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.
REMARKABLY, in the midst of so much carnage, Celtic produced a truly magnificent performance in the UEFA Cup against Cologne in Glasgow on the last day of Black September.
The Hoops were trailing 2-0 after the first round first leg defeat and it was obvious confidence was low among the players and the supporters. However, as can so often happen, both the individuals on the field and those on the terracings came together to ignite another epic European encounter under the lights at Celtic Park.
The sound and the fury made an unexpected, but welcome, return. The Germans, with international Bodo Illgner guarding their goal, were confident of making progress and Head Coach Jorg Berger made all the expected noises when he arrived in Glasgow with his squad. ‘We know Celtic are a good team, despite recent results. We will offer them every respect.’
Cologne were on the rocks before the half-time whistle after Celtic dramatically switched on the afterburners to score two goals in three minutes. In the thirty-sixth minute, the Bundesliga side failed to clear a left-wing corner-kick and Paul McStay volleyed an unstoppable left-foot drive past Illgner.
EURO STAR…grounded John Collins squeezes in the winner against Cologne.
Then it was Gerry Creaney’s turn to deflect a powerful effort from John Collins into the net for the leveller. With eleven minutes remaining, Collins accepted a pass from Tom Boyd, drifted past two challenges and rifled a shot low into the corner. Celtic Park was in bedlam. No-one – not even the most optimistic within the green and white ranks – saw this coming.
It was the third time in twenty-four years Celtic had come back from two goals to win a European tie. Brady said, ‘Prior to the first goal, we looked nervous and they were the better team. But goals change attitudes.’
When the draw for the second round was announced, Brady must have felt like searching for his birth certificate to make sure he was, in fact, born in Dublin. Once again, the fabled luck of the Irish deserted him. Having seen off one extremely dangerous Bundesliga opponent, Celtic were paired with another, Borussia Dortmund.
This time there were to be no raucous celebrations at Parkhead. Brady, unfortunately, made history by becoming the first Celtic manager to preside over home-and-away defeats in Europe if you discount the Vienna Rapid farce. Swiss international striker Stephane Chapuisat was his side’s main man and Brady made plans to keep him quiet.
He had Tony Mowbray, Gary Gillespie and Brian O’Neil in central defence while, unusually, he elected to go with a lone striker, Gerry Creaney, in attack with Stuart Slater tucked in behind him.
The disciplined formation was working a treat until the seventy-first minute when that man Chapuisat managed to get clear of the reinforced rearguard to knock the only goal of the game behind Pat Bonner. However, that slender advantage was obliterated in only thirteen minutes in the second leg when Creaney netted, leaving future Rangers goalkeeper Stefan Klos helpless.
LEADING THE CHARGE…Gerry Creaney puts pressure on the Cologne defence.
The tie turned dramatically during four incredible second-half minutes. Old fox Ottmar Hizfeld, who won the Champions League with the German outfit in 1997 with Paul Lambert in midfield, switched things around to nullify the left-wing threat of Boyd and Collins. Chapuisat levelled in fifty-three minutes and Michael Zork added a quickfire second.
Celtic exited on a 3-1 scoreline against, admittedly, quality opposition. The Germans went all the way to the UEFA Cup Final after dismissing Real Zaragoza (4-3), Roma (2-1) and Auxerre (6-5 on penalties after a 2-2 draw). They lost 3-1 at their fortress to Juventus in the first leg and succumbed 3-0 in Turin for an embarrassing record 6-1 aggregate defeat in the competition’s Final.
The pressure on Brady and his players was relentless. Three days after the Borussia Dortmund elimination, Rangers were due at Parkhead for the second Old Firm derby of the campaign. If Celtic had a European hangover, they disguised it well. They ripped into their Ibrox foes right from the start and it was inconceivable that they should contrive to lose the game.
Alas, they managed the unlikely feat after the defence went to sleep just after the half-hour mark. Earlier, Paul McStay had whipped in a low shot that left Andy Goram stranded, but Richard Gough extended his apparently-telescopic right leg to block the ball on the line. Shortly afterwards, Goram hurled himself high to his right to turn away a blistering free-kick from Dariusz Wdowcyzk. Rangers could hardly get out of their own half with their goal under siege.
And yet they sneaked up the pitch with Dale Gordon delivering a right-foot cross into the box that picked out Ally McCoist. He cushioned a header into the path of the unmarked Ian Durrant and he slid the ball underneath the exposed Pat Bonner.
WALLOP…Stuart Slater slams in a drive against Rangers with John Collins looking on.
Stuart Slater took it upon himself to show he could be a £1.5million footballer during a sparkling second-half. He weaved inside and out, sizzling in from the left to leave defenders in his wake. He zipped past three challenges to smack a sixteen-yarder at goal. Once again, Goram was helpless. Once again, the ball flew agonisingly wide of the upright.
The Rangers keeper then produced a marvellous save to tip a piledriver from Slater to safety. The player, still looking for his first Celtic goal, looked determined to provide the goods at last. He then walloped in another drive from the edge of the box that clipped the crossbar on its way over. After a ferocious, one-sided second-half onslaught, Rangers clung onto Durrant’s effort and took the points.
Liam Brady would not concede a thing – ‘there’s so much football still to be played’ – but Celtic were losing ground in the race for the flag while Aberdeen, with Roy Aitken playing well, were emerging as the biggest threat to the Ibrox domination.
In the next game, the Parkhead men had to rely on a goal four minutes from time by substitute Charlie Nicholas to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw with Dundee United at Tannadice and also preserve their marvellous unbeaten away league record that stretched to a year.
Mike Galloway, inadvertently, had given the Tayside outfit the lead just before half-time when he turned the ball beyond Bonner.
Brady was correct, though. His Celtic team had no intention of throwing in the towel. They won four and drew one of their next five league games as they prepared to see out 1992.
UNDER PRESSURE…Pat Bonner prepares to launch a long throw.
The only blip was a 2-2 draw with Aberdeen in Glasgow at the start of December where, at least, Slater scored his first goal for the club in his twenty-third appearance. His accurate low right foot shot arrowed in at Theo Snelders’ left-hand post with the keeper motionless.
The celebrations were short-lived, though, as the Pittodrie men came back to lead 2-1 at the interval. Eoin Jess, who made a habit of scoring against the Hoops, rattled in the equaliser with a drive across Bonner and Paul Kane capitalised on some horrendous defending by Mark McNally to blitz in a second.
Rudi Vata was another to open his goal account with the leveller and Celtic were out of luck near the end when Creaney’s well-placed header smacked against the base of the upright and bounced to safety.
Celtic, however, couldn’t sustain the form and two back-to-back 1-0 defeats from Hearts at Tynecastle and Dundee United at Parkhead returned them to a shaky tightrope without a safety net in sight.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.