Brother Walfrid, founder of Celtic FC
On 28 May 1888, Celtic played their first official match against Rangers and won 5–2 in what was described as a “friendly encounter”. Neil McCallum scored Celtic’s first ever goal. The squad that played that day was largely composed of players signed from Hibernian.
Celtic’s first kit consisted of a white shirt with a green collar, black shorts, and emerald green socks. The original club crest was a simple green cross on a red oval background.
In 1889 Celtic reached the final of the Scottish Cup, this was their first season in the competition, but lost 2-1 in the final. Celtic again reached the final of the Scottish Cup in 1892, but this time were victorious after defeating Queen’s Park 5-2 in the final. Several months later the club moved to its new ground, Celtic Park, and in the following season won the Scottish League Championship for the first ever time. In 1895, Celtic set the League record for the highest home score when they beat Dundee 11-0.
William Angus (centre) played for Celtic and won the Victoria Cross during WWI
In 1897 the club became a Private limited company and Willie Maley was appointed as the first ‘secretary-manager’. Between 1905 and 1910, Celtic won the Scottish League Championship six times in a row. In both 1907 and 1908 Celtic also won the Scottish Cup, this was the first time a Scottish club had ever won the Double. During World War I, Celtic won the league four times in a row, including 62 matches unbeaten between November 1915 and April 1917.
Ex-player and captain Jimmy McGrory took over in 1945. Under McGrory, Celtic defeated Arsenal, Manchester United and Hibernian to win the Coronation Cup, a one-off tournament held in May 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
On 19 October 1957, Celtic trounced Rangers a record 7–1 in the final of the Scottish League Cup at Hampden Park in Glasgow, retaining the trophy they had won for only the first time the previous year. The scoreline remains a record win in a British domestic cup final.
Former Celtic captain Jock Stein succeeded McGrory in 1965. Stein guided Celtic to nine straight Scottish League wins from 1966 to 1974, establishing a world record which was not equalled until 1997.
1967 was Celtic’s annus mirabilis. The club won every competition they entered: the Scottish League, the Scottish Cup, the Scottish League Cup, the Glasgow Cup, and the European Cup. Under the leadership of Stein, the club defeated Internazionale 2–1 at the Estádio Nacional in Lisbon, on 25 May 1967. Celtic thus became the first British team, and the first from outside Spain, Portugal and Italy to win the competition. They remain the only Scottish team to have reached the final. The players that day subsequently became known as the ‘Lisbon Lions’. Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox and Bobby Murdoch formed part of that famous team, and now rank among the greatest ever Celtic players. The following year Celtic lost to Racing Club of Argentina in the Intercontinental Cup.
Celtic reached the European Cup Final again in 1970, but were beaten 2–1 by Feyenoord at the San Siro in Milan.
Despite further domestic success in the 1980s, the Bank of Scotland informed Celtic that it was calling in the receivers on 3 March 1994 as a result of the club exceeding a £5 million overdraft. However, expatriate businessman Fergus McCann wrested control of the club, and ousted the family dynasties which had controlled Celtic since its foundation. According to media reports, McCann took over the club minutes before it was to be declared bankrupt. McCann reconstituted the club business as a public limited company – Celtic PLC – and oversaw the redevelopment of Celtic Park into a 60,832 all-seater stadium. In 1998, under Dutchman Wim Jansen Celtic won the title again and prevented Rangers from beating Celtic’s 9-in-a-row record.
Martin O’Neill, a former European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, took charge of the club in June 2000. Under his leadership, Celtic won three SPL championships out of five and in his first season in charge, the club also won the domestic treble, making O’Neill only the second Celtic manager to do so after Jock Stein.
In 2003, around 80,000 Celtic fans travelled to watch the club compete in the UEFA Cup Final in Seville. Celtic lost 3–2 to FC Porto after extra time, despite two goals from Henrik Larsson during normal time. The exemplary conduct of the thousands of travelling Celtic supporters received widespread praise from the people of Seville (not one supporter was arrested) and the fans were awarded prestigious Fair Play Awards from both FIFA and UEFA “for their extraordinarily loyal and sporting behaviour”.
Gordon Strachan was announced as O’Neill’s replacement in June 2005 and after winning the SPL title in his first year in charge, he became only the third Celtic manager to win three titles in a row. He also guided Celtic to their first UEFA Champions League knockout stage in 2006-07 and repeated the feat in 2007-08 before departing the club in May 2009, after failing to win the SPL title. Tony Mowbray took charge of the club in June 2009, and he was succeeded a year later by Neil Lennon. In November 2010, Celtic set a Scottish Premier League record for the biggest win in SPL history defeating Aberdeen 9-0 at Celtic Park.
Celebrating Celtic: 1988 – The Centenary Year
Throughout our history the will to win and overcome all the odds to do so has been a theme from our inception. Whether it’s that first meeting in St Mary’s Hall to the Coronation Cup win in ‘53, Lisbon in ‘67 to the Centenary Season in ‘88 that never say die team spirit has been a part of our make up and part of the very fabric of our great club.
“Celebrating Celtic” over the next few issues of Welcome To Paradise will highlight for you some of those magical moments when we have defied all the odds to succeed. 1988 was one such example. To mark our 100th year we wanted nothing more than to celebrate our centenary year with a successful season that befitted our standing in the game.
The Establishment Team however were riding high and were hot favourites to win the title after the Revolution that new owner David Murray had brought which saw the cream of England coming north to play for Rangers in an astonishing reversal of the trend which saw many young Scots head south for the money.
Terry Butcher, Trevor Francis, Ray Wilkins and Chris Woods were some of the big name stars wooed north by Murray’s seamingly endless pit of cash and all the clever money was on that assortment of riches paying dividends.
After our glorious late show triumph in 86 at Love St when we captured the title under Davie Hay, Souness had bought the title back in 87 costing Hay his job and also precursing the departure of Brian McClair, Maurice Johnstone, Alan “Rambo” McNally dubbed Dumbo by the Celtic support, Murdo McLeod, the legendary Danny McGrain and also Davie Provan who retired due to injury.
The club was in a state of upheaval at the very time we needed stability and there was only one man who could reverse the trend, buy time, provide the leadership and restore our faith.
That man was Legend of Legends, Billy McNeill, the man who could walk on water as far as many of us were concerned and could do no wrong. This was to be Billy’s second spell as Manager of course having won 3 titles, 1 Scottish Cup and 1 League Cup in 5 seasons from 78 to 83.
A clandestine meeting in a car park in Clydebank with the then Chairman Jack McGinn to gauge whether McNeill would be interested in the job, although Hay was still in place, was like asking if a one legged duck swims in circles.
Return to manage Celtic in our Centenary Season? There was no other man on the planet who fitted the bill.
A pre-season friendly against Arsenal at Celtic Park was to show the new Manager just how much hard work was needed. A 5-1 reversal at home to an Arsenal team that included Charlie Nicholas who had turned his back on the club that made him at the earliest opportunity was an abject humiliation. Looking back maybe it helped focus minds on the task we faced and what was needed to accomplish it.
New faces were needed and McNeill was not slow in bringing in the experienced Billy Stark from Aberdeen for £75,000, the promising Andy Walker from Motherwell for £350,000 and the unheard of Chris Morris from Sheffield Wednesday for £125,000. All three were to prove shrewd signings on a budget and each played an important part in the historical season that was to unfold.
Mick McCarthy was another new face who was signed by Davie Hay a week before Cesar’s arrival and anyone who heard big Mick’s high pitched screams from the front of the Jungle as he went for a ball would testify to his organisational skills at the centre of defence alongside the legendary Roy “Feed The Bear” Aitken.
I’ll never forget the first game of the season at Cappielow. Myself, a mere slip of a lad, and mates were returning from Benidorm that day and making it to Greenock from Glasgow Airport was going to be tight. We decided to wear our full Centenary away strip on the plane home (that cracker of a yellow and green one) and even had our scarves on to save any time at the other end!
Much to our dismay the flight was delayed and we missed our one and only game that season. As soon as we landed we made our way to the Information Desk to ask that crucial question which all travellers need to know. “Big man, what was the score with Celtic?”
“4-0 to the Celtic”, came the reply as we let out a roar that the whole airport heard.
That win started us off on a run leading up to the first Old Firm game of the season at Celtic Park which read played 4, won 3, lost one at Dunfermline.
That game will be remembered for two things. One, Billy Stark’s sweet “grass cutter” of a goal as early as the 5th minute which proved to be the winner and the sending off of Rangers player/manager Souness for a brutal and cowardly tackle on Stark. Little did we know it at the time but watching him trundle off the park that day with his head bowed as the Celtic support taunted him to a man, woman and child was to become a reflection of the season that lay ahead.
The underdog was having his day and bhoy were we going to enjoy it!
Disappointment lay ahead in the Cup in the next few weeks as Aberdeen knocked us out of the League Cup at Pittodrie 1-0 and a Borussia Dortmund side, complete with Murdo McLeod, knocked us out of the UEFA Cup at the first hurdle. A 2-1 win at home was overturned 2-0 in the WestFalon Stadium with two late goals by the West Germans as friendships were made between the two sets of fans which still remains today.
The next Old Firm match in October at Ibrox was to be remembered for all the wrong reasons when an infamous handbags incident between new signing McAvennie and Woods resulted in both men being sent off with Butcher who had got himself involved following later. That was not to be the end of it and and astonishingly breach of the peace charges were brought against all three and also Graeme Roberts who had shamefully conducted the sectarian hordes with a chorus of the Billy Bhoys after he took over in goals.
Amongst the trouble a game of football broke out and the Celts used their one man advantage to go two goals up, the second coming from a screamer of an own goal from Terry Butcher under pressure from Grant which prompted the Pointer to sink to his knees and bless himself in front of the celebrating away fans, a crime that would result in six months in solitary confinement in today’s world. Rangers came back and right at the death Gough scrambled an equaliser into the Celtic end which left me with a feeling of nausea that i will never forget as i buried my head in my hands right in the very front row.
A week later we lost 2-1 at home to Dundee Utd but instead of letting panic set in we reacted with an unbeaten run that lasted from October 24th to April 16th when we lost 2-1 to Hearts at Tynecastle. 25 wins and 6 draws later, losing only 10 goals and scoring 57 into the bargain .
Whilst our League record made us untouchable from November our Scottish Cup form was less enthralling and a nervous 1-0 win over Stranraer in the first round could have been much worse after the visitors missed a penalty and an open goal too. I remember the Stranraer goalkeeper was a big Celtic man who was a couple of years above me at the same school but did us no favours that day.
The next round against Hibs at home finished 0-0 and so to Easter Road we headed for a tricky replay. The game was a big crowd puller and i had to settle for a spot on the terracing at the Hibs end at the edge of their noisy enclosure with the Celtic end full and busting.
With only ten minutes left Burns laid the perfect ball off to Grant at the edge of the box and Peter the Pointer, not the most prolific of midfielders, struck a thunderbolt which rocketed off the bar and blew my gaff as i sprang ten feet in the air. The large forehead of Stark was in the perfect place at the perfect time to nod the rebound high into the net as i was jostled to the exit by the Hibs fans, my cover by this time well and truly blown as i danced out into the street.
The one goal was enough to book us into the quarter finals and a 3-0 drubbing of Partick Thistle.
Back on League business and the New Year Old Firm game at Celtic Park had underlined our superiority in a season that had started to promise so much.
Two goals from Frank McAvennie, one in each half, without reply further demoralised a Rangers team who for all their money were lagging behind both Hearts and Celtic in the chase for the Title.
Another unforgettable memory from that day was McStay’s world class 60 yard pass which set up Chris Morris to lay the ball on a plate for Macca to open the scoring. The Celtic support that day were in fine voice serenading the club with “Happy Birthday to You , Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday dear Celtic, Happy Birthday to You” which nearly brought the roof down.
The final Old Firm game of the season was at Ibrox and again the Maestro, Paul McStay, was at the heart of our success. Usually when Paul scored it was a cracker and that day was no different with a bullet of a half volley from the edge of the box that sent us into rapturous celebrations behind the goal. I personally remember landing about six rows in front of where i started when the ball hit the roof of the net that day but that was to prove mild compared to the party that followed Walker’s winner late on.
With the score balanced at 1-1 we won a corner on the right facing into the Celtic end. The ball came over and Anton Rogan met it with his head from close range, we all lept to our feet only to see the ball veer a sharp left to where Andy Walker was handily placed as the ball ricocheted off him onto the net. Ibrox immediately emptied leaving us to party well after the players left the pitch.
The season was reaching a glorious climax and an historic League and Cup Double in a momentous season was very much on the cards.
Two matches against Hearts in a week would go a long way to us achieving that. The first was the Scottish Cup semi final on April 9th at Hampden Park in glorious sunshine usually reserved for the Final.
Hearts opened the scoring after an hour in very controversial circumstances when MacPherson jumped with Bonnar for a high cross from the right. Neither touched the ball on it’s way into the net and there was no doubt that the keeper had been impeded. Despite this the goal stood and the Celts were a goal down.
If the will to win was not enough to spur us on that day then the sense of injustice from that decision was the factor as the Celts came roaring back. There have been many examples down the years too of the 12th man willing us onto victory, that day was no exception.
With 3 minutes left on the clock Burns stepped up to take a corner from the right in front of a huge sea of green, white and gold behind the goal who were doing our damnest to suck the ball into the net.
The corner was swung over nicely and as it hung in the air Roy Aitken and Henry Smith jumped for the ball together, the Hearts keeper under pressure dropped the ball and it fell nicely for Mark McGhee who turned and hit the ball low into the net as three Hearts players desperately tried to block the shot.
Someone up there was looking after us as our prayers were answered. Any other team would settle for the draw but not us and not in our Centenary Season as we piled forward looking for the winner.
Stark shied the ball to Macca who crossed high into the danger zone. McGhee went up with Smith and it was the Celt who knocked the ball down goal bound. Walker from almost the goal line thumped the ball high into the net and Hampden erupted once again.
A new song was invented that day “Henry, Henry drop the ball” as we headed home in that kind of delirious mood that only Celtic can give you.
A week later we travelled to Tynecastle looking to clinch the Title but Hearts were able to get some revenge with a 2-1 win that delayed the party a week. With 3 games left we needed 2 points from our home games against Dundee and Dunfermline with a visit to Motherwell in between.
The Celts were keen to finish the business at the first attempt!
60,000 crammed into Celtic Park with another 10,000 at the very least crammed around the track for the Birthday Party of ALL birthday parties.
Chris Morris scored an early goal and it was late on before Andy Walker scored a double to start the party off and the Celts were crowned Champions in our Centenary Year.
It would be another 3 weeks before the icing was put on the cake against Dundee Utd in the Scottish Cup Final.
Another glorious day and another jam packed Hampden Park was to set the background for so many of our most famous days. This one was to be up with the best of them.
As if things weren’t tense enough, just like in the semi final we fell behind, with the grandson of Patsy Gallagher, no less, doing the damage. With 15 minutes remaining the score remained the same.
We hadn’t come this far only to be beaten and when Rogan’s cross from the right was met by Macca’s head there was only one place that ball was going to end up. Fate was on our side and the man above was guiding us towards an historic Double.
Aitken rushed to grab the ball out of the back of the net as he urged his team mates back to the half way line to finish off the job they had started.
Just like in the semi final against Hearts it was one way traffic. The pressure was relentless and as the last minute arrived again the Celts won a corner at the exact same spot where Tommy Burns stood against Hearts.
This time Joe Miller, another good signing from Aberdeen, crossed from the right where it was met by Stark, the ball came off Narey and fell nicely for MacAvennie to thump the ball high into the net then turn and run towards the Celtic support who quite simply were in heaven.
Heaven, we thought, couldn’t be any better than this.
A season which started in desponancy had ended in ecstacy against ALL the odds with the will to win shining through which would have made Brother Walfrid himself so proud.
A new facade at the front of Celtic Park was to herald a new beginning to our second century and the next episode of the Celtic Story which was thrilling audiences in Glasgow was already being written…….
‘The Man Who Saved Celtic’
The Legend of Fergus McCann
Rebels: Fergus McCann and Brian Dempsey
March 1994. ‘The Rebels have won!’ It was a message splashed across the headlines, that only weeks, days, and even hours before that had seemed so impossible had indeed come to pass. But winning control at such a critical time in such a spectactular manner meant there was much to do. This was not to be the end. It was just a beginning, and at the centre of it all was an expatriate, Canadian-based businessman and Celtic supporter, Fergus McCann.
The man who saved Celtic.
This is no small statement, nor is it an exaggeration. Quite simply, Celtic does not exist as we know it today without McCann. Indeed, it can be very reasonably argued that without ever having laced a boot, McCann’s was the single most important signature that the Hoops have secured since the foundation of the club in 1887. Without McCann, Celtic were hours away from becoming but a memory.
For every goal scored by Larsson or McGrory, every trophy won by Maley or Stein, every piece of Jinky wizardry and Lubo magic that has added to the Celtic story, McCann’s 5 year association was every bit as crucial and profound. He lifted the club from the brink of oblivion and left us with perhaps the greatest tangible legacy of them all – ‘Paradise’ as we now know it.
Football and business. The genesis and ideal of Celtic may belong with Brother Walfrid, but it was businessmen such as John Glass that made it every bit as much a reality. Indeed, it could be said that McCann was the re-founding father. Yet even after so long, after he came, saw, resurrected & left, McCann remains still something of an enigmatic figure to many. A fighter, a renegade, a rebel and an administrator of the highest quality, who could also be obstinate, lack sensitivity and almost Machiavellian at times.
When he arrived, donning his soft cloth cap from which derived his nickname, he spoke of what he planned to achieve and when he departed in April 1999 it was indeed mission accomplished.
During his youth McCann had watched the Hoops through a period where they were far from dominant, leaving an understanding of what it was like to support a struggling Celtic side. During the late 1940′s & early 50′s the club had struggled on the pitch and had even come close to relegation. Perhaps some memories of these struggles had lingered in his memory, as more than 40 years later when the ‘Bunnet’ returned there was an opportunity to help his boyhood heroes. McCann emigrated to Canada and made his fortune in golfing holidays, but continued to follow the fortunes of the club from afar.
McCann had initially approached the board in the late 80′s. As a certain club on the south side of the city had begun its expansion under David Murray, the Bhoys were showing the strain in attempting to keep the pace. Parkhead at the time had large areas of terracing and really only the one stand for seating. McCann proposed building a second stand for seating on the opposite side of the ground and would leave either end available for standing. As the board dithered on the details, the fallout of one tragic day in 1989 would make such plans immediately moot.
In the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans had perished, the need for a review into the safety practices of stadia across Britain was called for. The Taylor Report recommended the implementation of all seater stadia for all top flight football venues by 1994. Celtic, who were already in financial turmoil, would now need to find a way to do a massive redevelopment also. McCann made an approach in the early 90′s about financing the redevelopment, in exchange for the rights to the next 3 years of marketing season tickets. The Board rejected the offer as other options, including a possible relocation to Cambuslang, were being weighed up.
Despite the setback, McCann was not to be swayed. If the Board did not want his help, why not remove the Board? Easier said than done, but with this purpose the ‘Bunnet’ set about working in conjuction with the ‘Rebels’ consortium of investors, to wrest control away from the encumbent Board; one that was fraught with problems and had long overseen and mismanaged the club.
To say the least, the business acumen and practices of men such as former Chairman, Jack McGinn was questionable at best. Indeed, revealing a telling insight as to how Celtic had gotten itself into so much trouble in the first place, McGinn had stated publicly that ‘season ticket sales are more trouble than they are worth.’!
A long, protracted and bitter battle followed (during which time McCann was even refused entry inside Celtic Park), and during which the very existence of the club was threatened. In truth, Celtic was extremely close to insolvency, administration and even liquidation, as the banks moved to foreclose. But on the 4th March 1994, the ‘Rebels’ won – the old Board were on their way out and McCann on his way in, adamant that the departing executives would walk away without ‘one thin dime’.
Whilst some did not take to his sometimes eccentric behaviour, others admired his no nonsense approach to business. There is no getting around the fact, McCann’s primary goal was always about profit margins. Clearly McCann understood the role; that he was there to maximize the way of generating money for the club. It may be true that an overwhelming majority of supporters and shareholders alike are only interested in the football, but as McCann himself would regularly point out, without the business, there is no football.
It is undoubted that he certainly had his critics and made enemies along the way. Guess it was only to be expected, given the scale of the task that was set before him upon his arrival, that this was inevitable that his single-mindedness was not always going to be everybody’s cup of tea, both within the Celtic family and amongst the wider Scottish Football community. That said, it hardly justifies some of the comments and criticism that were levelled at the man, with the Daily Record in particular likening him to Saddam Hussein!
Virtually from the moment he walked through the doors, the Bunnet set to work. Five years, he had promised. Five years, to turn the club around financially, set in place a sustainable infrastructure, as well as the small measure of building a stadium and producing some success on the park. There was alot to be done and not a moment to waste.
One of his first acts was to replace Lou Macari as manager, with another former old-Bhoy, Tommy Burns. Burns at the time was in charge of Kilmarnock, having helped them as player-manager to win promotion, but it was this appointment that would lead to possibly the most famous feud in the history of Celtic & SFA relations.
Tommy Burns: McCann’s choice to take the club forward
Burns & Billy Stark were not only the Killie management team at the time, but also on their books as players. The SFA, under the guidance of Jim Farry, were sympathetic to Killie & out of all proportion for the time, decided to fine Celtic £100 000 & pay Killie twice that (£200 000) in compensation, for having poached players. By means of contrast, R*ngers had poached Duncan Ferguson from Dundee Utd the previous year, yet had only been fined £5000! What could be said that can justify such a discrepancy?
McCann also submitted plans for the redevelopment of Celtic Park. The SFA’s Stadiums Commitee decreed that Celtic would have to play their home games elsewhere for the 1994/95 season, which was understandable given the safety concerns. What got under McCann’s skin about that was that the SFA was making a decision, from which the SFA would be financially benefitting directly from. Surely such a decision should have been deferred to an independant body?
Celtic Park in the 1980′s
That one season at Hampden saw Celtic fork out £600 000 tenancy for the year to the SFA, as well as portion of programme sales, and ALL the catering & refreshment kiosks. The SFA also refused to allow for any touches to be made to the stadium, so it could feel a little more like ‘home’. In doing so, the SFA was effectively saying that they were more than happy to accept Celtic’s money, but that Celtic actual presence was only merely being tolerated.
Around the same time as Celtic Park was being redeveloped, Jim Farry spearheaded the redevelopment of Hampden Park also. This redevelopment had many opponents, including McCann, who referred to it as a waste of public money on ‘the third best ground in Glasgow’.
All of this was a precursor to what would be the defining chapter of the feud; the Cadete Affair, in which it was proven that Farry had deliberately interfered and delayed the registration of Jorge Cadete, and after a lengthy battle the disgraced SFA chief was forced out of office. It was through these types of events that McCann was effectively declaring that Celtic would no longer be treated as the second class citizens by the SFA.
The list of McCann’s achievements is simply phenomenal for such a short period of time. The share float which converted the club to being a PLC was a massive success (the most successful in the history of British Football at the time, despite the consensus in the Scottish media that it would be a huge flop) and funded the development project, demand for season tickets soared, revenues from commercial sales and merchandising skyrocketed, and despite Murray continuing to finance a dominant R*ngers team, the Hoops under McCann overtook their rivals in both revenue and attendance.
Meanwhile the stadium reconstruction continued at a pace. There had been many critics of the proposal to building a ground capable of holding 60,000 people, especially as the average attendance at the time was less than 40,000. “They will come”, McCann boldly predicted. The first phase of the new stadium was opened in August 1995, with a capacity of 34,500, augmented by the addition of a temporary stand, that lifted the capacity to 37,500. One year later and Phase Two was complete, lifting capacity to 50,500. There was still work to be done, but the progress was impressive.
Whilst this was happening Tommy Burns’ team was being justifiably praised for the quality of football on display. The Scottish Cup success that earmarked the end of McCann’s first full season in charge unfortunately was the only silverware that was won under Burns’ guidance, but nobody could argue that McCann was not backing his manager in the transfer market.
Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Paolo Di Canio and the aforementioned Cadete complemented the likes of Tom Boyd and Paul McStay in the first team squad, but contractual spats blighted this era also. The ‘Three Amigos’ all departed under a cloud of such disputes. Van Hooijdonk for example, scoffed at the £7,000 pay rise that was offered, claiming that it was ‘good enough for the homeless’. Even the great Paul McStay, for all his long years of service, was offered only a derisory contract by the McCann administration, forcing the player than never liked the spotlight to tell his side of the story to the media.
In a way it is fitting that the sour departure of Tommy Burns and Paul McStay’s contract controversy (two of Celtic’s most loyal and respected individuals) sit side by side with those contractual disputes of the ‘Three Amigos’ and difficulties working with Jensen, as it gives an overall perspective, and an uncomfortable portrait; that length of service and sentimentality meant absolutely zilch to McCann.
The Quiet Man: Paul McStay went public because of a poor deal from McCann
McCann may have been focused on increasing revenues for Celtic, but there were times when he recognized a bad deal for what it was. Indeed, in 1997/98 the sponsorship deals that were on the table were unsatisfactory to McCann, so to give potential suitors more time, he opted for Umbro (the kit provider at the time) to be the shirt sponsor, whilst other, longer term deals could be uncovered and negotiated.
McCann will never be particularly remembered for his inter-personal relationships and his man management style left much to be desired. Indeed, it was this aspect that was often criticized, along with his preferring to build the financial infrastructure, rather than invest more in the team that raised the ire of sections of the support. Notably, even celebrity supporters, such as Jim Kerr (of Simple Minds fame), were especially vocal in his criticism of McCann in this regard.
Tales of bonus disputes also emerged, often ill-timed and disruptive. Such as just before a League Cup tie against Hearts in 1996 and again in 1998, on the eve of the Champions League Qualifier with Croatia Zagreb. The latter incident came to a head when a number of players, believed to include Regi Blinker and Marc Rieper failed to attend the launch of the Celtic ‘Away’ strip for that season. This sparked a furious response from McCann, claiming that the players greed was to blame. According to McCann, the squad had been offered the largest bonus in the history of the club (believed to be in the region of £20,000), should they reach the group stage, but players were disputing the size of the bonus, because it was not of the same level that the R*ngers players were promised, for reaching the same stage.
Perhaps, with the way that pay demands have continued to spiral ever upwards in European Football, it can now be viewed in context how McCann thought of these episodes as greed driven, whereas the players would no doubt argue that they were merely commensurate with the terms that were on offer elsewhere. One can only imagine what McCann would make of today’s footballers salaries, where some players in leagues across Europe earn wages in the hundreds of thousands of pounds every week!
Aside from the contractual rifts, others also referred to the difficult relationships that they had with McCann during those 5 years. Tommy Burns once said that “I probably did 15 or 20 years as a manager in those three years.” when referring to his working relationship with McCann, and Burns was not alone in holding such a view.
One of the longest lasting impacts that McCann has left was the ‘Bhoys Against Bigotry’, which was launched in 1996. The goal was to highlight Celtic’s charitable works & the all-encompassing views of the club, as well as attempting to stamp out Irish political chants at the games. Whilst this was met with mixed reactions at the time, 15 years on and many who had belittled the campaign at the time have accepted that there is no room in the 21st century for bigotry in football. The ideals of the campaign continue to live on. Other clubs have had and continue to have a much bigger problem than what the Celts do in this regard, but McCann’s efforts were directed in correcting the problem at our club, and such a stance has served as a model for others to follow elsewhere.
In 1997, Tommy Burns was replaced by Wim Jansen at the helm and was set the task of ‘stopping the 10′. Jensen and the ‘Bunnet’ were often in disagreement over the direction of the club even from the outset, and the controversial appointment of Jock Brown as General Manager did little to ease this friction. That said, with the help of new arrivals, including Champions League winner, Paul Lambert and a certain dreadlocked Swede named Larsson, the Bhoys would go on to win both the League Cup and League Championship that season; the latter in particularly memorable fashion and sparked wild celebrations across the entire Celtic community. It would be a short lived party however, as Jansen announced his departure from the club just two days later.
Dr. Jozef Venglos was brought in to oversee first team affairs and again McCann furnished him with the funds to bring in some notable names, including Mjallby, Moravcik and Viduka. However, in what now seems a bizarre atmosphere, what should have been a particularly spectacular opening day of the League campaign (especially as the Hoops beat Dunfermline 5-0), the abiding memory is of the League Championship flag being unfurled, being met by sections of the crowd who boo-ed McCann.
The following week, The Bunnet’s vision, the development of the place we call Paradise was finally completed, with the official opening of the Jock Stein Stand on the 8th August 1998.
Fergus McCann departed Celtic in April 1999. He once said “I want people to judge me after 5 years.” At the time of his departure McCann had delivered on so many promises and then some. Paradise was complete, the course had been corrected, a sustainable financial infrastructure was in place, a major victory over the SFA had been achieved, and the ideals of the ‘Bhoys Against Bigotry’ have set the Celtic support up, for thriving in the 21st century.
He was always a businessman first and foremost, and when hard decisions needed to be made he was in the place to make them. Fergus McCann may never be universally popular in the memory of some and whilst some of the criticism is justifiably merited, much of it was not. The Bunnet did right by Celtic and nobody can argue that he left the club in a much better and healthier position than the one he found it in.
Without doubt, he is the man who saved Celtic.
Celtic win European Cup 1967
On Thursday 25 May 1967, Scottish Football reached a pinnacle of success in Europe which has yet to be surpassed in the modern era, when Glasgow Celtic Football Club, under the leadership of manager Jock Stein defeated Internacionale of Milan 2-1 at the Estadio Nacionale in Lisbon to win the European Cup.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Kilmarnock FC exited the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup (known then as the Fair Cities Cup), when Leeds United defeated them 4-2 at Rugby Park, with both sides having played out a goalless encounter in the first leg at Elland Road on Wednesday 19 May.
Despite the disappointment of failing to become the first Scottish side to reach the final of a major European trophy, Malky McDonald’s Killie managed to defeat Royal Antwerp of Belgium 8-2 on aggregate and La Gantoise of Ghent 3-1 along the way, before Don Revie’s men booked their ultimately doomed place in the finals against Dynamo Zagreb.
Six days later, on Wednesday 31 May, Rangers failed to overcome Bayern Munich in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup in Nuremberg, with the Franz Roth notching up the only goal of a dull match during extra-time.
1967 was indeed an exciting time for Scottish football, but it was Celtic who eventually lasted the distance in Europe, when an officially-recorded crowd of over 45,000 crammed into the Portuguese national stadium to witness the famous Glasgow side wrestle the greatest prize in club football from the preserve of Europe’s Latin sides, for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Before kick-off, few neutrals believed Celtic were capable of overcoming the negative defensive tactics of Helenio Hererra’s outfit, who had successfully dismissed such giants as CSKA Sofia, Real Madrid and Torpedo Moscow en route to the final. But Stein’s side were galvanised by an overwhelming self-belief in their own invincibility, and their football was both exciting and attack-based, drawing from the great Hungarian sides of the 1960s and pioneering the concept of ‘total football’, many years in advance of the Dutch masters.
According to the Celtic players, Stein’s instructions ahead of the game were simple: go out enjoy yourself; but his plan almost went off the rails in the opening moments when Jim Craig felled Cappellini and Mazolla netted the resulting penalty, sending Ronnie Simpson the wrong way with barely eight minutes on the clock and giving Milan a vital early lead.
The opener seemed nothing more than a minor diversion for the Glasgow side, as Stein pressed for his players to attack and lay siege to the Italian goalmouth. Milan reverted to their famous defensive pattern and successfully thwarted Celtic’s every effort on goal, but not without the help of some miraculous saves from goalkeeper Sarti and a fair amount of good fortune from the woodwork.
When half-time arrived, the scoreline remained 1-0 in favour of Inter, but Stein knew that Celtic were capable of scoring from any position on the pitch, and shortly after the break their much-needed equaliser arrived – from the boot of Celtic’s full-back, Tommy Gemmell. On 65 minutes, the adventurous defender linked up with Jim Craig and Bobby Murdoch to send home an unstoppable shot and level the score. Almost an hour had passed since Mazolla had handed Inter the lead, but Celtic had finally found the inspiration they needed to take full control of the game and press on for victory.
It didn’t stop there; the Italians soon found themselves repeatedly pinned down by a Celtic side who simply outclassed them in every aspect of the game, and on every area of the pitch, but it seemed for an eternity that Celtic’s winner would never arrive, and the game looked destined for a replay, were it not for the relentless attacks on the Italian goalmouth by Jock Stein’s men. In truth, it was only a matter of time, and as the minutes ticked out to the end of the game, Bobby Murdoch led yet another blistering attack when he sent in a powerful shot on goal from distance, which Stevie Chalmers deflected into the net to give Celtic a 2-1 lead.
When the German referee Kurt Techenscher sounded the whistle for full-time, all Hell broke loose as the Celtic players became engulfed in a pitch invasion, with euphoric fans spilling on to the pitch in large numbers to congratulate their heroes. Initially, the Portuguese police feared that the crowd could get out of control, but the celebrations were entirely good-natured, and a sensible measure of restraint was displayed by the hosts – even if some of the players lost their jerseys during the melee as fans tried to take away souveniers of the occasion.
The chaos inside the stadium meant that the Celtic players could not be presented with the trophy out on the pitch, so club captain Billy McNeill was ushered around the outside of the stadium under armed escort, then climbed the stairs to the presentation podium, where he was handed the large-handled trophy and held it aloft for the ecstatic crowd to behold.
Celtic’s historic victory in Europe should never be understated, and can certainly never be taken from them; not only were they the first British side to win the trophy, but the achievement of both reaching the final and winning the European Cup with a team comprised entirely of home-grown, local players (they were all born within a 30-mile radius of Celtic Park), has never been repeated in European football.
Even Matt Busby’s Manchester United, who became the second British club to win the trophy the following year, included players from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland – and more importantly, Celtic won the trophy at their first attempt.
The achievement is now widely recognised to be the greatest in the history of Celtic Football Club, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest triumphs of the modern era.
The 11 Celtic players who took to the field on that sunny May afternoon in Lisbon subsequently became known as The Lisbon Lions, and their story is the stuff of modern-day football legends.
Quote from Stein at the final whistle:
“There is not a prouder man on God’s Earth than me at this moment. Winning was important, aye, but it was the way that we won that has filled me with satisfaction. We did it by playing football; pure, beautiful, inventive football. There was not a negative thought in our heads. Inter played right into our hands; it’s so sad to see such gifted players shackled by a system that restricts their freedom to think and to act. Our fans would never accept that sort of sterile approach. Our objective is always to try to win with style.”
Name: Henrik Larsson
Henrick Larsson started his professional career playing for Högaborg at the age of 17. He subsequently moved to Helsingborgs IF, where he scored 50 goals in 56 appearances attracting the interest of Dutch club Feyenoord, who signed him for £295,000 in 1993. He moved to Glasgow Celtic in July 1997 for a fee of £650,000. Larsson’s aerial skills and physical strength made him ideally suited to the cut and thrust of the British game, and he scored a remarkable 242 goals in 315 games in a seven-year spell at Parkhead winning four SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and League Cups and the Golden Boot in 2000/01 as Europe’s leading scorer with 35 league goals – as well as reaching the UEFA Cup final of 2003, in which he scored twice as Porto beat Celtic 3-2.
His goalscoring feats on the continent for Celtic mean he holds the record for number of goals scored for a club from the British Isles in European matches.At the end of the 2003-04 season Larsson signed a one year contract with Barcelona with an option for a second year. In 2005-06 Larsson scored 10 goals as Barcelona won La Liga for a second consecutive year and in his final game for them he won his first UEFA Champions League medal coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 win over Arsenal. Larsson’s international record is impressive with 36 goals in 93 games.In November 2003, the Swedish Football Association voted him the greatest Swedish football player of the last 50 years. In May 2006 Henrik Larsson was awarded an MBE for his contributions to British football.
Lennon: this is a wonderful moment in my life!
NEIL LENNON had walked out of the Celtic Park tunnel many times before. But this time was different. It was the early hours of the morning and he had just been confirmed as the new manager of Celtic.
Surveying the 60,000 empty seats under the moonlight, it really began to hit home to the Irishman about the significance of the task he was taking on,and the legendary figures whose footsteps he would be following in.
“It’s a wonderful moment for me and a wonderful moment in my life,” said Lennon, speaking after being unveiled as the new manager.
“Things were concluded pretty late on the other night. I have walked out that tunnel many, many times but when I came walking out on my own, I think it was around half past twelve in the morning and I have never seen Celtic Park like it.
“It was a beautiful night, the only light coming in was from the moon. It was a very special moment to know that I would be in charge of the football club and would be walking in the footsteps of the likes of Mr Stein, Martin O’Neill, Billy McNeil, Dave Hay, Wim Jansen, Tommy Burns and Gordon Strachan.
“It was a very special moment for me personally and I am ready and looking forward to the challenge.”
Blast From The Past ”Celtic v Partizan Belgrade”Wednesday 27 September 1989
CELTIC F.C. 5 PARTIZAN BELGRADE 4
Wednesday 27 September 1989
Kick-off: 19:30 | Attendance: 49,500 | Referee: Klaus PESCHEL (EAST GERMANY)
This was the second leg of a European Cup-Winners’ Cup first-round tie played between Celtic and Partizan Belgrade on September 27, 1989.
In perhaps the most dramatic European tie ever played at Parkhead, Celtic actually won the match 5-4, but went out on the away-goal rule.
Already facing a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, Celtic fell further behind in the seventh minute before Dziekanowski equalised to make it 1-1 at half- time. Eighty seconds into the second half, ‘Jackie’ scored his second to make it 2-1 to Celtic on the night and 3-3 on aggregate.
Partizan scored again in the 51st minute, Dziekanowski once more in the 56th minute, Partizan again in the 61st minute, and then Andy Walker in 65 minutes!
With the aggregate score now level at 5-5, Celtic knew they had to score again to avoid losing on the away goal rule.
A fourth Dziekanowski goal in the 81st minute put the Bhoys in dreamland before Partizan scored an 88th-minute leveller to break Celtic hearts.
P Bonner; P Grant, A Rogan, R Aitken, P Elliot, D Whyte, M Galloway, P McStay, D Dziekanowski, A Walker, J Miller. Subs: Andrews McCahill Fulton Burns Coyne.
Scorers: Dziekanowski (25, 46, 56, 81), Walker (65)
M Pandurović, V Stanojković, P Spasić, M Milanič, G Petrić, M Vujačić, M Đurđević (M Bajović 77), T Milojević, D Šćepović, M Đurovski, J Bogdanović (A Đorđević 72) Subs: Krali Zupic Stepanovic.
Scorers: M Vujačić (7), M Đurđević (51), M Đurovski (61), D Šćepović (88)
Referee: K Peschel (East Germany).
6-6 on aggregate. Partizan win on away goals.
SCOTTISH CUP FINAL
May 15, 1988
Celtic …………..2 Dundee United …….1
CELTIC’S extraordinary capacity for rescuing seemingly lost causes surfaced again yesterday to help them clinch a centenary season League and Cup double.
United, beaten finalists last season, looked set for their first-ever Scottish Cup Final victory when Gallacher put them ahead just after halftime. Celtic, however, stepped up a gear or two, and eventually broke them with two McAvennie goals in the last 13 minutes. Celtic deserved their win, but it was hard not to feel sympathy for United.
Celtic suffered a pre-match blow when their experienced Republic of Ireland goalkeeper, Bonner, had to withdraw with a thigh injury. Considering that his 21-year-old deputy, McKnight, has had no more than 16 first-team appearances this season it was perhaps no surprise to see Celtic using three central defenders – with Atiken a sweeper – and United forcing the early pace.
United’s positive start almost brought them a goal after just three minutes, when Paatelainen’s header from a corner was hooked off the line by McStay.
Celtic, who had taken some time to find their rhythm, created an even better opportunity midway through the first half. McStay, involved in an intriguing battle for midfield supremacy against his marker, McInally, started the move with a delightful pass to McAvennie. But Miller’s header from the ensuing cross was poor and United’s defence, in disarray for the first time, were able to scramble the ball away.
Then at the other end Celtic owed much to McCarthy’s stirring intervention to stop Gallacher capitalising on a superb run and cross by Bannon.
Shortly before half-time, McCarthy got Celtic’s defence out of difficulties again with a solid challenge on Gallacher.
Gallacher, the grandson of the legendary Celtic player, Patsy, was luckier in the 49th minute when he put United ahead with a brilliant opportunist goal.
Celtic were caught stretched at the back as, from Bannon’s pass, he took the ball past Aitken and then, in full stride, struck it past McKnight from just inside the area.
But United had to live on their nerves and flair, inevitably set up their efforts for an equaliser. Celtic made a double substitution in the 70th minutes, bringing on Stark and McGhee for Whyte and Walker. The extra impetus it gave them enabled McAvennie to bring Celtic level in the 76th minute and then put them ahead in the last minute.