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.
FRANK McAVENNIE, who had already scored two goals from his nine successive appearances, was in place at the kick-off for the visit of Rangers.
The Celtic players were up for the challenge. Referee Douglas Hope waved away an early Andy Payton appeal for a penalty-kick when he was brought down by John Brown.
Stuart Slater slashed one past the upright and Payton had a remarkable miss from six yards after being picked out by a low left-wing cross from John Collins. Payton, once again displaying a lack of composure, rushed a shot wide and earned a verbal volley from the better-placed McAvennie, as ever, a willing worker.
Collins got the barrier-breaking goal in the 37th minute with a sweet strike from 20 yards after gathering a pass from Paul McStay, nimbly turning in a confined area and slamming a right foot drive away from Andy Goram. Shortly after the interval, Payton, who had earlier hit the bar, doubled the advantage in the simplest of fashions.
BLOCKED…John Collins is thwarted by Rangers keeper Andy Goram.
Collins swung in a deep left-wing corner-kick and the Rangers defence stood back to allow Goram to come and collect the ball inside the six-yard box. Wires were crossed and Payton diverted the ball goalwards for his 15th strike of the season. A couple of minutes later, he was ‘rewarded’ by left-back David Robertson who rammed a left elbow into his face as they challenged for a high ball.
The Celt had to go off as blood gushed from the wound. Eventually, he returned looking like an extra from ‘Apocalypse Now’.
McAvennie was denied a third Celtic goal as he twisted away from Davie McPherson to explode a right foot shot goalwards, but Goram pushed it away before being knocked over by the sheer velocity of the effort. With six minutes remaining, Mark Hateley hit his side’s consolation, a quick, low shot evading Pat Bonner at his right-hand post.
The Celtic dug-out bounced with delight at the final whistle, but one man remained stoically firm without a trace of a smile. Liam Brady knew a team that could perform like the one he had just witnessed should have been battling for a championship.
Amid the joy, he wondered what the future held in store.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Andy Payton turns away in glee after scoring the winning goal against Rangers. Stuart Slater is about to join in while Trevor Steven doesn’t share the joy.
Two weeks after the well-merited and equally well-fought win over Rangers, Celtic lost 2-0 to Motherwell at Fir Park. The two performances, both in the starkest of contrasts, illuminated everything that was wrong with the team.
It was a soulless second-half after going in at the interval two goals adrift. The first strike typified a hesitant, error-prone rearguard. Mark McNally panicked as a high ball dropped into the box. He misjudged his header back to Pat Bonner and Stevie Kirk ran in to blast the ball into the gaping net for the easiest goal of his career.
The second came via the penalty spot in the fortieth minute, awarded after Tom Boyd tangled with Dougie Arnott. TV pictures later showed it was a clear dive by the little striker, but Les Mottram, as inefficient a referee as it could be anyone’s misfortune to find in football, pointed to the spot, booked the Celtic defender and Davie Cooper tucked it away to the keeper’s left.
Boyd was sent off near the end for a challenge on John Philliben. Admittedly, it was a late and desperate tackle and was worthy of a yellow card. He trudged off the field around the same time the visiting support was heading for the exits after witnessing a performance of total disarray.
AIR RAID…Mark Hatately puts pressure on Hoops duo Tom Boyd and Derek Whyte.
Celtic won five of their remaining seven league games, drawing 1-1 with St Johnstone in Perth and losing 3-1 to Hibs in Edinburgh. Frank McAvennie scored in six of the matches, including winners against Falkirk, Aberdeen and Partick Thistle in successive weeks.
The final league table made for depressing reading for anyone inclined towards Celtic. The team lost eight and drew twelve of their forty-four games to slump into third place on sixty points, a massive thirteen behind Rangers and four adrift of Aberdeen.
It left Liam Brady with plenty to ponder during the summer months, including the very real possibility of handing in his resignation. Of course, that would have constituted the admission of failure.
The Irishman wasn’t quite ready to take that route. Not at this stage, anyway.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.