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SEEING RED: DAVIE HAY’S CUP FINAL FURY (PART THREE)

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DAVIE HAY took over as Celtic manager 37 years ago and kicked-started a rollercoaster four seasons in the Hoops hot-seat.

CQN has been looking back at those eventful campaigns in which the former Scotland international won the most dramatic title race in living memory and added a Scottish Cup for good luck.

Here is the third instalment from Davie Hay’s excellent autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin’, co-authored by his long-time friend Alex Gordon – in another CQN EXCLUSIVE series.

THE Scottish Cup was our only hope of achieving a trophy and, of course, I was mindful of my promise to the Celtic supporters at the start of the season.

I would like to think I am a man of my word, so you could say I was under extreme pressure when 19 May arrived and we faced Aberdeen in the final on a mild afternoon at Hampden. Rather remarkably, we didn’t play a solitary game at Parkhead on our run to the end-of-season showpiece.

We opened with a tie at Berwick Rangers on 28 January and a lot was being made of the fact that the date was exactly sixteen years since the Shielfield outfit had knocked out Rangers, then the Cup holders, in one of the biggest sensations in the tournament’s history. Was there a repeat on the cards at our expense? We went about our task with a laudable professionalism and coasted to a 4-0 triumph with goals from Brian McClair (2), Frank McGarvey and Jim Melrose.

Next up was a trip to Methil to face East Fife and once again we floored the opposition in a one-sided affair. We won 6-0 and McClair and McGarvey were on target again with Tommy Burns (2), Murdo MacLeod and John Colquhoun, my signing from Stirling Albion, weighing in with the others. Our journey through the national competition took us to Fir Park on 17 March and and another overwhelming victory. It was 6-0 again with McClair (2), Burns, McGarvey, MacLeod and Reid on target.

Was our name on the trophy? Certainly, the run to the semi-final was fairly impressive with sixteen goals scored and none conceded in three games. St.Mirren stood between us and our date with destiny. It still annoyed me that they had taken four goals off us in the league at Love Street and my mood, thankfully, was matched by that of my players.

GREEN FOR GO…Davie Hay and his Celtic players prepare for the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen.

We duly overcame them 2-1 with goals from McClair and Paul McStay. It was looking good and we were in excellent spirits when we turned up at the national stadium for our showdown with Aberdeen on 19 May. Would I be out of a job later that evening? Or would I have won my first piece of silverware as manager of Celtic?

Controversy dogged the encounter, unfortunately, and I was furious when our captain Roy Aitken was sent off by referee Bob Valentine, the match official who had awarded Rangers two penalties in the League Cup Final a couple of months earlier. I was raging at the decision to banish one of our most influential players seven minutes before half-time and I was unhappy at the way it happened.

Aitken challenged Mark McGhee and the Dons striker went down. It looked like just another hard tackle in a contact sport. It is a man’s game, after all. You take the knocks, get up, dust yourself down and get on with it. I am not implying for one second that the Aberdeen player took a dive or cheated in any way. It was just a fierce challenge and it bowled him over.

However, the Dons team, almost to a man, converged on the match official, clamouring for our skipper to be sent off. It was something Aberdeen players did on a regular basis. I don’t know if it influenced Valentine, but he ordered off Roy, the first player in over half-a-century to receive such punishment in a Scottish Cup Final.

I thought it was so unfair. It might have been a booking, but nothing more. I looked at our opponents, all smiles as Roy trudged off, shook my head and thought, ‘I hope you are proud of yourselves’.

There had been a bit of bad blood between the two teams that season and I recall there were six bookings in a fairly towsy League Cup semi-final. The Scottish Football Association wanted to have peace talks before the Hampden confrontation. They wished to speak to the respective managers and the chairmen.

I knocked the idea on the head. Frankly, I didn’t see the point of it. What good would have come of it? We would all make the right noises and everything would go straight out the window as soon as the referee blew his whistle for the kick-off. The match official came into our dressing room before the start and was eager to start handing out special warnings to my players.

Again, I thought he was overstepping the mark and I didn’t think there was any need for it. Who knows what might have happened if I had put up with this ridiculous charade? One thing that was certain was that Valentine, after being surrounded by a posse of Pittodrie players, pointed to the tunnel with indecent haste to banish our skipper.

OFF…Davie Hay offers support as red-carded Roy Aitken leaves the field.

We were already trailing to a goal from Eric Black, one that looked decidedly offside, when Roy was dismissed. It was always going to be a guargantuan task getting back into the game with eleven men never mind ten. My players showed fabulous courage and spirit throughout the hurly-burly of that contest and we deservedly equalised five minutes from the end through the tireless Paul McStay.

I have no doubt whatsoever that we would have gone on to claim the trophy if we still possessed our full complement of staff. The tie went into extra-time and, you could have written the script, Mark McGhee got the winner for them. The tackle from Roy must have taken a lot out of him. He even won the sponsor’s Mr.Superfit award at the end!

We had been runners-up in the league, runners-up in the League Cup and now we were runners-up in the Scottish Cup. It was a season of second prizes. That record might appease some managers at clubs where success is not demanded on the same scale as a boss of an Old Firm team. Second is nowhere as far as Celtic and Rangers fans are concerned. It’s win or bust.

I had failed to mark my first season as Celtic manager with a trophy. Would I resign? Frankly, there was absolutely no pressure on me from the board or from anyone else for that matter. We had come close, but you don’t get a goal if you hit the bar. I knew it was not good enough. Our support deserved a winning team.

We had played some attractive football throughout the campaign and that pleased me. But I didn’t need to be told twice that we had still been unsuccessful. I was at Parkhead a couple of days after the Scottish Cup Final and was locking my car door when I heard this voice coming from behind me.

‘Davie,’ yelled this old chap who was hanging around the entrance, looking for autographs and suchlike. ‘You don’t have to quit,’ he shouted. ‘Celtic have won the BP Youth Cup. You did get a trophy!’ I had to laugh.

My job was safe. For now.

TOMORROW: The return of Davie: Part Four

 
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