LIAM BRADYwas 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.
I AM in possession of the facts of a lot of feverish activity going on in the background in what must surely rank as one of the most bizarre transfers in the history of Celtic.
The Parkhead club, like any other, are well versed in the cloak-and-dagger shenanigans that will always be part and parcel of such intriguing developments. I should know what I am talking about – I was instrumental in the deal from day one.
Pat McGinlay was anxious to quit Hibs that summer. Or, more accurately, he was desperate to join Celtic. Quite by chance, we met at the christening of a mutual friend’s son on the south side of Glasgow in December 1992 and I was introduced to him as the Sunday Mail‘s Sports Editor.
McGinlay, without preamble which I later discovered was his normal point-blank style, asked, ‘Can you get me to Celtic?’
READ ALL ABOUT IT…how author Alex Gordon broke the story about Celtic’s interest in Hibs midfielder Pat McGinlay.
I explained I was on reasonably good terms with the manager, but I didn’t think Liam Brady would race out and sign a player on my recommendation. I would leave such persuasive actions to a svelte-tongued agent, eager to collect their fifteen per cent.
McGinlay was undeterred. ‘Will you drop my name in his ear?’ This wasn’t at all unusual and McGinlay certainly wasn’t the first – nor the last – who would make such a request. I assured him I would.
The last words McGinlay said to me as he left that day were, ‘Now, don’t forget.’ I nodded my head.
By remarkable coincidence, I was chatting to Brady in the Celtic manager’s office a week or so later and he informed me he was searching for a ‘box-to-box player. Someone like Manchester United’s Bryan Robson’.
The bulb went on above my head; I hadn’t forgotten McGinlay’s plea. Brady acknowledged he was well aware of the capabilities of the player who had performed well when Hibs had beaten Celtic home and away the previous season. He had played with distinction, too, against Rangers, scoring two goals in his side’s 4-3 reverse in Edinburgh in January.
However, the manager was non-committal. I thought that was the end of the matter.
BAWL BHOY…Liam Brady yells instructions to his Celtic players.
Unexpectedly, one morning at the Sunday Mail sports desk about a month later, my telephone shrieked to life. I picked up the receiver and the genteel Irish lilt on the other end of the line was immediately recognisable. Hibs had played a midweek game against Partick Thistle and won 3-0 with an incognito Brady, flat cap, woolly scarf and coat collar turned up, sitting in the Firhill stand.
It didn’t harm McGinlay’s case that he knocked in two goals that chilly February evening in Maryhill. Clearly, Brady had been impressed. Until that point there had been no link with Celtic and the player.
I was given the green light to break the story of the club’s initial interest, but, obviously, the information could not come directly from anyone at Parkhead. Undoubtedly, the Hibs hierarchy would have interpreted that as a deliberate attempt to unsettle their player. It was a game every club played with each other.
My next move was to get in touch with McGinlay. He was absolutely delighted with the news, but, once again, you have to play what amounts to a Machiavellian role in these delicate matters. And, so, on February 21, the Sunday Mail readers were gazing at an exclusive back page story concerning Celtic and McGinlay.
The headline, in big, bold print, roared: PAT’S MY BHOY; the sub-deck was: Celts line up McGinlay.
The headline was actually stronger than the story which can often be the case. It read: ‘Pat McGinlay will almost certainly be quitting Hibs when his contract expires in the summer.
‘And Celtic are likely to be first in the queue to sign the talented goalscoring midfielder.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL…Hibs midfielder Pat McGinlay shadows Celtic dangerman Henrik Larsson.
‘Parkhead manager Liam Brady was impressed when he watched McGinlay score two goals in the Easter Road side’s 3-0 win over Partick Thistle on Tuesday. The player has never hidden his admiration of Celtic.
‘He said last night: “I am concentrating 100 per cent on Hibs at the moment. I am putting all the transfer talk behind me. But I will be looking closely at my situation when my contract expires. I am 25 and I have to safeguard my family’s future.”
‘McGinlay, signed on a free transfer from Blackpool six years ago, rejected new terms from Hibs last season. He is valued at around £500,000, but cash-strapped Celtic believe they will have the money available for McGinlay when they offload some of their own players.’
I had deliberately quoted the Hibs player which I knew would keep the daily newspapers away from him while seeking his reaction to a breaking story. It’s an old ploy, but it works.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the next riveting instalment of the Liam Brady story – only in your champion CQN.