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GUEST BLOG: LAST OF THE FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL PLAYBHOYS

Date: 14th February 2013 at 5:31 pm
Written by: | Comments (2)

As it’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a fitting related story set in those halcyon days of 1988 by Paul T:

 

 

1988: Enjoy This Trip (And It Is A Trip)

 

“Uno, dos, tres, quatro…”

 

April 1988 was a great month to be both a Celtic fan, and indeed a young, carefree, music-crazy and ever-so-slightly-daft teenager. Amongst its’ highlights was the release of the above-mentioned dance classic Theme From S-Express, widely regarded as the moment the Acid House subculture went mainstream, changing the shape of youth culture permanently, and boosting the sales of bottled water in nightclubs to unimaginable levels. On the park, Celtic were absolutely rampant & seemingly on course for an unbelievably fitting end to the Club’s fantastic Centenary season, with both League & Cup seemingly pre-ordained to come home to Paradise. Here follows a highly personal account of the ups & downs of the last 5 weeks of that fateful season, interspersed with the end of romantic innocence, a numbing death, some of the greatest moments in my life as a football fan, amazing acts of friendship, a couple of unlikely musical memories, and an Anton Rogan goal….

 

Our story starts at around 4.45pm on Saturday 9th April 1988, on the slopes of the old, even more rubbish, Hampden Park. At that point all looked lost for the Double- a below-par Celtic were losing 1-0 to a combined Brian Whittaker cross-cum-shot/ Dave McPherson karate attack on Packie Bonner, and desperation was setting in amongst both team & fans. Then, with two minutes left, up steps fate, in the rotund form of Mark McGhee & the Lurpak-gloved Henry “The Estate Agent” Smith. A dropped cross, a thumped shot through a maroon-strewn goalmouth, and its all square. Replay to follow. Aye right…

 

A minute later, and the inevitable happens. Another cross, another fumble, McGhee knocks the ball down & Andy Walker thumps the ball high into the net from about three inches- his perfect range. Cue utter bedlam in the Celtic End, and the commencement of what would become a long & very drunken night for the young Paul T & his cohorts. The details of that night are long lost to the memory- there was drinking involved, and dancing. Lots of both. No mobile phones in those days, so the likelihood of my then-girlfriend getting a call that night would’ve been slim. This became an important detail the following day.

 

At that point I’d been living the young teenage first love dream- a girlfriend who loved music, went to see Celtic (albeit through loyalty to me rather than love of the club- another subsequently important detail) and seemed to tolerate my frequent Saturday night disappearances after significant (any) Celtic victories. However the night after the Hampden triumph this all went horribly wrong. After breezing into her parents’ house, full of the joys of a 24-hour party, I sleepwalked straight into disaster. I hadn’t called the night before. It wasn’t the first time. Since Celtic had commenced on their winning streak this was a regular thing. I didn’t care about her. Didn’t appreciate her. Treated her like dirt. And there was this guy at work who wasn’t like that…

 

I left her house that night and made the short walk home stunned, and very much single.

 

The following week was unbelievably weird. I went through the motions at work, on the face of it excited about the chance to win the league at Tynecastle the following Saturday, but in utter turmoil inside. I’d literally chosen Celtic over my first love- she’d understandably taken a degree of offence to that. She’d also started seeing a Jambo, which made the game on the Saturday personal in my conflicted teenage mind. Revenge would be sweet.

 

Saturday 16th April was set up perfectly. Coming off a ridiculously long unbeaten run, and having crushed the Hearts spirit the previous Saturday, we basically only had to turn up to be crowned Centenary Champions. Again, aye right…a horrendously misfiring Celtic performance saw us go 2-0 down before a late Mark McGhee goal gave us some scant consolation. I sloped straight home, trying to remember how to take defeat after so many months, only to find a neatly folded Celtic scarf, my copy of The Joshua Tree & a letter (which I shamefully ripped up without reading) waiting for me from my ex-girlfriend, who had known the perfect time to come to my house and avoid awkward contact, when I would inevitably be away at the game. She was brighter than I took her for to be fair.

 

I didn’t go out that night. I was drawn, as I still am in times of trouble, to my music collection in search of something to take the pain away. Surprisingly, in this case it was Mary’s Prayer by Danny Wilson, at that point riding high in the singles chart, which held the answers. I must have played that song 20 times that night, and Christ knows how many times in the weeks ahead. There was something in it which seemed to make things better, more easy to process & understand. Its’ not a great song, and in the context of a year which saw singles like Voodoo Ray, Fine Time, Teen Age Riot & Crash bringing ‘my’ music into the pop charts, is almost embarrassing to recall how much that song came to mean to me back then. Her name wasn’t Mary incidentally- would have significantly improved my rationale for listening to it, but what the hell…

 

And so to Celtic Park, 23rd April 1988. Dundee. Title-winning day. A ‘capacity’ crowd. If you’re old enough to remember that game, you’ll recall that the Celtic board’s interpretation of capacity differed by about 15,000 from the legally permissible one. In the end a fairly straightforward 3-0 victory with Chris Morris & an Andy Walker double, the latter goal notoriously nearly being missed by the BBC as they were still showing the replay of Walker’s first. However the memories most at that game have are of the downright scary moments pre-game on Janefield Street as the sheer weight of numbers led to horrendous crushing in the queues, and the incredible scenes at the end when the Jungle pretty much en-masse ended up dancing on the pitch. That night was spent mainly in the Champagne Bar at Melville’s Nightclub in Livingston, including a notorious incident when a certain friend of mine who shall remain nameless (@IainC68) tried to convince a young lady we were in fact members of the victorious Celtic side, and that he was indeed the blonde, 6ft+, blue-eyed Irish full-back Anton Rogan. No mean feat for a brown-haired, brown-eyed, sub-6ft Scotsman. Alas his quest ended when she made off to find her Celtic-daft brother to introduce him to his hero…

 

The two weeks that had passed since my break-up had been filled with Celtic (as usual) music (as usual) drinking (increasingly as usual) and a group of friends who’d rallied round to keep me busy and less likely to lose myself in Danny Wilson-accompanied depression. I don’t remember too much detail from this period but the fact I don’t leaves me eternally grateful for the work those guys put into keeping me permanently drunk & therefore relatively insulated from the heartache that hit me in my few sober working hours.

 

Saturday 30th April took us to Fir Park for a nondescript end-of-season game I literally remember nothing about, other than a hazy memory of a deflected Anton Rogan shot giving us (yet another) last-minute victory. Given Anton only scored 3 times for us this is an important memory, but my abiding thought about that game is that it likely kept me sober for 2 more hours than I ideally would have liked that day.

 

The following Saturday, 7th May, was Flag Day against newly relegated Dunfermline Athletic. Grand plans had been hatched by the guys for a major-scale house party that night on our triumphant return from Glasgow, a fairly massive carry-out was arranged, and girls were duly invited. On the morning of the game, I took a call at home from my uncle, telling me my great-aunt had passed away peacefully but unexpectedly overnight. I’m from a fairly small extended family, and death hadn’t touched me at all up until that point. My first thoughts shamefully were whether I could make it to Dalkeith to be with the family and make it back home in time for the supporters’ bus to Glasgow- not my finest moment. I put the phone down & went off to tell my mother what had happened- not easy given my aunt had pretty much brought her up as a kid. I managed to get a call into one of my mates to explain my absence, and then went off to try & be a compassionate unselfish person for the day. It soon became apparent however that I wasn’t equipped to be a grown-up at that point: I didn’t handle the initial stages of grief at all well, & was more a hindrance than a help to the shocked assembled aunts & cousins. I made my excuses just after Final Score, which confirmed we’d won 1-0, through another strike from goal machine Chris Morris. I made it back for the party, but it was a fairly muted affair, in part I think due to the big overhanging black cloud that followed me in the door. The rest of the week is a blur of funeral, drinking, and more Danny Wilson…

 

Saturday 14th May 1988. You’ve all seen the video. Two late goals from Frank McAvennie completed the miracle that was the Centenary Double, Thatcher got it tight from everyone in the ground, big Billy & Tommy Craig embracing at the end, TB in tears in front of the Celtic End with the Cup whilst giving his thanks to wee John Connor in the hospital…the best of days. My memories of the day revolve around two things: the 50-a-side pre-match kick about on the playing fields in front of the Beacon pub in Prospecthill Road; and the evolution of another strange musical moment. Somewhere between leaving the house that morning at 9am & arriving at Hampden about noon, our supporters’ bus had adopted the current UK number one single, Perfect by Fairground Attraction, into the latest addition to the Celtic musical canon. “Its’ got to be-e-e-e-e-e…Celtic!” was the constant cry that day, and by the time we got into the ground it had rippled through the support & was being sung widely & loudly. It subsequently got a wee mention in the View Double special, a nice little memory for my friends & I of an absolutely awesome day to be a Celtic supporter. The mists of time have long since closed over what happened during the celebrations that night- I’d need a blog of its’ own to catalogue the incidents that occurred, and a very good libel lawyer to check it before publication…

 

Well that’s my ramble complete, through five weeks & six games, two hit singles, one traumatic break-up, a numbing death, a succession of parties, an unsuccessful attempt at identity theft & an Anton Rogan 20-yarder. As always, thanks for reading, if you were there I hope it brings back some happy memories (hopefully happier than some of mine) and if you were too young to be there, well in that case I hope it at least emphasises that being a Celtic fan didn’t just begin with Martin O’Neill…

 

The author can be found on Twitter: @Pault1888

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG: LAST OF THE FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL PLAYBHOYS

  • Marko Bee
    2 years ago

    Great memories Paul, sounds like we are of similar age.

    Does anyone know if Snoop made the game on Tue???

    Reply
  • justshatered
    2 years ago

    Re the semi final against Hearts. One of the few cup ties that I’ve been at where the ground was still full 4 minutes after the final whistle with Celtic fans going mad and Hearts fans standing completely stunned.
    Another great night that year was a game at Pittodrie where we one with almost a carbon copy of the winning goal at Ibrox. The fans refused to leave until the team came back on, the police refused to allow them back, the floodlights were turned off and still we stayed with lighters lit and matches held high while still singing. It was a 7:30 kick off and I didn’t leave the groung until 9:45. For anyone that was there it was an incredibly emotional night. Ahhhh memories!

    Reply

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