EXACTLY 24 years ago today, Celtic suffered the most humiliating result in the club’s history.
The miserable and sensational reverse also turned around the thinking at the Parkhead club that saw seismic changes in its wake.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, we look at the lead-up to the inexplicable Scottish Cup exit against Inverness Caley Thistle on February 8 2000, the actual evening of the match that earned the club a place in infamy, the fall-out and ramifications – and the welcome transformation that propelled Celtic into a new era.
Here is Part One of edited extracts from Celtic author Alex Gordon’s tribute book, ‘The Winds of Change‘, which was published by CQN in 2015.
JOHN BARNES’ tenure as Celtic Head Coach lasted exactly eight months. Six years earlier, Lou Macari’s occupancy endured a further nine days.
Neither record stacked up well when compared with the club’s first-ever manager, Willie Maley, who was in proprietorship for forty-two years and four months.
Allan MacDonald, as the club’s recently-appointed Chief Executive, was eager to prepare for the new season after the disappointments of the previous campaign. Back in April 1999, he had no intention of parting company with Dr Jozef Venglos as Head Coach.
Instead, the Celtic-supporting supremo had plans to financially back the veteran gaffer, whose footballing philosophy was a source of admiration. According to MacDonald, he asked Fergus McCann if Venglos had an opt-out clause in his contract similar to the one utilised by Wim Jansen.
Emphatically, he was informed this was not the case and that no condition existed. To MacDonald’s surprise, Venglos did indeed have such a specification and evoked it only a few days after the 1-0 Scottish Cup Final defeat to Rangers.
CELTIC LEGENDS…manager Jock Stein and captain Kenny Dalglish celebrate another league title triumph.
MacDonald had already got the ball in motion to bring back club legend Kenny Dalglish in the newly-created role as Director of Football Operations. Originally, the idea was for Dalglish, the Chief Executive’s golfing buddy, to work alongside Venglos without any responsibility for day-to-day team matters.
That notion was jettisoned when Venglos moved out of the dug-out to accept a post as the club’s new European Technical Advisor with scouting responsibilities.
No-one was quite clear what the role actually entailed, but it was evident the crafty old Czech, now 63 years of age, was not prepared to endure the unique pressures thrust upon a Celtic manager for a second successive term.
Enter John Barnes and the remarkable announcement that invited the possibility of disaster and acute embarrassment.
On the day of their joint appointment, Dalglish attempted to clarify the situation. He said: “John is the first team coach and is responsible for everything connected with the first team.
“He will pick the team, he will take the training sessions and he will have total control over the pool of players. I won’t be interfering with that.
DERBY DAZE…John Barnes yells instructions while backroom Bhoys Eric Black and Terry McDermott look on. Rangers boss Dick Advocaat also gets into the picture.
“When it comes to identifying players he might want to bring into the club, or even players he decides should be leaving, then, again, he will put the names forward and then we shall have talks on how to go into the transfer market.
“I shall work with him on that aspect and then the negotiations regarding salaries or fees will be worked out by the finance people at the club.”
Barnes added: “It is good that I have someone with Kenny’s experience around and, if I need advice, I know he will be there. But the responsibility for the first team is mine and I shall be talking to Eric Black soon to take on board his assessments of the playing staff.
“I have seen the team, I watched some of the derby games last season, but I know that have to familiarise myself with all of them. Once I have done that, we shall start to identify areas of the team which might need strengthening and that’s when Kenny and I will talk.”
Dalglish was also tasked with setting up a soccer academy and building a training ground. Another role would be to liaise with Venglos.
Dalglish added: “Dr Venglos is a very intelligent man and someone who is very knowledgeable on modern training routines and preparation work and we shall be consulting him once we start the job. He is not being kept at the club simply because he is a gentleman, he is here because he will make a valuable contribution.”
Barnes, like Liam Brady in 1991, had an outstanding footballing pedigree as a player and had made 79 international appearances for England while playing at the highest club level with Liverpool for 10 years. He had two seasons at Newcastle United before being released and moving to Charlton.
After three months, the London club were relegated from the top flight and Barnes was a free agent once more.
He had never managed a club at any level when MacDonald made his move to team him up again with his old Anfield pal Dalglish, who had championed his cause and claimed he had “great potential” in a coaching position.
The newspapers daubed them “The Dream Team” and, as usual, there were smiles all round as both waved Celtic scarves outside the front door at Parkhead on June 10.
All too quickly, the grins evaporated.
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss The Result That Changed The Course Of Celtic History: Part Two.