(relax, we win this time).
27th 1994 was the date of Celtic's first major cup final for four
years. The club had lost the last two cup finals they had been
in, but the opponents in those games had been Rangers and Aberdeen.
This time the team standing between the Hoops and some much-needed
silverware was Raith Rovers, the same Raith Rovers beaten four
times in the Premier League the season before.
should have been a no-contest. But ever since Celtic had won the
semi-final the players had a petrified look about them. League
points had been carelessly thrown away all over the place and
amongst the supporters there grew an air of serious desperation.
final was at Ibrox - which helped nobody's heart condition - and
of course Tommy Burns chose that particular game to completely
rearrange his defensive formation in order to accommodate the
return to the first team of centre half Tony Mowbray.
was left of the shredded nerves of those Celtic fans that could
see the big screen between the Copeland and Govan stands were
jangled still more by the fact that it went on the blink seconds
after kick off. Having displayed the teams it should have shown
the score, but before it got to that it flashed up a few odd pre-programmed
messages and settled for a few brief seconds on the words 'Cup
Winners Raith Rovers'. As omens go this was a bad one, and our
worst fears were about to be realised in the most horrific, nightmarish
was fortunate to be on the park after only a few minutes, having
committed a late, reckless... well it was a full-blooded Mowbray
tackle so you get the picture. The referee let him off with a
certainly didn't seem to be too many nerves about the Raith Rovers
players, who tore into their Hooped counterparts straight from
the kickoff. It looked as if a crazed scientist from Fife had
managed to clone that wee demented blue thing from the Muppet
show and let eleven of them loose to contest the League Cup final.
seen the pressure and weight of expectation of a long-suffering
support take its toll visibly on the strained faces of the Celtic
team they were clearly aware that this just could end up being
minutes gone and Raith won a corner. Celtic had seven defenders
while Rovers had three forwards. The kind of odds which favour
a clearance of some kind, you would have thought. When the kick
came in Stevie Crawford found himself unmarked. Happily for us
the ball landed behind him; unhappily for us he had enough time
to control the ball, turn, and pick his spot behind Marshall.
All completely unchallenged.
this was where the real trouble started. McStay and Collins grabbed
hold of the game and proceeded to play some superb football, creating
chance after chance, which Walker, Nicholas and Donnelly proceeded
to miss. There were enough chances created to win a dozen league
cups. At that point in time, one would have been quite enough
to keep us happy.
finally equalised after half an hour when Walker headed in a Boyd
cross from six yards.
second half was simply astonishing. Celtic took up residence inside
the Raith penalty box, but no one seemed capable of scoring. Finally,
with just six minutes left on the clock, Walker hit a shot that
came off the post and fell to Charlie Nicholas who shot into the
net. It looked as though our luck had finally changed but it was
the mother of all false dawns.
minutes later Jason Dair was allowed to meander up the pitch with
the ball at his feet, from the halfway line to just outside the
box. From there he hit a speculative shot that should have been
simple enough for Marshall to gather. Instead he spilled it to
feet of former Ranger Gordon Dalziel who nudged it over the line.
words are inadequate to describe the subsequent feeling. It was
as though we were destined never to win anything ever again. Extra
time came and went with our players looking more terrified with
every passing minute. Their worst nightmares becoming a reality
with every passing second. We didn't even manage a decent effort
prelude to the tragi-comic opera that was the penalty shoot-out
was the toss. Raith won it (that sinking feeling again) and elected
to take the first kick. All ten of the regulation penalties were
converted -although Mike Galloway had a serious scare when his
just squirmed past Thompson in the Raith goal. Our first 'sudden
death' kicker was McStay. He placed his kick to the keeper's right.
It was saved and the cup was well and truly lost.
blamed McStay. He had been our best player after all, but plenty
of people lined up to point the finger at Marshall. Not only had
he spilled Dair's shot, but he hadn't gotten anywhere near any
of the Raith penalties. Add to that the fact that many fans didn't
like him anyway, for a variety of reasons, and you had all the
making of a perfect whipping boy.
exonerated from any blame were the men who really cost us the
cup - the forward line so incapable of scoring, who passed up
chance after chance, and the manager who decided to completely
change his formation for a cup final. They got off scot-free.
fans weren't difficult to spot after that game. They were the
ones wearing the funeral parlour expressions, and probably dabbing
the odd tear away. It was a bleak time.
The press of course had a field day, questioning the ability of
everyone at Celtic Park, and generally sinking the boot in with
gusto. But if they required evidence that Celtic were on the way
back they only had to venture down London Road and look at the
new stadium emerging there. The old terracings had been flattened
during the summer, and in the autumn of 1994 as work began on
the first stage of the new Celtic Park - the building of the North
to any building work 25,000 tonnes of grout was injected along
100,000 meters of tunnels to secure the ground, which was riddled
with old mine workings. 900 concrete piles provided the foundation
on to which 2,900 tonnes of steel and 10,000 tonnes of precast
concrete terraces would be placed. The aim was to provide a 26,500
seat stand in time for the start of 1994-95.
of the more unusual costs was £10,000 to the council. Because
the new stand would over hang Janefield cemetery certain graves
no longer had free air space 'from the centre of the earth to
Naturally the press did their best to find fault with this impressive
construction. The most popular newspaper article on the subject
mentioned that from the top of the new structure you could see
right across Glasgow. In fact, you could see right across to Ibrox!
(The place that looks like a giant version of the Munster's House,
complete with bats and ghouls flying around the spires). This
was reported as if it were some sort of architectural gaffe or
engineering blunder rather than a geographical fact.
mattered not. Fergus was making good on his promises. He had given
his manager money, he was overseeing the building of what would
become, for a while, the biggest football stadium in Britain and
he was about to embark on the eagerly anticipated share issue.
hacks were wringing their hands over that one. Fergus had said
he hoped to raise around £10m from it. Luminaries such as Dr Michael
Kelly were advising fans to invest in the National Lottery rather
than buy Celtic shares on the basis that you stood a better chance
of getting a return. And in that one statement he beautifully
underlined the reason we got rid of him and his kind in the first
to Dave Ross for the stadium technical information.