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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 92-93: part 1

Dateline: summer 1992. Celtic have now gone three full seasons without a trophy, we have an ever increasing overdraft, the most unpopular living chief executive of any company that ever existed (Robert Maxwell had died the previous November) and our club captain and best player had seen out his contract and was placed on the transfer list. "Happy Days Are Here Again" was not a popular choice on the juke boxes of Celtic minded pubs.

For those who took an interest in Scotland there was at least Euro '92 to look forward to. Scotland had finally managed to qualify for the finals of this tournament - no mean feet given that until 1996 only 8 teams qualified for each final tournament. Of course Scotland's luck being what it is they got drawn in a group with the then European Champions (Holland) and the reigning World Champions (Germany). The other team in the group was the remnants of the splintered USSR, calling itself the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States as opposed to the insurance company).

The squad selection had raised a few eyebrows. Since being dumped out of the World Cup in 1990 interest in the national squad had fallen away badly, attendances were down, and many established players had announced that they no longer wanted to be selected (Bett, Judas and Gough - spot the club connection?). Indeed un-established players went as far as to say that if they weren't first choice they didn't even want considered (David Robertson - that club again).

In the aftermath of all this Paul McStay was chosen as captain and players who had previously never even considered winning a cap were now being selected, such as Brian Irvine. In spite of all this Scotland soon found themselves in with a great chance of qualifying. So guess what happened? All those players who had stuck two fingers up to Roxburgh now had no small amount of egg on their faces. To his eternal discredit Roxburgh allowed Gough to return, and even gave him the captaincy. As if that wasn't bad enough he chose to take, as his strikers, McCoist (fair enough, he'd always said he was happy to play from Scotland, although that was probably just to annoy Souness), Durie and Duncan Ferguson!

Meanwhile at Celtic we had Tommy Coyne, Gerry Creaney and Charlie all scoring 20+ and not even being considered (Although, in fairness Charlie did his cause no good by becoming one of the first choice or no choice brigade). Even more galling was the omission of John Collins. It wasn't as if we were snowed under with left- sided midfielders, a fact curiously admitted by Roxburgh after he'd announced his squad.

Jock Stein once said the Scotland didn't mind losing "..if we go down fighting, and we down in the right way." Which was basically the script for the first two games. Against Holland we not only withstood a team containing the Milan trio of Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkard, we give them a few scares too. But 15 minutes from the end we gave Gullit time to pick a cross and Bergkamp scored. Stars for Scotland that day were Gough and McStay.

The Maestro had taken his club form to the championships and was a stand out in every game. No mean feat given that he was up against the likes of Rijkard. Against Germany McStay put team mates one-on-one with Illgner three times in the first 15 minutes. Unfortunately the team mates in question were Dave McPherson and the most over rated player to ever kick a ball, Gary McAllister. After missing the last of these chances Scotland almost immediately went 1:0 down, eventually losing 2:0, the second being a ridiculously deflected cross that crept in at the back post.

So we were out with one game still to play and, typically, we won it 3:0. McStay capped a fine tournament with a typical 25 yard daisy cutter, McClair broke the habit of the lifetime and got an international goal, and the most over rated player to ever kick a ball scored a penalty at the end. This last goal meant that the CIS now had an inferior goal difference to Germany who qualified in second spot.

All that was left to do was have a good laugh as England flounced out against Sweden, and imagine what sort of team Celtic would have had if McStay had decided to leave.

Happily, he stayed. He got a few offers to go abroad (Wenger tried to sign him for Monaco) and at least one from England (Souness at Liverpool) but maybe not the volume that he'd hoped for. Added to that the fact that he'd just become a father, and it's not hard to see why staying put didn't seem such a bad idea. Unfortunately his was the only signature gathered during the close season.

Having held on to the maestro, and given the standard of football that the previous season had provided, optimism was high that Brady could build a solid, entertaining team around the core of Mowbray, Boyd, McStay, and Collins. Up front was still something of a concern though; Creaney was a dangerous forward when the mood struck him, but the mood often didn't. Charlie had been magnificent the previous season, but clearly he wasn't a long term option, and Coyne, despite an impressive scoring record, seemed to be having difficulty convincing Brady that he could do the job.

On the board room front things were as settled as always. Rumours that the previous season's shirt sponsor - Peoples car dealer Brian Gilda - was about to be wheeled into the boardroom could barely have been wider of the mark. Not only did he not appear in the boardroom, but his logo wasn't even going to appear on the shirts anymore. In fact no logo would. The board couldn't find a sponsor willing to pay the amount they wanted, and so we had a season of unpolluted hoops. The press attempted to stir this up, but were oblivious to the fact that for once the fans were pleased with the boards incompetence. Shirt sales went through the roof. It was a move of unintentional marketing genius.

The domestic season kicked off at Tynecastle, and certainly gave us a taste of things to come. It was a truly hopeless game. Utter rubbish from start to finish. Fittingly it was settled with a risible o.g. from Levein. However two valuable points had been taken from a notoriously difficult venue.

The next game was even trickier; Pittodrie, where Brady had first been made aware of exactly how much work he had to do the previous season. This game had some added spice given the identity of the Dons number 4 ; Roy Aitken, a bear in sheep's clothing. It was a typically robust encounter that ended 1:1. A creditable point gained, although we had many chances to take both. But the funniest aspect was watching Aitken go into tackles with the Aberdeen fans roaring him on, and the Celtic fans bellowing their disapproval. Changed days indeed.

So three points out of four from a seriously tricky start to the league campaign. Indeed, of our first 6 league fixtures only two were at home. The Celtic View was beside itself with rage. It went front page with a comparison of our first four games, and Rangers' first four, making itself look even more parochial and ridiculous than usual. The impossible dream.

Our first home fixture was a diabolical 1:1 draw with one of the worst, most irritating and generally despised teams ever to grace the Scottish league. Tommy McLean's Motherwell were negative, cynical and boring. And that was their good points. And always, ALWAYS, they managed to get points from us.

During this game the pattern for the season was established. This was the season of the lost lead. By the time November rolled around we had contrived to throw away the lead no less than 9 times. And so it was that after Mowbray had given us the lead Cooper's only decent cross of the game caused utter panic in the sieve and gifted a thoroughly undeserved goal to the Steal Men.

It was at this point that Celtic Park's revolving door swung into over drive. Out went Chris Morris and Derek Whyte, in came Andy Payton, Rudi Vata, and 1.5m man Stuart Slater. The departure of both Morris and Whyte was somewhat curious given that the defence towards the end of the previous season had had a very settled look about it, and there were certainly worse back fours than Morris, Mowbray, Whyte and Boyd. Such as McNally, Mowbray, Gillespie and Boyd. In other words we appeared to trade down.

As for the arrivals; Vata had been touted for weeks in the View thanks to the MI6 aspect to the story (Vata and six of his international team mates defected after a European championship game in Paris the previous March), and the fact that he would be the first Albanian to play in British football. Payton had been linked with us for quite a while - Big Billy was rumoured to have made an offer but he chose to join Middlesborough instead. But the big one was Slater. Slater had been built up in the press as a Maestro mark II. McStay should have sued. Slater became emblematic for all the things that were wrong with Celtic. The player that had promised so much at West Ham failed to deliver on every level at Celtic Park.

On the day that Vata, Payton and Slater arrived Brady confidently told the assembled hacks "This is my Celtic team". He would have plenty of occasions, over the coming months, to eat those badly chosen words.

Comfortable wins over both Dundee teams at Celtic Park set us up nicely for the first Old Firm game at Ibrox. Despite having drawn two games we found ourselves at the top of the league thanks to surprise result when Rangers went to Dens Park, Billy Dodds scored a hattrick as Dundee triumphed 4-3. At Ibrox the game was played in a "traditional" manner. Which is to say that it closely resembled the days when village teams 60 strong would compete in an organised fight over part of a pig and call it football. The first half ended goalless thanks to the far side linesman, who incorrectly flagged Trevor Steven as he swept the ball into the net. The signs weren't good, we hadn't really settled, and the forward line of Creaney and Payton wasn't clicking, but the second half started well. McStay and Collins got a hold in the middle, and soon we were in the lead. McNally progressed down the right, unchallenged for about 30 yards, his attempted cross looped of Brown and landed at the feet and Creaney, who the took shot perfectly. But as has been said previously this was the season of the lost lead. Right after we scored McNally picked up a knock and had to leave the field. His replacement was the less than robust Brian O'Neil. Unfamiliar at right back he allowed Huistra to get to the bye line and cross for the original Kebab King, Durrant, to score.

Having thrown away one point against a group of huns, we decide to repeat the trick the following week against Airdrie (the real thing bigotry wise). So bad were we in this game, we actually needed the refs help again. This time the man with the whistle missed the Maestro clearing the ball off the line with his hand in the last minute. Hilariously enough Airdrie's chief thug Sammy Conn actually got sent off for protesting too loudly to the ref about not giving a penalty.

However the dropped point meant that we dropped from first spot to fourth! Unhappily this was a league position that we would have to become accustomed to in the following months and years.

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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