LIAM BRADY: CELTIC’S NEARLY MAN (Part Fourteen)

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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.

Please enjoy.

IT WAS no surprise Pat Bonner returned to goal for the next game against Falkirk at Brockville a week later following Gordon Marshall’s appalling performance against Hibs.

However, it was hardly a grand reintroduction for the Irish international, now in the veteran stage at the age of thirty-four. He was forced to pick the ball out of the net four times, but was rescued when two goals from Gerry Creaney and others from Dariusz Wdowcyzk, with a penalty-kick, Andy Payton and John Collins, in the last minute, gave Celtic an unlikely 5-4 triumph.

Four days later, any hopes of joy in the League Cup were erased.

Celtic had reached the semi-final with wins over Stirling Albion (3-0), Dundee (1-0) and Hearts (2-1) and were within 90 minutes of Brady’s first Cup Final in Scotland.

Tony Mowbray had toiled against Hibs and Falkirk with the team conceding seven goals and his name was nowhere to be seen on the team sheet as Mike Galloway partnered Gary Gillespie in the heart of the defence against Aberdeen. It was not to prove to be an inspirational pairing.

Brady, laudably, went for flair in midfield with Stuart Slater, Paul McStay and John Collins his preferred combination against a strong, dour Pittodrie side with Roy Aitken again in their line-up.

HANDY ANDY…Celtic striker Andy Payton wallops one into Falkirk’s net in the Hoops’ remarkable 5-4 victory at Brockville.

One goal decided the tie and once again lamentable defending by the Celtic back lot contributed hugely to the downfall. Aberdeen won a corner-kick on the right just five minutes from the interval. It was no surprise that the ball was aimed at Mixu Paatelainen, the burly former Dundee United striker.

What may have been surprising, though, was that the Finn, who did his best work in the air, wasn’t picked up by an opponent. Gillespie may have been 6ft 3in, but he rarely attacked aerial threats, much preferring the ball at his feet. Paatelainen, untroubled and unhindered, was allowed to run from the 18-yard line to get his head to the ball to knock it fiercely past the unprotected Pat Bonner.

Collins scrambled it off the line, but, as luck would have it, the ball fell directly to Eoin Jess six yards out and he lashed it home.

Celtic huffed and puffed throughout the second-half, but to no avail. The Dons, with Alex McLeish and Aitken performing stoutly, held out for the victory.

They carelessly undid all their hard work against Brady’s men when they lost 2-1 in the Final to Rangers. Central defender Gary Smith, bewilderingly, launched himself at a left-wing cross to sizzle a header behind keeper Theo Snelders for the Ibrox club’s winner six minutes from the end of extra-time.

Jimmy McGrory would have been proud to have claimed that as one of his own.

After the League Cup exit, the pressure was piling on Brady. Mowbray was back in place three days later when Partick Thistle, who would complete the league campaign seven points away from relegation, came visiting.

Unbelievably, they celebrated their first-ever Premier League triumph at the home of Celtic and, equally outrageously, their winning goal in a 2-1 victory came from yet another simple and straightforward corner-kick. Celtic weren’t even into the third month of the season and the dark clouds were already gathering in the east end of Glasgow.

HANDY ANDY…Celtic hitman Payton fires past Partick Thistle’s Willie Jamieson as Andy Walker looks on.

Pat Bonner was beginning to look decidedly wobbly, especially at crossballs, and, predictably, the Firhill side took the lead when he was caught out at his near post as George Shaw knocked in a header. Andy Payton levelled early in the second-half, Collins smacked the woodwork with a 22-yard free-kick, Tom Boyd missed with a free header from six yards and, only five minutes from time, Thistle were practically invited to take the points across Glasgow.

Davie Kinnaird swung in a left-wing corner-kick, Davie Irons nodded it down and Shaw prodded home from six yards. A crowd of 21,486 had been in attendance at the kick-off, but Celtic Park was a virtual ghost town before the end.

The fans, having watched their team lose back-to-back home league games against Inferior opposition while enduring a League Cup banishment, streamed towards the exits as soon as Shaw’s effort strangled itself in the net.

It was obvious they had little faith in this line-up to turn things around. And so it proved.

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.

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