The Lost Ten – Part 10
Today concludes our series on a run of ten seasons from 1978-88 which should have seen us win our first Ten In A Row. Of course,we were our own worst enemies during this period and somehow contrived to throw half of them away. 86-87 was probably the worst of them,allowing the huns to overturn an eleven point lead at the halfway stage and turn it into a six point advantage at the end.
But here at Sentinel Celts,we believe that a long-running series should have a happy ending. This isn’t Game of Thrones-this is The Centenary Season!
The Celtic support was really down in the dumps that summer. The previous season had been a sore one,and we faced a summer of upheaval. Davie Provan had to retire through illness,Danny McGrain was allowed to leave on a free transfer after twenty years when we should have been putting him on the coaching staff. On top of that,we had refuseniks over new contracts-four of them,in fact. Murdo would leave for Borussia Dortmund,Judas to Nantes,McInally to Aston Villa for combined fees of around £1m,but losing our diamond was the biggest blow.
Brian McClair,our top scorer during his four seasons,declared that he was leaving,for Man United. Few of us grudged him the move,we knew he and the others had been messed about with by the board. But joining up with Alex Ferguson,a man who had hardly endeared himself to the hoops fans over the years? Hmmm…
Ferguson endeared himself still further by offering a derisory £200,000 for a player who would become the first Man United player to score 20 league goals in a season. Ferguson knew how good McClair was,but he was prepared to play tribunal roulette to get him on the cheap. Which he did. We wanted £2m,and that was bloody cheap in my opinion! £850,000 was a disgraceful judgement. McClair had five great seasons leading the line at United,but saw his chances limited by the signings of first Cantona-which saw him drop into midfield-then Roy Keane. They still got eleven seasons,nearly 500 games and about 130 goals from him. Thieving bastards-Pat Nevin cost Everton more than that via the same system,and he wasn’t fit to lace McClairs drinks. Or even copy his homework.
So the rebuilding work had to be done,surely the board would have to get the chequebook out? David Hay finally got the solid no-nonsense centre half he had been crying out for when we signed Mick McCarthy for £500,000 from Manchester City. He then duly got the sack,with Billy McNeill brought back to manage in his place! Bloody hell,what a mess we were in,and it wasn’t even June yet.
The board were forced to prise the lid from the biscuit tin. We had lost six first pick players. Chris Morris was signed from Sheffield Wednesday reserves for £125,000-and boy,did he surprise us! Billy Stark,whom I’d long coveted being in The Hoops,joined for £100,000 from Aberdeen. Our surprise replacement for our three top strikers was Andy Walker at £350,000 from Motherwell-where he had hardly been impressive to this observer. Partner him with Mark McGhee,see how it goes.
Many of us thought we needed more than this if we were going to do our Centenary Season justice,and a 5-1 cuffing at home in a friendly with Arsenal didn’t improve the mood. Three successive league victories did,however. And a defeat at Dunfermline wasn’t going to dampen the spirits,not when we had the huns at home the following week.
What a bad-tempered display by that lot. Souness was sent off for a coward’s challenge on Billy Stark,who had lost his boot at the time,and Rangers lost their discipline entirely. Hell knows how it ended with only a 1-0 victory,but it would do.
We were back!
But we would only achieve draws in four of our next six games,and that included a highly controversial match at Ibrox. An early brawl in their box between MacAvennie and Woods saw them both sent off,while Butcher and Thug were also booked for giving their keeper hauners. They salvaged a draw in the last minute,and we thought-shit,that could come back to haunt us!
MacAvennie had only just signed for us a couple of weeks earlier as well. £750,000 well spent by the board,who seemed to finally realise that this was an important season. He was soon joined by teenage wonderkid Joe Miller,£650,000 from Aberdeen. Sadly,Celtic insisted on playing him as a winger,and I don’t think he realised his potential due to this fact. Although we still had a problem at left back-Derek White was capable enough,but he is a centre half-the team was starting to take shape.
And so we continued to build up momentum in the final few months of the season as we approached our 100th birthday. A defeat to Dundee United and a smattering of draws saw us achieve a commendable 23 points from 28 as we approached the hun game on 2nd January. Win it and we would go seven points clear,although they had a game in hand.
And win it we did,never any danger. Who can forget that turn and pass from McStay in the centre circle-wide to Morris,his first time cross and the sublime one touch finish from an onrushing MacAvennie? ATHINGOFBEAUTY indeed. We now dared to dream…
We STROLLED to the title after that. In fact,we only lost one match in the second half of the season,in April to Hearts. We didn’t grudge them that either,as we had mugged them at Hampden the week before in the semi-final of the cup. And it allowed them to leapfrog a collapsing Rangers into second place. We weren’t scoring as many goals as we were used to doing,but by ‘eck,that big Barnsley Irishman made sure we didn’t lose too many either. Our goals for and against read 79-23 over 44 games,and for me that tells you where the league was won. David Hay was right all along-we needed a big strong centre half to play alongside Roy Aitken,not over-promoted youth prospects. Who knows what we might have won if this had been dealt with earlier?
From that huns game till the end of the season,we took 30 points from 34. Thats championship-winning form anywhere you like. We finished ten points clear of Hearts in second place as we tied up a memorable title in our Centenary Season. From the depths of despair only a year ago,all the turmoil and departures over the summer,we had done it. We had actually done it!
And we had a Cup Final to come too. Could we achieve a legendary Centenary double? Well,as a better man than I has said…
Magical things happen at Celtic!
Above article by BMCUWP. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these as much as I’ve enjoyed writing half of them! Killed some time during the close season anyway… If you missed any of the previous nine articles,they are in the archives for June and July.
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