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

 

The Start of an Era

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part 1

From Celtic’s ‘seven lean years’ to the appointment of Big Jock.

The Celts were failing miserably to mount any sort of challenge in the league season after season, cup success was proving elusive, good players were being allowed to leave and the fans were so frustrated that they were demonstrating outside the stand demanding the head of Kelly on a spike.

No, it wasn’t the Nineties, it was during the period which followed the 7:1 demolition of the then existant Rangers in the 1957 League Cup final. Little did supporters realise that once they’d sobered up from the party which followed in the wake of that particular eight goal thriller that they’d have to wait nearly a decade before they’d have another excuse for a hoolie.

The late Fifties and early Sixties were indeed a time of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for the Timmites. The 1957 team broke up following the untimely departure of Bobby Evans and a succession of injuries to key players such as Fernie, Fallon and McPhail.

Instead of replacing these established stalwarts with seasoned professionals – who might have cost money – the board of the time, under the benevolent tyranny of Bob Kelly, embarked on a strategy that was to become known as the infamous ‘youth policy’.
Sadly, the youngsters who were regularly pitchforked into struggling Celtic sides of the time were doubly handicapped by having few players of proven experience upon whom to rely for advice and by a chairman whose Corinthian ideals may have been worthy enough but who was rapidly finding out that they were becoming increasingly anachronistic within the context of an ever-changing game.

Kelly’s neglect of such mundane tasks as running the club efficiently or with organisation resulted in ‘Bob Kelly and the Easybeats’ being the cruel epithet attached to the hapless colts of the early Swinging Sixties.

Not that Celtic was a club entirely devoid of potential in those days. Players such as Billy McNeill, Dunky McKay, Bobby Murdoch, Pat Crerand and Jimmy Johnstone were all outstanding talents; but all too often the rest of the side would be comprised of raw youth, players in the twilight of their careers or obscure buys who arrived with dodgy reputations and departed back into obscurity soon afterwards – often in the dead of night with blankets over their heads.

The misery for the fans was compounded, as is so often the case when Celtic are in the doldrums, by the fact that Rangers were rampant.
The only blip in what was otherwise a relentless downward spiral was an extraordinary run in the Cup Winners’ Cup of 1963-64 which saw Celtic progress to the semi-final stage.

In the first leg, played at Celtic Park, the Hoops romped into a 3:0 lead against MTK Budapest and looked odds-on to reach the final.

Alas, it was all too much for them. Cool heads and a steady defence were all that were needed in the away leg in the Hungarian capital; neither showed up on the night. The heads overheated, the defence wobbled and the Celts slumped to a dismal 0:4 defeat.

At the start of the 1964-65 season Bob Kelly’s youth policy came to fruition when the club tried to sign Alfredo di Stefano from Real Madrid, by then a sprightly 38 year-old. Tom Campbell and Pat Woods describe the episode in ‘The Glory and the Dream’:

“Some of the transfers were induced through panic, and nowhere was this more apparent than in a fruitless scramble after Alfredo di Stefano in August 1964. The famed striker of Real Madrid had been released from his contract by the Spanish club, and Celtic embarked on a wild goose chase to land the South Ameri can superstar. The club phoned Spain, but the player was on holiday and the calls were not returned; the club senttelegrams but these were ignored, until a belated reply rejecting the offer finally arrived at Celtic Park.

Despite the player’s manifest lack of interest and unavailability (he had recently agreed a lucrative one year contract with Espanol) the club ordered Jimmy McGrory to make a hurried, undignified trip to spain, accompanied by  John Cushley, Celtic’s reserve centre-half and a graduate in languages from Glasgow University, in a futile bid to change his mind.

It was fortunate for Celtic that di Stefano dismissed the overtures. Magnificent player that he was, di stefano had an arrogant streak and ruled imperiously at Madrid for years. Well substantiated rumours were disconcerting; he insisted that passes be made directly to his feet and ignored others; he forced Didi, Brazil’s World Cup star, to quit Madrid because his vanity would not allow a newcomer to usurp his popularity; he accepted Puskas as a team mate only when the Hungarian wisely gave up a chance to score in order to lay on a goal for him, a goal that gained for di Stefano the Spanish leading scorer title.

At the age of 38 the proud Argentinian would not have welcomed the rigours of a Scottish winter to play alongside the apprentices, even at the princely £30,000 that Celtic offered him for less than one season. Thoughtful supporters had to wonder about the club’s sense of direction; for years the club had advocated a long-term policy based on young teams of traditional Celtic values. Surely the frantic chase after di Stefano contradicted this.”

The element of low farce which went along with this gallant bid was somehow in keeping with the general atmosphere surrounding the Celtic board at the time.

Back in the real (as opposed to the Real) world, by January 1965 it was business as usual for the long-suffering fans.

The League Cup final had been lost to Rangers in a 2:1 defeat the previous October in one of the great encounters between the two clubs and Celtic had been summarily despatched from the Fairs Cup by Barcelona.

In the league Celtic’s form had been erratic. Rangers had been gubbed 3:1 early in the season but defeats at the hands of Hearts, St.Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Dundee and Dunfermline saw the team languishing in fifth place in the table.

The Scottish Cup was all that was left to play for and frustration was forcing many of Celtic’s best players to consider continuing their careers away from Parkhead.

Then it happened.

Although he wasn’t due to take up the managerial reins for a few weeks, the board announced that Jock Stein was about to take over at Celtic Park.

Stein had been around a bit since leaving the job of reserve team coach at Parkhead, giving the town of Dunfermline the time of its life by steering the Pars to safety in the first division, winning the Scottish Cup by defeating Celtic then embarking on a series of European adventures which scared the pants off some very big names indeed.

He then went to Easter Road for a stint as manager there. Although his spell at Hibs lasted barely a year he made a big impression. Writing in When Saturday Comes about a famous 2:0 win over Di Stefano’s Real Madrid in a friendly, Mark Poole recalls:

His impact at Hibs was immediate, with his trademark combination of ruthlessness, professionalism and attention to detail. “He didn’t walk in; he blew in,” Pat Stanton later said. Stanton was just 19 when Stein arrived but would soon be renowned as a classy, elegant defender, and would play 400 games for Hibs.

Many players’ reputations bloomed under Stein, but none more than Willie Hamilton, who has since been largely forgotten, but who Stein later said was the best Scottish player he’d ever seen. Hamilton played on instinct and was hugely talented, but lacked discipline off the pitch and only Stein managed to draw on his full potential; potential that was clearest in front of the 32,000 fans at the Real Madrid match.

Securing a glamour friendly against Real Madrid summed up Stein’s ambition. Real had beaten Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden in perhaps the greatest ever European Cup final four years earlier. They’d won the last four La Liga titles, with Ferenc Puskas the top scorer in three of them. It cost £12,000 to get them to come to Edinburgh but that investment was repaid in prestige, as the home side dominated the match and won 2-0. The Glasgow Herald said: “Had the margin of victory been greater the home team would not have been flattered. Playing fast, open football, the Scots were superior in every phase of the game and man for man outshone the Spaniards.”

Eighteen-year-old Peter Cormack – who was later an integral part of Liverpool’s first dominant 1970s side – opened the scoring after 20 minutes. According to the Herald “the ease with which Hibernian found gaps in the Real defence was almost unbelievable”. Jim Scott hit the crossbar and José Araquistáin in the Real Madrid goal made outstanding saves from Neil Martin and Cormack, before Ignacio Zoco deflected a Pat Quinn free-kick into his own goal. The fans had come to see Puskas and Francisco Gento, but although Willie Wilson in the Hibs goal had to make two saves from the latter, it was Hamilton’s night. As the Herald concluded: “For skill, artistry and generalship, Puskas did not compare with Hamilton.”

That night convinced Hibs fans they could recapture their glory years from the 1950s, but on January 31, 1965 Stein announced he’d be leaving for Celtic. In Archie Macpherson’s Stein autobiography, Cormack said: “We were devastated. We had a great team and I think we could have won the double. But him leaving destroyed us.” At least they had that remarkable October evening to remember him by.

Jock’s parting shot as he left Easter Road was to ensure that Rangers would be taking no further part in that season’s Scottish Cup as his team administered a gubbing to the Ibrox side, something he was to make quite a habit of in the coming years.

Now he was coming home in a reshuffle which saw Jimmy McGrory take over as PR Officer and Sean Fallon appointed Assistant Manager.

The effect of that January announcement was almost instantaneous. Campbell and Woods described it thus: “The slide was halted on January 30th with a dazzling display on an icy Celtic Park when the players, visibly uplifted (as if sensing a wind of change), routed Aberdeen by 8:0. Less than 24 hours later the situation, with its gloom and fears, was to experience a transformation which began with the bustle of a press conference and was completed a few weeks later, by Bob Kelly’s firm handshake and the words, ‘It’s all yours now’”

Big Jock was to take up his post in an official capacity on March 10th 1965. It had been over a month since the announcement of his imminent takeover from Jimmy McGrory but he had to wait for Hibs to appoint Bill Shankley as his successor before leaving for Parkhead.

Almost immediately following his takeover at Celtic Park the papers tried to fuel controversy over the fact that Stein was Celtic’s first non-Catholic manager. Perhaps they had convinced themselves that Celtic supporters would rush round to the main stand entrance burning season tickets and effigies of Bob Kelly.

It wasn’t to be. The appointment of Stein was greeted with widespread approval. The only thing that was heating up rapidly was Scot Symon’s manager’s chair at Ibrox.

Stein’s first match in charge of Celtic was at Broomfield against Airdrie. His first selection was: Fallon, Young, Gemmell; Clark, McNeill, Brogan; Chalmers, Murdoch, Hughes, Lennox, Auld.

John Hughes and Bertie Auld (who netted five – two from the spot) were the scorers in a 6:0 romp.

Other than a 4:0 thrashing of his old charges Hibs and a single goal victory courtesy of an o.g. against Third Lanark it was to be a rare opportunity to celebrate two league points as Stein tried out most of the players in the first team pool before the end of the season.

Some of these line-ups were less than succesful, as maulings at Falkirk (2:6) and Dunfermline (1:5) would tend to suggest, but the new manager wanted everyone to get the opportunity to show what they could do.

Meanwhile, in the Scottish Cup the Celts had progressed to the semi-final of that season’s competition prior to the arrival of Stein, thanks to victories over St. Mirren (3:0), Queens Park (1:0) and Kilmarnock (3:2).

Motherwell were the opponents in the semi and at Hampden on March 27th the Fir Park side played to an extremely defensive plan, relying almost entirely on their lone striker to upset the Celtic defence. This he did to such effect that he almost caused our season to come to a shuddering halt. Motherwell twice took the lead but both times were pegged back, the goals coming from Lennox and Auld. The match finished 2:2 and a a replay was necessary.

In the second game Celtic tore Motherwell apart in a display full of aggression, power and speed, eventually running out comfortable winners by 3:0.

We hadn’t seen the last of the Motherwell striker, however. Joe McBride was to become Jock’s first signing the following July.

Celtic’s opposition in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final was to be provided by one of Stein’s former charges, Dunfermline. The Pars had finished third in the championship, some 12 points and five places above Celtic. They could field what was widely regarded as the best side in their history and had every right to believe that the cup would be heading back to Fife for the second time in five years.

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