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...
Lou Macari's first game was at Ibrox, but everyone (including
Macari) acknowledged that this was Frank Connor's Celtic team.
He picked the team, gave the team talk, inspired the players.
And the team responded by giving him an excellent send off. Macari
was there basically for the Rangers support to abuse, and for
the Celtic support to laud. The
Celtic support at this time were as yet unaware of Luigi's pre-historic
approach to football. In a few months it would be a case of role
reversal as far as both sets of supporters were concerned. But
there was little inkling of what was to come on that particular
game was certainly a memorable one. After a hectic first half
which saw Celtic create the best chances (McStay was a stand out
and Paul Byrne was carving them up) Rangers poached a lead through
McCoist. We braced ourselves for a cave in. But help arrived from
an unlikely source.
of the 1991 Motherwell cup final team had been goalkeeper Ally
Maxwell. He played for a good part of that match with broken ribs.
The papers loved that. He'd been signed for Rangers as cover for
the injured Goram, but he'd been having a rough time.
Basically the script was that he was blamed for just about every
goal they conceded. Regardless of any defensive mishaps which
might have occurred in the build up, Maxwell should have saved
it. A prime example was the huns' European exit which came courtesy
of a last minute long range shot that rocketed into the top corner.
Never mind the fact that no Rangers player pressurised the guy
shooting - it was Maxwell's fault.
it certainly was Maxwell's fault when Celtic came a-calling. Not
two minutes after they went ahead Maxwell made his mark. Pat McGinlay
gathered the ball mid way inside the Rangers half. He lofted the
ball towards Nicholas. Gough was there, but it seemed an easy
take for Maxwell. Somehow, as he landed, the ball spilled and
Charlie moved it to Collins. Every voice in the Broomloan stand
was screaming for a first time shot, but JC realised that with
the keeper out and the ball at his feet the odds were on his side.
He took a touch, stepped inside, and calmly poked the ball into
the corner of the net.
joyous moment. But nothing compared to what came next. With the
sides level, and only seconds to go the Celtic bench began to
make substitutions to run the clock down. Brian O'Neil came on
for Nicholas. McStay took a speculative shot from the edge of
the box, which deflected for a corner. Collins raced over to take
it. Macari was clearly going bananas. Why were we in a hurry?
1:1 at Ibrox in the state Celtic were in at the time was a decent
swung in the corner, Maxwell hesitated then lunged forward to
punch the ball. Like a comic book boxer he succeeded merely in
swiping some fresh air. O'Neil made contact and the ball was nestling
snugly in the net.
spun, jaws dropped, and the Broomloan Stand went into raptures.
Not only had we won in the last minute thanks to some suicidal
keeping but we'd also come from behind to do it.
real comedy came in the days that followed; the viewers of Scotsport,
which showed the highlights the following day, were highly amused
by the fact that moments before Collins took his decisive corner
a clear voice was picked up on the effect microphone behind the
goal announcing 'Goalkeeper's ball!'. It must have been Brian
O'Neil. And on the Tuesday the Sun had the classic story, 'My
advice for Ally Maxwell' by that expert of experts when it came
to nightmare Old Firm days, Ian Andrews. It was a brief bask in
some glory, but the come down wasn't long in arriving.
following Wednesday we were in Lisbon for the return fixture against
Sporting. Not a good evening. Two goals from Jorge Cadete (a name
which will reappear in this particular column), had put us in
a bad position. Our new manager didn't help matters much. In the
last few minutes, when you would expect the players to be going
hell for leather to get an away goal, he had us keeping the ball,
trying to avoid further concession. It was a dramatic example
of how Macari intended us to play.
on wee Lou's agenda was 'contract issues'. Mike Galloway, Gordon
Marshall and Gerry Creaney were all none too happy with their
lot (although to be fair to Marshall his only gripe was about
playing first team football). Macari dealt with this in his own
inimitable style. Marshall was assured he would get his chance,
he signed; Galloway was considered underpaid - he got a rise,
signed, and promptly disappeared, allegedly on a three day drinking
spree. Gerry Creaney, on the same contract he'd signed as a teenager,
was told to stop moaning, forget the money, get his head down
and concentrate on football. Sound advice from a man who, as a
reserve, demanded his wages doubled, and eventually left Celtic
in a dispute over cash.
all this we managed to squeeze in another Glasgow derby, this
time against Thistle. A 3:0 final score disguised the fact that
we were poor. McStay and Byrne provided our football, Mowbray
and Wdowczyk provided the 'heart in mouth' defence. Pat McGinlay
scored twice and Charlie scored the other, but the feeling was
summed up by the manager in an after -match interview, when he
remarked, 'Don't frighten me by saying that was one of our good
Our next game was at the Celtic graveyard of the time, Pittodrie.
It had been more than five years since we'd come away from there
with a win. That statistic was intact when we left this time as
well, although we did score two goals - or to be precise, both
goals in a 1-1 draw. O'Neil gave Celtic the lead after some frankly
bizarre behaviour in the normally sound Aberdeen defence. Peter
Grant equalised after some typically bizarre behaviour in the
next day Celtic were back on the front pages as Betty Devlin,
widow of our former chairman, lodged a petition with the Court
of Session. The gist of it was that the club was skint, and the
board was hopeless, although it was worded a bit differently than
the same time as this was happening the Celtic View was hitting
the streets. In that week's trip through the parallel universe
of Celtic was a story under the headline 'Demo Flops', which noted
that the number of people demanding Michael Kelly's head on a
spike was slightly reduced from previous weeks. They still seemed
to miss the point of why there was a demonstration in the first
evening BBC Scotland showcased Celtic for the second time in the
current affairs programme 'Front Line Scotland'. Just like the
previous show this one had a cast of many who lined up to put
the boot into the board and rip down the tissue of lies that they
had created. Chief assassin this time was former CEO Terry Cassidy,
which was a bit awkward for the board given that he had quite
up to date information. He commented on the lenient attitude of
Celtic's bankers, the Bank of Scotland, who were allowing the
board to continue to trade in circumstances that simply wouldn't
be tolerated of other businesses.
the real star of the show was a man called Patrick Nally, from
the excellently named company 'StadiVarious'. He claimed to have
found two Swiss banks willing to put up the £20m required to build
Cambuslang. Wow that sounded good. However a quick check into
the background of Mr Nally soon raised some doubt about his claims.
Aside from the various previous court actions brought against
him, it was mentioned that he was currently being sued for £300m
in the US for racketeering! The perfect man to raise the cash
for our stadium don't you think?
to put the seal on a perfect week for the board, the construction
company due to build the Cambuslang fiction factory then pulled
out, saying the plan was simply 'clever hype'. Clever? Was there
anyone, outside of the Celtic boardroom, who really believed it
would ever happen?