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...
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
Emphasis should definitely be put on the word 'state'.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
enough the next NTV asked the question 'What would we give for
him as manager?' Oops. Careful what you wish for, you might get
to pile the misery on, Maurice Johnston returned to Scotland,
although he had by now retired from football signing, as he did,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.