Monday 21st May 1979
Today see’s another guest blog and once again our pal JimmynotPaul delivers a cracker ! Sit back and enjoy !
A day never to be forgotten, only Love St 1986 is comparable for the drama, in winning a league title, in my lifetime. Tommy Burns Thursday at Tannadice deserves an honourable mention too.
I was 15 but I recall it as if it was yesterday.
As you will have noticed, it was a Monday, it had been a severe winter and there was quite a fixture pile up. This game was the traditional New year game against Rangers, that had been postponed because of the weather.
Celtic had been badly hit, no undersoil heating in those days. Celtic didn’t play at all in January or February because of the weather.
We had lost 1.0 to Rangers in early May, meaning it was now in Rangers hands to win a double treble. If they won their last 4 league games, or won 3 and drew with Celtic and then beat Hibs in The Scottish Cup Final, the double treble was theirs. Rangers had already won the League Cup.
All was not lost though, if Celtic won their last 4 league games then they would win the league. Celtic beat Thistle 2.1, St Mirren 2.0 and beat Hearts,1.0 in an unbearably nervy game, well it certainly was for me, the final whistle was a long,long, time coming but finally it came and if we beat Rangers, in our final game, then the league title would be ours.
Rangers had only played one of their 4 remaining league games defeating Aberdeen.
They had Hibs in The Cup Final in between, which had gone to a 2nd replay after two 0.0 draws. meaning their league fixtures were further postponed.
So, we arrive at the 21st May, it’s simple enough for Celtic, win and we win the league, well say it quickly and it seems simple, it’s never that simple with Celtic is it?
Rangers, slightly more complicated for them, but avoid defeat against Celtic and win their last two league games and the title is theirs and potentially a first ever double treble.
It’s not hard to imagine the tension in the build up to this game then.
Big Billy was the Celtic manager and John Greig the Rangers manager.
The first decision for me on that Monday, was do I go to school or do I dog it? in this day and age, I should clarify, dogging it ( in Glasgow ), back then, meant playing truant. My reputation is bad enough without adding to it.
It was a no brainer, there was no way I was going to school, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate and if truth be told, dogging it, was a regular occurrence, my school was a typically rough inner city Glasgow school, where the teachers actually told you how to avoid your parent(s) being told that you weren’t turning up. It was one less pupil for them to worry about.
My day dragged in, but I read old Celtic programmes to pass the time, no DVDs in those days and day dreamed about scoring the winner against Rangers, one day, I still do that to this day.
The next decision was how to get to the game. There was a Glasgow Corporation bus strike that day, there was still a couple of options open to me and my friend John, but we decided we would take the train from Nitshill to Glasgow Central and then walk to Parkhead.
That doesn’t seem a big deal, but if you were brought up in a scheme,you will know going from Priesthill to Nitshill was going into enemy territory, so it wasn’t just Rangers fans we would have to worry about. The Nitzy boys would kill us for daring to go into their territory.
If anyone is wondering about me going to the game without an adult, again, it was a different world back then, my mum and Dad didn’t bother, I had been going myself since 1976.
We made sure we got on a train when the works were coming out, no chance any gang would challenge us when it was so busy.
Everything went to plan, on the way there, and we arrived long before kick off and picked our spot in the jungle, once the gates opened.
The atmosphere was electric and soon kick off approached.
Celtic went for it, right from the start, and my memory tells me, we were all over them and then the usual happened, rope a dope, they ran up and scored with their first attack, we battered them for the rest of the half but couldn’t break them down. Half time Celtic 0 Rangers 1.
Although, we were losing at half time, the Celtic fans were still full of hope, it was only a matter of time, surely, or was that just me, thinking that as a naive 15 year old.
The second half started and the Celtic fans roared on their team. Ten minutes or so into the second half, disaster, Johnny Doyle, right in front of the ref and us, had a kick at Alex McDonald, as he lay on the ground, it was inevitable he would be ordered off, incidentally no red cards in those days, they hadn’t been introduced to Scottish football yet. The ref would just point to the tunnel.
There was certainly loads of grumblings from the Celtic support now, losing 1.0 and down to ten men and only about 35 minutes to play. It wasn’t looking good, but once again that Celtic fairytale stuff would come into play.
It was Big Roy Aitken who stood up to the plate, Roy had been having a stormer of a game, but he now seemed to take on super powers. He,was everywhere and made up for us being a man short.
He equalised with about 25 minutes to go, we might have been down to ten men but we were hammering Rangers, could we get what we thought would be a winner?
15 minutes to go, again Roy was involved, his shot was blocked but George McCluskey reacted first to score, we erupted 2.1 to Celtic, could we do it? We were still celebrating when Rangers equalised, I can still remember that sick to the the bottom of your stomach feeling,
when that goal went in, we had put so much effort into it and then lost the lead almost immediately, we were stunned,but only momentarily.
The Celtic support got behind the team and tried to roar them home, the players responded and gave everything, time was running out though, could we get a winner.
In the 85th minute it happened, Peter McCloy, the Rangers keeper, known as the Girvan lighthouse, had a moment, he decided to punch a cross away, but only managed to punch the ball against Colin Jackson’s head and it flew into the net, for an own goal, it took a second or two to register what had actually happened and then we erupted in a way I had never seen the Celtic support erupt before. The nerves then really took over, everyone was asking how long to go, no scoreboard with a clock to tell us, back then, the next 5 minutes were the longest ever for me, then unbelievably it happened Murdo McLeod, rifled one into the top corner from 20 yards, we were the champions, the feelings of joy and relief, as one, I can still taste them to this day.
The celebrations were incredible, we are the champions, we are the champ, we are the champions, was the song of the evening, followed by YNWA., then the players came out for a lap of honour. What a game, what an evening. What utter joy.
We still had to get home though!!! back to Glasgow Central no problem, singing all the way with the fans, 10 men won the league tra la,la la to the tune of Boney M., Brown girl in the ring.
On the train, again no problem, the last part though, we still had to get off at Nitshill and get safely to Priesthill, as we feared, when we got off the train, the gang were on the bridge at the top of the stairs, we would have no chance against them, the only thing we could do was run across the railway line and climb over a barbed wire fence, thankfully no electric line in those days, well certainly not where we lived. We made it to safety, but not before I ripped my trousers and cut the palms of my hands on the barbed wire. I didn’t care though, I was high as a kite, it would be the next morning before I felt the pain in my hands.
Celtic had won the league and had dramatically beaten our biggest rivals to do so. This was truly the stuff of dreams.