The script was written for George O’Boyle. Henrik gave Celtic the lead in the opening minutes but this was a team on its knees. If we thought that early goal would lead to an easy afternoon we were wrong. St Johnstone were our match all over the field.
O’Boyle met a near inch-perfect cross from the right with Jonathan Gould stranded, but the St Johnstone striker could not get high enough (pun intended) and Rangers’ best chance to win 10-in-a-row was gone.
Like the entire decade of the 90s, the game was torture. With Rangers winning at Tannadice we needed a win to ‘stop the 10’, but more was at stake than that. If we had let this one slip through out hands, needing only three points from our final two games, it is difficult to conceive how we would have recovered.
In truth, it is hard to imagine how we got close to the title. The 11th hour appointment of Wim Jansen produced a stuttering start to the campaign: a defeat at Hibs before an embarrassing capitulation at home to Dunfermline. Meanwhile, Rangers new prolific striker, Marco Negri, was breaking records.
With two weeks of the season left, we drew 0-0 at home to soon-to-be-relegated Hibernian. This was not a fantastic Celtic team, but they were made of strong stuff and would not be denied.
With around 15 minutes left against St Johnstone, the world’s most magnificent misfit, Harald Brattbakk did what he did best – got between defence and goalkeeper – to sweep the ball home. Grown men cried. This title was celebrated like none will ever be celebrated again.
The subsequent 20 years have seen many great successes. We have had Seville, The Beating of Barca (twice) and many Champions League triumphs, but that game against St Johnstone is without doubt the most important victory in my Celtic supporting life. Nothing in my entire relationship with the club comes close to that 90 minutes.
During the previous decade Celtic fans were effectively foreigners in our own land. Our streets were filled with celebratory blue jerseys; men had died blonde hair, aping (pun intended) Rangers players. They laughed at us, often with good reason.
We all have our memories of that night’s celebrations, but my most vivid memory is driving through the towns and villages of Lanarkshire. Green and white hooped fans were everywhere, some even waving flags sitting on top of traffic lights. The streets were ours again and we’re not giving them back.