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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 93-94: part 8

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...

Attention 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.

It 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.

Naturally, 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.

The 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.

The 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 score.

Following 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 no.

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).

Our 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 laughed.

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 water.

Although Rangers eventually drew level, thanks to an outrageously deflected shot, we had definitely won a moral victory.

The 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.

We 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...

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1990-91 pt 1
1990-91 pt 2
1990-91 pt 3
1990-91 pt 4
1991-92 pt 1
1991-92 pt 2
1991-92 pt 3
1991-92 pt 4
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1992-93 pt 1
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1992-93 pt 3
1993-94 pt 1
1993-94 pt 2
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1993-94 pt 8