DAVIE HAY was one of Wim Jansen’s closest allies during the Dutchman’s solitary season in charge of Celtic in 1997/98.

It was a topsy-turvy campaign that saw massive changes at Parkhead after the former Holland World Cup star had replaced club great Tommy Burns as manager in the summer. However, the upheaval on and off the pitch did not prevent the Hoops from achieving a truly extraordinary title triumph.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, we pay tribute to Jansen who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 75 as Celtic legend Hay relives a remarkable period in the club’s history.

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS…Wim Jansen and assistant boss Murdo MacLeod hold the newly-won League Cup after the 3-0 win over Dundee United at Ibrox.

CELTIC went into the last league game of season 1997/98 knowing exactly what they had to do to clinch their first championship in a decade and, in doing so, prevent Rangers from achieving an astonishing ten-in-a-row winning sequence.

Wim Jansen’s men had to beat St.Johnstone at Parkhead by any margin and the title party could begin in earnest. Rangers were due to face Dundee United at Tannadice, but their destiny was out of their hands. Celtic had seventy-one points going into their last league encounter while Rangers had two fewer.

I had started the season as the club’s Assistant General Manager, but on this crucial day I was with Livingston in a consultancy role. I had been shown the door by Celtic for a third time. I felt I should have been involved in the east end of Glasgow, but, instead, I found myself watching Livi lose 2-1 to Inverness Caley Thistle in front of 2,812 fans at Almondvale.

You would have expected everything to be rosy in the background at Parkhead in a season where the club was so close to glory. You would have been wrong. Wim Jansen, who had won the League Cup and was within ninety minutes of delivering the league title in his first campaign as Celtic manager, was clearly unhappy and there had been leaks of a rift between the Dutchman and Jock Brown, the General Manager.

If I had found out anything about Wim Jansen in the months I had worked with him it was that he was very much his own man. He didn’t accept interference or meddling. If he thought he was being overruled or bypassed he would show his displeasure.

TALK-IN…Wim Jansen explains his thoughts to Davie Hay at the start of a momentous season.

Remarkably, Wim left the club two days after bringing home the Premier League title following ten years in the wilderness. His assistant Murdo MacLeod followed shortly afterwards. I beat them both through the exit after my relationship with Brown became somewhat strained.

It reached breaking point around halfway through the season and I have to say I was resentful at the way I had been treated. I had actually been Interim General Manager for a spell and had an interview for the top job. Apparently, I was found by my interviewers to be ‘unsuitable’.

Now, I know a lot of people in the game believed the job was as good as mine and any interview would be a mere formality. Managing Director Fergus McCann obviously didn’t agree with those views.

Fergus, who had taken over the club in fairly dramatic fashion, felt the position should go to someone with a professional background.  Jock Brown, whom I had once employed as my lawyer, had no previous Celtic connections and was also in the running. Of course, he got the nod. I was massively disappointed, to say the least.

SMILES BEFORE THE STORM…Wim Jansen with club supremo Fergus McCann.
So, there was a degree of friction between us from the very start. The Celtic support appeared to be dumbfounded that a guy who doubled as a lawyer and a match commentator could get such an important post.

Despite any animosity, Jock and I knew we had to work together for the good of the club in an extremely important campaign. Let me admit straight away there were faults on both sides. It came to a head and Fergus had to make a choice. Once more I found I was expendable.

It didn’t stop me continuing to support the club, though, and I watched the title run-in with a fair degree of fascination. I really wanted Wim Jansen to complete his mission. I wanted Celtic to be crowned champions.

* TOMORROW: Wim’s Season in Paradise: Part Two.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Hearts v Celtic this evening – only in your champion CQN.

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