Henry,Henry,drop the ball!
Morning,all. My next two trips down Memory Lane will take us back to our glorious Centenary Season. For once,ATHINGOFBEAUTY can’t complain,as she was at both matches!
1987-88,and it had all started so badly,carrying on from where we left off the previous season. At New Year,1987,we were about a dozen points in front of Souness’s expensively assembled squad. By the end of that season,we had lost the league by six points.
We also lost our manager,David Hay,sacked in a most unbecoming manner,and some of our best players. Brian McClair,who had scored over forty goals that season,left to join Manchester United in an act of banditry from a previously honourable club;Judas buggered off to France to run up a tax bill;Alan McInally became a Bayern Munich legend in his own mind,via Aston Villa;Murdo McLeod joined Borussia Dortmund. I bore none of these players any ill-will for their decisions,it’s a short career,but our future did not look good.
Additionally,of course,we had also lost Danny McGrain,and one of the first things our returning manager,Billy McNeil,did was to replace him with a Sheffield Wednesday reserve player. Welcome aboard,Chris Morris. And also the Yorkshire Oak of Mick McCarthy,both English-born but who would represent Republic of Ireland with distinction. Up front,we brought in the free-scoring Frank MacAvennie from West Ham,and a young Andy Walker from Motherwell.
I confess to be less than enthused by the latter especially,he had scored about twenty goals in around 100 games at Motherwell,and was much more enthusiastic about the replacement for McLeod-Billy Stark! Although Billy was in his early thirties,he was a player I had long rated,and I was delighted.
My enthusiasm lasted as long as it took for Arsenal to hammer us 5-1 at home in a friendly,and we looked like we were in for a long season. And we were-a long season of joy!
By the time we rolled up at Hampden,we were championship leaders by a margin,and on the back of a thirty-game unbeaten domestic run. We were on a roll,and surely we could continue to an historic Centenary Season double? It was a beautiful sunny day,perfect for beautiful sunny football-but the first half was dreich! I think the BBC highlights programme consisted of Archie announcing the teams and then going straight to the second half!!!
If I’m honest,the quality didn’t improve much-but the drama did. Celtic had a few half-chances,the pick being Frankie one on one with Henry Smith in the Hearts goal,but a heavy first touch saw that come to naught. Hearts then won a succession of corners,before the ball broke to Whittaker-one of a number of former or future Celts playing for Hearts-about 25 yards out. He gave it a hopeful punt towards goal,McPherson alone anticipated it-and jumped into our goalkeeper! Clear foul,even if Bonner did crap out of it.
1-0,goal given. What a surprise. And it stayed that way,even with only a couple of minutes left. But Celtic were becoming notorious that season for late escapes,and neither the fans nor the players were for chucking this one. In between times,Walker had missed a sitter from six yards,and Frankie had somehow headed over from under the crossbar,and Hearts looked happy to see out time. But if it’s possible to roll up short-sleeved jerseys,that’s what our Bhoys did.
Time was indeed marching,only two minutes left on the clock,when Tommy Burns swung in a corner from the right,to around the penalty spot. Smith came for it-and fumbled it! It dropped loose to Roy Aitken,then to Mark McGhee,who somehow scrambled the ball through the forest of legs in front of him for the equaliser.
The fans clamoured for more,and Celtic were eager to provide a happy ending. Stark took a short throw from the right to MacAvennie,who gave it an up and under,coming down about a yard out,underneath the bar. Toffee for the keeper-who promptly fumbled it again,straight to the foot of Andy Walker,who couldn’t miss. And didn’t!
There was barely time to restart the game after that,though Hearts looked so dejected that it was game over,regardless. They would get revenge after a fashion the following week by ending our unbeaten run-our first defeat since October!-but this was our day. As far as Memorable Matches go,it was far from a classic. As far as Important Matches go,it was everything and more.
Tomorrow is another day,and frankly I didn’t give a damn about who we played in the final. Our name was on the trophy-wasn’t it? Another tale for another day,and another chapter in the glorious history of Celtic FC…
Above by majoc. If you have any tales of heroism and valour,share them with us by mailing MAHE at