WITH ear-splitting jeers ricocheting around the stadium, a disconsolate Celtic manager Davie Hay made his way up the tunnel after his team had played their last home league game of the season.
It was the afternoon of May 2 1987 and the hosts had been toppled 2-1 by a Falkirk side that just dodged the relegation trapdoor by five points. It was only their fourth away success in that campaign.
It was also Celtic’s first home loss of a disappointing crusade. Their opponents’ winning goal came four minutes from time, scored by a virtual unknown by the name of Jimmy Gilmour.
His uncle was a bloke with a fair pedigree at the Glasgow club, a wee chap by the name of Jimmy Johnstone. The Lisbon Lion, who would later by hailed as Celtic’s Greatest-Ever Player in a millennium poll by the supporters, had told his nephew before the kick-off: “Noo, don’t ye dae anythin’ daft, ye hear?”
HAPPIER TIMES…Davie Hay celebrates Celtic’s 1985 Scottish Cup triumph.
Alas, the plea fell on deaf ears as his relative launched a speculative shot from outside the box that dipped in front of the diving Pat Bonner, took a wicked bounce and crept past the clawing left hand of the keeper towards its destination in the corner of his net.
A frustrating episode in the east end of Glasgow was not enhanced when news filtered through via transistor radios that 10-man Rangers, who had player-manager Graeme Souness dismissed in the first-half, had drawn 1-1 with Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
With just one more game to be played, that solitary point cemented the destination of that season’s title. As the travelling support in the north east went into spasms of delerium and staged an impromptu pitch invasion, it was all too much for the 14,238 Celtic supporters who could not disguise their exasperation at what they had just witnessed.
To the backdrop of derision from disillusioned and infuriated fans, the crestfallen Celtic players and their manager trudged towards the sanctuary of the home dressing room.
As Hay followed the playing staff, a Celtic scarf was thrown at him by an irate supporter. The man known as The Quiet Assassin in his uncompromising playing days didn’t break stride.
Instead, the manager scooped up the discarded garment. What he did next was quite extraordinary. Hay placed the scarf around his neck and continued his way towards the solitude offered deep in the bowels of the stadium.
NUMBER ONE…Davie Hay, now a proud Celtic Club Ambassador.
Years later, I was honoured to co-author Hay’s autobiography, which was published in 2009, and we were discussing that awful day, a rare blip in an otherwise honour-laden career.
I asked him if he remembered the moment the angrily-jettisoned neckwear dropped at his feet.
“Yes, I recall it well,” he nodded. “I put the scarf around my neck.”
“Why not just ignore it?” I asked, reasonably, I thought.
“Because I am a Celtic supporter,” smiled Hay.
Remarkably, that simple reaction from a man I am delighted to be able to call a genuine friend was one of his last acts as a Celtic manager at a place called Paradise.
Eighteen days later, Hay was sacked.
The Celtic fan who discarded the team’s colours must have been hurting.
Their chagrin would have been infinitesimal to what the manager had been experiencing at that precise moment.
No-one should ever underestimate what Celtic meant back then and still do to a proud club ambassador who celebrated his 76th birthday last month.
If today’s followers ever needed an example of what it means to truly show their support for Celtic, they only need to look in the direction of Davie Hay.
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