DAVIE HAY can afford a wry smile when the talk comes around to teams spending millions in strengthening their squads as they aim for the coveted title.

Much has been made of Celtic’s lack of splashing cash in the January window when their solitary purchase was the £3million paid to Rapid Vienna for German winger Nicolas Kuhn.

The only other recruit was Republic of Ireland international striker Adam Idah who arrived on a short-term loan switch from Championship outfit Norwich City.

There were summer investments in new Bhoys such as Maik Nawrocki, £4.3million from Legia Warsaw, Luis Palma (£3.5m, Aris Thessaloniki), Gustaf Lagerbielke (£3m, Elfsborg), Odin Holm (£2.5m, Valerenga), Yang Hyun-jun (£2.1m, Gangwon FC) and Marco Tilio (£2m, Melbourne City).

It’s all a far cry from the days when club legend Hay spent a meagre TEN THOUSAND POUNDS to win the 1985/86 title in one of the most epic championship conclusions in the Hoops’ history.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Hay, speaking to his long-time friend and author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the icon’s best-selling autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin‘, reflects on the sparse cash available when he put together his squad that was good enough to see off everyone in a dramatic, nail-biting race for the crown.

The former club and manager legend, now 76, said: “It’s remarkable to look back and believe it was possible to make Celtic the best club in the land when there was barely a transfer kitty.

“The old board were often accused of their ‘biscuit-tin mentality’ and they certainly didn’t make oceans of cash available to their managers at the time. There was little point in complaining about it, I knew what I was getting into when chairman Desmond White offered me the job in 1983 after Billy McNeill had departed for Manchester City.

WELCOME TO PARADISE…Davie Hay looks on as Mark McGhee completes his £150,000 move from SV Hamburg in November 1985.

“I realised I would get a fair percentage of the cash I brought in by selling players to then spend on the team. I had trained as an accountant before I went to Celtic as a teenager, so I had fair idea of what balancing the books was all about.

“It was tough, believe me. If a player was available, we had to battle with Aberdeen and Dundee United, never mind Rangers, for them. Hard to believe, but that was the truth of the matter. We could be outbid by other clubs who could also offer better personal terms.

“In the summer of 1985, I sold Frank McGarvey to St Mirren for £80,000. That move raised a few eyebrows. Only a couple of months earlier, Frank had scored the Scottish Cup winner against Dundee United and was a hero to our supporters.

“He was out of contract and I offered him the same terms to sign on for the new season. These were the days before Bosman and players being allowed to walk away for nothing when their deals come to a conclusion.

“Back then, the club held the individual’s registration and if a player wanted to move the club would listen to reasonable offers.

“Frank thought he was worth a substantial increase, but the club had no intenstion on giving him a massive pay hike. I already had Brian McClair, Mo Johnston and Alan McInally on the books and the striking department looked well catered for with three reliable frontmen vying for two berths.

THE SIGNS ARE GOOD…Davie Provan lets his team-mates know it is 2-0 for Dundee against Hearts while Davie Hay, masseur Jimmy Steele and Mark McGhee watch Celtic win 5-0 at St Mirren to clinch the 1986 title.

“The ideal solution was a transfer for Frank and his former team St Mirren came in with an offer that was acceptable. I believe Frank got a fair signing-on fee from the Paisley club and the £80,000 deal was concluded.

“I also brought in £60,000 for winger John Colquhoun. Hearts liked our wide player I had signed from Stirling Albion for something in the region of £50,000 two years earlier.

“The deal represented a small profit and I okayed the move. To be honest, I had hoped John would be a direct replacement for Davie Provan, but he failed to deliver on a consistent basis. He wanted game-time and the answer was a move to the Edinburgh club.

“The only other player with lengthy first-team experience to leave that season was central defender Tom McAdam. The player had given the club great service after Jock Stein had bought him as a striker from Dundee United in 1977 and I thought he deserved a pay day as a thank you.

“He was granted a free transfer and was snapped up by Motherwell.”

Hay, now a club ambassador, added: “The only player I brought in was Mark McGhee who cost £150,000 from SV Hamburg.

“I had always liked the look of Mark who had scored a load of goals from Aberdeen before moving the Bundesliga club. I was aware he could also perform wide right, a position he had occupied when he first broke through at Morton before a move to Newcastle.

“In November 1985, I got the opportunity to sign Mark and I thought he could play an important role as we aimed for the championship.

CHEERS…Roy Aitken enjoys a drop of bubbly courtesy of Danny McGrain as Celtic celebrate the 1986 title triumph.

“It was a wonderful feeling to win my first piece of silverware with the Scottish Cup the previous season, but I was well aware that the league crown was the big one for the club’s fans.

“I was determined to deliver it to them. I had brought in £140,000 in the sales of McGarvey and Colquhoun and spent £150,000 on McGhee, an outlay that proved an absolute bargain for an experienced Scotland international.

“And, of course, that squad pulled off the extraordinary achievement when we beat St Mirren 5-0 at Love Street, Hearts lost 2-0 to Dundee at Dens Park and the flag was delivered on goal difference on the last day of the campaign.

“People may have termed us the ‘Cheapskate Champions’, but that didn’t bother me one bit.

“The silverware was back where it belonged in the Celtic trophy room and that was my only concern.

“To win it with an outlay of £10,000 made it all the more special. At least, no-one could accuse us of buying our way to the title!”

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss ‘How To Win The League With Eight Games To Play’ – only in your champion CQN.

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