DAVIE HAY hopes there will be no repeat of the shameful scenes that marred the 1986 League Cup Final when Celtic take on Rangers in the semi-final at Hampden on February 1.
The Hoops boss was furious with referee Davie Syme after the Parkhead side’s controversial 2-1 loss – the winning goal coming from a penalty-kick described as “a joke”.
Hampden was in uproar when the match official ordered off Mo Johnston – before his defection – in the 86th minute and then flashed another red card at young Celtic midfielder Tony Shepherd.
Davie Hay, standing yards away from the flashpoint incident on the touchline, had the match ball in his hands. He admitted: “For a split-second I thought about volleying it as powerfully as possible in the direction of the ref.
“Thankfully, though, I had a swift change of mind. I guessed it would be an action that would send an already powderkeg confrontation into utter chaos.’
Johnston was sent off after an incident with Ibrox defender Stuart Munro. Syme didn’t see the incident, but the linesman eagerly flagged and that was enough to see the Celtic striker banished.
Then the bungling ref dramatically delivered another red card to Shepherd whose only misdemeanour appeared to be standing in the vicinity wearing a green and white jersey.
Remarkably, Syme admitted afterwards he believed the young Celt had punched him on the back of the head. When it was pointed out that no such action had taken place, Syme changed his mind and ushered the befuddled player back onto the pitch.
Hay recalled: “The referee told me he had made a mistake.
“‘I replied, ‘You’re a mistake!’ It was the best I could offer in the circumstances as I felt my blood boil at the injustices I had witnessed all day.
“The referee booked seven Celtic players – Johnston, Pat Bonner, Roy Aitken, Alan McInally, Derek Whyte, Peter Grant and Owen Archdeacon. Had we suddenly become a dirty team overnight?
“It was some of the most outrageous refereeing I had ever seen. I have to admit I cracked up during that 2-1 defeat.
“I think the referee simply lost the plot. The penalty-kick he awarded to them was just ridiculous.
“I only saw footage of that spot-kick recently when I was doing an interview for Celtic TV. It was worse than I thought first time around and, believe me, that is saying something!
‘As I recall, there were only six minutes to go and a corner-kick came in from the right. Roy Aitken and Terry Butcher went for it at the back post.
“These are two big guys we are talking about and both were extremely passionate captains of their respective clubs.
“They were jostling with each other and it looked to everyone that it was a case of six of one and half a dozen of another. Well, everyone apart from Syme, who was, by the way, positioned at the near post and would have required x-ray vision to see through the crowd of players to witness what was going on between Roy and Terry.
“I couldn’t believe it when he pointed to the penalty spot. To be fair, even the Rangers contingent looked more than a little surprised by this absurd decision.
“I was furious, absolutely livid. It was an outrageous bit of refereeing and it cost us the game and the trophy.
‘Afterwards, I still couldn’t prevent myself from showing my anger. I just could not calm down. ‘I think we should take Celtic to England,’ I said, a bit ahead of my time. ‘At least, we’ll get a fair crack of the whip down there.’
“I meant every word of it, too. How could I think otherwise after that performance from Syme? There seemed no logic to his decision-making, as far as I was concerned.”
Davie Hay still insists, ’Sadly, that Hampden Final will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. There were a lot of good players on the park that afternoon, but one man managed to spoil the occasion – referee Davie Syme.
“I will never change my mind.”
* An edited extract from ‘Caesar and The Assassin’: Managing Celtic after Jock Stein: Billy McNeill and Davie Hay with Alex Gordon. Published by CQN Books and available on www.cqnbookstore.com, Celtic shops, Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith and all good book shopes. Price: £18.99.