LIAM BRADY was named as Billy McNeill’s successor as Celtic manager in June 1991.
The charismatic Irishman arrived with a dream for the club, but his vision had become blurred by the time he departed in early October 1993.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, author Alex Gordon opens his book files to look back at an intriguing and compelling chapter in the club’s history.
Here is another edited extract from Alex’s tribute book, ‘The Winds of Change‘, published by CQN in 2015.
THE League Cup run came to an abrupt halt in the first week of September against Airdrie at Broomfield.
Celtic had beaten Morton 4-2 at Cappielow and Raith Rovers 3-1 in Glasgow to reach the third round. Airdrie, on their tight, awkward pitch which virtually eliminated wing play, were always a tough proposition.
Liam Brady, still looking for a goal from the club’s most expensive signing Tony Cascarino, kept faith with the Irish international and teamed him with Charlie Nicholas. After extra-time, it was still goalless and it went to the dreaded penalty-kick showdown.
Celtic’s kickers were wasteful and the club tumbled into the competition’s obscurity after losing 4-2.
Brady knew he urgently required an injection of steel in the middle of his backline. The man he believed would provide the answer was a twenty-seven-year-old no-frills back-four operator by the name of Tony Mowbray, who had previously played his ten-year career at Middlesbrough.
BLOODY MARVEL…Tony Mowbray was bought to provide backbone to the team.
A cheque for £1million was signed and Mowbray made a solid debut in a 2-1 win over Aberdeen in Glasgow on November 9. Eoin Jess silenced the 36,837 fans with the opening goal in the eleventh minute, but Charlie Nicholas levelled three minutes later and substitute Gerry Creaney got the winner shortly after the hour mark.
A week later, Celtic crashed 3-1 against Hearts at Tynecastle. It was their fifth league defeat of the season and, worryingly, it looked as though the battle for the title would be buried under the rubble of mediocrity before the turn of the year.
And so, unfortunately, it proved.
An inadequate team, lacking inspiration, limped along towards the turn of the year shedding points in stalemates against Motherwell (2-2), Hibs (0-0), Dundee United (1-1) and Aberdeen (2-2).
However, they believed they could salvage something from a desperate situation when Rangers were Parkhead’s first-footers on the opening day of 1992. A crowd of 51,383 was in attendance for what was a must-win game for the Hoops.
Brady would regularly scoff at the lack of the traditional luck of the Irish when he needed it most and he did deserve some sympathy after a 3-1 defeat on this occasion. Rangers were in the enviable situation of being able to field a team with seven players costing £1million or more while Celtic still had the awful Cascarino lumbering around up front, basically getting in his team-mates’ way.
It was heading for a goalless first-half when Dale Gordon, on the right, picked out an unguarded Mark Hateley, deep in the danger zone with a calamitous defence spreadeagled. The Englishman botched his shot and struck the ball into the ground. It bounced once and, uncannily, fell to Ally McCoist right in front of goal and he couldn’t miss.
There was a lifeline, though, when Tony Mowbray thundered a header past Andy Goram from a corner-kick and the game tilted in the favour of Brady’s men. With thirteen minutes to go, Cascarino made his only genuine telling contribution to the game. Unfortunately, it was Rangers who benefited.
HEAD BHOY…Tony Mowbray is about to be congratulated by Derek Whyte after netting against Rangers at Parkhead.
He sent a reckless pass inside which was intercepted by John Brown who switched it in front of McCoist. The Ibrox raider never required too much persuasion to go sprawling inside a penalty area and he did so again under a challenge from keeper Gordon Marshall, bought from Falkirk for £270,000 to replace Pat Bonner six games earlier.
Referee George Smith, from Edinburgh, bought into the penalty shout and pointed to the spot. Hateley dispatched it low past Marshall to his right. A minute into injury time, Brown sauntered forward, Derek Whyte and Co backed off and invited him to have a go. He did just that and with a swish of his left boot he thumped a drive into the net via the left hand post.
The match official booked four players, all from Celtic, in what was hardly a roughhouse occasion. Marshall, for his tussle with McCoist, Mike Galloway, Mark McNally and Mowbray. The last named could hardly complain about his yellow card. He dived into Hateley and left him in a heap on the muddy surface.
As one TV commentator put it, ‘That tackle from Mowbray wasn’t so much late as posthumous.’
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.