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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 91-92: part 1

The summer of 1991 saw the knives finally come out for Billy McNeill. His last game in charge was Pat Bonner's testimonial gainst the Republic of Ireland. The game finished 3:2 to Celtic. Gerry Creaney scored a hat-trick and Paul Elliott made his final appearance for the club. His last competitive appearance had been against Dunfermline three weeks earlier but suspension had kept him out for the remainder of that season.

Elliott was the first truly commanding centre half Celtic had had since McNeill himself, but unlike his manager, Elliott had little idea of club loyalty. Celtic had bought him when nobody else was interested. He recovered his fitness, his form and his confidence before promptly disappearing over Hadrian's Wall. Cheers.

The one really curious aspect of his stay in Glasgow was the legal wrangle he had with the club over finance for a house. Celtic offered him £150,000 to buy a property. Elliott seemed to believe that the club had given him the full amount, therefore he could buy a house for what he wanted and pocket the change. it ran for months and months before finally being settled in the courts.

Wednesday May 22nd was the day big Billy was finally shown the door. He would later state in the Campbell and Woods book "dreams and Songs to sing" that it was a relief when it was finally over. Since his return in 1987 Celtic had won one title and two Scottish Cups as well as appearing in another Scottish Cup final - losing on penalties - and a League Cup final. But these bare statistics merely masked the truth: Celtic had fallen behind Rangers in every department.

The turning point in his second spell with Celtic was arguably the defection of Maurice Johnston in July 1989. McNeill had invested a lot in that transfer. He had paraded Johnston to the media with the player bedecked in a Celtic jersey with the clear intention of sending the message to Ibrox that the club was ready to compete. McNeill thought he had brought back not only a fans' favourite but a striker of proven quality. Rangers would once more have reason to fear Celtic's forward line. McNeill had said it was a done deal and we had his word. this alone was worth a lot. many of the players who played under him said that it was the presence of McNeill, the feeling that they were in the dressing-room with a somebody, that most impressed them. when he spoke, they listened.

Johnston's treachery might not have affected the players but it certainly seemed to have an effect on McNeill. He had been duped. Played for a sucker in front of the entire football world. The stated reason for the collapse of the deal to take Johnston to Celtic was a dispute over £30,000, which itself sent out a message from the Celtic board to Ibrox - we are living in the Dark Ages, please feel free to trample all over us.

McNeill's judgement in the transfer market was never as sure after the Johnston affair. the man who brought to the club such players as provan, MacLeod, McClair, Sullivan and Stark, all for transfer fees under £150,000 was suddenly paying huge amounts of money for the likes of Martin Hayes. His tactics too had increasingly come under scrutiny. In his first season Mike Galloway played in eight different positions. Not surprisingly he took time to settle. The long ball also became a featured tactic, from a manager who had himself neutralised this particular threat from other teams quite easily, most notably in the '88 Cup Final when Mike Conroy was coached into

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