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...
now focused, at last, on what was happening on the pitch. Things
were bad. Scarily bad. Out of both cups, and fifth in the league.
Our top scorers were Charlie Nicholas and Pat McGinlay -and neither
of them had yet hit double figures.
was hard to blame the manager. He had been working under extremely
difficult conditions. On the other hand it was hard to praise
the manager either. His 'style' of football was characterised
by many supporters as agricultural - and these were the sympathetic
ones. Optimism was not high that we could reach third spot and
qualify for Europe.
this being Celtic, not everyone was fully focused on the team.
The press were still sniffing around for excuses to wheel out
the image of the club crest with a big crack down it and the favourite
story of the time was that Fergus was refusing Macari cash to
buy players. Given the manager's track record there were those
among us who felt that was no bad thing.
The funniest story involved Gary Gillespie denying that he was
getting six grand a week basic, for doing hee-haw. Apparently
Gary felt that this 'could
turn the Celtic fans against me.'
Possibly the most astonishing interview given at this time was
one that Brian Dempsey gave to the Celtic View in which he not
only announced the he was 'fully behind Fergus McCann's plans,'
but also stated that 'It would be unrealistic to expect that a
club could be turned around overnight... it is a five year job'.
Hmm, watch this space for further sound bites from this man.
race for Europe started at Tannadice, and a surprisingly competent
3:1 victory. Highlights were Willie Falconer scoring his first
goal for the club, and Tony Mowbray getting a goal the day before
he was due to get married. Mogga's wedding was another of the
big stories of the day. His bride Bernadette had been diagnosed
with cancer and was only given months to live. It was not uncommon
for the team bus to pick up the big man from the hospital on the
way to matches.
boost from the Tannadice win was followed by a typically terrible
run that put paid to any thoughts of Europe. Home leads against
Dundee (1:0) and Hearts (2:0) were squandered as both games ended
in draws. The Hearts game was particularly hard to take, given
that Le Merde was in their line up, although mercifully he didn't
that there was a disastrous trip to Rugby Park for a 2:0 defeat
(Pat McGinaly was sent off into the bargain) and Europe was all
but gone. Following a home win against St. Johnstone (the Perth
side and Raith Rovers were the only two sides who lost both their
visits to Fortress Parkhead) we were to visit Ibrox . Well, some
of us were. Celtic fans were actually banned from Ibrox by David
Murray and for the first time in 102 years the Old Firm game would
be watched by only one set of fans. The cause of this exclusion
was an apparently unpaid bill of £7,000 from our last visit in
October for alleged damage to the stadium. The club were refusing
to pay the bill on the grounds that the police hadn't reported
any acts of vandalism from the Broomloan stand during that game.
So where did this damage come from? Celtic felt they were being
asked to give away money for nothing. Under the league rules there
was no requirement to provide space for away supporters. It was
at the home side's discretion to allow them in. Interestingly,
this loophole was going to be closed in the close season, so it
was Murray's last chance to pull this one. Celtic offered to put
certain safeguards in place: tickets would only be sold to individuals
who provided their home address; a cover charge of £1 would be
levied per ticket to cover any repairs; Celtic would provide and
pay for stewards for the Broomloan; independent inspections of
the stand would occur before and after the game to assess any
damage; Celtic would pay for all and any damage done during the
course of the game with any funds left over being donated to charity;
action would be taken against any individual found to have damaged
the stadium. It all sounded pretty reasonable. But Rangers said
Given that they were going for a second consecutive treble, and
were miles ahead of us in the league, and could in fact clinch
the league if they won the game, a cynic might suggest that they
wanted to really unnerve us, give us an almighty hammering, and
win the league in front of a completely hun audience. Lions and
the Christians, appeared to be what they had in mind (but go easy
on the references to ancient Rome).
team line up suggested that we were certainly on a damage limitation
exercise. A five man defence said it all. In midfield Collins
was the main man - McStay had played his last game of the season,
he was out with a hernia - while up front Simon Donnelly and Paul
Byrne would just have to do their best. Prior to the game two
plucky Celts flew over the stadium in a light plane trailing a
banner reading 'Hail hail the Celts are here'. My how the bears
The first half didn't quite go as the huns might have hoped. With
five at the back we were unusually tight, and up front Donnelly
was giving Gough a surprisingly torrid time. Indeed it was this
battle which brought the breakthrough. Gough fouled Donnelly on
the edge of the box with half an hour gone. Collins stepped up,
wearing his new boots - the Predator, the latest thing, which
could, apparently, allow for better control, and provide more
bend on the ball. And Collins duly proved that the advertising
was not all bullshit as he curled an incredible shot over the
wall and into the top corner. It was the first goal in competitive
professional football to be scored with the Predator boot and
Ibrox was outraged. The press reported that the goal was greeted
with silence. Rubbish. The huns were going ballistic. To paraphrase
David Bennie, it sounded like 44,000 vampires trapped inside St.Peter's
Square at daybreak - with the Pope hosing them down with holy
Rangers eventually drew level, thanks to an outrageously deflected
shot, we had definitely won a moral victory.
remainder of the season consisted of two 1:1 draws. The first
was notable as the last game ever played at the old Celtic Park
while the latter was utterly forgettable. We failed to qualify
for Europe for the second season running, but unlike the previous
year there was to be no early Christmas present from the European
governing body in the shape of a parachute into the UEFA Cup because
of a civil war.
Happily the huns were foiled in their bid for consecutive trebles
by Dundee United in the cup final. Yes folks, in the dark days
of the Nineties these were our crumbs of comfort.
The season finished with Frank McAvennie and Pat Bonner released,
and a young Irish goalie called Shay Given being allowed to leave
because Macari felt he was too small to be a top class 'keeper.
finished our season with a 3:1 win in a friendly against English
double winners Manchester United. Simon Donnelly scored twice,
and Chic Charnley was a guest player in the Celtic side. That
same night Fergus McCann bumped into a flame-haired former Celtic
midfield player who was in charge of another Scottish Premier
Division side. He was considered the next great thing in club
management, and you'll never guess what happened next...