In my last article we looked at Liam Brady’s first season in charge of Celtic.
Ultimately a finishing a point off of second was a far greater league return that the previous 3 seasons but masked disappointing cup exits, the disastrous club record signing of Tony Cascarino and of course the European horror show in Neuchatel.
1992-1993 though promised to be different.
Little did we know it was actually going to get a whole lot of … well actually just more of the same really.
Now to start with I have to correct info I placed in the previous article.
There I wrote that within a month of breaking the club’s transfer record by spending £1.1 million on Tony Cascarino we then did it again and this time spent £1.5 million on Stuart Slater. In fact Slater was signed in August of 1992 so he was actually brought in a year later than previously claimed.
He was the big signing that summer.
A pacey winger from West Ham United renowned, or so the Celtic View claimed, for lighting up the Hammer’s faithful with his wing wizardry. Some accused him of not scoring enough goals but at 23 he was about to enter into the prime of his career and Liam Brady had faith that this kid was the business.
He also added Rudi Vata, an unheralded internationalist right back from that hotbed of footballing excellence Albania for £200,000.
On the same day we also rolled out 24 year old striker Andy Payton who was secured somehow on a swap deal as Middlesbrough developed temporary insanity and took faded full back Chris Morris in his place.
And that was us ready for an assault on the league championship and an attempt to stop Rangers winning 5 in a row.
The start was pretty incredible as we went unbeaten in 7.
The problem was though that we drew 4 of those.
However we did record an opening day away win at Hearts and two of the aforementioned draws were away to a revitalised Aberdeen under new manager Willie Miller and at Ibrox to title favourites Rangers.
Then came a bizarre patch.
Firstly the unbeaten ruin came to an end as we were beaten 3-2 at home to Hibs. That was followed by a pretty crazy 5-4 win away at Falkirk and before the celebrations had ended from that one we were beaten 2-1 at home to Patrick Thistle.
We dusted ourselves off though to capture an uncustomary away 3-1 win against perennial bogey team of the time Motherwell.
But then Rangers came calling and bested us 1-0 at Celtic Park on the 7th of November.
Same consistency was then found to take us towards New Year a we went on a unbeaten 6 game run (4 wins) including another goal-fest victory over Falkirk, this time 3-2, and revenge away wins at Hibs (2-1) and Partick Thistle (3-2).
With that we approached the festive and New Year fixtures with optimism.
However it proved to be misplaced as we crashed to 3 losses on the spin, all 1-0 to Hearts(away), Dundee Utd (home)and and then in what was becoming a customary Old Firm defeat to Rangers.
With 1993 upon us the title challenge was over.
A rather pathetic attempt to reintroduce a feel good factor with a big singing was rolled out via the recapture of Frank McAvennie. But Frank was a shadow of his old self and struggled to hit a barn door in his second incarnation as a Hoops striker. We had already suffered another semi-final defeat by this time against Aberdeen (1-0) in the League Cup the previous September and any other faint hopes of genuine silverware were blown out of the water via a meek 2-0 defeat by Falkirk at Brockville on Saturday, February 6th in the Scottish Cup 4th Round, our earliest exit since 1987.
I remember being on a family day out at the old Pond Hotel beside the Gartnavel Hospital in the west end of the city. I can’t remember if it had become a Jury’s Inn by then. I know it’s back to being The Pond again now. My dad would periodically sneak out to the car from the hotel bar where he was having a drink with my mum to put on the Clyde 1 Superscoreboard live commentary. I would of course tag along. He would turn on the car engine to enable the radio, listen for a few mins, bang his hands down on the steering wheel in frustration as another bleak summation of Celtic’s display was relayed through, which would occasionally cause the car horn to beep, and then we would trudge back to the hotel with our heads dipped in disappointed and a few stones kicked along the way.
His mood didn’t improve on our drive home when the final score was confirmed.
As for the rest of the league season we actually did pretty well with only 2 losses in the remaining 19 fixtures.
This included going 11 unbeaten after the New Year’s Derby loss at Ibrox. 8 wins and 3 draws to be precise. That included a draw at Pittodrie and a 2-1 win against Rangers at Celtic Park. John Collins scored a screamer in the first half and then summer singing Andy Payton hit the second to secure the 2 points. It should have been more as well and against a good Rangers team who swept all before them domestically that season and even went unbeaten in Europe as they reached the latter stages of the inaugural Champion League. Two defeats in four followed before going unbeaten in the last four and conceding no goals in doing so.
In the end we finished 3rd on 60 points. 13 points behind Rangers and 4 behind Aberdeen. 24 wins, 12 draws and 8 defeats was the sum total.
68 goals were scored (20 less than the previous season) and we conceded only 1 less than the previous campaign.
As a result the goal difference was 19 worse off.
There were at least no repeats of the indignities suffered in Europe the previous season.
This one even included one of the best continental competition nights seen at Celtic Park in years.
After going down 2-0 away in Germany to Cologne we did the unthinkable and beat them 3-0 at home. McStay and Creaney started the revival in the the first half and John Collins put us through undr the floodlights with 11 mins to go. Sadly though we got drawn against a far better German team in the second round and went down 3-1 on aggregate against Borussia Dortmund.
Borussia went all the way to the final that year where they lost 6-1 on aggregate to Juventus.
Four years later they won the Champions League.
So that was that for season 1992-1993.
Though, not quite.
Because the competition that every Scottish football fan in the country under the age of 15 really wanted to win of course was the Tennent’s Sixes.
This annual indoor football competition was in it’s 9th year and we had never even made the final before never mind won it. But that all changed on Sunday, January 20th, 1993 as Liam Brady gloriously led the Hoops to our first trophy, of sorts, in 4 years.
The group stages were negotiated easily with hammerings dished out to Falkirk, Partick Thistle and Dundee Utd before a frantic 3-3 draw with St.Johnstone saw us top our section. After that you just got this feeling it was going to be our year.
As my father feigned apathy and glanced occasionally over his Sunday Mail as the evening’s events unfolded live on STV’s Scotsport Celtic’s 6-a-side juggernaut continued and we hammered Motherwell 8-5 in the semi. That’s right, 8-5. The final would prove tighter and it was fitting that Celtic would come up against the only team to not lose to them at that’s year’s football extravaganza before a packed SECC in the form of St.Johnstone.
But Celtic would not be denied and the game was won 4-2 and the silverware secured.
As great as it was to be allowed to stay up late and watch it even my 11 year old self new that in the grand scheme of things this meant pretty much sweet FA. But that didn’t stop Michael Kelly having the sheer bare faced temerity to come out and claim it was evidence of progress.
It probably won’t be lost on you that in season 1992-93 the Sack the Board campaign was beginning to gather real momentum.
Deposed former board member Brian Dempsey along with just about everyone else associated with the club had had enough of Celtic being 3rd, 4th and sometimes 5th best in the country and not coming close to mustering anything resembling a credible title challenge.
Previously Terry Cassidy had been the mouthpiece of the club. But he was deposed in December of 1992.
As a result Kelly, the former Lord Provost of the city who rolled out the highly successful 80’s ‘Glasgow ‘s Miles Better’ campaign was given carte blanche to address the media. Pretty much nothing he said ever went down well. Usually because it completely illustrated his and the board’s complete detachment from the fans and reality in general.
Back to my namesake Cassidy momentarily.
As noted in the previous article Terry was not a shrinking violet.
When his employment was terminated he decided to vigorously pursue the club for £143,000 damages due to breach of contract through the courts. The old board unwisely decided to contest it. Now if it was Fergus you were going up against you would have expected Terry to have been left embarrassed, bruised and with a bill for court costs. But when you’re up against former majority share holder Chris White then you know you’re onto a winner.
White reeled off various examples of Cassidy’s professional shortcomings and even accused Terry of calling him a ‘bastard’ after discovering he hadn’t been invited to a board shin dig at Hampden which he had shown up for unceremoniously anyway.
In response Cassidy’s brief took White to the proverbial cleaners and Chris was warned by the judge to stop being evasive, admitted that board member’s wives played an active role in the day to day running of the club and then eventually accepted he may have tried to mislead the court in regards to one or two details relating to how Cassidy carried out his role.
Anyway it will come as no surprise that Terry Cassidy won his case and so would begin the first of many defeats for the Celtic board in the coming months.
For Liam Brady the end came 10 games into the 1993-1994 campaign.
A 2-1 defeat at St.Johnstone saw Celtic suffer their third defeat of the new campaign against only 2 wins with 5 draws. We’d also lost another League Cup semi-final to our cross city rivals and again by 1-0. The writing for Liam had really been on the wall in the summer when his only two significant signings had been Pat McGinley from Hibs and Paul Byrne from Bangor City. Neither were bad players but neither were capable of stoking the fires of a good cup run never mind a title challenge and were the strongest indicators yet that we were light years away from Ranger’s financial muscle.
Michael Kelly saw no irony in proclaiming: “He has done the honourable thing in resigning.”
Brady himself would accept that he just hadn’t been good enough:
“If I’ve made excuses with regard to how difficult it was with the board then I have to admit that my signings didn’t really come off and on the pitch is where I failed.”
In truth Liam was always up against it especially being a rookie manager.
Somewhat naive to the goldfish bowel that is Glasgow and the intensity of Old Firm management his lavish budget for a then Celtic manager paled into significance to our cross city rivals and most of his signings flopped.
Cascarino’s form, or lack of, has already been well documented in these articles but Slater proved to be a no mark after showing some initial promise. Indeed the concern over his lack of goal scoring prowess also proved well founded as in total he only ever hit the net three times for us in 50 games.
The mounting issues off the pitch clearly didn’t help but in many ways it’s just as well that he did fail as even a modicum of success could have seen the old the board hold onto power even longer.
As for the man himself he remained dignified and sincere throughout.
In later years he would recall of the Parkhead crowd:
“Celtic fans are great when the team are up against it. There´s nothing like the Celtic support. I’ve worked at Celtic Park and I know that when the team is up against it, the fans respond by making the kind of ear-splitting noise that shows they want to help the players.”
In the next article we’ll get to the darkest day yet.
A day so dark it couldn’t get any darker even if the sun ceased to exist and every light bulb in the world shattered instantaneously.
Yes it is of course the signing of Wayne Biggins.
We’ll also review the short lived (thank God) Lou Macari managerial tenure, the arrival on the scene of a straight talking, bunnet wearing Canadian called Fergus McCann and the subsequent ousting of the old board.
You’ll be happy to know things start looking a bit brighter after that.
It should be quite a ride.