TOMMY BURNS continued to concentrate on the title as the pressure grew in his third year as Celtic manager during the absorbing 1996/97 crusade.
The fans’ favourite had returned to the club on July 12 1994 and had won the Scottish Cup in his debut campaign. That was followed by a barren term and all eyes were on the boss during another challenging season.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, we chart Tommy Burns’ career as the team’s gaffer during turbulent times on and off the field. Here is the nineteenth instalment from Alex Gordon’s tribute book, The Winds of Change, which was published by CQN in 2015.
CELTIC beat Raith Rovers 2-0 in Glasgow on February 6 1997 to reduce Rangers’ lead at the top of the league to four points, although the Ibrox side had a game in hand.
Once again, there was controversy; once again Jorge Cadete was involved. At 0-0, it looked as though the Portuguese striker, who favoured playing on the shoulder of the last defender, had scored a perfectly good goal in the 35th minute, but it was ruled out by referee Cammy Melville.
Afterwards, a clearly agitated Cadete said: “I’m becoming frustrated with this. It has happened four times to me now this season – against Alloa, Kilmarnock, Rangers and now Raith Rovers. LInesmen are not machines – just as I am not a machine and I suppose they are bound to make errors. Maybe not so many.”
GOAL No.32…Jorge Cadete slams in Celtic’s second strike in the 2-0 win over Raith Rovers.
Cadete managed to get on the scoresheet 12 minutes from time to add to Paolo di Canio’s effort shortly after the turnaround. It brought the player’s total to an impressive 32 goals from 33 games. The encounter was played in swirling wind and rain and Tommy Burns added: “That was a difficult fixture for us, but, although I am pleased we got the victory, I reckon we should have scored more goals.
“We’ve played 10 games in the last four-and-a half weeks and I think the players are looking a bit tired. I was a little concerned at 1-0 as there is always a danger that if you are not clinical there will be a price to pay. But the result was the most important thing.”
The last league game in February was played out at Fir Park as Celtic conquered Motherwell 1-0 with a tenth minute strike by Jorge Cadete. Two days before the game, Burns had rushed through the £300,000 signing of defender Enrico Annoni from AS Roma. The travelling supporters were anxious to get their first glimpse of the menacing-looking, shaven-headed Italian, but he remained on the substitutes’ bench throughout the 90 minutes.
Ironically, he was called upon by the authorities for a random drug test after the game. Welcome to Scottish football, Enrico.
CONGRATULATIONS…Tommy Burns and Jorge Cadete celebrate the striker’s winner over Motherwell at Fir Park.
The wind howled and shrieked around the trim Lanarkshire ground on a day when it was a challenge for the players to remain vertical. The ball took on a life of its own when it was in the air – which was far too often for a purist’s liking. UFO-seeking enthusiasts were served up a feast. Paradoxically, though, the only goal of the game didn’t just overcome the Motherwell back lot, but also the elements.
Simon Donnelly and Paolo di Canio were involved in a slick, swift movement before the ball was switched to the feet of Jorge Cadete who adroitly sidestepped the flailing arms of keeper Scott Howie before angling the ball in with elegant grace.
Pierre van Hooijdonk sat beside Annoni on the bench for the entire game and looked far from happy with his lot. He had gone public to say the club had reneged on a contractual promise when he signed.
Fergus McCann, in withering tones, often referred to Van Hooijdonk, Cadete and Di Canio as ‘The Three Amigos’. The managing director was experiencing turbulence from the Dutchman, the Portuguese and the Italian, admittedly a supremely-talented trio, but a threesome who could also be troublesome, especially where filthy lucre was concerned.
DUTCH AND GO…Pierre van Hooijdonk celebrates one of his last goals for Celtic. Andreas Thom, Paolo di Canio, Jorge Cadete and Jackie McNamara join in.
McCann, after being stung by John Collins’ Bosman move to AS Monaco, vowed never to be placed in the same uncomfortable position again. While a player was agitating and still under contract, the managing director would cash in to the maximum. As far as ‘The Three Amigos’ were concerned, it would be a case of “Sell! Sell! Sell!” To the detriment of the team and the manager.
Of the game, Burns reflected: “We decided to opt for Di Canio playing up front with Cadete as Paolo can hold the ball up and Jorge is always on the last defender. He had two or three other chances to score, but I’m very pleased overall with the players’ approach to the game. Paul McStay was tremendous in the middle of the park as we played some good football in stages.
“It was always going to be a difficult game for us and latterly we were aware that Motherwell could be in with a chance of sneaking something from the game.”
Van Hooijdonk was asked how he felt about spending the game on the subs’ bench. “How do you think I felt?” he grumbled.
On March 10, he was sold to Nottingham Forest for £4.2million, the club were relegated from the English top flight at the end of the season and, in the summer, the Dutchman demanded a transfer.
Tommy Burns would follow him out of Celtic Park fifty-three days and ten games later.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the EXCLUSIVE twentieth dramatic instalment in The Tommy Burns Story – only in your champion CQN.