Today sees the welcome return of MIKE,with another tale of his wee pal,Jimmy Cricket. Oh,and a few others who will need no introduction.
Jimmy Cricket, my uncivil partner, woke up last night bathed in sweat, he thought that he had a hole in his heart, but it was only a polo-mint stuck inside his P.J’s top pocket.
I’m always asked by friends “how did you meet Jimmy” well it wasn’t at Butlins Minehead where he sometimes worked at weekends, nor was it at his “Mammy’s” house in west Belfast.
No, it was at the football, where he played left back for his local team “Ballygobackwards”, while I was playing for my team, “Gala Fairy-dean” for whom I played as a right winger, (is it o.k. to say right winger on here)? I do not “walk” anymore, now its just a leisurely stroll.
Jimmy wasn’t good at football, when we played against each other he kept tripping over his feet, it wasn’t till the match was over that we found out he had his wellies on the wrong feet. After the game we had a laugh about it, shared a few beers, enjoyed ourselves and discovered that we both shared a love for Celtic. Friends called us the “Lego couple” as we just sort of clicked together. Later, on another date we started discussing past Celtic managers, the heroes, the villains and the unusual, and one name stood out in the unusual category, Doctor Jozef Venglos.
Doctor Jo, was Czechoslovakian (easy for you to say) who had a successful football career playing in midfield and captaining Sloven Bratislava. He was also a Czech “B” International,but unfortunately his playing career was cut short when he contracted hepatitis. Doctor Jo achieved his Doctorate in P.E. and Psychology, which should be mandatory for football managers. Doctor Jo then began a long world wide journey coaching in Australia, Portugal, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Turkey, Oman, the list is long and varied.
This highly intelligent coach had been selected often to coach at FIFA Academies world wide. He was the first manager born outside Britain and Ireland to take charge of a top division club in England, Aston Villa. He also managed many International teams before he arrived at Paradise to manage the best team on Earth. He joined Celtic in July 1998, reading his well travelled resume, you begin to understand why he was appointed the Celtic manager, a club with a reputation for appointing managers from left of field.
Results matter in football especially in Scotland-by not winning the Scottish league that meant that Doctor Jo would continue his travels at the seasons end, but what was his legacy? Well that is an easy question to answer, his legacy appeared shortly after he did, a Celtic player who would go on to become a legend, one L’ubomir Moravcik’.
Who could possibly forget his Celtic park introduction, this “little known” Slovak who “lit up Celtic park”, with seventy four Czechoslovakia and Slovakia caps,but was very much derided in Scotland as an “embarrassment” by the Scottish press. He thundered onto the football stage, turned in a sublime performance, scoring two goals beside another double scoring Celtic Icon, one Henrik Larsson. A straight right hook to the Scottish press as the Celtic turned in a brilliant performance against our nearest competition as Celtic won 5-1. L’ubomir Moravcik,a player of resolute two footed skill forced his way into our hearts and has remained there ever since.
A wee story, one day on a tour of Celtic park, pulling up in my car, I spotted the players returning from Barrowfield. I rushed over, pushed the players aside, to get to my hero, one Daniel Fergus McGrain. He autographed my diary as did Henke and Lubo. LOL, Danny was more than chuffed, but not as much as I was.
Later that day I met in the stadium big Johan Mjallby, his first signing day for Celtic. “I want a leader and got one with Johan” said Doctor Jozef, add Vidar Riseth to his signings and the disappeared later to emerge, Marko Viduka. Many would say that Doctor Jo. was instrumental in converting Henke to his free running striking role, rather than Wim Jansen. 5-1 against the Huns, 5-1 over the Dandies, 7-1 halleluja over the “Well” was other notable Venglos victories, but ultimately not enough to save his job. Doctor Jozef Venglos grew to love the Celtic and we cannot thank him enough for giving us his legacy, this humble quiet spoken man. We thank you and we remember what wee Fergus said, “out of all the Celtic managers, he was my most favoured.” He, Fergus was not easy to please…
Footnote: Jimmy Cricket is a Papal Knight, appointed by Pope Francis, the only Papal Knight from Ballygobackwards. Does that make me a Dame, cos, there is nothing like a Dame, nothing more insane, than a man pretending to be a Dame. ? <9 IAR.
Utter madness as usual from MIKE,but as is always the case with madness,the blinding clarity is seldom far away! Grateful thanks for another excellent article,mate. We always publish the contributions offered by our members. It can be your turn for Article of the Day,just mail it to Mahe