opening league fixture of the 1991-92 season was a cracker. In
recent seasons the team have been expected to take points at Tannadice
against Dundee United but in those days it had the same banana
skin qualities as Rugby Park assumed when Tommy Burns was Celtic
game was one of those heart-stopping adrenaline monsters that
come along once in a while. Celtic raced into a two goal lead
after twelve minutes, Nicholas and Coyne both scoring with their
first attempts. Incredible. But not as incredible as the refereeing
decision that let United back into the game. A corner was swung
in from the left which was challenged for by Whyte and Ferguson.
The ref gave a penalty for a push by the Celtic defender. The
whole of the previous season Celtic had the threat of Elliott
in opposition penalty areas. defenders had adopted the novel tactic
of not even looking at the ball but instead looking at Elliott
and trying to impede his run. Some would even put their hands
on his chest in the style of American football linebackers. Celtic
didn't receive one single penalty throughout the season and here
theye were, penalised for such a heinous offence that not one
United player had claimed a foul. 2:1.
happened next was startling, not only for the quality of it but
also for the source. The previous season John Collins had been
a busy but not exceptionally productive midfielder. Apparently
Brady had approached him during pre-season and told him that one
goal a season from a midfield player of his quality wasn't good
enough. Collins was about to get good enough. He picked up a knock
down from Creaney, took two steps forward and cracked the ball
over the head of the goalie and into the net. Pandemonium at the
Celtic end and a two goal cushion at half-time.
second half was only three minutes old when Pat Bonner let a tame,
half-hit shot dribble in at the near post and raise the tension
somewhat. For the next ten minutes Celtic struggled and it was
no surprise when United equalised through Ferguson. But they seemed
to run out of puff after that and allowed Celtic to re-assert
themselves. With a few minutes left Collins once again took his
new manager's words to heart and let fly with another long-range
effort to win a pulsating match.
day after this opening fixture Celtic's media nemesis Gerry McNee,
the modestly self-styled "Voice of Football", reported
that a bust-up had occurred between Liam Brady and Terry Cassidy.
The story finished with McNee revealing that Brady had threatened
to resign if the board failed to take action against the Chief
Executive. the story was vehemently denied by all concerned, but
it would later emerge that McNee had the story just about spot
on; there had been a problem between the two, Brady had approached
the board with a threat to resign but the directors had called
his bluff. Politically, Brady was now dead in the water. He had
played all his trump cards at once and lost.
away win was recorded four days later at East End Park (3:1),
Charlie Nicholas scoring two, including a vintage controlled volley
which glided into the bottom corner.
days after that Brady went back into the transfer market market
and came up with another prize catch to match that of Tony Cascarino.
Gary Gillespie had been captain of Falkirk at the tender age of
17. He had reputedly been approached by Jock Stein in the 70s
to come to Parkhead but chose instead to go south, where he won
league honours with Liverpool despite never being able to escape
from the shadow of Hansen. Described as an elegant player, he
never quite gave the impression that he would be prepared to get
stuck in when the occasion demanded it... and this, remember,
was the guy who was supposed to replace Paul Elliott.
other major concern was his fitness - or lack thereof. Gillespie
turned out to be a role model for Phil O'Donnell, allegedly once
attempting to be excused training on the grounds that he had a
sore finger. But all this was forgotten as more than a million
pounds was splashed out to bring him back to Scotland and a new
player was once again being paraded at Paradise.
made his debut in Celtic's first home league game - against former
club Falkirk as it happened - and he certainly came back with
a bang, rounding the 'keeper after five minutes to score the opening
goal. Nicholas and Coyne added to the scoreline before half-time,
but the first sign of trouble