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so farewell then...

tom boyd

And so we bid a fond farewell (seriously for once) to the last real connection with the pre-McCann era. Tommy Boyd was there through all the boycotts and bankruptcy, the Biggins and the Macari. In fact there was a time when you could have forgiven for thinking that he was a jinx!

Boyd had already been a landmark player in the world of professional football before he joined up at Celtic in early 1992. He had been a Celtic youth player, but was released. Undeterred he joined Motherwell as a YOP, the 1980s version of the YTS, and was the first player to sign a professional contract having come through the ranks in this fashion.

Tam had eight decent years with Motherwell, eventually captaining the club to their 1991 cup win, having stomped all over Celtic 4:2 in the semi-final replay, as well as picking up international honours along the way.

In 1991 he moved on to Chelsea, signed by former Aberdeen manager Ian Porterfield (Who he? ed)), but the move didn't really work out. He didn't settle in London, and soon rumours began to circulate that he wanted back to Scotland.

Celtic had the perfect solution; Tony Cascarino. A disaster of a player, but his time at Celtic Park can be justified for two reasons; his hysterical goal at Ibrox, and the fact that we got Tom Boyd for him. No doubt about who got the better of the swap deal there.

He pretty much walked straight into the team, and within weeks was a mainstay, striking up a productive partnership with John Collins. He won his first Old Firm game, and even managed to score (away to St. Mirren). But unlike the previous season he didn't lift the Scottish Cup. The Hampden night from Hades saw to that.

Under Brady Boyd remained an attacking full back, his powerful running and capable crossing were major assets. If he lacked anything it was a touch of flamboyance, but those kinds of full back tend to lack something in the defensive department. Boyd didn't. It could be said with some justification that Boyd was our first real full back since Danny McGrain hung up his whiskers.

In 1993 Liam Brady decided he'd had long enough in the stocks, and quit. Joe Jordan walked 24 hours later, so Frank Connor became the third Celtic manager in three days. He rallied the team, got results, and was promptly removed from the manager's job with the arrival of Lou Macari, a man who - mysteriously considering some of his previous actions and statements - still seemed to have a place in the heart of many fans.

Under Macari the team became every football fan's worst nightmare. The midfield was a thing to fear, defenders were to clear their lines without thought, and forwards would live off the scraps that came from these hoofed clearances. McStay and Collins both developed cricked necks watching ball sail high above their heads. It was a football nadir.

Needless to say it was also not an environment where a naturally attack minded full back like Boyd was likely to flourish. He seemed to be under strict instructions to go no further than the halfway line. Like the rest of the team his form went flushing down the bowl as our season finished in January when Motherwell - of course - knocked us out of the cup.

March of that year finally saw the old board unseated, and in stepped The Bunnet. Soon enough out stepped Macari, fired by Fergus for not showing enough commitment to the post, a criticism which could never be made of the next man in the chair, TB.

The Hampden year was a bad one. The only rays of light came with two Old Firm wins (under Tommy Burns !!) and the Scottish Cup win. Indeed certain pictures revealed that Tom Boyd seemed very, very happy to win the cup again, or maybe that's just where he was storing his medal.

During that season Boyd had been shifted from left back to centre back by the arrival of Tosh McKinlay. At first this was not exactly a fabulous move. Along with the rest of the team his form was mediocre, at best. Having Brian O'Neil as a central defensive partner can't have helped his blood pressure much either.

It wasn't until the following season that he really flourished in central defence. By that time O'Neil had ruptured his knee and big John Hughes had been drafted in to supply some badly needed grit. By comparison with what had gone before this defensive partnership was solid bedrock.

Season 95-96 was of course the ultimate 'What if?' Defeated only once in the league we still managed to miss out on the championship. The defence of Boyd, Hughes, McKinlay and McNamara, backed up with Marshall in goal, was the tightest in the league - not a claim often associated with the all-conquering Sieve. 95-96 also signalled the end of Boyd's contract, and with the Bosman ruling coming into effect things were very different. The John Collins saga had been rumbling along for months, and finally came to an end when he signed for Monaco (odd to think of it now when players move without much of a fuss, but Collins' departure was treated like high treason at the time). Having played well during Euro '96 the papers were running with a story about Boyd moving to Spain -Real Mallorca to be exact. Boyd himself clearly stated that he was negotiating with only one club - Celtic. Strangely this didn't prevent the Herald stating the he had all but signed for the Spaniards. Presumably this story was founded on some sighting of Boyd in Spain. (What next eh? A footballer ... on holiday ... in Spain ? Oh the scandal!)

Soon after he cheerfully signed on again at Celtic and the papers moved off to find other Celtic players to sell. They didn't have far to look. The optimism generated by the performances of the previous season were to be squashed flat in season 96-97, and as you all know when things go wrong at Celtic they don't just go a little bit wrong, they go all the way. And normally these things are self-inflicted.

The events of that season have been pored over many times in these pages. Suffice to say: blah blah Paolo have a little problem, blah blah wages not good enough for the homeless, blah blah that pitch was a disgrace, blah blah 9 in a row ... and of course - Falkirk.

The only event of significance for Tom that season was that he actually managed to score for Scotland. All right it was against Estonia, and it was as scrappy a goal as will ever be scored for Scotland, but it did highlight one terrible aspect of his game - he couldn't celebrate scoring a goal if his life depended on it. Lack of practice I suspect. Which is irritating, because he was a player who scored 4 or 5 times a season for Motherwell. In fact his last ever goal for them was against us at Celtic Park. He managed just two in a decade at Celtic.

That season ended with Burns being ushered out, the Perm being swept in, and the Maestro hanging up his magic wand. This meant Boyd was now the longest serving player, and the captain.

In his first season wearing the armband he led the team to the championship. Jansen stayed for only one season but he brought some much needed organisation, signed Rieper, restored Boyd to left back, and won two out of three trophies before stomping out of Paradise in a gusty huff.

The captaincy didn't seem to weigh as heavily on the shoulders of Boyd as it had on McStay, which is to say that it didn't affect his game at all. And he did play a captain's role. On the last day of the season, with Celtic leading 1:0 and needing the three points, Boyd won the ball on the wing, made his way to the half way line and released Jackie to centre for Brattbakk to win the league. Afterwards Tam stood on the podium in the centre circle leading the chants, which revealed something else about him; he can't sing for toffee.

The World Cup of 1998 saw Scotland thrust into the spotlight as the team who would open the tournament against the holders Brazil. And, would you believe it, Tom Boyd of Celtic scored the winner! Pity is was a ludicrous, comedy own goal, but you can't have everything.

Under Dr Jo and Barnes Boyd, as you would expect, a solid unfussy performer. OFM clearly valued Boyd, even though he didn't feature in his first or second choice defence. Typically Boyd was brought on to close the door, as was his role in the 6:2 game. And for someone to bring on and steady the ship he has been unsurpassed.

He didn't get to lift the 2001 League Cup - that honour went to Paul Lambert - but it was fitting that they lifted the last part of that glorious treble in tandem. Last season he was a surprise start in Amsterdam, but his experience showed up throughout the game.

It had been mentioned that he might go to Dundee United, but in the end he signed for another year in Paradise. He has made precious few appearances and has all but retired.

Personally, I'd like to see Celtic offer him a coaching post. He's a player that got to the top on strength of character as well as ability, and, of course according to OFM he makes a mean cup of tea. Every football club needs that.