CELTIC suffered the most humiliating result in the club’s history in February 24 years ago when they lost 3-1 to Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, we look at the fall-out of the inexplicable Scottish Cup exit and examine the games that led up to the catastrophic result – and the welcome transformation that propelled Celtic into a new era.
Here is Part Six of edited extracts from Celtic author Alex Gordon’s tribute book, ‘The Winds of Change‘, which was published by CQN in 2015.
CELTIC fans chanted the name of broken-leg victim Henrik Larsson before, during and after the next game, a 2-1 win over St Johnstone in Perth.
John Barnes brought wide players Regi Blinker and Bobby Petta back into a midfield with Stiliyan Petrov and Paul Lambert adding the strength. As expected, Mark Viduka and Mark Burchill were given the main attacking roles.
The Aussie and the Scot proved there could be life after Larsson by dovetailing well and sparking off each other. Celtic dominated a fair percentage of the opening half, but, disconcertingly, went in a goal adrift at the interval.
On the half-hour mark, Nick Dasovic robbed Lambert, sent George O’Boyle clear and he picked out Nathan Lowndes who slipped the ball wide of Jonathan Gould. And, just like that, the visitors, who could have been three ahead in the opening 17 minutes, were one down.
Three minutes after the turnaround it was all-square when Burchill snapped onto a Blinker cross, shimmied one way and then the other to take two defenders out of the equation before rattling a drive behind Alan Main.
ON THE RUN…Vidar Riseth in a race with St Johnstone midfielder Paul Kane.
Controversy appeared to enjoy spending time in the young Celt’s company and 10 minutes from time it looked as though he had scored a second only for it to be ruled out by referee Hugh Dallas. With only a handful of seconds remaining on the clock, the match official was on the verge of nullifying another Celtic effort.
Morten Wieghorst’s header from a corner-kick was touched onto the post by Main and was then frantically booted clear by Paul Kane. It was a tough call, but linesman Bob Gunn signalled to Dallas the whole of the ball had crossed the line before the intervention of the Saints player.
The referee awarded the goal to spark protests from the furious home players.
Barnes gave his surprise verdict afterwards. “It didn’t look as if it was a goal and St Johnstone are entitled to feel hard done by, but these things tend to even out over the course of the season.
“We have had a spot of good fortune, but I am sure that will be balanced by decisions in the future. St Johnstone have had a fair share of good fortune in the past and will do again.”
He added: “We weren’t allowed to play the sort of football we like to, but we chipped away at them and ground out the result. Overall, I thought we were the more progressive side.”
The mood of the Head Coach changed dramatically after the next game, a midweek encounter against Motherwell which was played throughout in monsoon conditions at Parkhead.
Celtic not only conceded their first goal at home, they also carelessly threw away the opportunity to go top of the league by nosediving to a dreadful 1-0 defeat to a side that played for almost an hour with 10 men.
Little wonder Barnes moaned: “That was our worst performance of the season.”
The team, without the inspirational Henrik Larsson, toiled hopelessly, devoid of imagination and bereft of penetration. Kevin Twaddle scored in the 15th minute and the resolve of the Celtic players seemed to dissolve in the swirling rain.
In the 34th minute, central defender Shaun Teale, the sort of rugged defender who gave you the impression he shaved with a blow-torch, knocked over Burchill. It was a crude challenge and immediately merited a red card from referee Dougie McDonald.
With the one-man advantage, the Celtic fans in the 58,731 attendance must have expected a spirited revival from their heroes. What they got instead, though, was an inept, bungling display that rarely worried their old foe Andy Goram, now with the Fir Park outfit following his release from Ibrox.
ON THE ATTACK…Mark Viduka leaves Motherwell defender Steven McMillan standing, but the striker was out of luck as Celtic collapsed to a 1-0 loss at Parkhead.
He might even have admitted he had to work a lot harder for more than a few of his win bonuses at Parkhead during his days as a Rangers player.
Barnes, looking a little punch drunk afterwards, didn’t bother with lame excuses. None would have been accepted, anyway, by anyone who had witnessed the debacle.
“After about 25 to 30 minutes of the second-half, we knew we could have been there all night and not scored,” he admitted with some lack of guile. “We couldn’t pass the ball straight. No matter the team system or formation, we should be able to pass the ball.
“It’s the basics and if we do not get them right, then it makes everything else so much more difficult.” There was a hint of desperation when he added: “I can only hope it was a one-off. I believe it is, because these are international players.
“I can’t accept this is because we missed Henrik Larsson. If that is the case, this would be a one-man team and I don’t think I or any of the players in the dressing room would accept that.”
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Result That Changed The Course Of Celtic History: Part Seven.