With the league race over the team was free to concentrate on
stumbling from one calamity to another. And damn good at it they
goals, defensive gaffes, leads thrown away - the full repertoire
was on show. It was truly a sight to see. High/lowlights included
Mike Galloway's inch perfect lob over Bonner at Tannadice, the
Mark McNally defensive master class at home to Aberdeen, and a
truly horrific run over Xmas and New Year that saw us lose 1:0
three times. We rallied by holding Clyde to a 0:0 (thanks to Pat
Bonner) in the cup.
course this was only the team on the park. For a real horror show
you had to look at the boardroom.
previous March the board had unveiled their grand plan for the
future of Celtic - Cambuslang! A large swamp-like field just outside
Cambuslang to be exact. Of course, the fact that the whole place
was as toxic as Three Mile Island wasn't mentioned. Neither were
the objections that the council raised. Or the fact that we didn't
have any money. And I do mean ANY money.
small details didn't prevent Kevin Kelly from squelching around
in the toxic soup holding a large artist's impression of the proposed
stadium and spouting out quotes such as "I'm trying to imagine
where the first goal will be scored". The image of the bold
Kev (greatest Celtic supporter in the world don't you know) in
the middle of a field, knee deep in mud, wind battered, holding
a large drawing will live long in the memory.
in the field we were currently playing football on, things weren't
really getting better. Clyde were finally beaten (1:0, Tommy Coyne)
but boy oh bhoy was there a surprise before the next game.
the week the news broke that Partick Thistle had signed Frank
McAvennie until the end of the season. Things hadn't gone well
for Frank since he left Celtic; relegated with West Ham, he picked
up a serious injury on the first day of the next season and was
never the same player again. The Hammers had subsequently loaned
him out to everyone and their dog (Hong Kong Rangers et al). Having
posed in a Thistle strip Frank set off back to London, and suddenly
the whole story got a bit Le Carre. Celtic discovered that Frank
hadn't yet signed, and, sensing a cheap deal the board stepped
in with a bid. McAvennie bit and Thistle were stung, and distinctly
one emerged looking particularly good; Thistle were criticised
for not finalising the deal, McAvennie got it for double-dealing
and Celtic were panned for poaching a veteran player on loan.
A new low had been reached.
first game back was at the less glamorous setting of Broomfield.
Odd though it may be to say, but this game stands out as one of
funniest ever played in the Premier League. It rained with a vengeance,
and the pitch quickly became quite clearly unplayable. Only one
man in Scotland thought the pitch was acceptable. Unfortunately
he was the referee, and so the game went on. Tommy Coyne scored
the only goal, a rebound from a McAvennie header. But the whole
thing was a complete farce; the ball couldn't be played along
the ground, players were falling all over the place, both goalkeepers
were wringing water out of their gloves and Stuart Slater bore
an uncanny resemblance to one of the Mud Men from Flash Gordon
after one particularly spectacular spill. That there wasn't a
serious injury was definitely luck more than judgement (although
that tended to be the case against Airdrie regardless of the weather).
cup draw for the fourth round had landed us at Brockville, not
a place you want to visit when you're struggling. That said, the
board certainly weren't worried. Prior to the game, on STV's short
-lived sport forum show 'Sport in Question', Dr Michael Kelly
had made noises of the "We'll win easily" variety to
a highly sceptical audience. This show can certainly be classified
as must see material for masochists who want to relive these dire
days. This was the show that saw Kevin Kelly reveal himself as
Celtic's greatest ever supporter (the audible gasp from the audience
has to heard to be believed) and the good Doctor claim that the
Bank of Scotland were quite happy dealing with the Celtic board
because "they recognise who we are." (the reaction in
the Bank of Scotland to that remark would be interesting).
for the cup tie optimism was unusually high due to resounding,
and completely unexpected 5:1 dumping of St. Johnstone the previous
Wednesday. We should have known better. A goal in either half
sent us crashing out, and the season was now officially over.
and despondency were everywhere, except of course the offices
of the Celtic View. "Now that we've got the cup out of the
way we can concentrate on qualifying for Europe." That was
the official party line. You couldn't make it up could you?
remainder of the season was a real test of endurance for the fans.
Lowlights included a 0:0 home draw with Thistle, a 3:1 thumping
at Easter Road (a goal down after 30 seconds), and a seriously
bad 2:0 defeat at Motherwell, where Boyd was sent off and the
possibility of Europe disappeared into the sunset. To compound
the misery our only consistent goalscorer, Tommy 'Der Bomber'
Coyne, was transferred to Tranmere, his place being taken by the
perma grinning figure of Macca.
There were damn few, but you could mention the 2:1 home win over
Rangers that prevented them from setting a new consecutive wins
record and a 3:2 win at Tannadice.
mystery of the season was the tale of Raymond McStay. After years
of being touted as the next great thing he finally got called
into the first team squad. The press made a big deal out of it.
But he was named only as a sub for a game at McDairmid. He never
got on, and he was never again listed in a first team squad. What
was going on?
relief of the season was Rangers' 0:0 draw with CSKA Moscow that
prevented the huns from reaching the European Cup final. Their
run in the first ever Champions League had been a terrifying blend
of black magic and blind luck. Marseilles had thrown away a two
goal lead at Ibrox, and been held in France; Bruges had been held
at home, and defeated by 10 men thanks to the most ridiculous
Nisbet goal; CSKA had been beaten at home thanks to another incredible
deflection but did enough at Ibrox to prevent the unthinkable.
It was too close for comfort though.
final few games of the season were notable. For a desperate midweek
game against Falkirk the crowd was given as 12,201. That got a
laugh from the - at best - 9,000 people who were actually there.
How ironic that after years of skimming thousands off the crowd
figure the board were now counting people who didn't even turn
Thistle outright refused to even acknowledge the existence of
McAvennie when we went to Firhill. They didn't read his name out
before the game, and when he scored the only goal of the game
there was no announcement of the scorer. You couldn't really blame
them for being peeved.
last game was billed as 'The Jungle's Last Stand'. This was to
be the final league game played in front a terraced Jungle. From
the following season it would have bucket seats bolted on to it.
In honour (sic) of this occasion certificates were to be issued
to those who were there (insert own 'certifiable' joke here).
Additionally there would be prizes for the best banner and for
the person who wore the best fancy dress costume. There were quite
a few entrants for both competitions, including a banner that
read 'Kelly must stay...NOT!' (presumably they didn't win the
free season ticket) and a rather striking fancy dress tiger that
was cavorting about on the track. Imagine the surprise of everyone
when said tiger appeared in the director's box at the start of
the game - it was none other than the good Dr. Kelly! Oh how we
game was won with goals from McStay and McAvennie. Unfortunately
McStay had his celebration hampered by an inadvertent kick from
McAvennie and he had to go off, almost a fitting end to the season.
it wasn't quite over yet. Because of renovations to Hampden Celtic
Park was to stage the Scottish Cup final. Rather than give the
huns the last shot of the Jungle, Celtic arranged for the Lisbon
Lions to take on the Manchester United team of 1968, and people
paid to watch it!
end of previous seasons had seen us take a step toward the edge
of the slippery slope. The end of 92-93 saw us hurtling down the
slope, hair blown back, reaching speeds of mach 2.
Collins out of contract, Sammy the Seat Bolter due to move into
the Jungle, no European football, a huns treble, and not a pfennig
in the bank it promised to be a long summer. Again.