The Lost Ten-Part Two.
Continuing the story of how we had a chance to win Ten In A Row in the eighties-but probably didn’t realise it-we resume with the 1979/80 season.
And what a season it was. Possibly our worst in terms of throwing it away,snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of winning our second successive title,we gifted it to Aberdeen-confirming the arrival of Alex Ferguson as a manager of potential and of his team as a threat. And so it remained for the next six years.
Would he or his team have had that same self-belief if we had strangled it at birth that year? I doubt it,but we will never know. Another sliding doors moment.
We started the season brightly enough though. Once again,the board had declined to build from strength as we were largely unchanged from the previous season and while it left us a little light up front we looked strong elsewhere. And we were a confident lot after the heroics of the previous May. We didn’t,in fact,lose a match until the middle of October and the fact that it was to our nearest challengers didn’t faze us one bit. It was Morton,and they couldn’t maintain a challenge,could they?
As it turns out,they couldn’t. After the first Saturday of the New Year,they were still our nearest challengers,a mere two points behind. But we were eight points clear of the huns and St Mirren with the rest nowhere. At two points for a win,we were cruising.
Right? Well,yes. But it would be two months before we won another game in the league and suddenly it didn’t look so rosy in the garden. But while we were dropping points,so was everyone else and we still looked on course. Eyes on the prize,lads. That’s the ticket.
Two wins and two draws in March had us a bit nervous. That’s three wins and six draws in 1980 to the end of March,not title-winning stuff but we were still well ahead. The third of those wins came against Hibs,and it was the only time George Best played at Celtic Park. Frankly he looked as though he was still the worse for wear after a certain night in Detroit the previous June with COSYCORNERBHOY. Still head and shoulders above his team mates though. We would take five off them in the semi-final of the cup two weeks later too. I wish we could have played them every week.
But we couldn’t. As well as the semi,we had eight league matches in April-and the first Saturday match could virtually clinch us the title. Win at home against Aberdeen and we would be nine points clear with only sixteen points available to them. And the crowd knew it. A midweek victory over the huns had set us up for this and it was game on. We turned up in droves to welcome the spring sunshine,indeed there were so many of us that the game was delayed for ten minutes and Des White stopped counting after 40,000. The crowd stopped counting our chickens too when Aberdeen,who were turning into a bogey team for us,took the lead. Fortunately it didn’t last too long to equalise as a header from big Roddy hit Johnny Doyle on the way in. Half time and honours even,and we were looking to be the better side even if Aberdeen were a danger on the break,not helped by us losing Tom McAdam to injury after five minutes of the match. Ten minutes into the second half and that break proved vital,Mark McGhee firing home a loose ball.
We gathered our resources and hammered them for the next fifteen minutes or so,and that supreme effort paid off with twenty minutes to go when we were awarded a penalty. Bobby Lennox stepped up to take it,and much as I love him,he made a complete arse of it. Bobby Clark in goal could have nipped out for a pie and still got down to save it. I doubt Bobby has ever hit a ball so poorly,and the fight seemed to go out of us all at that moment. With the game ending 1-2,we were now five points clear with seven to play-and Aberdeen had a game in hand.
Worse was to come on the Wednesday night when a second half shocker saw us fall to pieces at Tannadice,Dundee United handing us our biggest defeat of the season. So far,that is! 3-0 and lucky to get nil.
We got back on track against Hibs in the cup,and they did us proud the following Wednesday by recovering to draw against Aberdeen. But they still looked favourites for the drop along with Dundee. That will be the same Dundee we were due to face the coming Saturday. And it surely can’t be as bad as our trip to their neighbours. It wasn’t. It was worse. Five bloody one against the worst team in the league,ffs. We were in trouble.
Off we went to Pittodrie hoping to protect or add to our two point cushion at the top. Well,Aberdeen weren’t in the mood for that. They were in the mood for a fight,ably abetted by a lenient referee. But that is not to excuse an abject performance where we lost 3-1 and saw Aberdeen go above us on goal difference. Potentially nine points clear only a fortnight beforehand,we were now in second place. Truly the wheels had come off,but it couldn’t get any worse and there were still three games to go. We had to win them all and hope that Aberdeen might slip up. Victories against Partick Thistle and Dundee gave us hope going into the final match against St Mirren. A win by five goals while Aberdeen drew and the title was ours. In fact,it was Aberdeen who won by five while we could only draw 0-0. Aberdeen were gifted a title which we should have all but wrapped up in April,if not earlier. Seasonal stats of W18,D11,L7 and goals of 61-38 showed that we lacked bite all over the field. Aberdeen had shown that they had it,and we would face a struggle to regain our trophy. The early season light had gone out,but tomorrow is another day,and there’s always hope.
There’s always next season!
Above article by BMCUWP. Get your thoughts highlighted as Article of the Day. Mail it to Mahe at