was the key word around Celtic Park in the summer of 1994. The
structure of the team and the stadium were both in need of serious
renovation. Fergus McCann had never been a great supporter of
the idea to relocate from Celtic Park, so it was no surprise when
he announced the decision to stay put and build an all-new, singing
and dancing Paradise.
The decision to stay would, of course, mean that all the recent
'improvements' would be ripped out. Which basically meant that
rather than bolt green bucket seats to the terraces the Whites
and Kellys might as well have built a pile of money and set fire
to it. The new seats that had been installed in the Jungle were
reused in the main stand as the terraced area of Celtic Park -
in other words 75% of the stadium - was razed to the ground. Given
that the pitch would be destroyed by the equipment required to
build the new stadium it was torn up as well and sold for £5 a
piece, raising £15,000 for charity in the process. This figure
was probably more than the old regime had raised in five years.
Not everyone was thrilled with the decision to remain in the East
End, though. Brian Dempsey, who had played a key PR role in the
removal of the Old Guard, broke off his ties with the new board.
He felt that the decision to remain in Parkhead was 'taking the
club in the wrong direction.' From then on he became a frequent
and vociferous critic of almost every move McCann made.
the speed with which reconstruction would take place we would
still miss the deadline for the implementation of the Taylor Report,
commissioned after the Hillsborough tragedy. It stated that all
Premier League grounds should be all-seated by August 1994. Clearly
we weren't going to make that. So McCann struck a deal with the
SFA for the use of Hampden for the season which cost the club
a cool £500,000.
some looked at this arrangement and concluded that Celtic were
receiving preferential treatment from the SFA. Their gas was put
a peep when reminded of how Rangers had also used Hampden when
they were rebuilding Ibrox (even getting an Old Firm game postponed
in the middle of an Ibrox injury crisis because of Hampden had...
ahem... 'frost bound terracing'!).
the team front the manager had begun the process of rebuilding.
McAvennie, Gillespie, Bonner, Nicholas and Wdowcyzk were all released.
The only one who could really question the decision was Bonner.
He was still good enough to be the Republic of Ireland's number
1 keeper, and would play in the that summer's World Cup finals.
To replace some of these players Macari followed up a recommendation
he had received from Pat Crerand, who had been impressed by a
couple of lads he'd seen in an army cup final in Moenchengladbach.
Justin Whittle and Gary Holt were invited to join the squad as
trialists for a trip to Canada, and were subsequently given contracts.
the big transfer story had been the move to bring back former
hero Andy Walker. Walker had left Celtic for Bolton three years
earlier. During his time there he and John McGinlay had struck
up a partnership that had put the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal
to the sword in the FA cup. His return was most welcome, not least
as it turned out to be Macari's last act as Celtic manager. The
next day he was fired, apparently by phone, just as he was going
one, except maybe Lou himself, was too upset. Rumours had been
flying around for months that he had lost the dressing room, that
he was never there, and that he did not get along with McCann
(possibly a result of his public backing of the old regime). On
the other hand, McCann's insistence on calling his manager 'Luigi'
did seem like a deliberate wind-up.
Typically Macari decided to sue for breach of contract. Equally
typically it turned out he'd backed the wrong horse ... again.
counter-sued. Lou Macari was the first to find out that under
no circumstances do you attempt to cross the Bunnet.
choice of Tommy Burns to replace Macari was no surprise. He had
taken Kilmarnock from second division to Premier League respectability,
and the Scottish Cup semi-final. He was considered the next big
thing in management. While most supporters seemed content with
the appointment, some remained unconvinced. It's one thing to
make Killie into a team capable of playing in the Premier league
- it's another to take Celtic to the top.
the bottom line was that we hadn't really been spoilt for choice.
Approaches had been made to a variety of established managers,
amongst them Bobby Robson, but the only other realistic possibility
had been Frank Connor. Celtic's resident Ian Paisley lookalike
had taken charge after Brady and Jordan cleared their desks, and
he'd done more than a decent job, beating Dundee, Sporting Lisbon
and Rangers, while coaxing much improved performances from McStay.
The players were keen, at that time, for him to be appointed as
But Connor wasn't a big name, or a returning hero. Burns' appointment
understandably sparked a furious reaction from Kilmarnock. They
were of the opinion that Burns had been tapped and intended to
see us burn at the stake for this heinous crime. Of course the
media were right behind them, just as they'd told Dundee United
to shut it the previous season when they complained of Rangers
tapping Duncan Ferguson. The League investigated and surprised
no one when they landed us with a record fine from the Scottish
Football League (£100,000) for a 'blatant breach of rules'. Celtic
appealed pointing out that this amount was twenty times higher
than the previous record fine, and citing Rangers' fine of £5,000
for their approach to Ferguson the previous summer. No reasonable
explanation was ever given and the appeal was rejected. It's enough
to make you paranoid.
the season drew closer Celtic began bombarding the fans with flyers
for season tickets at Hampden. The club tried to make this sound
exciting 'Be part of Celtic's Hampden Year!'. 17,000 hardy souls
decided they would be.
did they know that the 'Hampden Year' would become synonymous
with bad football and missed opportunities.