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.
EVENTUALLY, the list of Celtic managerial hopefuls was trimmed to four. Tommy Craig, the previous assistant manager to Billy McNeill and Davie Hay, threw his cap into the ring.
Frank Stapleton, the former Manchester United and Arsenal marksman who had represented the Republic of Ireland seventy times, also did enough to convince the board he was worthy of an interview.
Ivan Golac was a surprise candidate. The Yugoslav had managed Partizan Belgrade to their implausible 1989/90 UEFA Cup success over Celtic after scoring four goals in Glasgow in the second leg. They lost 5-4 on the night, but advanced on goal difference after a 6-6 aggregate stalemate.
Those were the men Liam Brady had to overcome in his bid to be named the seventh individual to manage Celtic in the club’s history. Not one of them had ever donned the green and white hoops. The club were indeed breaking new ground.
Bizarrely, the board decided to hold all four interviews on the same day. Brady later called it a ‘mind-boggling’ decision. Who could argue?
The candidates, in a very public manner, were given designated slots for their meetings with the selection panel and Brady, Stapleton, Golac and Craig, although he had been around long enough to have an inkling, must have been more than just a tad bemused to see the media circus camped on the Celtic Park doorstep as they came and went at their appointed hours.
Brady was invited back for a private meeting with club chairman Jack McGinn and Chief Executive Terry Cassidy. He took along his solicitor and recalled, ‘I asked a lot of questions. In the first, they had been doing the asking. They offered me the job, I accepted and I was the centre of attention by the time I got back to London.
THREE CHEERS…Liam Brady is flanked by Mick Martin and Tommy Craig as the new management team in charge at Celtic.
‘The fact I was the new Celtic manager had already been on national news. I think I got the job because the field of runners and riders didn’t have great track records, without being disrespectful to any of them.
‘Frank Stapleton was one of them who, like myself, was keen to get into management. Tommy Craig had the disadvantage of having been there and again, in a kind of overt political stance by the board, they wanted to move away from what had been to something new.’
Brady, in fact, kept Craig as his No.2 while bringing in his former Irish team-mate Mick Martin, a man of many clubs including Manchester United and Newcastle United. Martin’s role was that of first-team coach.
It was an interesting ensemble that took their seats in the dug-out at Tolka Park on July 20 for the game against Shelbourne, the first of four friendlies against Irish opposition as the new-look Celtic management made its debut. Around 10,000 fans squeezed into the ground to witness the moment, a 3-0 canter for Celtic with Tony Cascarino making his debut. Two goals from Charlie Nicholas and one from Stevie Fulton sealed the victory with both teams going through the basic motions.
Three days later, Brady gave Cascarino a second outing and rotated attackers such as Jacki Dziekanowski, Andy Walker, John Hewitt and Gerry Creaney against Cork City. Astoundingly, Celtic drew a blank as they capitulated 2-0 to their opponents, who were managed by former Celt Mike Conroy.
NEW BHOY…Tony Cascarino getting into his stride during Celtic’s pre-season tour of Ireland.
Brady, in an instant, realised he had a job on his hands. A goalless draw with Dundalk followed and the mini-tour was wrapped up with a 2-0 win over Shamrock Rovers where Cascarino netted his first goal for the club with Nicholas adding the other.
Brady returned to Highbury on July 30 for the Testimonial Match for Arsenal defender Paul Davis and admitted later he was ‘utterly astonished’ at the support from the Celtic fans. It was estimated 10,000 had turned up to swell the 30,000 crowd, but those in London on the night remain convinced the away support actually dwarfed that of the home fans.
It was exciting fare for one of these occasions where no-one wants to sustain an injury of any sort with a new season only weeks away.
ON THE RUN…Charlie Nicholas trying to impress new boss Liam Brady.
Nicholas, former darling of the North Bank, bamboozled goalkeeper David Seaman with an effort that dipped onto the crossbar before opening the scoring in the eleventh minute.
Arsenal, the English champions, came back to level through Alan Smith three minutes after the turnaround and Lee Dixon snapped up the rebound from a Pat Bonner penalty save to shoot his side into the lead in the seventieth minute.
It ended all-square when Dariusz Wdowcyzk zoomed an unstoppable long-range free-kick high past the helpless Seaman. Brady had one remaining fixture to fulfil as he prepared his team for the campaign ahead – an August 4 meeting with Spurs in front of a crowd of 23,365 at Celtic Park.
John Collins claimed the only strike of the occasion in the fourth minute in what, in truth, was a fairly pedestrian performance from both teams.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.