When I was nine years old, I cried at everything. When my da gubbed me at Pinball Dreams on the Amiga, I bubbled. When the ‘Batvan’ drove away as I ran down the street to get a 10p mixture, I was inconsolable. When the BBC announced they would not show The Turtles again, I was on suicide watch.
Imagine what I was like when we lost the 1994 League Cup final to Raith Rovers.
Almost 18 years on – I still cannot forgive Gordon Marshall for his role in my tearfest that day.
With Celtic leading 2-1 with four minutes to go at Ibrox, there seemed to be no trouble as Jason Dair cut in from the right and hit a tame speculative shot towards goal which most goalkeepers would have gathered with ease. However, Gordon Marshall made a meal of this poor effort on goal and palmed the ball onto the head of Gordon Dalziel, who nodded home to equalise and gleefully celebrated in front of our fans in the Broomloan stand. I believe this is when I first swore at a football game.
While Marshall was not wholly responsible for our failure that day, his error went a long way towards the pain of the Coca Cola Cup loss to Raith. If it was a one off or he wasn’t prone to howlers, it would be forgot about, but a Marshallism was a common occurrence watching Celtic in the mid 90’s.
From Hamburg to Hibs, Marshall was capable of making the the least troublesome effort look like an unstoppable rocket. Whether he was being nutmegged from 20 yards at Rugby Park or hauling down a young Lee McCulloch at Celtic Park with the game on a knife-edge, one thing can be said for the deservedly maligned keeper – he was consistent with his gaffes !
Goalkeepers make mistakes – that’s a given. Even Johnny Thompson probably made the odd clanger against Vale Of Leven allowing Ernest McSporran the Third a tap in. That said – they also win you games and I cannot ever recall a match in which Marshall did us a turn and won us a game.
Concentration was also a poor point for Marshall. In derby games against Rangers, Goram would normally be the busier goalkeeper on the pitch. He would keep his team in the match with save after save leaving Celtic fans reeling and Tommy Burns exasperated, and then be celebrating a success at the end of the game due to a lapse from the hairdresser. Yes – he was qualified in this profession ! Some days I wondered why he was spending his working days on a pitch with Iain Ferguson when he should have been cutting hair in Bath Street with Taylor Ferguson. Anyway, for an example of Marshall’s dozing off attributes, see : September 1995. Gascoigne loops in a cross, El Gordo is all over the place and McCoist is at the back post to send Rangers into the next round of the cup. He had nothing to do for the previous 75 minutes. Textbook.
Thankfully, he lost his place halfway through the 1996/1997 season to a promising Stewart Kerr. Sadly, this didn’t stop Rangers achieving nine in a row as Kerr was involved in three of the four defeats to them in the league that season. But at least the guy in front of me at the stadium wasn’t putting in complaints about floods of tears at his feet anymore.
Ultimately the buck stopped with the late Thomas Burns, who probably would have been better off cashing in on him in the summer of 1995 as we left Hampden and prepared to return back to Celtic Park. Sadly, it was symptomatic of the main problem under TB – Invest in attack and neglect the defence. It was a bad day when an overcooked pie at the kiosk at the stadium seemed to be a more solid option in goals than Marshall.
The first thing Wim Jansen did at Celtic was sort this position out. Johnny Gould wasn’t going to ever get into a World XI, but he was a better option than Gordon Marshall. When Chic Charnley rattled a 25 yarder past the keeper in August 1997, this would be the last time he would pick a ball out of the net wearing a Celtic jersey. Cheerio and thanks for the clangers G !
Unfortunately this would not be the last we would have to put up with him. He would then delve into the murkier waters of Ayrshire to turn out for Kilmarnock before retiring with Motherwell, both whom he represented against the Hoops in last day title deciders in 2003 and 2005.
In 2005, he had the game of his life as he denied Craig Bellamy, Stillian Petrov and John Hartson with fine saves in a second half which went onto go down in infamy for all supporters of the club. We threw the league away that day. He, in fairness, did a very good job winning three points for his team. Our own fault. No excuses.
I thought long and hard about the name of this article. I felt ‘They Shamed The Hoops’ was a bit much. The guy frustrated, angered and upset me but did it really warrant the word ‘shamed’. I was trying to justify it. Then I remembered his antics in May 2003 at Rugby Park.
Celtic, having played 120 painstaking minutes in Seville, took to Kilmarnock four days later to contest for the title on the last day of the 2002/2003 season. Winning a high pressure game in these conditions is hard enough, but the antics from Jim Jeffries side that day go down as one of the most disgusting we’ve ever been up against, with their timewasting and cynical fouling. Refusing to give the ball back and actually being instructed to blooter the ball out the stadium and into the back of the stands by their manager was ridiculous and one of the worst culprits for this sickening approach to the game was our former keeper with a personal mission to give me a stomach ulcer. 20 seconds a goalkick, numerous instances of holding onto the ball for longer than six seconds, making a scene and expressing unparalleled joy when Thommo missed his penalty that day and not to mention his delight at full time in playing his part in ensuring Celtic weren’t Champions at the end of the day.
For me, Gordon Marshall shamed the Hoops and should never be remembered fondly by our support.