The Lost Ten – Part 9
Continuing our little tale of nostalgia from the eighties,a period which should have seen us win TEN IN A ROW but saw us throw five of those titles away. So far,the score is four each,with us throwing two titles in the bin in late summer and two in the spring. We faces a new challenge this time,one we hadn’t seen for a while. Rangers.
They had signed Graeme Souness as player manager towards the end of the previous season,and he had been busy. He signed England’s World Cup captain from Ipswich and the excellent Chris Woods in goal for a combined £1.4m. He would also sign Graham Thug from Spurs for £500,000 as well as £200,000 on Mo Judas’ old forward partner at Watford,Colin West. Jan Bartraam and Jimmy Nicholl filled the full back positions for another half a mill or so,with a few minor players making up the numbers.
Celtic,of course,rested on their laurels,relying on our youth team to freshen up the squad. The latest regular additions were the very talented Tony Shepperd and Owen Archdeacon,as well as Paul McGugan,with Derek White continuing to impress most of the time at the back.
We started this campaign,the one which should have been our ninth successive title,as Champions. And boy,did we play like Champions as we fired out of the traps! Hell,we even went down to Highbury and cuffed them 2-0 in their ain midden,a nice wee testimonial treat for David O’Leary. Six points from our first three matches led us in to an early meeting with Aberdeen,and with some confidence too. It was some game,real end-to-end stuff,but in the end we needed an equaliser from Murdo McLeod to hold onto a point.
Our next game was at Ibrox. Live on the telly anaw,I think. Rangers were already three points behind us,having lost to Dundee United and Hibs. They had even needed a penalty-quelle surprise!-to beat Falkirk. They needed this,but we could surely nail the lid on their season with a victory,couldn’t we? Stop the “Souness Revolution” dead in its tracks?
Well,we had our chance and we blew it. Played like coos. When we needed to be right up for it,we decided to stay at home. Two teenagers ruled the roost in midfield and Kevin McMinn-I mean,ffs!!!-destroyed our defence. 1-0 to them didn’t do them justice,to be fair. And our team certainly didn’t do justice to the fans.
Turn up and hammer them,five points behind after five games. How difficult is that?!!!
Give the players their dues,they responded in style,and free-scoring style at that. We played sixteen league games through September,October,November. We took 29 points from the 32 available. Annoyingly,our three dropped points were in draws against our challengers-Aberdeen,Dundee United and Rangers. Two points dropped each time,if you see what I mean. Each game was a four-pointer,and we weren’t being ruthless enough on those occasions.
But we entered December with 36 points from 42,with the next game the halfway mark of the season. More to the point,we were an astonishing ELEVEN points clear of the huns,and questions were being asked of Rangers. Particularly about their lack of discipline,not just their poor results. Their new striker too had only scored once,so really it was a good time to be a Tim. And about as good as it got.
Stories had been leaking for some time that all was not well in the dressing room,nor between the manager and the board. In fairness,Davie Hay was pretty blameless in this-the dispute was between the players and the board,but both were hiding behind him while targeting him. The board were refusing to cough up for new blood-this would be Danny McGrain’s last season,for instance,and I wish he had retired on the high of Love Street. Of course,we all loved Danny and wished for one last hurrah from one of our greats. He deserved that.
We couldn’t find a decent left back for love nor money-and if we could,the board weren’t having any of it. Derek White was still a bit raw at times alongside Roy Aitken,and needed a wee respite on occasion. The only time he got it was at left back,or playing alongside the even rawer Paul McGugan! And our midfield was starting to show signs of wear and tear over the years with Davie Provan in particular a regular absentee. Little were we to know how serious that would turn out to be.
Plus,we had contractual problems. Judas,McClair,McLeod were all out of contract at the end of the season and negotiations were not going well. Alan McInally too was coming to the end of his contract,though he was being a bit quieter about his situation.
The board in their wisdom told Hay to announce to the world that all contract negotiations were discontinued until the end of the season. Way to go,eh? That’ll show them. Our dinosaurs didn’t have a clue about the modern era,and what Freedom of Contract meant. The fans did. We knew we were about to lose our two best strikers and an able deputy,as well as a formidable presence for eight seasons in our midfield.
The players reacted as anyone would when your employer messes with your head. Concentration gone,we proceeded to take seven points from our next eight games over the festive season. Costly defeats to the huns and the Arabs as well as one to Hearts. Our lead was being swiftly eroded.
A victory over Falkirk on the last Saturday in January saw us maintain our lead over TFOD. We were now thirty games into the season,so let’s have a look at the scores on the doors. Less than two months previously,the end of November,we stood eleven points clear of the huns.
By the end of January,it was down to ONE point! And three more dropped points in only three matches in February saw them overtake us at the top. The huns were on a roll,they were winning every week. We were in a barrel roll and heading for a tailspin. Between the end of November and the end of March,they racked up 35 points from 38 in an unbeaten run-which took them to Celtic Park on the first Saturday in April.
They went into it with 60 points from 38 games. We went into it as underdogs!
We had 56 points from 38 games. Win it,there’s only two points in it. But while we had taken only 20 points from our heady heights of seventeen games previously,they had rattled them up like a pinball machine.
The bookies and everyone else got this wrong as a bad-tempered match saw us batter them into submission. Brian McClair scored two penalties-not really a Valentine gift as they were stonewallers which would have seen the huns down to nine men nowadays. Eight,if you include the one that Graham Thug pulled on Alan McInally.
Two points,five games. Could we do it? We all looked feverishly through our Wee Red Book for the upcoming fixtures. They’re away to Aberdeen but their only other potential banana skin is home to Hearts. Ours were a similar degree of difficulty. It was time for the famous Billy Connolly clarion call
“Miracles ya mug,ye!!!”
We didn’t get them. In fact,we played out our final five games much as we had done the rest of that second half of the season. Five points while the huns took nine. They won the league by six points having been eleven behind at halfway. We had garnered a lousy 24 points from our last 23 games,they had taken 40.
We had wounds to lick and a summer in which to do it. We were about to lose Danny McGrain and Davie Provan to retirement as well as Murdo and our top three strikers. And we had a Centenary Season to celebrate. It sure didn’t look like we would be doing much of that.
Above article by BMCUWP. As you all know,we are always looking for articles from you guys and gals. We always publish them as Article of the Day. Fancy a go? Trust me,get the first one out of the way and you’ll have blisters on your fingertips as you fire out your next articles by the barrowload!
Mail it to Mahe.