He leaned forward and fell, and with that one single motion every single Celtic fan on Gods green and white earth erupted,, knowing right then that the battle had pivoted, momentum was now with us.
Knowing that what looked like determined future Champions only a couple months ago had not only been caught up to but conquered.
And knowing once again that we were special , truly special.
Lets rewind to the start though.
It was destined to be a cracker no matter what. The two giants of the domestic game had two giants of the domestic game at the helm, with the one considered the more wily of the two out to smash his rivals chances of an embarrassing to the nation treble of title’s.
And as was his way he had spent a few quid plus had the refs quivering at even the hint of an eyebrow raising. You wont need me to tell you the hacks drooled over this elder statesman’s every words , including ‘an air of Protestant superiority about the place’.
Our own wee ginger leader was fiery as a player and manager, and was Martin’s ‘Chosen One’ that actually did work out as opposed to Fergie’s ex hoop.
Not a Tim he had earned respect with two titles, and would face his biggest test at the helm.
A proper clash of the Titans began on August 5th 2007.
Regards our team itself at the time one need only look at the overall appearances to get the bigger picture. Certain key players played if fit full stop with Gordon clearly being a believer that stability trump’s chopping and changing.
The central defence pairing of Heid and Mick played 51 and 53 games respectively, a true double act indeed that were just bound to notice each others little habits and adjust.
Also around the 50 appearances mark were Boruc, Naylor, Aiden, Big Jan, Skoosh, and Skippy which tells us we had a very settled spine, and it had worked so far.
The mercurial Naka would grace the Hoops 36 times that campaign showing he was near enough a shoe in to be on the team sheet.
Our rivals had assembled a warchest though, and had some names of their own. Our own domestic defensive duo were easily beaten on paper by ex EPL stars Christian Dailly and Davy Weir backed up by former Villa star Ugo Ehiogu and future Villa star Cuellar, and behind them former Man United keeper Roy Caroll or a youthful McGregor.
Upfront seen the man mountain Cousin who would head south soon and so would their captain Ferguson, with other notable names in the squad like Adam, Buffel , Novo, Sebo, Hutton, Naismith.
Walter had assembled a formidable motley crew with a mixture of talents who would head all the way to a European final which is no easy feat, and on August 5th if pinned down for an answer I have no doubt he would have fancied his odds at another title for the legacy.
By years end we sat top of the table. This despite losing the first derby game of the season as Cousin bullied our defence, but both teams had lost three games each at this point and it was still all very much to play for. However the Christmas, New Year period of that year will always be remembered for the tragic loss of our ex player Phil O’Donnell. As a result we seen some game cancellations whilst the sport paid its respect to an round great guy and someone who may well have went on to find himself in the dugout one day. He was very well regarded and remains a loss to all.
When battle recommenced we slowly seen ourselves fall behind to Walter team that just did not lose by Hook or by Crook. Starting end of December they went on a 13 game winning streak to see it end with a 3 all draw, stuff of Champions in any language Im sure you would admit. No one can live with that form. The March derby game had seen Artur exposed ruthlessly by Kevin Thompson with a grasscutter under him knowing his legs would be open, and our Pole in the goal even helped by jumping off the ground. It looked terrible.
The title looked a given for them heading into the Tannadice tie on the 6th of April that would halt their progress, and the footballing Gods had aligned to hand them the chance to finish this once and for all with a rare double Old Firm clash only 11 days apart,a Setanta Sports dream, and the publicans Christmas come early.
The running sideshow to this domestic tussle was both teams form on the continent. Both teams were performing well and stacking up a respectable list of scalps despite being in an unfashionable backwater.
Spartak Moscow , Ac Milan , Benfica , Shakhtar Donetsk, Red Star Belgrade, Lyon, Vfb Stuttgart, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina all walked out of Glasgow beaten that season.
We went out by a single goal to Barcelona twice while our rivals succumbed to Russians by two in the final. Both clubs managers clearly had something between them, and could get it to translate over when playing continental sides, knowing that a formation can make a team better than the sum of its parts.
This European sideshow only seemed to enhance the league’s drama though rather than detract from it, as if showing there was practically nothing between the sides, and also throwing the tiredness excuse out the window when both are in the same boat.
The build up and anticipation of the double header was fierce. We sat four points behind though they had two games in hand. On their recent form that was a ten point gap, more than a Walter team needed when allied with the masons in black, but the elephant in the room was the double header.
All he had to do was navigate these two ties and he was as good as at one of his homes with his slippers on, celebratory whisky, cuban and smile, cheeky wee congrats phone calls from other global elders of the game etc.
He had beaten us soundly twice, it should have been straight forward enough even though he had the harder game sandwiched between the two ties, a home semi final to Bremen.
Realistically he needed one game to go his way, and with the tough Germans up next should have went all in to win the first tie and that would be all she wrote as far as the league goes.
An opening win or draw to sap some spirit away before the decider would have been ideal in hindsight. Having only lost 7 of 38 previous encounters upto this point, the smart money would have went on the wily old fox.
The two ties themselves will live forever, and long in my memory, but to this young man it was the first tie that was going to set the tone, that would determine the fate of our title, THE GAME WE MUST WIN !
We didnt have our fate in our hands and yes we would be relying on others, a situation we had had bad memories of since the Pars shamefully lay down on Black Sunday aka Helicopter Sunday. But if the stars aligned , to have them leave beaten with a bloody nose could see another knockout next week, and if that happened they really would start to feel the pressure Walter or not.
Throw in their European run that while successful on paper was earning them the dreaded airmiles, high profile criticism of their style of play from quarters beyond Jabba’s control (their worst nightmare), and there was potential for derailing.
It all depended on that first tussle, it all boiled down to 90 minutes.
Too often in the past we had seen these games made a battle, the ref taking centre stage in a maelstrom of fury and passion minus quality football, fans baying for blood at every tackle, our edge negated by dark arts.
Or we played them off the park and deserved to win and walked away with nothing more than bitter memories and barely disguised glee from so called impartial media personalities.
This time we just needed to win at all costs. Do or die.
Gordon had three days and a 4-1 victory over Motherwell going into the game but the big news was that our Captain was out. As harsh as it sounds , the majority were glad. I had watched Evander Sno shine like a beacon against AC Milan and gave it the famous we’ve stolen a march here speech to the dazzled mates. He looked like the future to me after watching Scott and Donati fail to blend yet never really get benched, just persisted with for instance Donati played 41 games in this campaign of course in the middle with our Captain.
Whether it was his domestic issue with an ill sister, weight of expectation, just simply finding his feet, or just the wrong partner ala Massimo, not many had yet been convinced by him and personally I would have flogged him and that Italian, writing them off as unsuitable for our club no matter how much dig or talent.
Im delighted to be proved wrong for the record, and I dread to think Scott wont get the proper send off he deserves due to this bloody virus but thats for another day perhaps.
But he was out of the big game full stop and the veteran domestic duo of Hartley and Robson were given the central starting berths. Hinkel instead of Wilson at right back and the rest of team virtually wrote itself as mentioned before.
Whatever WGS said in that dressing room pre game it worked, by God it worked. The game itself had it all,, one of Naka’s top five highlight reel spectaculars allied with that delighted schoolboy smile,,arguably big Jans most important goal scored in such a fashion,,a sending off,,a missed penalty,, opposing international teammates coming to blows,,and much more.
It started at blistering pace with a Barry Robson challenge laying down the gauntlet just 15 seconds in and is all action from then on.
Im delighted the full game is available for us all to enjoy and relive, and if you have a spare 90 and your ticker can take it, you wont regret it.
I recall entering the final phase at a goal each, knowing it probably wouldn’t be enough but thinking I’m so proud of my bhoys they really showed up today. That is epitomized by still going on to win after missing a penalty, ill struck and saved by that cretin of a keeper who is ironically still losing to us today, but he’s even more wound up and uglier. The midfield duo were fantastic and not what the opposition fancied playing against at all, and the little and large partnership upfront produced the goods, as they were often prone to.
It was a great platform to build on for the next game, it was the bloody nose they so badly needed to convince them we were very up for a title scrap and weren’t bottling this.
It was exactly what they didn’t need when coupled with Europe and still a domestic cup final to fit in somewhere.
That whirlwind of a season would go on to provide us with more significant talking points.
We would go onto to win that next game, going ahead in the league once again, making the fairytale reality of coming back from ten points down against a Walter team, something that just did not happen full stop. However we would go on to lose something much more precious than three points soon. Unfortunately the season is also synonymous with losing the one and only Tommy Burns just before the end. Phil and then Tommy could have gave the players an excuse to take if they wanted it but somehow, just as he would have liked, Tommy’s passing seemed to galvanise the entire club and fanbase, and gave a sense of direction that this one would be won just as he would wish, so we must and will win it in honour of him.
There was no sense whatsoever that there would be any let up in defending our title, the opposite if anything.
It was a fresh reason why this particular title was so very important , and would be so very sweet.
With the campaign still alive on the final day the nations sports fans once again seen a helicopter on standby, with every Tim still nervous. It was a tight second half when a sudden massive cheer burst through the Celtic faithful who had packed Tannadice in anticipation. All of us dared to dream but couldn’t fully let go yet. When big Jan hit the back of the net soon after the excitement could barely be contained. A huge second cheer from the mostly Tim crowd needed no explanation, the bird was on the way to Dundee !
The release of feelings as a result will be personal of course, but the camera panned to the fresh CHAMPIONS! who had been grabbed into a huddle by the gaffer, and you could literally see the tears as he pointed above and clearly tells them Tommy is watching, thats for him !
Everyone of us felt the same way, that Phil and Tommy were thus sent off fittingly and properly, their names and that title intertwined for eternity.
Did our rivals show this fabled dignity in defeat?
Colour me surprised the governing bodies got it in the neck, with a certain Mr Mc Coist labelling them an embarrassment and a disgrace for making them play 8 games in 18 days as a result of fixture pile up. He’s still complaining 13 years later, time warp or what? While that might sound bad spare a thought for their domestic cup final opponents who found out the final they were preparing for was getting moved on television the exact same time as the nation did. They weren’t even involved in the negotiations.
They did walk away with a domestic cup double that would in normal years be seen as a good haul.
Then came one of the costliest broken TVs in history. I don’t need to expand but their reputation did, in totally the wrong way of course.
So the 22nd of May 2008 seen a footballing miracle come true, with Tims the globe over convinced fate itself conspired to grant us that title. Double digit comebacks rarely happen in any sport, and not to a fuming Walter who seen himself bested by one of the few natives he couldn’t make cower and who actually would quip back even chirpier spoiling for a fight.
He was defrocked in his own nation ,at his favourite club, by his rivals in such a humiliating fashion it is sure to be blanked in his memoirs.
We will also know that hitting three in a row is special, a mark of quality, a sign of real Champions.
It was Gordon’s finest hour and his last title with us.
I spent the day with a grand Aberdeen Tim, 3 thousand or so miles from the action but the smile would not leave our faces. We kissed the crest, sang our songs in bars that had never heard them before, and for an evening forgot we any notion of distance, just plain celebrated our hearts out.
It was a truly magical ending to a special season, its protagonists perfectly selected plus every twist and turn heralding agony for one set of fans yet sheer ecstasy for the other.
Jan might have scored finer goals, but I doubt he scored a goal that meant so much to the fans in his entire career.
That goal was the spark that lead to the possibility of an unlikely but seismic upset.
That goal began the best comeback in my supporting lifetime.
That goal and what it lead to showed us all that, grown up or not, magic can still happen.
The above is by Mahe. Should you wish to submit an article the address is firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily publish. Get better Twists.