will eventually have someone think, not to put too fine a point on it, that you are a complete bastard.

After he left Celtic he joined Reading, but it didn’t work out. You got the feeling that despite what his own club’s result would have been, he would almost certainly have been more concerned with what happened in Glasgow – not through any lack of professionalism, but simply because Celtic was in his blood, he couldn’t just switch it off.

When he returned in 2000 to help Kenny Dalglish it was a low key homecoming, but Martin O’Neill thought enough of him to retain him. This time he was in charge of the club’s youth academy, the academy he had formed in 1994 when he appointed Willie McStay and the same role that Fergus had offered him in 1997.

Gradually he became more and more involved with the first team and by the time O’Neill left in 2005 and WGS came in Tommy was a firm fixture on the first team training ground, helping the younger players hone their skills, offering a word of comfort to those not getting a starting spot, always there with a laugh and a joke to lighten the mood if things weren’t going well.

Under WGS he retained that role (Strachan joked early on that almost everyone on the managerial squad at Celtic such as Tommy and Danny use to kick lumps out of him back in the day). But in March 2006 in was reported that Tommy was undergoing treatment for melanoma skin cancer. The treatment seemed to go well and we all hoped that would be that.

Then rumours began to surface that it had returned, and if this type of cancer returns it tends to be stronger and more difficult to shift. On March 2008 the club confirmed Tommy was be undergoing further treatment.

He died 20 years and one day after the centenary cup final, the day that (asides from his wedding day and the birth of his children) probably meant more to him than any thing else. The day that he was interviewed in tears, holding the Scottish Cup and apologising on national TV to a young boy in hospital who he hadn’t had time to visit yet.

No wallowing in public adulation for Tommy; for him it was always about the fans, the people who worked hard to buy their tickets, the people who stood and cheered for Celtic.

The reaction to his death was universal. Everyone who knew him was distraught and almost all of the tributes to him concentrated of Tommy Burns the man, not the footballer (although you could eulogise about his talent for long enough). That was the measure of the him; yes he was a very good footballer, but there are plenty of them about. There aren’t many people in this world as kind, generous and giving of themselves as Tommy Burns was.

AB Murdoch

Tuesday 20 May 2008

I’ve walked along the Gallowgate so many times heading up towards Celtic Park, my usual route. I always get the thrill.

Not today.

There is no game, even though there are plenty of fans heading the same way.

No tunes or noise from the Celtic pubs at the Calton/Barras. All is quiet, closed, flags at half-mast.

My insides are churning. I’m on my own, loads of things running through my mind but I’m trying not to think too much of why I’m making this journey.

At the junction where the Gallowgate, Bellgrove Street and Abercromby Street intersect there’s a banner hanging there on the corner for ‘Calton’s No.1 son’.

As I turn down Abercromby, my eyes have welled up as I see the turnout already outside St. Mary’s Church.

I pick up the Requiem Mass programme on entering the church. I recognise the picture straight away; it brings a big smile to my face as it’s one we have also used on the front page of NTV.

I take my seat, look around and recognise many faces from supporting Celtic and many from the football world, not just my team.

The service takes place and its hard to keep the emotions in check. We’ve all been in this position with our own family and friends and this is no different.

We laugh and smile at stories, but most importantly, we respect, for a man whose faith was so dear to him. I can understand why so many people get so much good out of religion, seen it many times and I’m seeing it so much today.

The service is nearing its end Then the coffin is lifted. For me this always confirms that the person I’ve come to respect is finally going away. Always looking for someone to tell us it’s a big mistake, but sadly we know it’s not.

As it reaches the church doors, the applause rings out from the people outside. This reminds us that we are not the only ones here after being transfixed for so long.

We filter outside and watch the cortege pull away.

I’m now heading back down the Gallowgate. I’m on my own again. No mates to talk about the game, there was no game today. Just tears in my eyes so honoured to have been asked to represent Not The View, just ordinary fans.

I look down once again to the Requiem Mass programme. On the back there’s the great man’s words, “I’m just a fan who got lucky”

Tommy Twists, Tommy Turns, Tommy Burns.

AJ Miller

Bobby Murdoch -different class

murdoch-book

Bobby Murdoch – Different Class by David Potter; Empire Publications; 345 pages paperback (including 16 pages of b/w photographs and full statistical records); £10.99

Oh they gave us James McGrory and Paul McStay,
They gave us Johnstone, Tully, Murdoch, Auld and Hay…

A David Potter book and yet another essential addition to the Celtic bookshelf.

Modern footballer biographies should generally be treated like the SARS virus, but this one has everything going for it; a legendary player who was also a wonderful character and whose career blossomed during extraordinary times, both for the club and for society as a whole. In the hands of a skilled writer the finished product is as good an example of the genre as I’ve read.

Part biography, part autobiography and part social history (where else are you going to see John F Kennedy, The Beatles, The Book of Revelations and the West Indies cricket team – to name but a few cultural reference points – all mentioned in the same context as one of the Lisbon Lions?) It chronicles the life and times of a man whose adulation and status as one of the greatest Celts of all time came not as a result of any media constructs, but from the grass roots supporters. As Potter points out, even twenty years or more after his football days were over, Murdoch would be mobbed by fans on his frequent visits to Celtic Park, many of whom were too young ever to have seen him play on anything but VHS.

One of the remarkable aspects of Murdoch’s Celtic career, as recorded in the book, is that it very nearly didn’t get off the ground at all. Pitched into a shambles of a team in the early sixties, he must have been made of strong stuff to survive the barracking of his own supporters, frustrated by years of seeing the club run into the ground by a myopic board and never slow in those days to single out individual players for the treatment, even if they were inexperienced youngsters.

Potter isn’t afraid to confront such issues as the behaviour of the Celtic fans during the sixties either, a refreshing change from some of the romantic sanitised green -spectacled views of the period often put forward by official histories.

Having been played all over the pitch and never guaranteed an extended run in the team, even when playing well, Murdoch had decided to hand in a transfer request after being left out of the squad which travelled to Switzerland for a European match in 1963. He was even considering emigrating to Australia.

The turning point for Murdoch and Celtic was the arrival of Jock Stein. Subsequent events are part of Celtic folklore, of course, and it’s generally accepted that the ’65 Cup Final against Dunfermline was the lighting of the green touch paper. Yet that result was anything but a foregone conclusion and Potter brilliantly recreates the tension surrounding that game and the euphoria after it, relating that he ‘couldn’t eat his fish and chips after the game for sheer delirium mingled with the gnawing fear that it had all been a dream.’

Throughout the book the author intersperses the narrative with personal and humorous anecdotes of this kind adding both a fan’s eye view of Murdoch’s progress from callow youth with some potential to essential fulcrum of the ’67 team as well as a colourful backdrop to the events unfolding to a largely incredulous support.

By the time Lisbon came round Bobby had sustained the troublesome ankle injury which was to plague him throughout his playing career and beyond. In fact he was very nearly declared unfit to take part in the game. Considering he was involved in the build-up to both goals, how different the history of Celtic might have been…

Tributes to Murdoch’s consummate skill as a player appear throughout the book from a variety of team mates and opponents. One of the most glowing comes courtesy of Giacinto Facchetti, an adversary on that day in Lisbon. Commenting on the absence of Inter’s influential midfield player Suarez, he says: ‘I cannot stress enough that the absence of Suarez was a major blow to us. He was our playmaker and the most vital member of our team. It would be like Celtic taking the field without Murdoch.’

Apart from being a fitting tribute to the part that Murdoch played in Celtic’s success, Potter has done a remarkable job in conveying the insecurities of a man playing for his livelihood and facing increasing worries over injuries, weight problems and the arrival of younger players, signed by the manager to be groomed as his replacement. Being captain in Billy McNeill’s absence of the team which failed so miserably in the 1970 League Cup final against Partick Thistle also seems to have had a profound effect on him. In my opinion this part of the book portrays the vagaries of this most fickle of occupations as well as anything I’ve read since Eamonn Dunphy’s diary of his life at Millwall.

Yet his resilience and strength of character once again saw him return to top form and have a few more successful seasons with Celtic before finally leaving to join Jack Charlton at Middlesbrough. It has been well documented in other books about this era that not all of the departures of the Lions to pastures new were particularly well handled by Jock Stein, and Bobby Murdoch’s was no exception. But it says a lot for him that he never expressed any bitterness about this in public and indeed he went on to enjoy ten happy years on Wearside.

While it’s true that Bobby’s recurring injury meant that he was never the player in the North East that he had been in his pomp, he still retained his class (there weren’t too many European Cup winners playing in the English league at the time) and still had his astonishing ability at passing a football. Consequently, his time at Ayrsome Park was anything but a failure. Led by Murdoch, Charlton’s team gained promotion to the old First Division and enjoyed a relatively successful spell after years in the doldrums. He was also instrumental in nurturing the career of a young Graeme Souness (‘I sometimes wish I hadnae bothered’ he is quoted as joking as Souness led Rangers to several leagues in a row).

It’s to Potter’s credit that he is able to infuse this part of the Murdoch story with (almost) as much life as his career in Scotland, albeit with occasional glimpses at what was happening back at Parkhead; doubtless Bobby would have been doing the same at the time.

When his boots were finally hung up in 1976 he was persuaded to stay on at the Boro as coach and then as manager. The latter job turned out to be a disaster, but by that time Middlesborough were in a financial mess. Potter likens Murdoch’s managerial career to that of McGrory at Parkhead: ‘Both were outstanding players… and often assumed that players knew how to play the game as well – and as fairly as they did. They were great ambassadors for their clubs but failed at managerial level to bring success.’

The portrayal of Bobby’s final years is poignant, given his ill-health and pain from his football injuries, but his good humour and humanity shine through until the end.

While he might not have accumulated the financial rewards that his skill would have derived for him in the modern era, Bobby Murdoch has secured his place in the pantheon of all-time Celtic greats. David Potter’s book enhances that status and ensures that future generations will have a worthy testament to how it was achieved. It’s an honest, affectionate portrait of a man who seemed to epitomise the best of his working class background and of the teams he became intrinsically linked with.

Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

MARMADUKE BAGLEHOLE

Stopping the 10

Take a leisurely stroll down Amnesia Lane in the company of AB Murdoch as we wallow in the triumph that was the climax of the Jansen Year.

Nine games to go, four points separating the top three and with Celtic not scheduled to play until the next day, Saturday 14th March looked like a good day for Celtic’s title hopes; second placed Hearts (two points behind) could only draw at home with Killie, while Rangers had taken the lead at Fir Park through McCoist, but had then let in goals from Owen Coyle and ex-Celt Willie Falconer to lose 2:1.

Advantage Celtic, and a home win the next day against Dundee United would see clear daylight at the top of the league. But we could only draw 1:1, our goal coming in the first half, a well placed volley from Donnelly. United were understandably fired up by the thought of revenge for the recent last-gasp Scottish Cup defeat, but Celtic’s performance was cause for concern; the players seemed to simply run out of steam in the second half and with 15 minutes to go United caught us on the break, Oloffson levelling the game.

Truth be told it felt like a defeat. A cushion at the top of the league would have been useful given that our next three fixtures were Aberdeen and Killie away with Hearts at home sandwiched between them. Tough matches.

Rangers’ fixtures during that time had a far easier look about them; St Johnstone and Hibs at Ibrox, Dunfermline away between those games.

But whatever the failings of the United game had been, the team travelled to Pittodrie and came away with a vital, precious 1:0 win, Craig Burley holding his nerve to score the only goal from the penalty spot right on half time. The award had been given after Mahe had his legs cleared from underneath him as he made for the byeline. It was a penalty so blatant even the press couldn’t argue about it.

While Celtic had been fighting like mad in Aberdeen, Hearts were also winning; 1:0 at Tannadice. Rangers too had a win that day; 2:1 at Ibrox against St Johnstone, a game notable in that it was the last time Gascoigne took the field for them. He was sold to Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough, just in time for the Coca Cola cup final. Gascoigne was ushered straight in to the squad at the expense of Craig Hignett who had played a role in actually getting ‘Boro to the final in the first place. Chelsea won the match 2:0. Gascoigne came on as a sub but was barely an influence. After the game, in a gesture adored by the media on both sides of the border, Gascoigne gave his losers medal to Hignett. We can only speculate as to what Hignett’s reaction to that was.

The meeting between Celtic and Hearts the following week was, to say the least, cagey. Neither side committed much to attack, both seemed to be counting on breakaways. In the end it finished a poor 0:0.

Over at East End Park Rangers were grinding out a 3:2 win; twice they took the lead, twice the Pars came back at them, until finally Thern gave them a third goal and Dunfermline didn’t have enough to respond.

On the field the previous couple of months had been pretty good. Only 4 points had been dropped (all of them in draws with Hearts) and tricky away venues had been conquered in the league and the cup.

Off the field was another matter. The situation with Wim Jansen had deteriorated significantly after Jansen had voiced dissatisfaction with his lot and had revealed to the press that he had a ‘get out’ clause in his contract that would allow him to walk away after one season. His main complaint was that even though he was on a three year deal no one at Celtic had approached him about what was to happen the following season. Given that Jansen’s team was leading the league when all this was happening you can imagine the reaction of the Scottish media; gleeful doesn’t do it justice.

Fergus has since revealed that while Jansen may have had reservations about staying, these concerns were mirrored at board level. Apparently his ability to split the coaching staff into two distinct camps, his lack of interest in the youth or reserve team and the absence of any long term plan had rung alarm bells. Spurred on by this, the press began to really enjoy themselves and soon we were reading about Stubbs to Everton and McNamara to Coventry. The only real surprise was that Burley wasn’t linked with another club.

The manner in which Jansen’s unhappiness became apparent is probably the most telling thing; it was Jansen himself who put this in the public domain, giving an interview to the Celtic Hotline (for those of you unfamiliar with this it was the premium telephone line equivalent of Celtic TV). He gave the interview on the condition that it was uncut. At the time this all looked like a monumental mistake on the part of the club

With all of this happening we stepped into April and straight into a game against Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final. Due to the renovation of Hampden lots had been drawn to decide the venue, thus allowing us to avoid the coin tossing scandal of 1993
(heads, ‘Celtic Park.’ No wait, best of three…).

If this game had been a boxing match it would have been finished on humanitarian grounds after the first 45. Rangers had been demolished and thoroughly outplayed, but crucially the score was still 0:0. Rangers regrouped for the second half and first McCoist then Albertz scored to seal the game. With the last kick of the match Burley pulled one back, but the sucker punch had been landed yet again. The treble dream died.

A psychological blow appeared to have been struck that day, but the team bounced back. The cup game had resulted in the cancellation of the weekend league fixtures. Rangers had played their match against Hibs prior to the cup tie, allowing them to pull level with Celtic, but the Hoops managed to restore a three point advantage at, of all places, Rugby Park, so often the graveyard for our league challenges. Larsson had given us the lead in 19 minutes, but we had allowed Killie to equalise just before half-time. 10 minutes into the second half a strong Burley run had put Donnelly through and he calmly lifted the ball over the keeper to give us the win.

Hearts had won their cup semi the previous weekend, but their league form slipped when they could only draw 1:1 with Motherwell in their rearranged game and the following Saturday lost to Hibs. They were effectively out of the race and would only win one more game in the league campaign.

Four days later Celtic travelled to Ibrox for the last game against Rangers that season. The home team finally gave a league debut to their Italian centre half signed at great expense the previous summer – Lorenzo Amorusso (no, seriously, they actually paid money for Lorenzo).
He had spent the whole season so far on the treatment table, having arrived with a serious knee injury, another triumph for the team who performed his medical prior to transfer.

For Celtic the game was anything but a triumph. We started with Larsson and Jackson up front, but after 15 minutes Jackson had to go off, complaining of stomach pains. He was replaced by Brattbakk. Jansen decided to play Harald up front as the lone striker with Larsson playing the link role. Years later, with the benefit of hindsight, we can confidently say that Jansen managed to get these players’ roles exactly
the wrong way round; Brattbakk got the majority of his goals playing as the link man for Rosenberg, Larsson was unsurpassed as a front man. The result was that Celtic barely managed a shot on target.

By the time Jackson went off we were already under pressure and unable to get out of our own half. 25 minutes in we conceded when a cross into the box was partly cleared to the edge of the area where it was met first time by Jonas Thern. Gould barely saw it as it flew past him into the net.

The second half followed much the same pattern (in fact the whole performance was horribly reminiscent of our early season rubbish) except that this time it was Albertz who scored. It put Rangers on top of the league thanks to their superior goal difference.

Things didn’t appear to get any better in the early stages of the next match, a home game against Motherwell. Thus far we had won one, drawn one and lost one against them and they had taken the lead in all three games. Make that all four; after 12 minutes we were a goal down. But this time we raised our game to crush them 4:1, Burley scoring two in the first half and Donnelly two in the second.

Celtic not only recaptured top spot but the next day we were allowed a three point cushion as Rangers went to Pittodrie and lost by a single goal, Stephen Glass heading the winner. The pendulum appeared to have swung in favour again. Three games to go, two of them at home to Hibs and St Johnstone, one away to Dunfermline. Rangers had two away; Hearts and Dundee United, and one home game against Kilmarnock. On paper the odds favoured us. Not only did we have more home games, but Hibs were already as good as relegated and surely Hearts would want to put a marker down for the cup final against Rangers.

The following Saturday Celtic could only draw 0:0 with Hibs. Fear seemed to have taken a grip on the whole team and the simplest of passes suddenly became awkward. In the stands the supporters’ nerves were shredded and the team didn’t exactly leave the pitch to rapturous applause. The mood wasn’t helped by the news that while we were struggling against Hibs, Rangers were destroying Hearts 3:0 at Tynecastle. Hearts had taken one point from Rangers all season and that had come during the 2:2 draw in February; over the two games in Edinburgh they had lost 8:2!

The gap was now one point. Two games to go.

Rangers v Kilmarnock was an important day at Ibrox. Not only was this the last game at Ibrox for Walter Smith, it was cheerio from players such as McCoist and Laudrup. Before the game they paraded on the pitch with their families waving to the crowd.

It was also the last game for the referee Bobby Tait, awarder of many a dubious decision to the boys in blue, Hugh Keevins had reported that Tait was an ardent Rangers supporter and there was a rumour that he had requested this game for his send off. You can decide for yourself, dear reader, whether that is true or not (Graeme Spiers in the Scotland on Sunday described the allegation of Tait’s allegiance as “absolutely true”), but suffice to say the day didn’t go quite to plan.

Rangers misfired badly, just as we had done the previous week against Hibs. Nothing seemed simple and the 90 minutes came and went with no goals scored, but still the game went on. This was in the days before the fourth official would hold up the board to let you know how much time there was to add. It seemed almost as though the ref was playing on trying to give Rangers one last chance.

Oops.

Four minutes into injury time McGowan of Killie gathered the ball on the right edge of the Rangers box. Laudrup was marking him but wasn’t remotely close, even when his opponent swung in a bouncing cross. John Henry threw himself at the ball, but missed. Gattusso at the back post was sleeping and sub Ally Mitchell steered the ball past Niemi to give the visitors all three points.

All over Glasgow car horns were blaring, yells let out and Celtic fans allowed themselves to believe that the day after we could finally win the league.

At the belated final whistle the Rangers team left the pitch to a cacophany of boos ringing in their ears. Not quite the send off they had planned. The squad waited ten minutes them re-emerged to take a salute from the fans that had stayed behind. All 12 of them.

The next day the sun shone brightly and East End Park was filled with green and white fans ready and waiting for a party. We would have to wait a bit longer.

Simon Donnelly scored in the first half, but again the nerves hit. The second period became increasingly fraught, with Celtic falling further and further back, despite the manager at the touchline urging the players to move out. With ten minutes to go Dunfermline brought on Craig Falconbridge, a tall gangling player who no one had really heard of. Three minutes later he headed in the equaliser and back into the emotional wringer we went. Seven minutes from being champions. Celtic still held the upper hand, but one slip would see everything turn to dust.

And so it all came down to the final day of the season.

It says a lot about the pressure of the situation that someone like Henrik Larsson could look back at his career and honestly say this was the most pressurised game he ever took part in.

The week leading up to it was hellish; basically there nothing else to think about, no escape from what might happen on Saturday. Rangers had even arranged for a helicopter to ferry the players back to Ibrox from Tannadice – the ground where they had secured nine in a row – in the event of them winning the league. In fact Rangers somehow managed to get permission to open Ibrox and screen the game to a crowd of nearly 30,000. Strange to think that the authorities normally go out of their way to see that our home games were never played simultaneously, even in the cups, yet on this most tense of days both stadiums were packed with people.

Just like the previous week it was a swelteringly hot day as the crowd rolled up to Celtic Park. The atmosphere was jubilant with just a hint of terror lurking in the background. Only a win was good enough. If Rangers won and we drew they would take the title even though the respective goal differences were almost identical thanks to them having scored a greater number of goals (for us to take the title with only one point we have to draw 14 each, unlikely we all agreed).

The team that ran out that day was Gould, Boyd, Annoni, McNamara, Rieper, Stubbs, Larsson, Burley, Donnelly, Lambert and O’Donnell.

Celtic started brightly, the team acutely aware that this was it – literally death or glory. The game was being played where we wanted it, in the St Johnstone half. Three minutes in, Lambert intercepted a clearance and played the ball to the left wing to Larsson down the left, about 35 yards from goal. He immediately cut inside and feigned to shoot once. The fullback retreated slightly, then he let it go, a right foot curling shot that fizzed past Alan Main and entered the far side of the goal,

The stadium very nearly shook with the strength of the roar that greeted the goal, All the pre-match tension seemed to lift in that moment as we realised that the league might now be within our grasp.

Meanwhile, over at Ibrox it was a case of crossed wires as someone announced that it was Saints who had scored. There was a brief moment of wild celebration before the truth trickled through. They probably sang something to cheer themselves up.

The goal settled everybody for a bit and Celtic made another couple of chances. Larsson was sent clear but lifted his chip over the bar. Then, gradually but perceptably, it appeared to dawn on the players that now they really did have it all to lose and the tension returned.

George O’Boyle missed a decent chance to level the game but we made it to half-time leading by the Larsson goal.

At Tannadice, Rangers were also leading 1:0. Laudrup had scored in the 11th minute, but the crowds at both games were mainly glued to their radios, concentrating on what the opposition were up to.

Half-time seemed to settle us again and Celtic started the second half far better than we ended the first. Donnelly had a clear sight of goal, but went for power rather than direction and wound up firing his shot straight at the keeper, which was almost his last involvement in the match as he was replaced by Harald Brattbakk.

At Tannadice Rangers were now 2:0 up, Albertz scoring with a penalty. Their game was almost certainly won.

It was now almost unbearable inside Celtic Park. Even Wim Jansen, the archetypal laidback Dutchman, was looking highly animated on the touchline.

Another goal at Tannadice, but this time it was United. A wee boost. At least we knew they were wobbling as well.

With 18 minutes to go St Johnstone were still pressing the game. As they attempted to make progress Tom Boyd stepped in. He carried the ball to the halfway line before sending it down the right wing for McNamara who ran on to it and played in a first time cross for the inrushing figure of Harald Brattbakk who calmly slotted the ball under the body of Alan Main to seal the championship 1997-1998.

The remaining 18 minutes raced by. St, Johnstone were in no mood to mount a comeback. They had made a game of it, but now they had shot their bolt. Brattbakk had a chance to volley in number three, but got too far under it.

As the game neared the 90 minute mark Fergus McCann appeared in the tunnel, as did the other first team players not selected for the game; Darren Jackson, Tommy Johnston, David Hannah, Stephan Mahe, Stewart Kerr and the man who had scored our first league goal that season, Malky MacKay.

With only a minute of injury time played Celtic were awarded a free kick just inside the opposition half. Tom Boyd went to take it, but before he could, referee Clark picked up the ball and blew for full time.

It was all over and the first Celtic title party in a decade could begin.

Another Great Honest Mistake of Our Time…

Note: We reserve this feature for those incidents that under normal circumstances you only ever see in the primary school playground. The ones that have you rubbing your eyes in disbelief and later questioning whether it actually happened at all.

To paraphrase a scene from Blackadder, season 1977-78 began badly for Celtic, went downhill somewhere in the middle and collapsed completely towards the end. August saw the sale of our best player, the irreplaceable Kenny Dalglish to Liverpool for £440,000, and this devastating blow was soon followed by long-term injuries to members of the squad who had been stalwarts during the previous double winning campaign.

The goalless league opener against Dundee Utd saw the loss of both Pat Stanton – who never played another first team game in the Hoops – and Alfie Conn, who did eventually return but who was plagued with knee trouble throughout the season.

If that was not enough then the one true world-class player at the club, Danny McGrain, was injured in the game against Hibernian on the 1st October and he too was out for the whole of the season. We wouldn’t see him in the first team again until March 1979. McGrain and Dalglish especially were players that Celtic could not do without.

The players that were brought in were honest enough pros but were simply not good enough to make up our losses.

Others who were already at Celtic Park didn’t have the capacity to step up and take responsibility when it was needed. That sinking feeling had well and truly sunk after the first match of what was to be a dreadful campaign.

The league title had been relinquished by the end of October following a run of results that included away defeats against not just Rangers and Aberdeen but Ayr United, and Partick Thistle. To cap it all, Scotland international Frank Munro had been signed to steady things at the back and was made captain on his debut at home to St. Mirren, during which he scored an own goal which helped the Buds to a 2:1 victory.

November ended with a somewhat ominous 1:1 draw at Clydebank in a match which was abandoned at half-time because of a frozen pitch.This heralded a bleak midwinter that featured a draw at St. Mirren and defeat at Ayr (again).

Motherwell’s win at Celtic Park on January 3rd 1978 merely underlined that the best we could hope for the following week in the game at Ibrox was to restore some pride and perhaps do something to help Aberdeen prevent Rangers winning the league.

Hope was in pretty short supply when the long-term injury list was supplemented with the addition of John Doyle, Alfie Conn and Tommy Burns.

The teams on January 7th lined up as follows:

Rangers:
Kennedy Jardine Greig Forsyth Jackson MacDonald McLean (Parlane) Russell Johnstone Smith Cooper (Miller)

Celtic:
Latchford, Filippi, Lynch, Aitken, MacDonald, Munro, Glavin, Edvaldsson, Craig, McAdam, Wilson. Subs: G McCluskey, Dowie.

The match official for that afternoon’s encounter was one of Lodge Park Gardens’ finest at the time, Mr JRP Gordon (Newport on Tay). A name, as Franklin Roosevelt might have said had he ever followed Celtic, that will live in infamy.

John Gordon was a Celtic-hater who was remarkable in that he stood out amongst his peers – no mean feat at the time – when it came to decisions that disadvantaged the Hoops. The ‘J’ stood for John, but it wasn’t long before we worked out that ‘RP’ was not ‘Robertson Proudfoot’ but ‘Reverend Paisley’.

Gordon distinguished himself in 1978 when he wrote his way into “A Potted Guide to Corruption in Football” by Keir Radnedge following a UEFA Cup tie which he was allocated between AC Milan and Levski Sofia. Milan had drawn the first leg 1-1 in Bulgaria and needed a home win. Gordon Thompson takes up the story in his book ‘The Men in Black’:

Although it is widely – and correctly – accepted. that British referees are more partial to a book full of names than a pocket full of dirty money, the offer of the odd sneaky back-hander is thought to have tempted a few.

This is UEFA’s Directive for Referees concerning standards of behaviour: “Referees and linesmen must refuse firmly but politely any exaggerated and too generous form of hospitality. Acceptances of valuables is strictly forbidden.”

In 1978 Scottish referee- John Gordon and linesman David McCartney fell foul of the small print. They were suspended for their part in AC Milan’s UEFA Cup second round match with Levski Spartak of Sofia, though their crime was stupidity more than anything else.

While on a shopping trip in Milan prior to the game, Gordon and McCartney popped into a fashionable menswear shop to check out the latest Gucci gear. Unfortunately the tight-fisted duo landed themsellves in hot water when the Milan officials accompanying them stepped in to pick up the bill for £800. Very generous.

AC Milan were fined £8,000 and offered a rather feeble explanation of the events,
alleging that the shop wouldn’t accept pounds and that the Scots didn’t have any lire with them at the time. The club’s sports director Sandro Vitali later added: “We didn’t ask for the money back later because we wouldn’t dream of behaving that way to any guests of ours.”

Milan’s president, Felice Columbo, was more honest in his interpretation of the incident. “It was a naive gesture of courtesy,” he said. “UEFA fined us, I think, recognising our good faith but meaning to tell us that we must not have this kind of relationship with officials.”

John Gordon should have known better. He had been a registered FIFA ref since 1967, but then Italian clothes can do strange things to a man.

Milan won 3:0 but the officials were subsequently suspended later that year by the Scottish FA for improper behaviour after the whole tawdry affair came to light. JRP couldn’t go on his World Cup jolly thanks to his suspension. Shame.

All of which lay in the future for this paragon of refereeing virtue as he slicked back his hair with Brylcreem in a style reminiscent of Josef Goebbels and donned his apron and sash in preparation for an afternoon of fun and frolics at Ibrox.

Despite the injuries and the poor form, Celtic opened the match well. The Hoops dominated the early stages and would have had a comfortable lead but for ‘keeper Kennedy, whose saves from Aitken, Wilson, McAdam and Edvaldsson kept the scoresheet blank. Typically at the time, Celtic then conceded the opening goal in the 35th minute, the scorer Gordon Smith.

Two minutes later, with Celtic once again laying siege to the Rangers goal, it was time for JRP to take centre stage.

Celtic striker Joe Craig was about to get on the end of a cross inside the six yard line when he was pushed to the ground by Colin Jackson. Even Staunchy McStaunch in the home end could see that it was penalty. Not so Gordon, who signalled for a goal kick.

Immediately the referee was set upon by almost everyone in the Celtic side, irate that they hadn’t been awarded the spot kick and imploring with the ref to consult his linesman. But Gordon was made of stern stuff and had a mind that was implacable – especially when it came to thwarting the men in green and white.

Not only that, as he pushed his way through the melee of protesting Celts he quickly realised that Rangers had already taken the goal kick and John Greig was haring towards Latchford’s goal with four of his team mates in hot pursuit. Only Frank Munro stood between the rampaging Huns and the Celtic net.

The result was inevitable.

Captain Cutlass himself administered the coup de grace after the ball had taken a deflection off the hapless Celtic sweeper and left him an empty net. Even big Ham n Egg couldn’t miss from three yards out.

It was the cue for one of the infamous Bottle Parties to commence, once such a feature of Glasgow derbies, this time at the Celtic End, the end where the goal had been scored. A fusillade of lethal screwtaps fizzed over – or on top of – the fans at the front in a scene reminiscent of the archers at Agincourt laying into the French.

Meanwhile, on the pitch the Celtic players were continuing their protests towards Gordon. Three times the ball was placed on the centre spot and three times it was kicked away by one of the Celtic men as it became clear that they had no intention of continuing the game. Eventually Neilly Mochan came on the pitch to tell them to get on with it as Jock Stein bellowed a similar instruction from the touchline.

The above incident in itself would have been enough for inclusion in this particular series of articles, but there was more to come in the second half.

Incredibly, Celtic had once again found the fortitude to force their way back into the game and in the 62nd minute Roy Aitken, the best Celtic player on the pitch, worked an opening for himself before hammering a right foot shot towards goal. He was only thwarted by a fine left handed save on the goal line.

Not from Kennedy. From Alex McDonald.

refs paper 1

As far as penalties went, this was clearer than the first one. As far as decisions went, Gordon’s logic seemed to be, well, if I can get away with that first one then I can get away with anything.

We did manage to score three minutes later to make it 2:1, then Aitken hit the post, but the fight had gone and Parlane rubbed it in with a couple of minutes to go to make the final score 3:1.

The post-match reaction of the respective managers to the referee’s performance was telling. “I have nothing to say. You saw it all,” was Jock Stein’s only comment.

Jock Wallace said, “I thought our three goals were well taken…”

Yes, he included the one from Greig from three yards out while nine Celtic players were chasing the referee around the middle of the pitch.

The following Monday’s Glasgow Herald featured a match report by none other than Jabba himself which was headlined ‘Five questions for Old Firm referee’.

Why was what looked like a legitimate penalty claim turned down in the first place?

Why did the referee give everyone the impression that he was running to the touchline to consult the linesman then change his mind when he saw Rangers breaking towards the Celtic goal?

Why did he allow the goal kick to be taken with several Celtic players still inside the penalty area?

Why, if he was convinced he had made the correct decision, did he not send off the Celtic players who pushed and jostled him and refused to restart the game?

Why did he not caution Neil Mochan who had no right to be on the field without permission?

I think we all know the answers to those, don’t we readers? In fact it’s probably the same answer to every question.

As usual when such refereeing performances come along it caused a fuss for a day or two before the wagons were circled and everybody got on with it as if nothing had happened.

Alan Herron finished his back page piece in the Sunday Mail with the following observation: “Referee Gordon… is expected to be Scotland’s World Cup representative in Argentina in June.”

Alas…

Manfred Lurker

 

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Another stroll down amnesia lane from part 15 of our look back at the Centenary season.

88 Title montage

After the dramatic victory at Hampden the focus switched on the Monday to Glasgow Sheriff Court where Frank McAvennie would appear alongside Woods, Butcher and Roberts, all charged with conducting themselves in a disorderly manner and committing breach of the peace during the match on October 17th.

Which was interesting because the original charge had been ‘Behaviour likely to provoke a breach of the peace amongst spectators’. Presumably the Procurator Fiscal felt the likelihood of conviction for such a vague charge was slim and backing down now was not an option given the publicity that had accompanied the charges, hence the amendment.

All four players were to be represented by Glasgow lawyer Len Murray, although each player also had a QC. The prosecution would be led by Assistant Fiscal Sam Cathcart and the Sheriff would be Archie McKay.

Glasgow being Glasgow, the background of these individuals was regarded as significant; once it was known that Murray was representing the players the Rangers chairman received a number of phone calls (from within the Glasgow legal community) ‘warning’ him that Murray was Catholic. Would this mean that he wouldn’t defend the Rangers players as vigorously? How would that work?

Meanwhile it was also revealed that Cathcart, the Fiscal, was a well known Rangers fan. Would this mean that he would go after McAvennie more than the others?

Oh and the Sheriff had been born in Dublin and was Catholic. Did this mean Mass would be said before proceedings began?

The idea that these people were trained professionals carrying out a job wasn’t considered relevant.

The case opened with the Fiscal focusing on the on-field challenges and the influence that would have had on the crowd. The defence countered with the argument that football had its own rules and regulations for on-field behaviour. This point seemed not to land with the prosecution who maintained that the on field behaviour would have a direct impact on the spectators. Did the crown not know that these games happened a minimum of four times a season?

In the dock sat the players, chatting away to each other seemingly unconcerned and certainly not giving the impression of any lingering resentment.

On the second day, the match commander took to the stand with gruesome stories of hate-filled chants and attempted pitch invasions. Oddly he claimed that a pitch invasion from the Celtic support was thwarted after the sendings off. Why we would try to invade the pitch and disrupt the game when the red cards seemed to favour us was never fully examined.

The remainder of his testimony was straight out of an Enid Blyton book with hideous tales of fans flicking V signs at each other. He does also mention that there was a “great predilection” for single finger gestures as well, with the highlight being his recounting of the arrest of eight “rowdies” about 45 minutes before kick off. How this would have helped the prosecution case was a bit suspect given that these arrests would be around an hour before the incident and behaviour under charge.

Other police testimony highlights included the observation that if the incident involving Woods and McAvennie had happened in the street both would have been arrested. He didn’t testify as to the police reaction to a shoulder charge in the street, which is of course perfectly legal in the rules of football. This truly was a little trip through the looking glass for all of us.

Next up in the witness stand was the referee, Jim Duncan.His performance that day had come under scrutiny because it was felt that he had been too lenient in the early stages, specifically the Falco tackle on McStay and the first McAvennie challenge on Woods (it must be pointed out that McAvennie himself was surprised that the result of his challenge was a corner for us and not a free kick against him).

At one point he remarked that if police involvement was to become a regular occurance in football, specifically in red card situations, then he would retire as a referee.

Oh well, every cloud and all that.

As you might have gathered with every passing day the trial became more and more farcical and when the verdict came in it became a full blown comedy: McAvennie was found innocent, the Sheriff deciding that the Celtic player had only raised his arms to prevent him from running into Woods – a generous take on events to say the least.

Roberts was found Not Proven, that curious Scottish legal term that means we know you did it we just don’t have you red handed, ahem.

Meanwhile Woods and Butcher were both found guilty – Butcher of “violence for which there is no excuse” and Woods was found to have “jabbed McAvennie sharply on the chin with your forearm”.

Both were fined: Butcher £250, Woods £500. Both appealed but these were dismissed a year later.

Apparently Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was taking an interest in the case and wanted informed of the outcome. That itself tells you a lot about where the pressure to persue this case came from. There had been far worse games in recent memory that had passed without police intervention (check out the YouTube footage of Rangers v Aberdeen 1985 featuring two red cards and an actual pitch invasion from the Ibrox east enclosure). This was intended as a warning shot for football but all it did was make the courts look foolish.

On the upside it did give us a good laugh when the verdict came in and provide the Jungle with a new chant; “McAvennie he is innocent, all the huns are guilty!”

Which wasn’t technically true, but you try getting ‘not proven’ in a terracing chant.

While all this had been going on we had almost won the league. Hearts had played Dunfermline and anything short of a win for them would mean Celtic were champions. With two minutes to go they got the goal that won the game. Oh well, it was surely just delaying the inevitable.

That had been on Tuesday. The Wednesday had seen the replay of the other Scottish cup semi between Aberdeen and United and again it finished in a draw. No penalties in those days, a second replay was booked for the following week.

The verdict came in on the Friday. The following day we travelled to Tynecastle to face Hearts again. If we won it would seal the league. We would be the first team to win their domestic championship in their centenary season.

It was time for us to get back to football.

Trophy Envy

I don’t know if you’ve seen the online video of the tour guide in the Ibrox Blue Room?

He was giving his customary talk about the wonders of the room (careful to omit any reference to the hilarious death suffered by the club that won almost all the honours on display, including the bike). He mentioned the Al Kass Cup and announced that they were the first ever British club to win it with such pride and bombast that it would probably surprise most people to discover that not only is it an invitation only event, but that it is an U17 youth tournament (played on Academy pitches 4 and 5 no less, as I discovered when I researched it – presumably the lads that had a block booking on pitches 1-3 weren’t in the mood to move). Never mind.

That is followed by a mention of the “Loving Cup” and how every fan will know that story…..the end of that part. Damn shame for any tourist that happened in on this tour and didn’t know it. Better yet is the vague mention of the ceramics display, which sounds like we have stumbled into the tour of the Armitage Shanks company.

The whole thing got me thinking about the trophies Celtic have on display and it struck me that we have a few that will possibly cause those of a blue persuasion to cry themselves to sleep. I’m not thinking of the obvious ones like the European Cup, although that did play a part in the original Rangers demise, I’m thinking more of the special one-off trophies that we have. So here we have a little selection of what we have that must cause a certain, marvellous, level of pain for them;

Victory in Europe 1945

cup victory in europe

This was a pretty low key trophy at the time.It was a game organised by the Glasgow FA in the immediate aftermath of the German surrender in 1945 and was meant to be us versus Rangers purely as a fund raiser for men back from the war.

But our intended opponents withdrew because they had a cup final the following week and wanted to prioritise that instead. Interesting that bit for a club (or clubs) that has developed such a strong military fetish over the past few years but when they actually had a chance to help raise direct funds for war veterans they had something better to do later in the week so bowed out gracelessly. We won the subsequent game against Queens Park, but can you imagine if they had played and won? That trophy would be paragliding off the stand every year to the roar of the crowd.
Empire Exhibition Cup

cup empire exhibition

The fact that Celtic have this one would burn them for the simple fact that we won it in their backyard. The entire competion was played at Ibrox and the trophy itself is a model of the building that formed the centrepiece of the Exhibition at Bellahouston, just over the road from Ibrox. Oh, and it has the word Empire in it. They would be all over it for that reason alone.

The teams involved were Sunderland, Everton, Chelsea and Brentford from England, Rangers (actual, not tribute act), Hearts, Aberdeen and us. First we put out Sunderland 3-1 in a replay after a 0-0 draw and then Hearts 1-0 in the semi, meanwhile Everton defeated Rangers to the dismay of the home crowd who were presumably banking on a blues brother type deal and met us in the final after getting past Aberdeen in their semi.

Johnny Crum scored the only goal of the final in extra time. The winning side were all awarded a silver minature of the trophy. The hosts are allowed to look at the trophy whenever they visit our place. Round Ye!!

cup empire presentation
Coronation Cup

cup coronation

The main item, the trophy to celebrate the Coronation of Liz in 1953. This was another Scotland v England contest, Arsenal, Spurs, Newcastle and Man U from down south and Hibs (league champions), Aberdeen (Scottish cup winners), Rangers and us. We were only included because we could draw a crowd, it certainly wasn’t because of our football standing at the time because we were awful and this was considered a prestige trophy. The monarchy were a far bigger deal then than now. Somehow against all the odds we won. First we defeated Arsenal 1-0, then Manchester United (who had beaten Rangers in the previous round causing a tsunami of stauch tears) 2-1 before we faced Hibs in the final. Thinking about it this was probably the worst possible final the organisers could have dreamt of; a final between two sides created by immigrant Irish to celebrate the head of the British state. Irony is a wonderful thing. We won the final besting probably the best Hibs team of all time 2-1 (not faint praise for Hibs they had a superb team at the time).

cup coronation team

But can you imagine if this trophy had wound up at Ibrox? They make enough of a song and dance about the Loving Cup, sticking up a wee video every year showing them all toasting and slurping away.But if the Coronation Cup was theirs the BBC would be broadcasting live from Ibrox every year as the anniversary of the Coronation came round; two men dressed in Union Jack suits would be staunchly Morris dancing up and down the Blue Room while readings from the actual Coronation ceremony were grunted out by John Greig.

Every time they play at Celtic Park and their board members see these trophies a little bit of them must yearn then die.

 

NTV 274

Our last issue before the league was postponed, If you’re looking for some reading material then the 82 page subscriber issue is yours free of charge. Just make a donation to a foodbank and it’s yours.

274 cover front small

274 spreads complete

 

Celtic in Europe – The MON Years

72 page PDF on Martin O’neill’s first season in Europe as Celtic manager. Free to a good home if you promise a donation to a foodbank.

europe oneill 1 season 00 01 cover small

These days a Scottish team hoping to qualify for the Champions League – or even the Europa – has to negotiate six or eight games in the space of a little over eight weeks. For those who survived the 90s, there was a time when 8 games in European competition would have been regarded as a spectacularly good run.

It’s an interesting, if somewhat depressing argument to have down the pub as to what period constitutes Celtic’s worst in Europe. However, there is no doubt that the 90s was especially miserable. It was a decade that was fittingly bookmarked by two of our more notable European horror shows.

In 1991 Liam Brady was making confident noises in the View about progress in the UEFA Cup when, having knocked out Ekeren, we were drawn to play a Swiss side that few of us had heard of. Xamax subsequently became for years a byword for calamity after Brady’s side turned in a performance of legendary ineptitude and came away from Switzerland on the end of a 5:1 stonking. Scorer of four goals on the night, the name Hossam Hassan haunted us for a long time.

By 1998 just about everything at the club was improving and the league championship win gave Celtic a chance to compete for the first time in the rebranded UEFA Champions League. But by the time the qualifiers came around Wim Jansen had departed in acrimonious circumstances to be replaced by Jo Venglos and the play-off against Croatia Zagreb took place against the backdrop of an unseemly public  row between the players and the club management over bonus payments.

Celtic won the first leg 1:0 at Parkhead but this was a Zagreb side comprising several players who had helped Croatia to third place at the 1998 World Cup and there was little reason to believe that a single goal was ever going to be enough of a lead. Robert Prosinečki was rumoured to be on at least 20 fags a day at the time and he inspired his team to a 3:0 win which, in truth, should have been much worse but for a string of saves by Jonathan Gould in goal.

Even being parachuted into that season’s UEFA Cup held little consolation as we failed to get past the second round in that as well, losing 5–3 on aggregate to a distinctly average FC Zurich team as a public row between captain Paul Lambert and managing director Jock Brown raged on behind the scenes.

In between those years the Hoops played in six European competitions and failed to get any further than the second round in any of them.

To round the 90s off, the season immediately prior to Martin O’Neill’s arrival, John Barnes’s side successfully negotiated a first round match in the UEFA Cup against Cwmbran Town and then a trickier tie against Hapoel Tel Aviv to set up what most of us expected to be a third round exit to Olympique Lyon.

Surprisingly, the Hoops put in a remarkably competent European away performance and came away with a draw, which might have been even better but for the controversial non-award of a penalty when Burchill was felled in the box.

It came at a cost, though, as the team returned with Henrik Larsson rendered hors de combat for the rest of the season after his horror leg break.

The home leg was a much more familiar affair as a passionate Celtic Park crowd was muted by a technically and tactically superior visiting European side who were given a free gift thanks to a defensive mistake.

Enter Martin O’Neill…

europe oneill 1 spreads complete

A Shot At… Failure

Whatever you do, don’t go rummaging through the bargain bins of DVD shops looking for a good football film. That’s what Craig stephen did when he unearthed this candidate for a Golden Turkey…

rev glory box

 

If you want to see a good film, avoid the ones about football, as they tend to be cliched, romantic efforts. The Scottish-American co-production A Shot at Glory is no exception but the prospect of seeing Ally McCoist scoring goals in a Celtic shirt was enough for me to spend a couple of quid on the DVD.

Casting McCoist in the role of Jackie McQuillan, the former Celtic legend and hunskelper, was inspired.

By the turn of the century, when filming started, McCoist had left Rangers (RIP), and was nearing the end of his career; so he signed up for one last pay cheque at struggling Kilmarnock.

Coincidentally, McQuillan, the fictional character, had left Arsenal and was nearing the end of his career; so signed up for one last pay cheque at north-east fishing town team Kilnockie.

Meanwhile, McCoist was a lothario who had extra-marital affairs with an actress and an air stewardess. Again, coincidentally, McQuillan is a lothario who beds the first woman he sees in Kilnockie while his estranged wife awaits for a possible patch-up date.

For those shocked that Coisty could appear in the lead role in a film should remember he’d already starred in such classics as Ten’s Too Many and Europe: The Impossible Mission.

After a ham-fisted attempt to fill in international viewers about the ‘Old Firm’, One Shot at Glory begins with Kilnockie coach Gordon McCloud deriding McQuillan to his avaricious American club owner Peter Cameron as “a fucking headcase, a waster”. Remember, all similarities with real-life events are purely coincidental.

While Cameron brushes off his concerns, McQuillan is tearing through Kilnockie (actually Crail in Fife), nearly running over an auld wifie in his flash car. Tracksuited up, he hits the pitch, where he is given an icy welcome by McCloud, played by Robert Duvall – yes that Robert Duvall.

Duvall is joined by Hollywood royalty Michael Keaton, who plays Cameron. Keaton might be the only credible member of the acting team, (though I’ll give kudos to Brian Cox in a relatively brief appearance as ‘The Rangers’ coach) but even Batman can’t save this nonsense. While Keaton retains his American tones, Duvall adopts a bizarre form of Doric that should have required subtitles for both American and Scottish audiences. His gruff exterior is a dead ringer for both Walter Smith and Jim McLean after they’ve just found their daughters in bed with the village idiot.

Cut to footage of McQuillan, in both the Hoops and a full green Republic of Ireland-style top, seemingly digitally altered from actual footage of when he was with Rangers (RIP), with Andy Gray informing us he’s a two-time Golden Boot award winner.

We soon discover the source of McCloud’s resentment at McQuillan joining the club: he is McQuillan’s father-in-law but he hates the striker for “stealing” his daughter while she was engaged to another man, and has virtually disowned Katie.

But it goes deeper than that, as McQuillan tells Katie “He hasn’t been to church for 40 years, and he won’t talk to his daughter because she married someone who hadn’t been to his church for 20 years.”

rev glory 1Above: The Kilnocki manager (Duvall) contemplates 4 additional minutes to be added on at the end of the film.

 

So, to the football. Without any explanation as to how they managed to wangle their way out of playing in the previous rounds as lower sides are required to, Kilnockie land a home tie against Dumbarton in the last 16 of the Scottish Cup. This thrilling match-up is broadcast live, with Andy Gray and Rob McLean commentating. Can it get any worse? Yes, Mike McCurry is the ref.

McQuillan notches the opener and at half-time the Dumbarton manager does a Souness, throwing crockery around and being confronted by the no-nonsense tea lady. Aye, it’s fictional, nothing like that could have happened in Scottish football.

Cameron gives up home advantage for the quarter-final tie, so Kilnockie travel to Dumfries, and it’s Queen of the South who strike early before our hero nets a hat-trick including a spectacular overhead kick before responding in what could only be described in a Rangers manner to crass sledging by a Queens player and seeing red.

In the Glasgow derby tie in the same round, violence breaks out inside Ibrox with a minute to play,. Three supporters are taken to hospital, and a dozen people are arrested. As McQuillan listens to the news report a group of Celtic fans are rampaging their way through the Gorbals, forcing the star to ‘save’ an innocent graffiti-daubing Rangers kid from, well, who knows what. The barely-concealed implication is that the Celtic fans are behind the after-match violence.

There is a half-hearted attempt to paint the two sides as bad as each other when two fans of Rangers (RIP) chase after McQuillan and Katie in a hotel staircase to offer their best wishes by flinging a full bottle of beer at the pair, leading to McQuillan lamping and hospitalising both. He spends a night in the cells for his trouble.

The fairytale run continues at neutral Premier Park (in reality Rugby Park) where Kilnockie are up against Kilmarnock in the sem-eye final. Kilnockie, having just gained promotion, but without the suspended McQuillan, go a goal ahead, lose their Lurch-like goalkeeper Brian Burns to injury (played by Airdrie’s Lurch-like goalkeeper at the time John Martin) giving a chance to a rookie American stopper who performs heroics to take the teuchters into the final – (remember it’s a joint American production so we can’t just have a bunch of second-rate Scots doing all the heroic stuff).

rev glory 2
Above: Duvall channeling his inner Helmut Schoen as he prepares to rattle a few teacups around the dressing room.

 

So we have a third tier team in the Scottish Cup final, up against “The Rangers,” David versus Goliath, the second division champions against the treble-seeking giants, good versus evil.

And so stirs up a previously hinted at animosity between McCloud and Rangers manager Martin Smith, which began when Smith was McCloud’s deputy at Dundee. The pair vowed to quit, but after McCloud gave his notice to the chairman, Smith went in after … and took the top job. “That must give you the boak that, seeing that prick sitting there like that,” McQuillan tells McCloud. “That could’ve been you gaffer, if that bastard had left his resignation in that room at Dundee instead of leaving with a raise.”

Due to the altercation in the hotel, McQuillan is on the bench for the final, missing a team talk by McCloud in which he sounds like Jim Jefferies after he’s just stuffed his face with a bunch of unpeeled bananas. Spoiler alert here (safe in the presumption that you’ll probably never see the film) but there’s no happy ending, as the favourites, who have Derek McInnes, Boab Malcolm, Derek Ferguson, Ally Maxwell and … Didier Agathe (in fairness he was with Raith Rovers at the time) in their line-up secure a penalty shoot-out win against the “potato pickers”, without having to bother about extra-time. It may not have helped that McCloud is called away from his half-time team talk for a deep and meaningful with his daughter.

A penalty win isn’t really a win at all Smith tells McCloud, which is exactly what The Rangers (2012 edition) would have been saying after the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final.
But that Holywood influence is inescapable, so after the game Cameron announces that Kilnockie are staying in Scotland, McCloud is reunited with his daughter and Jackie and Katie are formally back together again.

Awww …

Now, while I haven’t exactly rated this picture, the football scenes are well made, which is something often lacking in football related pics, partly because the footballers on the field are footballers in real life, taken from the likes of Airdrie, while Owen Coyle is also one of the Kilnockie players, and is restricted to crosses and eating oranges.

McCoist wasn’t put off by his experience in front of the camera, later starring in such films as The Petrofac Training Cup Disaster, My Year in Administration, and SAW (Stirling Albion’s Wonders).

Craig Stephen