The Night Sammy Mugged the Muscovites

In the Champions League we travel more in hope than expectation, but an away win, however unlikely, is possible. October 2nd 2012 was the last time we had 3 points on the road to celebrate. In fact it’s the only time. AB Murdoch relives the night big Sammy mugged the Muscovites with a memorable last-minute winner.



Deep joy doesn’t do it any kind justice. The feeling as that Samaras header sailed in to the far corner of the net was sheer ecstasy and absolutely deserved by a team that had stuck to their game plan, showed some real footballing ability and had to endure another honest mistake, this one almost completely ignored by the media because we eventually won.

Prior to the game we had the usual nay-sayers telling us how deficient we were, how Spartak had been terribly unlucky in Spain against Barcelona and how we would struggle on the artificial surface. Of course this flew in the face of the facts that up until then in Europe we had been note perfect that season, we had already played well on the Moscow artificial pitch a few years back and that, unlike the Benfica game, we had pretty much a full squad to choose from.

The first 5-10 minutes gave us hope, even though after 2 minutes we had already conceded a number of corners. But Celtic settled and, unlike previous disasters such as Donetsk, we didn’t concede.

12 minutes in, Victor Wanyama coming through the midfield wins a 50/50 and plays in Lustig. He takes one touch and swings in a great low ball which Hooper redirected brilliantly into the net.

Moscow were rattled and 10 minutes later Hooper had the ball in the goal again. Izaguirre had broken down the left, Samaras had taken over and his cross had been headed in. But Hooper had made his move a fraction too early and was flagged. Still, it proved that our goal was no fluke and we could get at them.

But this is Celtic in the Champions League and if we were ever going to win a game away it was never going to be a regulation 2-0 victory. We would do it the hard way.

First we conceded an equaliser just before half time. You could say a lot about the goal; we switched off at their free kick, Wilson was wrong side, Ambrose was sleeping, but the fact is the ball over the defence was exquisite, the square ball was played first time and was perfect and the forward was well placed. It was just a good goal.

Their second was a different matter. First of all we weren’t sharp enough closing down at the edge of our own box; second although the ball took a deflection the keeper should be putting it out of play but the main thing that was overlooked by all the TV coverage, all the papers, in fact everyone is that the player who squared the ball back was offside by a mile, way more than Hooper was but nothing was said. Incredible.

In the end it didn’t matter but that was a big decision and it certainly went against us. The next big decision almost went that way as well.

Hooper was sent through on goal by Mulgrew only to be first pulled back and then tripped. Incredibly the ref appeared to be on the verge of showing Hooper a yellow for diving. Everyone watching braced themselves for another stinking slice of Celtic Champions League luck, but then the ref seemed to get advice either from the fourth official at the halfway line or more likely the assistant behind the goal. The red card was waved at the defender and we had a more than fighting chance.

Lenny decided to go for it. Forrest came on to run them and with his first touch of the ball he levelled the game. Mulgrew put in the cross, Samaras stepped over the ball and young James placed his shot into the net (yes, yes, I know the keeper made a save and it went in off the defender but I’m giving him the goal – get over it).

Now at this point I was terrified; I knew we had a golden chance to win the game, but they were still a dangerous team and if we lost here to 10 men you could picture only too clearly the reaction of the Scottish media.

Happily the team were made of stronger stuff. With the clock at 89:32 we prepared to take a free kick just inside the Spartak half. Rather than lob it in, Commons waited for Hooper to run to him, completely unmarked, and take a short kick. He played the ball to Ledley, who in turn gave it to Brown. The skipper played the ball wide to Izaguirre, one touch and he swung in a superb cross. Now that the ball wasn’t coming in flat from near the halfway line our forwards could take a run at the ball and Samaras met it perfectly and directed it into the far corner.

Cue bedlam amongst the small band of Celts that had journeyed to Moscow and pandemonium in clubs and pubs all over Scotland (some in celebration and I dare say some in anger).

We couldn’t blow it now could we? Answer – within about 45 seconds of the restart big Kelvin Wilson had to make a last ditch clearance from within his own six yard box. But from that point we did something that I can rarely if ever remember us doing in a Champions League tie – we played the game in their half. We kept it in the corners and we almost grabbed a fourth when Brown, Hooper and Forrest combined, but Commons didn’t complete his run into the box and the danger was cleared.

However, we managed to see out the match from there with the ball barely reaching our half.

The final analysis of this game was certainly that the better team had won. At 2-1 down Lennie had taken off Wanyama for the more attacking Forrest and for further evidence that we had really gone for it you could look at the fact that the player following up Samaras’s winning header was right back Lustig.


Don’t Read Alone

A scary collection of Scottish footballers for Halloween/ Liquidation Day…


Were these blots on the landscape the prototypes for the monsters on Babylon 5? what else could explain the appearance of ex-Rangers boss Jock Wallace (1)? The story goes that Jock used to eat monkeys while on a survival course in the Burmese jungle. You can see the effects of this for yourself. Just say “no” kids.

With those psychotic eyes and prohibition hoodlum looks it’s hardly surprising that Hibs’ Lawrie “Who are ye lookin’ at” Reilly (2) would regularly be hired to collect debts from the Mafia. Who could fail to pay up to a man whose head looked like a miscast from a jelly-mould?

Rumour has it that Alex Thomson of Dunfermline (3) crawled up the plughole one night while the manager was having a bath. He certainly seems to have some awful fate in mind for the photographer.

St.Mirren’s John Miller (4), aka Bela Lugosi, stood in for Transylvanian butlers opening the doors of castles to young couples at midnight during thunderstorms.

John Beath (5), possibly the only man in history who can say that he was a “star” for Albion Rovers, was actually a paintbrush on which somebody had drawn a face and stuck on to a decapitated body.

The only reason we can think of for Jimmy Cowan’s hundreds of appearances for Morton (6) was that nobody dared to tell him he was dropped and with a face like that we can only imagine what Bertie Harrison (7) of Ayr United had for a body.

Sadly, history does not record how many rich widows fell for the suave, smooth-talking patter of Aberdeen’s Eddie Falloon (8).

All of the aforementioned are mere PGs, though, compared with Ayr United’s Terry McGibbon (9). In a bizarre Island of Doctor Moreau type experiment the Ayrshire club decided to keep him fed on a diet of monkey glands and dog biscuits. He later evolved into Jim Jim Leighton.

Every one of these creations make the Elephant Man look like George Michael, but a few burning questions remain unanswered. What sort of stomach did you need to take team pictures in those days? Just how old were these players when they retired? And, most intriguing of all, why did they all insist on being photographed against a background which gave all of them the appearance of wing-nuts?

Next time you hear somebody talking about the unacceptable face of Scottish football you’ll know what they’re talking about.

2015 16 issues

A Casey Jones Spoof

Here’s an old repeat to enjoy on Halloween/ Liquidation Day…



2015 16 issues

No More (Cult) Heroes – Pat McCluskey

Paul Lunney looks back at the Celtic career of Pat McCluskey, the man who for many years made the number four shorts his own… partly because they were too big to fit anybody else.


When I first went along Paradise way to watch the Celts in 1974 (aged nine) the team was full of hero figures with names that easily and lovingly rolled off the tongue – Harry Hood, Jimmy Johnstone and Dixie Deans to name but three (unless, of course, you possessed a stutter, like my mate, in which case it would take you/ him about two hours to spit out such an apt nickname as ‘Jinky’).

Along with George Connolly and a youthful Kenny Dalglish, these were the star performers in whom the Terracing Tims and Jungle Jims placed their faith every week, and I too marvelled at the magical mystery and silky skills of such a glittering galaxy of charasmatic characters.

In defence we had the biting tackles from the gritty ‘Brogie Man’ and the equally uncompromising ‘Quiet Assasin’ Davie hay, not forgetting the elegant youngster soon to become the world’s finest right-back, Danny McGrain.

True, we idolised them all, but my own favourite was a larger than life figure called Pat McCluskey.

No slender chap was Pat, and certainly Mark McGhee’s anthem, “He’s fat, he’s round, he’s worth a million pounds” could well have been written and sung about the redoubtable McCluskey lad.

His baptism in the famous green and white hoops came on 5th February 1972 at Celtic Park when he replaced Dixie Deans during an emphatic 5:0 gubbing of poor wee Albion Rovers. Amazingly, after only one more appearance as a sub he was pushed into the side for the European Cup semi-final against Inter in the fabulous San Siro Stadium to replace the injured Jim Brogan.

He did enough to keep his place for the return leg, and although Dixie missed the moon by a matter of inches with his spot kick during the penalty shoot-out, Pat converted his with all the ease of a veteran. Subsequently it came as no surprise when he gained the honour of becoming the club’s recognised penalty taker.

As a robust footballer pat always belied his weight problems with an enthusiastic, skilful style of play, best described as a ball winner with a bit of flair. However, in common with many great Celts, controversy reared its ugly head when the national and under-23 squads played in a European Championship match in Denmark in 1975. An SFA official was apparently none too pleased when he entered the room of McCluskey and Billy Bremner to find them turning a bed upside down as a prank. Along with Willie Young, Joe Harper and Arthur Graham – collectively renowned as The Copenhagen Five – they were banned from the national eleven and Scotland lost what might have become the nucleus of the best drinking team in the world. Although the ban was later lifted in 1976, that game in Denmark was to be Pat’s last in a Scotland jersey.

Fat Pat’s exploits still linger on in the memory, though, whether as a sweeper or in midfield; like the day he substituted for Caesar on a rain-soaked Paradise to save the Celts from defeat against a fine Hibs side; or the time he scored the winner against Aberdeen in a League Cup quarter-final tie.

But perhaps memories of his finest hour-and-a-half can still be rekindled today if you place yourself between the tins of beans, breakfast cereals and the meat counter at one of ASDA’s stores in Perth, twenty-five years ago the site of Muirton Park, home of St. Johnstone, for it was there that Pat wrote his own little piece of Scottish football history. On the TV documentary ‘Only A Game’, Jim Baxter fondly recalled the occasion when he scored twice against England at Wembley and wanted to complete a unique hat-trick by scoring through his own goal, deprived of doing so only because the score was 2:1 at the time and not 2:0. His opportunity was lost forever.

Well, Fat Pat achieved what Slim Jim never did on 20th September 1975 in a league game at Muirton. Celtic were leading 1:0 thanks to a McCluskey goal when they were given the chance to double their lead from the penalty spot. As usual Pat converted the kick with ease. On returning to the centre circle you could almost hear his brain going into overdrive. St. Johnstone raced into the attack and Pat grabbed his chance to give Peter Latchford no chance. Eat your heart out Baxter!

Latterly, with the emergence of teenager Roy Aitken and the arrival of old head Pat Stanton, my hero was plummeted into the oblivion of reserve football and eventually joined Dumbarton for 315,000 in August 1977, the same week as King Kenny was sold to Liverpool.

He returned to the Premier League with Airdrie and subsequently had spells in America and with Queen of the South, but my cherished memories of Pat McCluskey in the Hoops of Celtic remain as vivid as my childhood summers.


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2015 16 issues


On the Beauty of Football Songs: A German View of Celtic Park


If there was a national contest about which city has the greyest winter to offer, Berlin would have a good chance of winning. As the days get shorter and the sun is hidden by an army of dirty clouds, the city sinks into a grey soup. In order to brighten the mood there are various remedies. Some people buy a light box, stare into gleaming light 15 minutes a day and thus restore the body’s hormonal balance. I put my headphones on and click through the best football songs I know. There is no better recipe against winter depression.

As far as my selection is concerned, I am quite conservative, one might also say unimaginative. It always starts with the Youtube entry “You’ll never walk alone Celtic Barca”. By far, my favourite from the category ‘Nerdy Goosebump Moments for Football Fans’.

It’s 2004 and Celtic Glasgow are hosting FC Barcelona in the Champions League. The day before, a total of 191 people were killed in an attack in Madrid. The stadium announcer is in the centre circle, honouring the dead of Madrid and calling on the crowd to commemorate the victims with “one of our famous anthems”. You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s the VW Beetle of football songs. Heard a million times but never better than this.

The first sounds are spilling from the stands. People rise, they lift their hands to the sky and tighten their scarves. They sing. At first softly, then louder, louder and louder. “Gerry and the Pacemakers” are switched off and now only the fans sing. A gigantic chorus, a thunder that shakes every sensible person with functioning hearing to the core. A mixture of anticipation and fear, memory and jubilation, love and anger, grief and passion. The footballers on the field, who are so used to noise, can feel the hair on the back of their necks start to rise. And I, who have seen this video more than a hundred times, amble in a turmoil of pathos, affection, and goose bumps.

The last sounds roll through the temple of football, the hymn of praise is silenced. A sunbeam crosses the Berlin clouds and blinds my eyes. The dear God tickles me at the back of my head. The most beautiful woman in the world gallops with a unicorn into the editorial office, takes me with her into the lunch break and gives me a bucket of happiness.

My day is saved.



The European Adventures of Borussia Mönchengladbach


Borussia Mönchengladbach was the first club to represent Germany in the Cup Winners Cup. Opponents of the team coached by Bernd Oles in November 1960 were Rangers (the 1872 version). In the first leg, played in the Rheinstadion in Düsseldorf, Gladbach lost 3-0. Attacker Dieter Needig took defeat particularly hard. Shortly before the end, his opponent Davis was knocked to the ground, broke his jaw and lost four teeth. Two weeks later Borussia travelled to Scotland. 16 members of the 22-person delegation had never actually sat in a plane before their departure. It’s not clear whether their knees had stopped knocking before they took to the field at Ibrox as they went down by 8: 0.


Ten years later Borussia was in the European Cup for the first time. In the first round Vogts, Netzer and company beat the Cypriots of EPA Larnaca  6: 0 and 10: 0. In the second round the team then wrote history. In the return game against Everton they took part in the first penalty shootout in the competition after the tie finished level on aggregate. It started well when Gladbach ‘keeper Wolfgang Kleff parried the first penalty. Their joy was short-lived, however, as Herbert Laumen and Lüdwig Müller both missed and Gladbach went out. Müller was by far the best penalty taker at the club but in the remaining six years with Gladbach he never took another penalty.


Plenty has been written about about the scandal against Inter Milan from October 1971. Even today the words ‘can’ and ‘Boninsegna’ are enough to make any Gladbach fan foam at the mouth. The replay game was to be on neutral ground in Berlin and the Borussia fans were certainly surfing a wave of symapthy on the River Spree. Numerous taxi drivers drove the Borussia supporters into the Olympiastadion free of charge and for the first time since the Second World War, even the night flight ban on Berlin was lifted so that the numerous fans could go home after the final whistle in specially chartered planes. The Head Barman of the Hotel Schweizerhof invented a cocktail for the occasion named “Borussia”. The contents: A sip of Asbach Uralt, a swallow of Advokaat, an egg yolk with sugar, some warm milk and cream garnished with pistachios. It was all to no avail as  Gladbach drew 0: 0 and went out.


In April 1974 Borussia again had a bad experience with a Milan club, but this time with  AC Milan. After the 2-0 first-leg defeat in Milan, all hope for Borussia rested on the return, which the club again moved to the Rheinstadion in Düsseldorf because of its extra capacity. Gladbach took the lead early thanks to an own goal by the Italian Sabadini Milan then started playacting worthy of Hollywood. Time and time again, the Italians were able to meet their reputation, falling down at every opportunity and fouling every other minute. When referee Franco-Martinez refused to give Borussia a stonewall penalty, the players lost it. After the final whistle Klaus-Dieter Sieloff said, “I have never seen such cheating in my whole life!” Meanwhile, Gladbach fans chased the Spanish referee across the pitch. He later had to slip into a police uniform in order to be able to leave the stadium safely. Gladbach had to pay a penalty of 5,000 Marks as well as losing out on a place in the final.


The return home from the UEFA Cup tie back from Zaragoza was almost a tragedy for Hennes Weisweiler’s team. After the Foals had easily gone through to the next round everybody on the team bus was already looking forward to a celebration dinner. Suddenly it swerved violently and two windows were broken. It turned out that apparently the bus had been shot at. The perpetrators were never identified. Luckily none of the players were injured, only a  journalist got some glass shards in the eye. Ouch.


Speaking of ouch, in the first round match of the European Cup in 1976 against Austria Vienna attacker Herbert Heidenreich wondered after the final whistle why his back was hurting so much. When unpleasant pustules formed he went to the doctor who diagnosed second degree burns. Suspicion immediately fell on the lime with which the lines at the Bökelberg Stadium were drawn during those days. Promptly, the city banned the use of the substance. Heidenreich’s back was fixed, and in the end Gladbach even reached the final, where Liverpool proved to be too strong.


During the excursion to Craiova in Romania in the UEFA Cup of season 1980, the players of Borussia had certainly had more difficult evenings. But on the night before the game, Romanian fans circled around the team hotel all night to test their drums, trumpets and horns for full functionality. It was not until nine o’clock in the morning that the local police intervened. They could have saved themselves the bother, since by this time the team were already sitting at the breakfast table.


From the Stasi report on the UEFA Cup first round of  Gladbach at 1. FC Magdeburg then part of the DDR: “The player Lothar Matthäus has now become well known in the national team of the Federal Republic of Germany in the German Democratic Republic. Before the UEFA Cup tie in Magdeburg he intends to present to football fans of the DDR numerous sport souvenirs,.” As suspected: it wasn’t Kohl or David Hasselhoff, but Lothar Matthäus on his own that started the road to the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Borussia’s 5:1 win against Real Madrid in November 1985 is not one of the biggest football games ever. However, “The Black Night of Madrid” followed shortly after the height of the Foals’ joy. After the 0:4 defeat in the return leg in the Bernabeu and the surprising exit from the competition, striker Jupp Heynckes was so disappointed that he imposed on himself  a vow of silence and refused to talk to any of his team mates for a month. That night in Madrid echoed round the Bundesliga for a long time. Opponents regularly taunted Borussia with ‘Real Madrid’ chants for years.



The team wore a unique jersey in their UEFA Cup match against the AS Monaco in October 1996. Since alcohol advertising was forbidden in the Principality of Monaco, the word “alcohol-free” was quickly added under the chest lettering of their sponsor, a well-known Altbier brewery. To this day fans of this jersey offer top money for them at auctions because of their rarity.



“Celtic Park and the Fans Can Change History”


Before the Juventus Champions League game was coming up in 2012, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the Italian sporting press and see what they were saying about the tie between Celtic and Juventus.

Not being an Italian speaker, I relied on a translation service and my neighbour and fellow Celt, Franco who originally hails from Naples and would have loved to have seen Celtic knock the ‘Old Lady’ out of the Champions League.

When the draw was made in Zurich, Juve Director and former player Pavel Nedved said…

“It could have been much worse but Celtic is a respectable opponent. They were the only ones to beat Barcelona in the group stage and have qualified with great merit. We will find it hard and if we are not up for it on the day we could be in for very difficult times. This Juve team has yet to mature, many have never faced a year in the Champions League in the second round and it will take a great experience.However we have a good chance to go through, if we look at Celtic with great concentration especially away from home we can do it. We have to play with their same intensity, then technically maybe we have something more than them. “

The feeling that Juventus were technically and perhaps tactically superior was balanced in the Italian papers by the feeling that Celtic Park offered something special which could affect the outcome of games. Gazzeta Della Sport Writer Guissepi Catonio warned Juventus that …

“It will definitely be a tough first game, the one that will be played in Scotland in the cauldron of Celtic Park. If the Juventus Stadium is the 12th man for the Bianconeri, Celtic Park is also equivalent to perhaps a 12th and 13th man for pushing Celtic to greater efforts. In recent months, FC Barcelona fell there: one more reason to keep vigilant. Celtic Park is a Bear Pit. Be warned!”

Juve Captain, Andrea Pirlo, was adamant that Juventus would rise to the occasion and stated on the official Juve website that his team would not be cowed by the atmosphere created in Glasgow.

“I know that Celtic Park as an arena for gladiators, but we are ready. We have players who have won the World Cup and the Champions League, we are used to this kind of atmosphere. I’m sure the Celtic fans will cheer like crazy, but this will only make us more determined.’

Steffano Benzi writes for the Italian language section of the Eurosport website and he was clear about the influence Celtic Park and the Celtic fans can have on events on the Park…

‘Camp Nou and Celtic Park: two very different realities perhaps similar in some respects but completely different, antithetical in others. Anyone who has been often to Barcelona’s stadium will never forget it but not for the same reasons that you remember a game at Celtic Park, any game, even an anonymous Scottish Cup game. I think it’s Juventus, in this respect, who risk more. True, the Celtic is certainly not the strongest team that Juventus could draw and the draw was benign: Perhaps even lucky for Juve. The Bhoys are certainly not the same team which Juventus lost 4-3 to a few years ago when they had Larsson, Sutton, Mjallby … They were on a par with the Rangers then and made a good impression in Europe against anyone, without necessarily having to dream grandiose dreams of winning things. The Scots would celebrate anyway.

Celtic of today, however is a team with a few gems, like Watt, and a strategy of betting everything on physicality and dead-ball situations. Someone has done a technical and tactical analysis of the game already and it’s a distinct advantage to Juventus coach Antonio Conte. But instead they should do an analysis of the environment: Celtic Park is something absolutely extraordinary that goes beyond what you can write, read, tell about. And I can guarantee that what you see on television is not even the smallest part of what you may suffer in the flesh in a stadium where you have sixty thousand people, never wanting to offend you but still make you feel like a real enemy in the camp.

Celtic Park, in many ways, is one of the most influential and dangerous stages of the world. It has everything to challenge you, to help you experience the classic bad day, if you enter the field with a weak stomach then you’ll want to get out as soon as possible. The fact is that Celtic managed to beat Barcelona, and I interpret this fact as certainly not random. Celtic cannot beat Barcelona says common sense. But football says rather that Celtic did beat Barcelona and they did it with merit at the end of a match and played beyond their means. This was interpreted by Barcelona as victory with a little ‘luck.’ It is on these aspects that Juventus will have to think and I’m sure Antonio Conte know exactly the difficulty in dealing with a team that will be poorer yes, certainly less experienced than Juventus and probably less able to play the tactical game. But Conte, who knows well the pitfalls of a challenge like this and will the hammer into the heads of his players a unique concept: Do not underestimate this opponent, who, for once, it may not be the team but the stadium which you have to face.

Forget the folkloric images, avoid the easy stereotype of a Celtic fan coming out of the Scottish pub and entering the stadium finishing a beer then ordering another. Do not let the charming chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that the whole stadium sings before the start of each game fool you. To hear these songs on your TV is not the same as having it weigh on your shoulders for 90 minutes, start to finish, even if you’re winning by three-goal margin. Celtic Park is undoubtedly one more challenge for Juve. Celtic is, of course, different other clubs. I think also for the fans of Juventus, if they behave as they should and if they live this adventure in the right way, it will be a great experience. The Juventus Stadium can be a bit like Celtic Park: but we Italians have lost the Celtic culture, their history, their being able to accept any defeat and still celebrate every possible outcome accepting any opponent in a fair manner.

Then, for heaven’s sake, if Juve play the game as it should be played we should win. But Celtic Park and their fans can change history.’’

The recurring theme in the Italian media was that Juve were better than Celtic but that the atmosphere created by Celtic fans could cancel out any technical superiority. Our old sparring partner Lorenzo Amorusso was surprisingly kind to Celtic in the Italian press. The man described as ‘The first Catholic captain in the history of Glasgow Rangers, the Protestant side of the city, the enemy of Celtic.’ Warned Juventus that…

‘Celtic Park is a true hell, 60 thousand people singing and support Celtic from ‘beginning to end, win or lose, always close to the team. They are truly the ‘twelfth man’ in the field and it is not a cliché. The support of those fans eventually multiply the forces of Celtic up to cancel any difference, any technical gap. I repeat, this is a team fighting for every ball, that does not give anything, driven by a deep pride and an extraordinary support. Juventus certainly on paper is stronger and has more individual talent and technical merit. But these differences, as if by magic, will eventually be cancelled out by the overwhelming atmosphere of Celtic Park.’

Our stadium was described as a Bear Pit, an Arena for Gladiators and a Hell. It is none of these things. It is our field of dreams where we express our love of our club by offering them our unconditional support and passion. Steffano Benzin hit the nail on the head when he said…

“Celtic Park and their fans can change history.’’

On Wednesday night, roll up to Celtic Park with Pride! You are the vital component in the Celtic story. You are the twelfth man, the heart and soul of Celtic… and God bless every one of you.



Includes paper copy and PDF.