FORMER Celtic striker George McCluskey celebrates his 66th birthday today – and is hoping his old club stage an action replay of his heroics in Holland back on September 29 1982.
The gifted frontman scored one of his most memorable goals in Billy McNeill’s side’s 2-1 victory over Ajax, Johan Cruyff et al, in Amsterdam for a famous away triumph in front of a near-55,000 partisan crowd.
It was the second leg of a European Cup encounter against the Dutch masters who had drawn 2-2 in a thrilling encounter at Parkhead a fortnight earlier.
DUTCH DELIGHT…George McCluskey takes to the air after hitting the late winner against Ajax in Amsterdam in September 1982 with joyous team-mates Mark Reid, Frank McGarvey and Charlie Nicholas about to join in.
The minutes were ticking down with the score tied at 1-1 in the Olympic Stadium – after a Charlie Nicholas 33rd-minute opener had been nullified – and the Hoops were heading out on the goals away rule.
McCluskey, who had come on as a 72nd-minute substitute for Davie Provan, etched his name into club folklore when he swept past a couple of challenges, looked up and slotted the winner beyond the diving Piet Schrijvers for an unforgettable winner.
Years later, the matchwinner recalled: “We were extremely disappointed to lose the two goals in the first leg and I think they were happy to go back home with the draw.
“I was carrying a wee injury and it was debatable whether I would travel or not. But Big Billy asked me to go. At that time it was any two from me, Frank McGarvey and Charlie Nicholas to play up front and among the three of us we scored over 100 goals that year.
JOY BHOYS…Charlie Nicholas celebrates putting Celtic 1-0 ahead with Frank McGarvey in pursuit to congratulate his team-mate.
“We were scoring a phenomenal amount of goals.
“The last 10 minutes of the game suited us because we were out of it, so we had nothing to lose. My goal was one the three of us were all involved in – Charlie got it, passed it to Frank, who passed it to me.
“I drew the centre-half out and went by him. I struck it with my left foot and it went right across the box. I caught it sweet as a nut.”
McCluskey added: “I remember going into their dressing room after the game trying to swap my jersey, but every one of them had their head down. They all said no and told me to get out.
CRUYFF v CELTIC…world superstar Johan Cruyff had plenty to say to his Hoops opponents over two legs of the extraordinary European Cup-tie in 1982 with an unusual expression after a challenge from Murdo MacLeod (above) and a word with Tommy Burns in the 2-2 draw at Parkhead. Davie Moyes and Ajax midfielder Soren Lerby act as peacemakers.
“But as I was going out, Cruyff, who was lying having a massage on the table, shouted after me, took his top off and said he would swap with me because I scored a great goal.”
McCluskey made a happy habit of netting crucial goals for the club with the Scottish Cup extra-time winner over Rangers in 1980 and he was one of the scorers in the extraordinary 4-2 triumph over the Ibrox club when 10 men won the league the previous year.
Celtic’s team that evening in Amsterdam was: Bonner; McGrain, Aitken, McAdam, Reid; McStay (sub: Moyes 78), MacLeod, Sinclair; Provan (sub: McCluskey 72), Nicholas, McGarvey. Unused subs: Latchford, Sullivan, Crainie.
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