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 an extraordinary triumph in a dramatic title race.

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.

CELTIC VIEWS…Wim Jansen in conversation with Davie Hay.

ALL the aggro had been bubbling under the surface as the season came to a conclusion. Nerves were evident in the third last game of the season against Hibs in Glasgow on April 25.

A crowd of 49,619 turned out to cheer on their favourites with the championship very much in sight. Hibs, after beating Celtic on the opening day of the season, were heading for relegation. Rangers had to travel to Edinburgh that afternoon to take on a dangerous Hearts side, who still had ambitions of overtaking their Ibrox rivals and achieving second place.

A defeat at Tynecastle for Walter Smith’s men would have had the champagne being put on ice in Celtic supporters’ households everywhere. Including mine! It had been a long time since the bubbly had flowed in celebration of a title triumph. Far too long.

ROBBED…Henrik Larsson is about to have the ball snatched off his toe by Dunfermline keeper Ian Westwater.

Rangers had hammered Hibs 3-0 at the start of the month, but Celtic were prepared to accept any winning margin against a team that was virtually doomed. Hibs hadn’t kept a solitary clean sheet on their travels all season and had conceded five at the same venue on their last visit just before Christmas Day with Craig Burley (2), Jackie McNamara, Morten Wieghorst and Henrik Larsson getting the goals.

Could they hope to hold out Larsson and Co this time around? Remarkably, that’s exactly what they did. Veteran goalkeeper Bryan Gunn wasn’t exactly overworked as the game limped to a tame goalless scoreline.

How did Rangers fare in the capital? News came back that they had won rather easily by 3-0 with goals from Rino Gattuso (2) and Jorg Albertz. Rangers now had sixty-nine points, one behind Celtic. It was getting too close for comfort.

The Ibrox side had the opportunity to go top of the Premier Division when they met Kilmarnock in Glasgow on Saturday May 3 with Celtic playing Dunfermline at East End Park twenty-four hours later. If the tension was showing on Celtic, it was also getting through to their oldest rivals.

HIT…Simon Donnelly fires Celtic into the lead against Dunfermline with a smart right-foot drive.

MISS…Henrik Larsson watches as Dunfermline keeper Ian Westwater touches his shot wide of the post.

They blew their opportunity and lost 1-0 to an Ally Mitchell goal. Wim Jansen took his troops to Fife in the realisation that a victory would mean the long, anxious wait for the title was over. Celtic would be crowned kings of Scotland for the first time since 1988.

Would you believe I travelled through to Fife with the Davie Hay (Paisley) Celtic Supporters Club, which is run by my good friend Peter Rafferty? I had missed out ten years ago as I had left the previous summer, but I was ready to give it pelters now. I felt like quiz master Bamber Gasciogne on University Challenge, ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish!’

I could just about taste the champagne as Simon Donnelly fired Celtic ahead. I was in the stand with the fans and we waited for a second. And we waited. Nerve-ends were jangling everywhere, on the park and on the terracings where 12,719 crammed into a ground whose official all-seater capacity was 12,509.

It wasn’t much of a spectacle, truth be told, but no-one would have minded if the referee had just blown for time-up and allowed the festivities to kick off in real. The clock was ticking down when disaster struck.

Dunfermline had rarely threatened all afternoon, but, with only minutes remaining, they equalised with a header from substitute Craig Falconbridge.

No-one could believe it. We travelled home in silence.

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


Click Here for Comments >

About Author