Celtic's poor start to the season the team soon began to play
some very neat football. having stabilised confidence with a 1:1
draw at Ibrox - Pat Bonner playing the game of his life in the
process - the Hoops notched up successive league victories against
Hearts and St. Mirren while also progressing to the League Cup
final by demolishing Dundee United with Paul McStay at his very
was this very progression which seemed to grind our season to
a halt. In the League Cup final we were set to face Rangers. Anyone
who remembers the 1:1 draw at Ibrox that season will tell you
that never was a team luckier to escape a real hiding. Pat Bonner
saved just about everything that afternoon. Time after time the
Celtic defence was torn apart, but big Packy was a rock, beaten
only by a deflected shot.
team certainly weren't displaying much in the way of confidence.
The games in the immediate build up to the final were all draws:
St.Johnstone and Dundee United at Celtic Park (both 0:0) and a
1:1 at East End Park thanks to a last minute goal from the Maestro.
The signs were not good.
two things happened.
the Friday before the final the board held the club's AGM. Nothing
too dramatic was expected from this; the usual reports would be
read out, the directors would congratulate each other and this
year Michael Kelly and Brian Dempsey would be welcomes aboard.
But when it came to ratifying the line up up the new board something
odd occurred. After there had been a show of hands to approve
the appointment of Dempsey there was a call for a second vote
- this time a poll vote. Dempsey was voted off the board by the
combined share power of the Kellys and Chris White, the very people
who had asked him to join in the first place!
reason for this coup was the long-running stadium issue.
Dempsey had been pushing for the club to relocate to Robroyston
and build a stadium on some land which he had acquired. This did
not go down well with some of the other board members, who felt
that their position would be weakened in this were to happen.
Dempsey, it was decided, had to go.
number two concerned Rangers. Their captain Butcher had been struggling
to find fitness, although in the build up to the final it seemed
certain he would play. In the event he refused to so so. Which
can be interpreted either as "I don't want to play"
or "I'm not fit enough to play." Whatever the truth,
Butcher was soon on his way. To add to Rangers' worries Le Merde
also picked up an injury and was ruled out. On balance, things
were beginning to look up for Celtic.
the morning of October 28th the heavens opened up. Heavy rain
had been falling since early in the morning, which was not good
news for those of us without tickets for the main stand at Hampden
who would inevitably be soaked to the skin by the time the first
throw-in had been awarded.
first half of the match itself was notable only for the lack of
real chances at either end and the leniency of the referee towards
Rangers' one man football threshing machine Terry Hurlock. This
was a player of such thuggery that even legendary lunatic and
one time Birmingham City winger Robert Hopkins singled him out
as a nasty piece of work. Time and again Hurlock would have a
hack at McStay's ankles, as often as not without even so much
as a foul being awarded.
second period finally brought some football action. Early in the
half Celtic won a corner. Collins swung the ball into the box
and a half clearance fell to Wdowczyck on the edge of the penalty
area. His low shot was turned into the net by Paul Elliott, who
trusted his own footwork so much he dived to the ground in order
to head it in! One up, and the poor drookit souls at the Kings
Park end went mad.
the next ten minutes the Hoops held firm. Celtic had an unusual
right back that afternoon. Peter Grant. Thus far he had kept Walters
well shackled, tailing him wherever he went. But it was this point
that big Billy's Book of Mysterious Tactics emerged and the cup
was thrown away. Off went Joe Miller from the right wing and on
came regular right back Chris Morris, with Grant moving into the
right midfield area. A more puzzling move couldn't have been imagined.
Would a winger not have been a valuable asset in running down
the clock? Why move a player who was doing such an effective marking
job? We will never know.
we do know is that within five minutes of this substitution Walters
- freed from the close attentions of Grant - had scored to take
the game into extra time.
before this we still had one more agony to endure. Two minutes
of injury time had elapsed when Celtic were presented with a gilt-edged
chance. Rogan robbed McCoist of possession and released Dziekanowski.
Not for the first time the Polish 'flatter to deceive'merchant
failed us by tamely shooting straight at Woods when glory beckoned.
In the last minute of the previous season's Scottish cup tie between
the teams he done exactly the same thing. In the last minute of
normal time in this match he failed to put Elliott through on
goal by hanging on to the ball too long. Put simply, the man was
becoming a liability.
three minutes of the first period of extra time remaining Bonner
and Morris had a misunderstanding which allowed Gough to score.
The cup had finally slipped away.
played keep ball for the remainder of the game and Celtic had
neither the strength nor the nerve to come back. At the final
whistle McStay sank to his knees. We had failed to beat a rangers
team minus its captain and top scorer after having taken the lead.
that cup thrown away the collapse of Celtic's league challenge
could begin in earnest. Successive Saturdays saw the Hoops lose
games away from home in truly depressing circumstances, firstly
at Aberdeen (0:3) then at Tynecastle (0:1). The sad fact was that
both games had registered barely a Celtic goal attempt worthy
of the name. Sandwiched between these defeats was a home win against
Motherwell, significant for the return of Tommy Coyne to the forward
line, the manager having clearly had enough of Jackie's increasingly
feeble attempts to lead the line. This game also saw the debut
of Mark McNally in defence. Coyne scored twice in his come back
to secure a 2:1 victory with the second being a carbon copy of
the chance Dziekanowski had passed up in the League Cup final.
It was enough to make you weep.
following week saw the team and - more importantly the fans -
in action in Manchester for Brian Robson's testimonial. Not only
did the players perform admirably for the occasion, coming back
from conceding an early goal to win 3:1, but the supporters were
at their best, giving Robson a standing ovation as he came off
the bench for the last 15 minutes and refusing to leave the stadium
at the end of the game, preferring to stay and sing their hearts
out with the United fans who had swarmed onto the pitch from the
Stretford End to salute the Celts.
in Glasgow on the Sunday things took another steep nosedive with
the second Old Firm league derby of the season. Rangers turned
up without Butcher, Gough or Trevor Steven. Celtic were minus
Whyte and Morris. Who would you rather have missing?
to form Celtic gifted their opponents an early lead when Le Merde
forced Lex Baillie into a hurried back pass which landed seriously
short of where it was intended to go. Johnston lobbed it over
a stranded Bonner. From that moment the visitors were pounded
until finally Paul Elliott got between Hateley and Brown to head
second half started with Celtic still very much on top and within
two minutes Coyne struck a shot which hit the post, trundled along
the line and then rolled agonisingly away from the goal. It was
a turning point. Minutes later Hurlock (again) seemed to catch
Fulton somewhere around the throat. The Celtic players appeared
to stop in anticipation of the foul and even Hurlock spared a
glance at the referee. But when he saw that no infringement was
being given he released McCoist who rounded Bonner to score. After
that Rangers dug in and that was that. Murder.
things on the pitch were not, to put it mildly, going well, at
least there appeared to be progress in the boardroom. December
saw the arrival of Terry cassidy as the club's first ever Chief
Executive. It was a bold move and a tacit admission that the directors
themselves were not in possession of the necessary business skills
required to turn things around.
almost every angle Cassidy apparently was the ideal man for the
job; he had quite an impressive track record given that he had
added £1.6 million to the turnover of the Irish Times in
his first year there; he didn't carry the baggage of being a "Celtic
man" but he was familiar with the Old Firm situation from
his days with the Evening Times and Glasgow Herald. Perfect. But
Cassidy was fated to be one of the most controversial figures
attached to the club in the 90s. Quite an accolade if you stop
to think about it.
of his first press conferences saw him criticise Rangers for not
hiring his services first and Within one week of his appointment
he was advising the Bank of Scotland not to increase the club's
overdraft. One of the things he had discovered on his appointment
was that Celtic didn't have a business plan. This was 1990 and
a club that was supposedly due to finance a multi-million pound
stadium did not have the basic foundation that every business
needs. Cassidy quickly deduced that if there was no plan for finance
then there was certainly no plan to repay the overdraft and he
advised the bank accordingly. The board found out about this and
it immediately soured relationships.
his relationship with the media would have deteriorated sooner
or later, early interviews with the press had the new Chief Executive
complaining that this was the first time he hadn't been invited
to join the board of any company he had worked for and he was
not impressed. With Terry Cassidy about there were very few dull
team, meanwhile, had stuttered and stumbled on. Between October
and February celtic managed just four league victories in 17 games.
The Ne'erday fixture at Ibrox had been a predictable disaster
(0:2) and this debacle was followed by a turgid 1:1 draw at Celtic
Park against Hibs, Peter Grant salvaging a point with a cynical
last man foul in the dying minutes.
following week saw the final ignominy when the game at Fir Park
was canceled because of the weather and the Pools Panel awarded
Motherwell a home win. Enough said.