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

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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.

ONCE AGAIN, the¬†Scottish Cup looked the club’s best bet for silverware.

Charlie Nicholas put it this way, ‘The Cup is so important because around January time in the past we’ve been out of running for the title. We’ve built our hopes on winning the trophy and this year is no different.

‘I would say this has been my best season since 1983 and, having won two Cups with Aberdeen, I want to win the Cup with Celtic. There’s a unity among the players, a good spirit in the dressing room and we think we’re capable of doing something to help Celtic get back on top.’

Hat-tricks from Gerry Creaney and Tommy Coyne helped Celtic breeze past the first hurdle, Montrose losing 6-0 at Parkhead on January 25.  Creaney and Coyne were on target again when Dundee United were dismissed 2-1 on a Tuesday evening in February in Glasgow.

There were just five minutes remaining and, with the score deadlocked at 1-1, Joe Miller delivered a peach of a cross from wide on the right. Coyne’s timing was impeccable as he rose above friend and foe to scorch a header into the far corner. Creaney had claimed the opener in the twenty-fifth minute when Tannadice keeper Guido van de Kamp blundered as he flapped at a left-wing corner-kick from Mike Galloway.

ME AND MY SHADOWS…Tommy Coyne is sandwiched between Falkirk keeper Ian Westwater and future Celt John Hughes.

The Dutchman gave it the bar-of-soap treatment and Creaney nodded in from practically under the crossbar. United’s reply was instantaneous when Mixu Paatelainen steered a close-range drive past the motionless Gordon Marshall.

Creaney was unstoppable in the tournament and fired in two more in the 3-0 victory over Morton in the home quarter-final. The striker, who, sadly, never realised his true potential and would have his moments of friction with Brady, took his total to six with a simple tap-in for the sixth minute opener and a blistering right-foot drive from outside the box for the second just before the turnaround.

John Collins killed off the brave part-timers with a third after pouncing on a slack passback from Graham Ogg and sliding the ball under the advancing David Wylie,

Celtic went into the semi-final draw with Rangers, Hearts and Airdrie. Brady was desperate to play Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final, totally convinced his team would beat anything Walter Smith put up against them.

The Irishman saw that possibility as being afforded the opportunity to bring down the curtain on a testing campaign with a bit of a flourish and to give the supporters some optimism for a new campaign.

OOPS…Gordon Marshall watches Ally McCoist score the only goal of a League Cup-tie at Parkhead in 1995.

Unfortunately, the semi-final paired them with the men from Ibrox. And what an encounter that turned out to be at storm-lashed Hampden Park on the evening of March 31.

The stark facts show that Rangers won 1-0 with a goal from Ally McCoist after playing with ten men for eighty-three minutes. That doesn’t tell you half the story.

David Robertson was red-carded in the seventh minute for clattering into Joe Miller, the left-back clearly a solemn believer of stopping his man at all costs. The Celtic winger had neatly dummied the ball and was poised for a run down the touchline before he was crudely dumped on the sodden turf.

Referee Andrew Waddell had no alternative but to point Robertson in the direction of the dressing room. Celtic attacked with a gusto, but, frustratingly, couldn’t make their possession pay dividends for huge chunks of the first-half. There was little doubt Brady would be having words with the players at the interval.

It got worse, though, when McCoist netted right on the half-time whistle. He first-timed a low pass from Stuart McCall from twelve yards and Gordon Marshall threw himself to his right to get a touch to the shot. Agonisingly, it swept beyond him, kissed the inside of the right-hand post and rolled into the net.

It was an eager Celtic that kicked off the second-half. Brian O’Neil sent in a rasping long-range drive that took a slight deflection before zipping past a static Andy Goram only to smack against the base of the upright and rebound to safety. Paul McStay also left the Rangers keeper standing with a ferocious eighteen-yarder, but this time the ball battered the crossbar.

SHOVE OFF…John Collins and Brian Laudrup in a tussle for possession.

However, the most contentious decision went against Celtic when John Brown clearly scythed down John Collins as the midfielder wriggled into a shooting position in the penalty area. The match official had an excellent view of the incident and, incredibly, waved play on.

Former Rangers skipper Terry Butcher, who had left the club six months beforehand to join Coventry City, was in the Sky commentary box that evening. His verdict? ‘I thought that was a clear-cut penalty-kick.’

Match official Waddell might have been the only man at the national stadium who thought there had been no infringement. Minutes later, it was all over and Celtic were out. The entire campaign was as good as over with that emphatic shrill of the referee’s whistle.

There was sympathy for Brady and the players, but the nagging thought persisted that Celtic should have done so much better against opposition who had to face playing almost the entire game a man short.

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

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