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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 91-92: part 6

Following defeat to Rangers in the 1992 Ne'erday fixture things just got worse in the next game. The less said about a 2:1 home defeat to a less than mighty Hearts side the better. Suffice to say that Celtic only scored in the last minute. It was desperate. The league race was over as far as Celtic were concerned. In fact, as things stood it was going to be a struggle to qualify for Europe unless things turned around, and fast.

Things did start to improve somewhat after that. Two points were picked up at McDairmid with a solid 4:2 win, and although another point was dropped in a truly terrible 0:0 at Fir Park, January finished with a league win at Dunfermline. Passage to the 4th round of the cup with Coyne and Creaney both scoring hattricks in a 6:0 win over Montrose.

Soon afterwards Liam Brady made his most astute move in the transfer market, trading Cascarino for former Motherwell captain Tom Boyd. This proved to be the most telling contribution that Brady would make in his time at Celtic Park. On his departure Cascarino made the memorable statement that Celtic played too much football to suit his style of play!

The next two home games saw Celtic chalk up back-to-back league victories for the first time in three months, the footballing giants of Falkirk and Airdrie being the victims. But these two victories sparked off a winning sequence that defied all the odds. Celtic proceeded to win the next 12 games; better than that, they did it with a style of play that delighted the eye of even the hardest to please.

Easter Road, Tyncastle and Ibrox were all visited, and on each occasion Celtic left with maximum points. The stars of this show were Boyd - who not only brought some much needed stability to the defence but also provided a real attacking threat with his overlapping runs down the wing - and, Collins, who was benefiting most from the arrival of Boyd, which allowed him to concentrate his talents more on attacking the opposition goal rather than defending his own. Gerry Creaney, too, had come into a rich vein of form, scoring freely, while Nicholas was the outstanding forward in the league throughout the season. Most of all there was McStay. The Maestro was playing some of the best football of his career, for both club and country. He had recovered from his pre-season knee injury and returned better than ever. Even his goal touch had returned. Without him Celtic wouldn't have been playing anywhere near the level they achieved, and Scotland certainly wouldn't have qualified for Euro '92.

With the team playing so well hopes were high that the season might be salvaged with the lifting of the Scottish Cup. This would provide not only some much needed silverware and an excuse for a celebration, but also a passport to Europe. Montrose, Morton and Dundee United had all been beaten on the way to the semi-final, where the luck of the draw saw the Old Firm paired together prior to the final for the third year running. It being a semi final Hampden was the venue, which was a bit of a nightmare because in 1992 the national stadium was still only two thirds covered, with very few seats and, just to make matters worse, part of the west terracing (the Rangers end) was being renovated. Actually this last fact was the cause of some laughter because it was thought that with Hampden being a geographically even split, they would get fewer tickets. But the SFA had other ideas. Rather than upset that nice Mr. Murray, they promptly reduced our allocation by awarding Rangers the entire North Enclosure. Favouritism? You decide.

With the 2:0 Ibrox victory fresh in the mind hopes were high that this might be the night we turned the corner. But...

The day of the game was the most miserable Spring day imaginable, with driving rain and a howling gale. Every Celtic fan with a ticket knew they were destined to be soaked to the skin. Nice mood to go to the match in isn't it? Once the game itself started it became clear that a non football factor would dictate the pattern of play. The wind was howling straight down the pitch towards the Rangers end. Whatever team was attacking that end could launch an attack with great ease; the opposition were going to struggle to even cross the halfway line.

After 5 minutes it appeared as though Celtic had a crucial break. Robertson of Rangers was red carded for a crude tackle on Joe Mille. With 85 minutes to play in hard conditions the game now appeared to be in our favour, but playing against the wind Celtic were finding it difficult get anywhere near their opponents' goal. Pat Bonner was not being threatened much, but with the wind behind them, long-range shots from the Rangers midfield players and forwards were a constant danger.

With five minutes to go until half time things looked fine. The teams would go in 0:0 and with the wind at their backs in the second half the fans were confident that Celtic would be too powerful for their old adversaries. But then, in one of those moments of comic cuts defending that blighted this particular decade, Brian O'Neil collected the ball just in front of his back four. He dwelt on it too long and was robbed of possession. Rangers took off down the right, crossed it , and with Celtic short on cover McCoist (him again) shot into the corner of the net. Disaster.

The second half developed into a carbon copy of the first. The team shooting with the wind were camped in the opposition half, and the chances were coming. Both McStay and Nicholas hit the woodwork. Galloway, possessor of a fierce shot in clement conditions, was firing them in from all distances, and with the wind behind him he was constantly forcing Goram to make save after save. Yet nothing would go in.

In the dying minutes of the tie, as Celtic frantically pushed everything forward, the ball broke to Collins in the box. He had a clear shot at the goal. Suddenly, Brown appeared and clearly scythed the Celtic man down, making no contact whatsoever with the ball. The referee waved play on. Having already sent a Rangers player off he clearly wasn't about to award a penalty against them. In that moment the cup slipped away.

The sense of anger, injustice and frustration can still be felt by those unlucky enough to have been in the Celtic end that night. And, if truth be told, Liam Brady was never the same again. That night seemed to send a message to him; It doesn't matter how good your team plays, you will not beat Rangers.

Having had that door to Europe slammed firmly shut, getting second place in the league was now the only option. But in the aftermath of the cup exit Celtic's away form stuttered badly. Points were dropped at Airdrie (the other cup finalists), and St. Mirren, a team who had already been relegated by the time Celtic visited. The game at Love Street was actually memorable for two things. Firstly, the St. Mirren goal was scored by John Hewitt, who had joined the Buds from Celtic during the season. In his three years at Parkhead he hadnt scored a single goal. The player himself was probably scarcely aware of the irony, nor indeed that it was yet another nip on the nuts from lady luck. Even more astonishing was the source of Celtic's equaliser, none other than that goal machine Tom Boyd!

With the dropping of these points Celtic had allowed Hearts a chance to grab second spot so it all came down the last day of the season. A home game against Hibs certainly shouldn't have been insurmountable. But true to the nature of the times Celtic contrived not only to lose 2:1, but also to give them a goal of start thanks to an own goal. The tormenting consolation goal came in the last minute.

This one game seemed to sum up the nature of the club under Brady. When there was no pressure and nothing to play for Celtic could play football to beat allcomers. Add some pressure and a tangible prize and the legs turned to jelly. To add to the misery of the day it looked as though the fans were on the verge of losing our best player and captain. The five year contract signed by McStay in the heady days of December '87 was on the verge of expiring. The club had made him an offer, but he wanted to get Euro '92 out of the way before making his mind up.

No trophies for the third season in a row, failure to qualify for Europe again and struggling to keep quality players. It promised to be a long summer.

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1989-90
1990-91 pt 1
1990-91 pt 2
1990-91 pt 3
1990-91 pt 4
1991-92 pt 1
1991-92 pt 2
1991-92 pt 3
1991-92 pt 4
1991-92 pt 5
1991-92 pt 6
1992-93 pt 1
1992-93 pt 2
1992-93 pt 3
1993-94 pt 1
1993-94 pt 2
1993-94 pt 3
1993-94 pt 4
1993-94 pt 5
1993-94 pt 6
1993-94 pt 7
1993-94 pt 8