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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 93-94: part 4

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...

Officially 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 afternoon.

The 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.

Hero 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.

Well 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.

A 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 scoreline.

Collins 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.

Heads 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Next 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.

Around 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 performances!'

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 Celtic defence.

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 that.

At 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 place.

That 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.

However 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?

Just 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?

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