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.
LIAM BRADY beamed as he ushered Stuart Slater, Andy Payton and Rudi Vata into Parkhead on the same day in mid-August 1992.
He introduced the trio and exclaimed, ‘This is now my Celtic team.’ The words were well intentioned, but, by the end of his second tumultuous season, they had a distinctly hollow ring to them.
Attacking midfielder Slater became the club’s latest record signing at £1.5million when he joined from West Ham United. The Irishman, who knew the player from his latter playing days at the London club, enthused, ‘Stuart is an exciting individual who will get bums on seats and bums up off seats.’
It wasn’t the most eloquent endorsement of the player’s talents, but, clearly, Brady believed he had delivered a signing coup. Thirteen months later, Slater was sold to Ipswich Town for half of Celtic’s initial outlay.
Payton was a striker who, in fact, had interested Billy McNeill at one stage before choosing to remain in England and sign for Middlesbrough after leaving Hull City the previous year in a £750,000 deal. He was a straight swap for Republic of Ireland right-back Chris Morris who had been popular with the support, particularly during the double-winning Centenary Year.
GOAL-DEN BHOYS…Andy Payton and Stuart Slater celebrate a goal against Rangers.
Payton’s season-long stay at Ayresome Park hadn’t been a success and he was more than happy to pack up and cross Hadrian’s Wall to sample Scottish football when Brady made his move.
The versatile Vata’s route to the east end of Glasgow was slightly more circuitous when he became one of seven Albanian internationals who decided to defect after a European Championship tie against France in Paris the previous March.
Derek Whyte commanded a £900,000 transfer fee when he joined Morris at Middlesbrough. The versatile Whyte, who could play left-back and centre-half, had been introduced to the first team as a seventeen year old by Billy McNeill in 1986 and was all set to commit his future to the club when his contract was close to expiring.
I chatted with Whyte in a Glasgow hotel and this normally happy-go-lucky character was grim-faced on this occasion. He told me he wanted to stay at Celtic, but the board’s terms had been ‘insulting’ while adding, ‘I feel like I have just been kicked in the balls.’ I caught his drift.
Brady had made no inroads during the summer on the transfer front while he spent the bulk of his time attempting to persuade Paul McStay to sign a new long-term contract at the club. The midfielder known as ‘The Maestro’ had excelled for Scotland during the European Championship Finals in Sweden with undeniably fine displays against world champions Germany, European title holders Holland and the remnants of the fractured USSR, calling itself CIS, (Commonwealth of Independent States).
The Scots lost the first two encounters, but McStay was unstoppable against the CIS and netted a wonderful long-range effort as Andy Roxburgh’s side triumphed 3-0.
During that summer’s most avidly followed guessing game, I was kept up to speed about the teams casting envious glances in the direction of the Hoops captain. There was genuine interest from Italy, Germany and France, but, McStay, about to become a first-time father, wasn’t going to be easily swayed.
Despite the team’s indifferent form and their lack of silverware success, McStay still saw himself as a Celtic player. Brady went to work and I was invited to the Celtic boardroom one afternoon to be told the exclusive news that McStay had agreed a new contract.
Brady got his man, McStay got his wishes and I got the story for the Sunday Mail. Everyone was happy. For the time being.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.