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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 94-95: part 1

Rebuilding 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.

Despite 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.

Incredibly 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'!).

On 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.

But 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 on holiday.

No 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.

McCann counter-sued. Lou Macari was the first to find out that under no circumstances do you attempt to cross the Bunnet.

The 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.

But 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 the manager.

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.

As 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.

Little did they know that the 'Hampden Year' would become synonymous with bad football and missed opportunities.

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1989-90
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
1991-92 pt 5
1991-92 pt 6
1992-93 pt 1
1992-93 pt 2
1992-93 pt 3
1993-94 pt 1
1993-94 pt 2
1993-94 pt 3
1993-94 pt 4
1993-94 pt 5
1993-94 pt 6
1993-94 pt 7
1993-94 pt 8