FRANK McAVENNIE reckons a Celtic late, late show will book a meeting with destiny at Hampden on May 25, the most famous date in the club’s history.
If the Hoops overcome Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final on Sunday afternoon it will set up a showpiece occasion against either Hearts or Inverness Caley Thistle next month, the 52nd anniversary of the day Jock Stein’s wonderful side conquered Europe in Lisbon.
Billy McNeill was the captain of the legendary Lions and he was manager when the club completed a spectacular League and Cup double in their Centenary Year.
On their way to silverware glory in that unforgettable campaign, Celtic notched up some late goals to ensure victories – with McAvennie among those who contributed to the cause.
Since Neil Lennon was appointed interim manager following Brendan Rodgers’ swift defection to Leicester City six weeks ago, the team have secured crucial Premiership points with stoppage-time strikes from Odsonne Edouard against Hearts and Dundee while the champions left it late before James Forrest fired in the winner against Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side.
HAVING A BALL..Frank McAvennie believes Neil Lennon’s influence on team will be massive.
Reflecting on a dramatic victory against the odds in the 1987/88 Scottish Cup semi-final against the Tynecastle men, McAvennie, speaking to The Scotsman, said: “It was probably one of my worst games for Celtic.
“When we were getting beaten 1-0 with minutes to go, I remember the Hearts fans all celebrating. Unfortunately for them – and fortunately for us – we scored two late goals to win.
“In the final [against Dundee United]after we equalised, there were 14 minutes left. I remember late on asking the referee how long was left now and he said: ‘Just under a minute’.
“Wee Joe [Miller] took the corner and after I scored it took me 10 minutes to get back to the halfway line. I knew they would not be coming back from that.”
McAvennie scored both goals against Dundee in the Final as the team again came back from a goal adrift and he admitted he can see parallel lines with McNeill’s double winners and Neil Lennon’s inherited team of this season.
He added: “Lenny’s influence on the team in the run-in will be massive. Celtic is in his DNA, it’s in his blood.
“He knows what the club is all about. He will have wanted to change a few things, but you can’t because they are so close to the end of the season. It’s not broken, so he’s just getting them over the line.
“But I’m expecting a big performance from his team on Sunday on the big pitch at Hampden. It will be a hell of a game.
“Derek McInnes has done a hell of a job. This is the first time in years his Aberdeen have not been in second place. That will hurt. They’ve turned over Rangers a few times in Glasgow this season, but they keep falling short against Celtic.
“So, they will be wanting to turn Celtic over and if Celtic play the way they’ve been playing in the last couple of weeks it will be interesting.
“But I’ve a feeling Celtic will turn up and turn on the style. But if it’s anything like us then fans should stay to the very end.
“Billy Connolly used to say: ‘How long is left? Two minutes? Plenty of time!’”