(relax, we win this time).
recovery from the 1994 League Cup final defeat was to be long
and slow. McStay himself described his penalty miss as 'the worst
moment of my career'. The following Wednesday we played Hibs at
Easter Road and the team ran out for the game to find the fans
holding up a banner with the message 'You'll Never Walk Alone
Paul'. The players seemed to respond - we were a goal up within
a minute. But it didn't last. With a cruel inevitability we conceded
a penalty with only 10 minutes to go and the game finished 1:1.
next two league fixtures were also drawn. A two goal advantage
was thrown away against Motherwell. We had taken the lead thanks
to a Willie Falconer wonder goal - and there's four words you
don't see grouped together every day - and that was followed by
a Tosh McKinlay cross that was helpfully punted into the net by
a hapless 'Well defender. After that Motherwell turned nasty and
began kicking the ball towards our goal. The Sieve duly sprang
into action and allowed former Celt Tommy Coyne to display his
finishing prowess with two excellently taken goals.
for a four goal thriller the highlight of the game was still the
sight of a Motherwell midfielder lining up to take a corner. Having
placed the ball he began backing away while at the same time indicating
where his corner would shortly be landing with all the pinpoint
accuracy you would expect of a Motherwell player about to strike
a dead ball. Concentrating on this he forgot to check his step
and promptly disappeared backwards over one of the advertising
boards. The name of this Chaplin-esque midfielder? One Paul Lambert.
draw at Fir Park was followed by a hopeless 0:0 against Aberdeen
where mild comas were the order of the day for the poor souls
who gave up their Boxing Day to watch this lame excuse for a football
these games we played Liverpool as part of Ian Rush's testimonial.
The less said about a shocking 6:0 defeat the better.
Year's Eve brought a late present from Santa - a league win! Our
first since September! Hallelujah! 1994 was bid good riddance
along with Falkirk thanks to goals from Grant and Walker. Grant's
first half goal proved awkward given that the half-time quiz contained
a question about the last time he'd scored.
The next fixture was approached with nothing short of terror.
We were back at Ibrox. Not only were we back at the scene of Raithgate,
but Rangers were also in the middle of a strong run, already 10
points clear at the top of the league. To make matters worse Celtic
were without a number of players. Tosh McKinlay and Peter Grant
were both injured and Tony Mowbray had far more serious matters
to deal with. Three days previously his wife, Bernadette, had
finally lost her five year long battle with cancer. In place of
these stalwarts came Stuart Gray at left back, Brian McLaughlin
on the left wing and Mike Galloway at right back. Included in
the starting line up was Paul Byrne, who had faded almost completely
from the first team since the last Old Firm game.
serious gubbing was on the cards. The main concern was that, for
all his capabilities distributing the ball, Brian O'Neil was still
far too delicate for a centre half, not really able for the more
robust side of that role. The game was something like 20 seconds
old when O'Neil ploughed into Durie, nearly knocking him straight
into the Govan stand. He had served notice that he was more than
prepared to mix it.
This game was important because it was the first Old Firm game
picked up live by the satellite TV broadcaster Sky. The whole
nation would be watching, so it was doubly important that the
Celts produce a performance. But the first 25 minutes did not
go well. We just could not get out of our own half. Thanks largely
to the outstanding Laudrup we were completely pinned back. Nevertheless,
gradually the Hoops worked their way into the game. McLaughlin
started to run at McLaren, and we even won a corner. Then the
sucker punch was dutifully sucked. McCall knocked an innocuous
high ball into the box. Stuart Gray made a feeble attempt to swing
his left foot at it only for it to fall to the cloven hoof of
Ion Fearguson and they were a goal ahead. It was a shocking goal
to lose, and we lost it because Stuart Gray had no idea how to
kick a football with his right foot.
second half was a different story.The players emerged believing
in themselves, passing the ball on the ground and running at their
opponents with supreme confidence. Phil O'Donnell started making
dangerous runs into the box and, most importantly of all, McStay
took hold of the midfield. Some people will still try and peddle
the myth that McStay was a 'crab', a player who only moved from
side to side. These people should be banned from football grounds.
One moment in this game perfectly sums up Paul McStay; he ran
back to his defence and took the ball. Laudrup ran up in an attempt
to win it. McStay feinted to go left and wheeled away to the right.
Laudrup, completely wrong footed simply looked to the heavens,
and the viewers on Sky heard Martin Tyler call the Maestro 'the
Rolls Royce of football'.
control of this game was now complete, and our equaliser duly
arrived. Rangers' defending had become increasingly desperate.
Every player in blue was behind the ball and the only clearance
being considered was the wild hack away. Gray collected one of
these close to the dugouts on the halfway line. He slipped the
ball to Collins who evaded a wild tackle, cut in and crossed to
the far side of the box where Paul Byrne caught it perfectly with
the outside of his right boot. The ball curled beautifully round
the Rangers goalie and in to the far corner of the net. A brief
Rangers flurry followed but, that apart, the game was ours. That
we didn't win was down to the greed of O'Donnell and Walker; both
had chances to play in team mates, both decided to go it alone
to no great effect. Infuriating in the extreme.
draw left us in fourth place and a thumping 17 points behind Rangers.