The Lost Ten-Part Six
The latest addition to our series on The Lost Ten. If you thought Part Five was bad,well,I’ve got news for you. Hey,it’s a Monday morning,my day can’t get any worse,can it? Think not? Read on.
We already had a hangover during the close season as we licked our wounds from the previous campaign. Once again,we had seen that failure to build from strength come back to bite us and our parsimonious board were in no doubt where the blame lay. There was no future in our club for a 21yo striker with fifty goals the previous season,nor for our Lisbon Lion manager who had won three out of five titles despite being starved of funds.
Billy went to Manchester City,the graveyard shift for managers in those days. Charlie headed for the bright lights of London. He had offers to join Liverpool and Man United,where he may well have progressed his career. At Arsenal,he soon discovered that the bright lights were like those 9W bulbs we are forced to use nowadays.
Also leaving the club was George McCluskey,who rightly felt hard done to by the board and joined Leeds United. That left us with Frank McGarvey as our only striker!
In came David Hay as manager and,prior to his arrival,Brian McClair from Motherwell. I knew Brian slightly. He was studying Chemistry at Glasgow Uni! Would he cut the mustard at Celtic,come even close to the standards set by his predecessors up front for Celtic? Time would tell,but I had my doubts.
I’m rarely the most optimistic fella in the room! And this mood of mine hadn’t been helped by the signing of a player viewed by the board as a replacement for Charlie. One Jim Plumrose. And thank God there was only one.
We started off well enough,our perennial whipping boys at Hibs giving us a good start. In fact,we won our first five league games and progressed in the League Cup and in Europe.
Brian McClair announced his arrival with four goals against Dundee and was pretty much first choice after that. August and September were definitely providing an Indian Summer for us,and a bright one at that. We had won every match bar a dreadful 0-0 with the mighty Brechin City in the League Cup.
But October blew in and thrust some harsh realities onto us. Seven games without a win was disgraceful form,made even worse by defeats to Aberdeen and Dundee United as well as to Sporting Lisbon. Thankfully we had a game against-who else?-Hibs on the final Saturday of that Black October to get back on track,and a five goal thrashing had us in a more bhoyant mood for the second leg against Sporting Lisbon in midweek.
That night,Celtic gave us a performance which is still talked about to this day. 5-0 was a fair reflection of our dominance on the night.
Everything clicked and the previous month was merely a bad memory.
Except that it wasn’t.
We were two points off leaders Aberdeen,and Dundee United were alongside us too. A couple of good results saw us hold on to our place,but a shocking 4-2 defeat at Love Street-despite being two up inside twenty minutes!-saw us slip further back. Of course,it was too early to write us off,but the fat lady was warming up. A couple of victories saw us hold on to our place in the table,and had we won our home matches in December against Dundee United and Aberdeen,we would have been a point off the pace as we headed in to the New Year. Instead,we could only manage two draws despite being the better team in both matches.
I still can’t believe the save by Jim Leighton to keep out a Paul McStay thunderbolt but four points behind Aberdeen was what the league table showed. Not a good position to be in,for sure.
It got worse too in only our second league match of the year. A trip to Pittodrie was a must win match for us. And a header from Brian McClair looked set to send us on our way to just that. But that man Leighton made another unbelievable save to keep it out. Aberdeen went up the park and John Hewitt scored the only goal of the game. Six points behind now,and only fifteen games remaining.
Aberdeen celebrated that day like they had won the league-and in truth,they had.
The rest of the season was played out in an almost funereal fashion. The players turned up,the fans turned up,we lost at Tannadice and Dens Park,we lost in the final of the League Cup to the huns and in the final of the Scottish Cup to Aberdeen. We even lost at Ibrox,which tells you just how poor we could be at times this particular season. We actually lost the league by seven points in the end,but the end had been in sight for us as early as October. Six points dropped,and mainly against sides we should have been beating comfortably.
David Hay had a very good side available to him but there wasn’t enough depth available to him and when players were out of form he didn’t have much alternative but to select them anyway.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Paul McStay was blossoming in midfield,and developing into an exceptional midfielder and Brian McClair scored 32 goals for us in this campaign,23 of them in the league. In fact,a total of 80 goals were scored by us in the league that season but we let in a shocking 41 at the other end. The fact that Aberdeen conceded only 21 times tells you the difference between the teams. Unless we could get that defence sorted out,we weren’t likely to achieve much in the foreseeable future.
What would the close season bring? Well,we would soon find out but I’ll give you a clue. Not a lot. Apart from my 21st.
Above article by BMCUWP. Fancy writing the Article of the Day? Put your opinions and thoughts up for us all to comment on by mailing them to Mahe.