The recovery from the Xamax debacle began with a 5:0 win at Love
Street, followed by a convincing 4:0 home victory against St.
Johnstone, which, in turn, set Celtic up nicely for...oh dear,
would be safe to say that Celtic were not looking forward to the
second Old Firm game of the season. Ibrox in recent years had
been the place where nightmares are born, what with sound gubbings
(5:1 and 4:1), last minute winners by the likes of Maurice Johnston
and acts of complete self -destruction on the part of assorted
Celtic defenders. Rangers' form had been excellent, Celtic's hadn't,
although Nicholas had been scoring freely, and the midfield was
beginning to take shape very nicely with McStay, Collins and the
young O'Neil forming a potent trio. The
defence, on the other hand, was still living down to its Sieve
from Celtic's own kamikaze defenders the biggest threat came from
the Rangers striking duo of Hately and McCoist and the overlapping
of Gary Stevens.
first half developed as we all feared - Rangers had all the possession,
Hately was giving the defence problems, Celtic looked increasingly
unstable and it seemed only a matter of time before a goal was
conceded. But the beleagured defence held out until the break
and the Hoops re-emerged a changed team. Brady had clearly told
them to stop watching the game, get involved, get the ball down
and pass it.
immediately Celtic took control of the game. McStay and Collins
began to bypass the Rangers midfield and suddenly a Celtic goal
looked more likely. Then, as always, the sucker punch. Rangers
made a rare foray up the right hand side which ended with a cross
to the near post, where McCoist had eluded his marker to head
past Bonner. Outrageous.
Having just been kicked in the nethers Brady made a bold substitution
that was to be decisive. O'Neil made way for Chris Morris, and
Charlie came off for... Cascarino. He did get a cheer from the
Celts in the Broomloan stand; he got a bigger cheer from the Rangers
enclosure. But they would soon be choking on their sarcastic mockery.
There didn't appear to be much danger; Bonner had punted the ball
into the Rangers half where Spackman had collected it and had
all the time in the world to pick a pass. He stopped, turned round
and decided to pass back to Goram. But lurking behind Gough was
the vast hulk of Tony C. As soon as Spackman hit the ball he let
out a scream of horror. Gough couldn't react quickly enough and
the ball was on Cascarino's right, his bad foot (imagine how bad
that must have been!). Incredibly he slipped the ball between
Goram's legs and the Broomloan went nuts. It still ranks as one
the funniest goals of the decade. Not for the fact that it was
a suicidal pass, but just for the fact that one of the worst ever
forwards to darken Celtic Park was given - and took - the chance
to kick the old enemy in the ching chongs - especially after the
welcome he got from that Rangers enclosure.
even from this moment of fleeting glory Cascarino managed to grab
a modicum of defeat. Just two minutes later he was left with a
free header in the six yard box only to put the ball well wide
of the target.
not only was a valuable point gained, but a hoodoo was overcome.
This was the first truly deserved point Celtic had taken from
Ibrox since March 1988.
the boost of the Old Firm game still in mind Celtic looked to
the daunting task of overcoming a four goal advantage against
Xamax. On the plus side an away goal had been scored, and the
team had been scoring freely since the humiliation in Switzerland.
Realism was once more giving way to irrational optimism.
the night Celtic started like a whirlwind and after only four
minutes a penalty was awarded against the Swiss. Celtic Park was
in raptures. Hopes were high that a Sporting Lisbon style comeback
could be achieved, and here was a golden opportunity in the first
five minutes to get the comeback started in earnest. Stepping
up to take the kick was Charlie Nicholas who had a 100% record
from the spot so far. But from somewhere deep in the bowels of
Celtic Park the ghost of Dixie Deans emerged to help Charlie sky
the ball clear over the bar and into the pie stall at the back
of the Celtic End. The disappointment could almost be tasted,
mingled as it was with the drips of spilled Bovril.
Celtic scored in the second half through Joe Miller, the game
was over as soon as the penalty was missed. The heads had dropped
and the shoulders had sagged lower than Paul Gascoigne's belly
button. Oddly enough everyone who was at that game probably still
feels that if Charlie had scored that penalty Celtic would have
had a good chance of going through.
order to patch up the leaky defence in the wake of another untimely
European exit the manager had delved (or "swooped" if
you work for one of the tabloids) back into the transfer market.
Tony Mowbray, the Middlesborough captain, was bought for £1m.
A tall "no nonsense" type of defender, he seemed a far
more suitable replacement for Paul Elliott than Gillespie, who
had not been impressing much. Brady's team had undoubtedly been
lacking something in character, as witnessed by their reaction
to the setback against Xamax. This criticism could not be made
of the new centre half. When Middlesborough were in the hands
of the receiver, and the ground had its gates locked, Mowbray
took the rest of the players training in the local park until
the ground re-opened. No one was allowed to slack off.
His debut was at home to Aberdeen, and celtic fell behind in the
sixth minute. Darn. However, this sparked off one of the best
performances of the of the season. Both McStay and Nicholas were
playing superbly, and ten minutes after the Dons had taken the
lead the Maestro robbed Bett before threading a superb pass through
to Nicholas who rounded the keeper before slotting the ball behind
a defender and into the bottom corner. A fantastic goal. The winner
came courtesy of Gerry Creaney, who dived full length to head
past Snelders and win a badly needed 2 points. It could have been
a dream debut for Mowbray if his first half shot from all of 30
yards had come in an inch or so; as it was it thudded of the junction
of bar and post.
stop Tynecastle, and a controversial game. Celtic had taken the
lead through Coyne - his 100th Premier League goal - but had found
themselves pegged back in the second half. Hearts swung in a corner,
the ball bobbled about, a shout went up from a Celtic defender
for everyone to move out for offside, leaving three Hearts players
stranded. A shot went in, Bonner was impeded by one of the offside
players, and the ball went in. The goal was given. Even with three
players offside, and a foul on the goalie the goal stood. Bonner
went ballistic, and got carded for his trouble. Hearts now had
the upper hand and scored two more before the end.
this game our new centre half, who had enjoyed 10 injury free
years prior to joining Celtic, suffered knee ligament damage.
He would play a total of 6 games during his first four months
with the club. Brady must have been wondering whoever coined the
phrase 'the luck of the Irish'.
The following week saw Pat Bonner dropped for the first time as
Celtic first team goalie. His form had been very shaky of late,
and that, coupled with the sudden purchase of Marshall at the
start of the season had placed his gloves on a shaky peg.
was the venue for Chunky's debut, and the crowd in the away supporters
terracing were soon exchanging worried glances. During the warm-up
period, as was customary in those days, the goalie would face
a series of shots fired in by physio Brian Scott. Marshall didn't
get anywhere near any of them, and Brian Scott is no Marco Van
Basten. However, these fears turned out to be unfounded as the
Celts turned over the home side by the convincing margin of 3:0.
turned out to be quite a day for Celtic's lumbering centre forward
Cascarino as well. He scored the opening goal, and anyone who
was at the pre-season game against Shamrock Rovers in Dublin will
have seen a carbon copy of the goal in that game. He received
the ball with his back to goal, controlled it with his left foot
(a minor miracle in itself), held off his opponent off with his
arse (the one area of his game he didn't have difficulty with),
before turning inside and hitting a low, curling shot into the
far corner. It was almost a party piece - his one impressive shot!
That aside, he also managed to end the career of one of the trackside
cops. Chasing after a ball towards the touchline he lumbered off
the pitch and straight into the back of an unsuspecting WPC. She
was taken off to hospital with a badly damaged back, and eventually
had to retire from the force.