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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 92-93: part 3

With the league race over the team was free to concentrate on stumbling from one calamity to another. And damn good at it they were too.

Own 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.

Of course this was only the team on the park. For a real horror show you had to look at the boardroom.

The 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.

These 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.

Back 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.

During 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 unamused.

No 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.

Frank's 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).

The 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).

But 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.

Despair 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?

The 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.

Highlights? 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.

Biggest 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?

Biggest 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.

The 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 up.

Next, 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.

The 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 laughed.

The 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.

But 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!

The 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.

With 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.

AB MURDOCH

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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
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1992-93 pt 3
1993-94 pt 1
1993-94 pt 2
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1993-94 pt 4
1993-94 pt 5
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