The Lost Ten-Part One
Celtic FC,our much-loved football club,the source of so much joy and angst during our lives,the means of meeting up with like-minded people to take our minds off the rest of life for a few fleeting hours. We have just finished our eight successive title-winning campaign,and about to embark on a mission to equal the record set under Jock Stein in the 60s and 70s.
That mythical Nine in a Row,with maybe even another one to follow? That would be a new record,and Celtic are good at making and breaking records.
But in my opinion,we had a bloody great chance to beat that record already,and not long after we had set it. From 1978 till 1988,we won five titles out of the ten available. It is my contention that we threw the other five away.
It is currently “the close season” so I’ll be posting these every few days,a series on Our Lost Ten. Now,it was thirty and forty years ago,so I’m sure there will be some factual errors in the series. I’m happy for you to correct me,and I’m also more than happy to post any opinions which conflict with mine. It’s a well-known fact that if you put ten Celtic fans in a pub,you’ll get eleven opinions.
For those of you who remember Jimmy Sanderson doing the original Radio Clyde phone-ins,and his trademark question-Were you at the game,caller?-I’d be really interested to read your recollection of events too.
We will start-obviously!-in season 78/79,but with a bit of background first. Jock Stein had just guided us to a marvellous double season,he had given us a rock at the back in Pat Stanton and was slowly introducing youngsters like Roy Aitken,Tommy Burns and George McCluskey. He had stalwarts like Johannes Edvaldsson,Ronnie Glavin,Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain. New signings like Alfie Conn and Joe Craig justified their fees as we narrowly missed out on a treble in Jock’s first full season after his near fatal car crash.
if you’ll pardon the pun,the wheels came off the following season. The departure of Dalglish and the pathetic attempts to replace him with a reserve from Fulham,John Dowie,and Tom McAdam from Dundee United were the first signs that we might struggle. Losing the peerless Pat Stanton to a career-ending knee injury and Danny McGrain to diabetes and a heel injury were bad enough. To see the rest of the team gradually being worn down by injury,suspensions and an understandable loss of confidence was soul destroying. I’ll gloss over some of the other signings to save embarrassing their families.
On the Monday before a visit to Easter Road in April,we were so short of bodies that we signed a 20yo from Port Glasgow Juniors-and played him on the Saturday! In fairness,he was our best player as we lost 4-1,and Mike Conroy proved to be a dependable player for a number of seasons. Tom McAdam got a blatant boot in the baws from the Hibs goalkeeper that day,but nothing was done.
The support knew how he felt. We had been getting them all season.
Desmond White finally had an excuse to fire Jock out of the door,and he took it with glee and accompanying malice. How do you replace a club legend? Well,another legend might help-and in strolled Billy McNeil to take the chair. But how could he turn round a team for whom relegation was at one time the previous season a genuine possibility,especially with a notoriously parsimonious board and a squad which had been ravaged so recently? The huns were in their element,Aberdeen were hot on their tails-Billy had taken them close in 77/78,his only season there,and now had Alex Ferguson in charge. People were starting to take note too of Dundee United.
Incredibly,the board allowed a manager to spend six figures for the first time,a sum denied to Jock on a number of occasions. In came Davie Provan from Kilmarnock,who I remembered for absolutely roasting our defence when they knocked us out of the cup in a replay the previous season. Roy Aitken was sent off for one attempt too many at stopping him,so that would have been a fun reunion! Joining him were Murdo McLeod from Dumbarton and Dom Sullivan from Aberdeen,neither of whom had previously impressed me much. We lost Paul Wilson and Joe Craig,too early in my opinion,and were hopeful but not overly optimistic.
That was a pretty accurate view of how events turned out in our first half of the season,with W7,D5,L6 giving us 19 points from 18 games. It looked like being a rare humdrum season,free from the opposing dramas of the previous two.
Until Mother Nature took a hand.
The Saturday before Christmas saw us lose at Cappielow and there was little festive cheer around but we didn’t know we would have to wait ten weeks for another league game!
The big freeze that winter saw us play only two cup matches before resuming our campaign at the start of March with a league victory at Pittodrie. The following two games were against the same team,drawing away then losing at home as our Scottish Cup dreams were over for another year. We could at least concentrate on the league,but that seemed a forlorn hope. And we had 17 games to cram into around two months!
Our next game against the huns wasn’t until 5th of May and we had taken an impressive 19 points out of the 24 available-a win would make us favourites. A defeat,with games running out,would hand the initiative back to them-and that’s how it proved. 1-0,with the usual attempt by Alex McDonald,in off the corner flag and the referee’s arse. God,he was an expert at those shots. But we can still do it,can’t we? Can we win our last four games?
Well,we won our next three and 16 days after our Ibrox defeat we played our fifth game in that short period,against the huns at Celtic Park. Our final game of the season,and we ONLY had to win it to ensure that the flag would be flying above The Jungle once again. The huns though had one more match to play,and a draw would probably do them-as it turns out,I think they lost that anyway,2-1 to Hibs.
THETWENTYFIRSTOFMAYNINETEENSEVENTYNINE and no-one who was there will ever forget it,how the fates conspired against us by twice going behind and losing a player to a red card. But I’ll open the floor to any of our posters to give us your recollection of that Monday night,another night when legends were made!
Mail it to Mahe and we will post your thoughts on that glorious night as Article of the Day on Monday.
Otherwise you’ll just have to read about how Colin Jackson scored my favourite ever Celtic goal-again!
Above article by BMCUWP.