PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland

so farewell then...

lubo moravcik

Farewell then Lubo
A gift from God
The Sun called you A dud Czech
Wrong on all counts
'Cos you're a Slovak

November 1998 - Stubbs wins the ball and plays it into the midfield. O'Donnell picks it up and send Donnelly off down the left wing; he fires the ball across the 18 yard line, Larsson steps over it and a 33 year old man playing only his second game for the club swings his left foot and takes the first steps to becoming a Celtic legend.

What can be said about Moravcik that hasn't already been said a dozen times? Genius? Undoubtedly. Irreplaceable? As irreplaceable as Dalglish, Nicholas, McGrain or McStay. Which is to say that his talent will be missed certainly, but we'll survive.

His arrival could barely have been any worse. Signed for a token fee from a small German team by a manager under pressure to bring in big names for big money he was ridiculed by a media blinded by ignorance and an insatiable lust for putting the boot into Celtic. His first home game was played in front of a crowd already hyped up by the fact that Jock Brown had resigned earlier in the day. The team responded to this atmosphere, and Dundee were crushed 6-1.

Lubo was at the heart of almost every worthwhile move, and spirits were raised for the visit of Rangers. "Ah, but..." the fonts of all knowledge in the media said, "that was only Dundee. Just wait until Porrini gets hold of him."

Indeed. The 5-1 game may have been irrelevant in the overall scheme of things, but it gave Dr Jo some much needed breathing space, and was the birth of the Lubo legend.

The common line spouted by hacks is that Lubo spent most of his career "hiding in France." What ignorant, arrogant nonsense. France in the 90s was no footballing backwater. Marseilles were contenders for the European cup in 1990 (semi finalists), 1991 (finalists) and won it in 1993. We certainly found out how good PSG were in 1995, and Bordeaux went from winning the Intertoto to the final of the UEFA cup in 1996 with players such as Zidane, Lizarazu and Dugarry. Oh and of course the national team won the World Cup in 1998. All of this happened whilst he was "hiding" there.The French probably think Lubo has spent the latter years of his career hiding in Scotland.

Lubo was once asked, through an interpreter, what it was like to go from a zero to a hero. He told the interpreter "Tell him I was never a zero." Under Dr Jo Lubo was the force that rebuilt the season. With his influence we began to play some very effective football, and looked good for mounting a late league challenge. At which point, of course, the rug was pulled from under us.

During a lovely 7 goal romp at Fir Park Lubo tore his hamstring, effectively ruling him out for the rest of the season. He did manage to make the Scottish Cup final, but he didn't look match fit, and struggled to make any impact on the game.

The following season under the guidance of the 'You Know Who' dream ticket was actually a landmark one for the little Slovak - he picked up his first winners medal when we won the League Cup. It was just a shame that such an event should be deflated somewhat by the fact this was a washout of a season. That would be put right by Martin O'Neil.

Under OFM Lubo has been X factor that has won many games, his contribution to the treble winning team was huge. Not just with goals, but his general attitude was of a man who knew that his last real chance of glory was here and he'd better do something about it. Cue a second League Cup winners badge (surely worth more than the first) and a well deserved Champions medal. The icing on the league cake was his two-goal display at Ibrox. Sadly his Scottish Cup injury jinx struck again when in training he sustained a cut above the knee. He made the starting line up, but had to go off when he stretched for the ball and opened up the stitches. But that didn't prevent him from climbing the stairs and lifting the cup.

This season he finally got his shot at the Champions League first away to Rosenborg on an ice rink, and then at home to Juventus on a night to remember. In their midfield Juve had Pavel Nedved, who told the press prior to the game that Lubo had been his idol as a boy. He soon found out that such words cut no ice with the man, as Lubo nutmegged him in the opening 10 minutes. At 1-0 down Celtic were desperately fighting back into the game, Lubo gathered the ball on the right hand edge of the penalty box, he feigned to cross and cut back in no less than 3 times before finally planting an inch perfect cross on the head of Joos and we were back in it. It was noticeable in that game that our scoring stopped after he went off.

This year he has been used less and less, perhaps not a reflection on any loss of form from him, but more surely to do with the manager realising that we'd better get used to life without him. Which is a shame.

Sadly he didn't even make it on to the pitch for this years cup final, OFM had told him to get prepared for extra time, but that didn't happen. Predictably the media attempted to stir up some leaving under a cloud nonsense.

We wish him all the best for the future in Japan with Dr Jo, and then remember that his son has been playing for the Celtic boys club. So maybe we can dream that in a few years time another Moravcik will be thrilling the Celtic Park crowd.

AB MURDOCH