‘On this day’ goes back 25 years as Thecomicsnob remembers one of his early Celtic memories.
The first Celtic game I ever went to was a pre-season friendly against Arsenal on August 1st 1987. We lost 5-1 but I don’t remember anything about it. A game I do remember though – even though I wasn’t there – was April 23rd 1988, when Celtic clinched the title with a 3-0 win over Dundee in our centenary season.
As has already been said on this blog when writing about the Scottish cup final of that season, Celtic weren’t expected to achieve much that season as they were up against the Graeme Souness and Rangers juggernaut who had spent loads of money on English imports, in a move which revolutionised but helped to destroy Scottish football. Celtic, with Billy McNeill returning as manager had to make do with cheaper signings, but the likes of Andy Walker and Chris Morris were a big success and the purchases of Frank McAvennie and Joe Miller during the season proved a master stroke.
The league was practically won with our record against Rangers that season, of three wins and a draw, the 2-1 win at Ibrox in March killing off Rangers’ title challenge. In fact Rangers finished third that season, and our biggest challengers were Hearts, who finished second and prevented Celtic from winning the league the week before the Dundee game by beating us 2-1 at Tynecastle. That defeat did set up a day of celebration at Parkhead, as Celtic prepared to win the league at home for the first time in six years.
The team selected to win the title that day was roughly the one that had been picked all season, Bonner in goal, a defence of Morris, McCarthy, Whyte and Rogan, the midfield duo of McStay and Aitken supported from the wings by Miller and the late great Tommy Burns with the prolific duo of McAvennie and Walker up front.
The crowd at the game was huge. In the days before all seater stadiums, far more people could attempt to get into games and in the desperation to see Celtic clinch the title the crowd over spilled to the old tracks that used to run around the stadium before the game starred. Thankfully there were no real injuries, and the crowd was given as 60,800 – the capacity of Celtic Park at that time – although other sources give it as 72,000.
Celtic began the game in style, taking the lead in the 3rd minute, a Rogan cross was deflected out by the Dundee goalie and full back Chris Morris came rushing into the box to hammer the ball home. The goal was a fitting reward for Morris, who had enjoyed a terrific debut season since signing from Sheffield Wednesday.
The game that went flat, as big occasions often do, as Celtic searched for the second goal that would clinch the title. The wait was ended in the 75th minute, when Andy Walker latched onto a through ball, rounded the keeper and finished from an acute angle. His second and Celtic’s third arrived just a minute later, as he scored with a nice shot from the edge of the box. Celtic were champions!
The final whistle brought.a mass pitch invasion, as the fans celebrated the title coming back to Parkhead. The players eventually done a lap of honour, wearing ‘centenary champions’ t-shirts which I’m sure I bought a week later. The highlights on TV that night also showed footage of the players throwing manager Billy McNeill and assistant Tommy Craig into the team bath. Truly those were different times.
With the title won the young comicsnob thought this was a thing that happened regularly, Celtic winning the title. Little did I know I would have to wait ten years to celebrate another Celtic league win…But that’s for another day (and another blog) as this one celebrates the Centenary Bhoys of 1988, justifiably still seen as heroes today.