HENRIK LARSSON fixed Rangers boss Dick Advocaat in his sights and promised: “We are coming for you next season.”
The Celtic legend was talking to a packed audience at a five-star Glasgow hotel as he picked up his well-merited honour as the Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year award.
It was the evening of May 30 1999 and the Swede didn’t feel much like celebrating. The Hoops, then managed by Dr Jo Venglos, had lost 1-0 to the Ibrox side in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden the previous day.
Author Alex Gordon, former sports editor of the Sunday Mail, recalled speaking to Larsson in the VIP suite before the dinner and the presentation.
“I was discussing something with Allan MacDonald, the former Celtic chief executive, when I saw Henrik perched on the arm of a leather setee,” Alex told CQN. “He was on his own and looking thoroughly miserable.
“After chatting to Allan I went over to talk to Henrik. I congratulated him on his trophy, but it was clear from our brief conversation he would have much preferred to have been overlooked and for the team to have won the Scottish Cup. Personal glory clearly meant nothing to the Swede.
“In truth, Henrik looked as though he would have preferred to have been anywhere on the planet rather than at a Glasgow hotel with so many people ready to party.
SWEDE DREAMS…Henrik Larsson made a vow to Gers gaffer Dick Advocaat.
“Dick Advocaat had won the Manager of the Year honour and he was due to accept his award before Henrik, who was, of course, the main attraction of the evening, took his acclaim.
“I remember Advocaat, who was a fairly charmless little Dutchman, lifting aloft his trophy and telling everyone: ‘See you at the same spot next year’. Basically, he was informing everyone he fully expected to pick up the Manager of the Year title again and for his club to sweep the boards.
“Henrik was far from amused. He was gracious as he accepted the honour and the applause that went with it. He kept his speech short.”
Alex, whose fifteenth Celtic book, ‘Fifty Flags’, is due to be published this year, added: “I will never forget Henrik staring at Advocaat who was sitting at a table near the forum.
“The Celtic player could not have looked more determined. He said: ‘Rangers can enjoy the moment’.
“He focused completely on the Rangers manager and said: ‘We are coming for you next season’.
“Henrik stood for a moment and continued to fix Advocaat in his gaze. And with those words he returned to the top table.
“Unsurprisingly, he made a hasty exit after the speeches were completed. But I will never forget that moment. The Celtic player left no-one in any doubt about his intentions in the new campaign.
“Unfortunately, he sustained a broken leg in the European tie against Lyon in France early on and his season was virtually written off. But I have absolutely no doubt Larsson would have exacted revenge on Rangers had he been able to play out an entire term.
“It’s history now that Venglos, a lovely gentleman, by the way, was replaced by the ‘dream team’ of John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish the following year and then Martin O’Neill arrived in the summer of 2000.
“And everything took off for the Hoops – especially Larsson. Advocaat? As the pressure mounted, he headed for the Ibrox exit in 2001.
“That was around the same time as Henrik won his second Scottish Football Writers Player of the Year award.”