decade kicked off with an Old Firm game at Celtic Park which unfortunately
gave us a fair impression of how things were about to go for the
next few years, this being our last meaningful cough and splutter
in the league campaign.
farewell to the 80s had been a 2:0 defeat at home to Dunfermline.
Tommy Burns had just been allowed to leave for Kilmarnock and the
number of knives out for Roy Aitken would have made a gang of Yardies
fact, the entire season up to that point had been a complete disaster;
Johnston had taken his 30 pieces of silver the previous summer,
we'd gone out of Europe in an exceptionally suicidal way - even
by our standards - against Partizan Belgrade and we'd crashed out
of the League Cup in truly disastrous fashion at Hampden against
Rangers, with Aitken being sent off and Joe Miller first coming
on as a sub then being taken off again.
to say the omens were not good for the first game of the 90s.
roof was set to truly fall in when Big Billy unveiled the latest
chapter in his Book of Mysterious Tactical Decisions which had become
such a feature at Celtic Park.
was the year which saw Glasgow assume the mantle of European City
of Culture. Big Billy seemed to take this to heart in a kind of
Pol Pot way as he returned his football tactics to Year Zero. He
dropped the regular forward line of Walker and Dziekanowski in favour
of Tommy Coyne (in his pre - goal scoring hero days) and Mike Galloway,
who had up to that point played a grand total of no games up front
of a time for an experiment, but a big shock for the Huns you might
think. Except that after the game a rumour swept Glasgow that a
Hun employee of the hotel in which Celtic were staying overheard
the master plan and promptly phoned the Huns at their hotel. Of
course, this was just a rumour.
game itself was a predictable disaster. Celtic allowed somebody
called Nigel to score his one and only goal for them and seldom
deviated from the complex tactic of lobbing the ball towards either
Galloway, Elliott or Joe Miller, that giant among forwards.
next game was at Love Street and - hurrah! - our first win of the
90s. This was Roy Aitken's last game in the Hoops (well, not exactly
the Hoops, it was that bloody awful Space Invaders effort of an
away strip) after 15 years of honest and often inspirational play.
His performances that season hadn't been up to his usual standard,
but the amount of flack he'd been catching was an outrage and, truth
be told, few fans shed a tear when he eventually departed the Parkhead
scene, possibly without realising what his departure meant.
the space of a month we'd lost both our captain and vice-captain
(TB) and McStay was now the most experienced player at the club.
He was 25 at the time.
departures added up to more than just the loss of two players. The
enthusiasm they brought to the team was lost, as was their never
say die attitude, and absolutely no attempt was made to replace
next league game was a 1:0 defeat at home to Motherwell. After the
match there was a demonstration outside the Walfrid Bunker. It wasn't
planned or organised, but it was the first of its kind for a generation.
Even as early as January 1990 the fans could see the writing on
the wall. Sadly, the writing would have to be 10 feet high, written
in blood and signed by the manager of the Bank of Scotland before
anyone in the boardroom would take any notice.
were so bad that even the Parkhead pie came bottom of a survey carried
out by the Sunday Mason.
the Celtic View didn't take that lying down, no siree! Striking
back like an angry cobra the View ran a front page feature with
the banner headline PIE MEN HIT BACK and which revealed that the
noble pies in question "contained 21.58% meat". As we
stood on the dear old slopes of Paradise we could only ask each
other, "What the hell is the other 78.42% made up of?"
describe the remainder of Celtic's league performances that season
as pish would be to pay the players an obscenely over generous compliment.
thought our fortunes had hit rock bottom with a 3:0 hammering at
Castle Greyskull (Anton Rogan's infamous handball) but the following
week our fortunes began digging as we again went down 3:0, this
time to St.Mirren at home.
eventually finished 5th in the league, thus failing to qualify for
Europe. But, incredibly, we still managed to make it to the Cup
Final, although we did plot a typically tortuous route to Hampden.
3rd round saw the Celts visit the bridie capital of the world, Forfar.
We were 1:0 down after four minutes. Chris Morris levelled from
the penalty spot three minutes later and it was a nerve-shredding
77 minutes after that before Dziekanowski scored a wonder goal to
send us into the next round bloated on mince in one form or another.
draw for the 4th round was a legendary TV experience. It was carried
out live on STV and things were going fairly smoothly as Celtic
came out of the glass vase. Excellent, a home draw, we all thought,
but who will we be playing? Into the wee vase went the man's hand
and out came the wee plastic ball, which he unwrapped before blinking
and stammering out "Rangers". I swear the camera wobbled
for a moment as an audible gasp went round the studio.
the first time in 20 years the Old Firm were to meet before the
final. STV was in clover. They had secured the rights to show one
of the 4th round ties. Guess which one they chose?
studio guest for the day was Jack Charlton. No sooner had the broadcast
begun than he caused a small hiatus in the studio by telling Jim
White that he'd walked to the stadium from the city centre.
did you get on Jack?" asked Jim.
I'm alright with the Celtic fans 'cause I'm the manager of Ireland
and I'm alright with the Rangers boys 'cause I'm Protestant."
the look of sheer terror on Jim's face as he desperately tried to
change the subject.
game itself was a real football free zone. Both managers decided
to crowd the midfield and defend high up the pitch thereby squashing
the play into an area ten yards either side of the halfway line.
nothing of note having happened for 40 minutes John Brown misjudged
a Woods bye kick and Galloway went forward with the ball. He played
to Dziekanowski who carried it on before playing in Joe Miller.
He hit a cross-cum-shot which Tommy Coyne bundled into the net.
Looked at through neutral eyes it was a scrappy goal, but it was
absolute manna from heaven for Celtic.
had to bite our fingernails back to the elbow in the second half,
but Paul Elliott was a rock in defence and the Hoops held out to
give us a rare moment of success to savour. The TV highlights didn't
end there. After the match Big Billy was being interviewed. As the
players trooped towards the door at the end of the tunnel, two or
three Huns wearily made their way past before the door nearly flew
off its hinges courtesy of a hefty boot from the aptly named Hun
captain Butcher. We can only wonder what Caesar would have done
had the cameras not been there.
so to the 5th round and another away game, this time at Dunfermline.
Not good. The Pars had beaten us 2:0 in each of the previous two
meetings. Tickets were at a premium and tension was high as our
season hung by the proverbial thread. In the end Celtic played with
a rare defensive competence to earn themselves a replay which, incredibly,
was won by 3:0 thanks basically to McStay and the risible efforts
of Dunfermline 'keeper Westwater.
semi was played at the National Midden in the pissing rain. Younger
readers might not know what a rain soaked trip to hampden meant
in those days but let's put it this way; you know that stuff they
make roads out of called Tarmac? Well the area surrounding Hampden
didn't have any of this stuff so if it rained you wound up looking
like you'd just done ten rounds with the National Lesbian Mud Wrestling
Champion (you should be so lucky!).
time we faced the mighty Clydebank with the venerable and revered
goalie Jim Gallagher between the sticks, 98 years old and still
gone a goal up thanks to Walker shooting in after the ball had struck
the crossbar, Celtic proceeded to give the Bankies the freedom of
Hampden while spending the next hour indulging in navel contemplation
and self-congratulation. After Clydebank missed an open goal from
two yards Walker shook off the lethargy with his second goal and
there we were, in the final for the third year in a row.
had never won the cup three years in a row and this wasn't the team
to start such a thing.
in the final were Aberdeen who had come to Parkhead on the last
day of the league season with a team of weans and gone a goal down
before administering a sound 3:1 thrashing.
game was notable in that it was the first Celtic match rescheduled
for satellite TV. It was played on a Friday night thus allowing
our whole weekend to be gubbed before it had even started.
final itself was the dictionary definition of defences on top, which
didn't exactly bode well for us. But once again Elliott held it
minutes came and went without a goal, or even the threat of one,
so for the first time in its history the Scottish Cup final would
be decided on penalties.
up for Celtic was Wdowczyck. Thanks to him some wee boy in Mount
Florida won a shiny new ball as his effort comfortably cleared the
crossbar at the Aberdeen end by some distance.
and McStay scored but Bett, Connor and Gillhaus had done likewise.
Coyne followed suit but Aberdeen's Grant copied Wdowczyck and we
it went with every player hitting the target until up stepped Anton,
possibly the unluckiest player in the world at this time. He hit
his penalty well, it was heading for the corner of the net, but
the 'keeper guessed correctly and got down to make a brilliant save.
It could only happen to Anton.
sent Bonner the wrong way to give Aberdeen the cup.
luck, but somehow a fitting end to a truly awful season. It couldn't
get any worse... could it?