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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 93-94: part 3

If you have a sofa - hide behind it now, because here comes season 93-94. The year of bucket seats in the Jungle, Lou Macari and, of course, Wayne 'Bertie' Biggins. And if those three haven't got you reaching for the pills then read on...

The departure of manager Liam Brady in October 1993, a mere twelve games into the league season, lit the fuse. Discontent had spread during the previous months, and the board had done nothing except fuel this with a series of empty gestures designed to placate the masses, notably the Cambuslang fairy story. Endless reams of nonsense, littered with the phrase 'Green for go!' appeared in the View in a futile attempt to convince the fans that the board had the Cambuslang situation under control.

Many supporters remained unconvinced simply because they were boycotting the View. With a backdrop of a debt of 10 million, and an operating loss of 2 million, and a customer boycott in full swing Dr Michael Kelly chose this moment to announce that the bank was 'not uneasy' with the current state of the club's finances.

Emphasis should definitely be put on the word 'state'.

The resignation of the manager chosen by the board to take us in to the 90s put the seal on it. The board had failed in every conceivable area; the team were sub-standard, the stadium was a national joke, the fans were boycotting in the thousands, and you had more chance of catching a Celtic - related story in the financial section of the papers than anywhere else.

The search for Brady's replacement would involve hunting high and low, down the highways and byways of Stoke. For that was where former Celtic hero, now talismanic manager, Lou Macari was based. The word that he was the Chosen One emerged almost as soon as Brady fell on his sword. Whether or not this had any bearing on what happened next is open to debate.

Brady's assistant manager Joe Jordan took training on the Thursday morning. Once he'd finished that he cleared his desk and resigned. He said it was because he had been hired as an assistant to Brady, and felt it would be wrong to step into his shoes. Others felt that he was put out by the fact that the board hadn't appeared to have even considered him for the job.

Whatever the truth of this story the fact was we were now on our third manager in three days, as Frank Connor was asked to take charge. Incredible that Connor, who had been fired by Davie Hay in 1986, should now find himself in charge.

To top off the perfect end to the perfect week, it was AGM time! Yes the annual shooting gallery, when the board stumble through several hours of serious abuse, with only David Smith having the faintest idea of what all those numbers meant. That year's event was enlivened by the introduction of some court injunctions to the proceedings. Under the rules of the injunction only fully paid shares could be used for voting, thus reducing the power of the board. During the summer Fergus McCann and his people had been busy. They had travelled far and wide to meet every shareholder they could, no matter how small their holding, and asked for permission to use their vote as a proxy. Thus they arrived at the AGM far stronger than the board ever expected.

In a true sign of the times around 70 people were in attendance at the AGM. Several hundred, meanwhile, were demonstrating outside. Although, in purely voting terms, the board remained in place after the meeting, they were alarmed by the unexpected show of strength for McCann.

Football. Remember football? Connor's first game in charge was at home to Dundee the following day. Team matters seemed almost irrelevant, but it was worth noting that Irish winger Paul Byrne made his full debut (he had previously come on as a sub at Perth). Prior to the game was mayhem - outside the main entrance the stewards and had to make safe passage for the directors and there was a large demonstration with many fans having made large banners protesting at the way the club was being run (i.e. straight into the ground). Many of the banners were barbed references to Michael Kelly's time as Lord Provost of the city, when he championed the Glasgow's Miles Better campaign. 'Celtic's Miles Worse' was the gist of the message.

The game was played in front of a crowd of less than 17,000. Around 1,000 of these were Dundee fans. The rest sang nothing but 'Sack the board' for the duration of the game.

The match itself was an entertaining one - shock, horror and disbelief after some of the garbage we'd endured so far. Dundee took the lead after debut boy Byrne ran 60 yards to make a lousy tackle in the box, but thanks to fine headers from Creaney and McGinlay a league win was registered.

But really who noticed? We all knew that this season was already a wash out. The really important business of the season would take place in the boardroom.

The following game was played at Easter Road, and again Connor's bhoys had to come from behind, Gerry Creaney scoring with a spectacular shot from the edge of the box after a fine move involving McStay and Gillespie.

Two days later the Evening Times ran a story with the headline 'The Club I Love Could Die!'. Nice understated stuff. The originator of this quote? Kenny Dalglish, then manager of Blackburn.

Embarrassingly enough the next NTV asked the question 'What would we give for him as manager?' Oops. Careful what you wish for, you might get it!

Just to pile the misery on, Maurice Johnston returned to Scotland, although he had by now retired from football signing, as he did, for Hearts.

The next game for Frank Connor was the one that he will, surely, bore his grandchildren with forever. It was a UEFA Cup tie against Bobby Robson and Sporting Lisbon. On the face of it these two teams shouldn't have been on the same pitch, but Connor managed to convince his team that they could win. Specifically he told McStay to stop attempting to run the whole game from defence to attack, 'Just get your passes in' was his advice. The Maestro tore them to bits.

After the game Robson confessed that he'd been forced to put two markers on McStay in an attempt to stop him. Pity his team mates weren't good enough to take advantage of the space. We managed one goal, again from Creaney, but in the end Pat Bonner had more work than any one was comfortable with. The omens weren't good for the second leg.

Before our next fixture Lou Macari signed on as Celtic manager. Despite a modest turn around in results, and the backing of the dressing room (Peter Grant would later state that everyone in the dressing room would have had Connor for manager) the board felt that a grand gesture was needed to appease the fans. Apparently signing a man who walked out on the club as a player, was famous as a manager for his negative tactics, and had been charged with placing bets against his own team in the FA Cup was just the ticket.

To some he was, curiously, the ultimate hero, as the crowd at his testimonial in 1984 demonstrated. Others noted that he was the player picked out in the Campbell/Woods book 'The Glory and the Dream' as the perfect example of the mercenary footballer. He certainly liked to play to whatever crowd he was faced with; when Stoke had drawn Manchester United in the cup he had stated that United's was always the first result he looked for on a Saturday. Curiously, this story had changed by the time he became our manager.

At the press conference announcing his arrival he casually remarked that he hadn't asked the board how much money he would be allowed to spend on the team. Hacks stopped writing, tape recorders stopped recording, and several dozen jaws hit the floor in sheer astonishment.

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1990-91 pt 1
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1991-92 pt 1
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1993-94 pt 1
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