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.
DURING the summer on 1992, Rangers, attempting to win five championships in a row, had added to their squad by paying £2.4million to Marseille for England international midfielder Trevor Steven, curiously only one year after selling the player to the French club for more than double that fee.
Walter Smith was happy enough to spend £1.3million to bring back central defender Dave McPherson from Hearts and £300,000 to Motherwell for keeper Ally Maxwell as a back-up to Andy Goram.
Liam Brady realised he couldn’t possibly compete at those prices.
There were no extravagant promises from the manager as Celtic went into a campaign in the realisation the previous three years had been a vacuum as far as trophies were concerned. The opening league confrontation was against Hearts in Edinburgh. Peculiarly, four of the club’s opening six Premier encounters were away from home.
After Tynecastle, there was a midweek trip to Pittodrie, back-to-back home games against Motherwell and Dundee United and then trips to Ibrox and Broomfield. The Celtic bosses voiced their concern, but the powers-that-be once again blamed the dreaded computer.
No matter. Celtic got off to a winning start on August 1 when Craig Levein diverted the ball past his own keeper Henry Smith for the only goal of the game. There was the odd sight of Roy Aitken clattering into Celtic players the following Wednesday.
BEAR v BOYD…Celtic fans’ favourite Roy Aitken, playing for Aberdeen, fends off Hoops defender Tom Boyd.
The powerhouse, affectionately known as ‘The Bear’ by the Hoops followers, had signed for Aberdeen a mere two years after leaving Parkhead for Newcastle. Davie Hay, then the St Mirren manager, ambitiously brought him back to Scotland after only one season on Tyneside. The Dons then lured him north and were happy to set him loose on his former colleagues.
Gerry Creaney hit Celtic’s goal in a creditable 1-1 draw. It was far too early for rampant optimism, but three points from a possible four after visits to Tynecastle and Pittodrie augured well.
And then Motherwell took a point at Parkhead. Tony Mowbray opened the scoring and Celtic looked comfortably in cruise control. Davie Cooper produced one fine crossball all afternoon and it caused consternation in the Celtic defence. Steve Kirk rose to flight a header past Gordon Marshall and a point was carelessly discarded.
On the same day, Rangers struggled to a goalless stalemate against Hibs at Easter Road. A week later, Celtic were top of the Premier League, the first time they had occupied that spot for an extremely long and excruciating period.
Two opportunist goals from Gerry Creaney, playing alongside Andy Payton for the first time, toppled Dundee United 2-0 in Glasgow while their Ibrox adversaries were being shredded 4-3 by newly-promoted Dundee at Dens Park. Coincidentally, Brady’s former Arsenal team-mate Graham Rix, at the age of thirty-four, was the most accomplished performer on the pitch.
WALLOP…Gerry Creaney scores a screamer past Andy Goram in a 1-1 draw at Ibrox.
Now all eyes were on the first Old Firm skirmish of the season at Ibrox on August 22.
Stuart Slater would have to be a content with a spot on the substitutes’ bench before making a second-half appearance in place of Payton. There was still no sign of Rudi Vata – by now nicknamed, imaginatively, ‘Holy’ by the support – who was not deemed to be fully match-fit by Brady.
The encounter was tied at 1-1 when the full-time whistle brought a halt to the action. Celtic, for the second successive occasion at the home of their greatest rivals, had more than acquitted themselves. There was an assured look about the team and, but for a momentary lapse in concentration in defence, they could have celebrated another victory on enemy soil.
Gerry Creaney just about lifted the roof off the net when he put Celtic ahead in the fifty-third minute. A Mark McNally cross from the right was deflected into the air by John Brown and the striker’s timing was impeccable as he raced through the heart of the defence to hit the ball with a ferocious dunt as it dropped at his feet a mere six yards out. Andy Goram didn’t move a muscle.
With twenty-one minutes to go, the defence clocked off when Peter Huistra was allowed to race down the left wing and hurl over a back post cross which was knocked down by Mark Hateley and Ian Durrant, with no green-and-white jerseys in the vicinity, was allowed to first-time a drive high past Gordon Marshall.
Celtic had the opportunity of completing six league games of the season while remaining unbeaten when they travelled to take on the troublesome Airdrie at ramshackle Broomfield. The signs looked good with Paul McStay and John Collins in charge in the middle of the park while the home side’s keeper John Martin was the busiest player on the field with a handful of superb saves.
ALL SMILES…Liam Brady and chairman Jack McGinn remain positive.
Andy Payton opened the scoring while claiming his first goal for the club in the twentieth minute with a whizzbang effort following a long, deep ball from Dariusz Wdowczyk. Liam Brady was confident enough on the hour mark to shove on Slater for Joe Miller, but calamity struck three minutes later when the home side levelled.
John Boyle drove a low shot past Marshall and, try as they might, Celtic could not get a winner on a ground where they rarely flourished. It might have been some consolation at the end of the campaign when Airdrie were relegated.
Amazingly, the draw saw Brady’s men slump from the pinnacle to fourth place. Dundee United moved into pole position on nine points, Rangers, Hearts and Celtic all had eight points, but the men from Govan and Gorgie had better goal differences.
Brady was discovering the fine margins between success and failure in the beautiful game. Interestingly, he left Tommy Coyne and Charlie Nicholas at home to play for the reserves on the same afternoon. Coyne netted two and Nicholas another in a 5-1 win. Also on the scoresheet was Rudi Vata, working his way into top team contention at a steady rate.
RISE AND SHINE…Tony Mowbray clears from Hearts’ ex-Celtic winger John Colquhoun at Tynecastle.
Celtic eased into September and goals from Collins (2) and Creaney gave them a 3-1 success against St Johnstone in Glasgow, but, without warning, they lost two of their next three encounters. Making matters worse was the fact that both games were in front of their own support at Parkhead.
The 3-2 defeat from Hibs was simply unacceptable, a disgraceful surrender. Brady’s team were strolling to both points until the occasion turned on its head in the sixty-fifth minute when the Edinburgh side levelled at 2-2 and, seven minutes from the end, the visitors were gifted a ridiculous third.
Manager Alex Miller was delighted to learn afterwards it was the first time since the mid-sixties Hibs had managed to score more than two goals in the east end of Glasgow.
Dariusz Wdowcyzk, with what was now becoming a trademark free-kick, bamboozled veteran keeper John Burridge with a near-post effort, but that was nullified when a wayward header out of defence fell to Keith Wright and he drilled the equaliser past Gordon Marshall.
Shortly after the interval, Paul McStay executed a perfect scissors-kick and once again Burridge was left scampering across his line as the ball found the net at his far post. Things were going so well until Celtic discovered the seemingly-inevitable banana skin.
ON THE BAWL…Liam Brady expresses his opinion from the touchline.
Marshall made a complete hash of a passback from Tom Boyd and looped the ball high up into the air. Darren Jackson raced in to put on the pressure and the shotstopper compounded his error by pulling his rival to the surface. It was a certain penalty-kick and Jackson swept his effort wide of Marshall.
With seven minutes remaining, Stuart Slater, making his first start, gave the ball away deep in Hibs territory. One pass out, though, left Tony Mowbray in a one-on-one with Wright. The centre-back still looked favourite to clear his lines, but he allowed the Hibs striker to nip the ball round him, Marshall was less than convincing as he tried to take the ball off the opponent’s toe.
Wright squared it to Gareth Evans, whose first shot was blocked on the line by Wdowczyk. Unfortunately, it rebounded straight back to Evans who, on this occasion, made no mistake as he walloped the ball into the empty net. It was an awful way to lose the first league game of the campaign at the eighth hurdle.
Publicly, Brady said something along the lines of ‘I’m disappointed and we know we should have done so much better.’ Privately, he lambasted his players for a dire, feeble display and let them know it would not be tolerated.
Some of his words, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.