|Good times to bad times to good times. Fergus McCann the main player.|
|28-01-09 10:14 AM|
Growing up as in the 1970s I expected Celtic to win the league every year. It was a major shock to me as a 9 year old when the huns won the Scottish Cup with a goal that even Tom Forsyth never expected in a million years. I can still see his fat face with the look of total bewilderment at scoring a goal.
After that, they came slowly back, Jock Stein was involved in a serious road accident and thing started to go a bit awry. They won the treble in 1976 and again in 1978. We were no longer the force we once were.
The early 1980s saw us having a limited amount of success, but the big hitters were Aberdeen and Dundee Utd. Alex Ferguson had put Aberdeen in a position where it was expected they would win all, or most of the trophies, a sad scenario for a Celtic fans...however much worse was about to descend.
Ferguson left for Manchester in 1986 and this was the cue for the huns to step in and make a move to dominate Scottish football. Make no mistake, they had one aim, and one aim only, to brush aside every other team with their spending power. Holmes appointed Souness who in turn appointed various English internationalists ( who saw Scotland as both a way of obtaining easy money and playing in Europe as English teams were banned due to Heysel )
The huns ran over everyone. We won the double in 1988, but it was a false dawn. One more trophy followed the next year, then that was it. Nothing , zero, for SIX years.
Between 1990 and 1995 our main hope rested on the shoulders of Motherwell somehow wrestling the league away from the huns.
Now just sit for a second and digest what I just said....that’s right...you read it correctly.
In 1992 a number of fans decided that they had enough and started to round up the shareholders with a view to challenging White, Kelly et al to stop messing about and put up a credible challenge to the huns.
1993 saw us licking our lips in anticipation at the likes of Wayne Biggins. Now Wayne Biggins has become synonymous with failure, poor guy. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name. He wasn’t any worse than some of the dross we had to put up with in those days. We craved a new regime, a new team and a new board.
An expat called Fergus McCann was sitting in the sidelines waiting for his chance.
McCann saw how things were going and decided he wanted to get involved. Personally speaking as a Celtic fan, thank God he did. He had tried to help out previously, but Kelly and White knocked him back.
McCann’s closest ally then was Brian Dempsey. Dempsey was a master showman. He had us eating out of his hand at the Celts for Change meetings. He was the public face when Fergus took charge “ The game is over, the rebels have won” he proclaimed.
Where did Brian Dempsey go when push came to shove ? Fergus McCann was the only guy who had the gumption to see it through.
After a few false starts, in March 1994, Fergus took control. It seemed that we had been given a second chance. We were stifled under the old board and we were going nowhere – apart from oblivion.
1995 saw us winning the Scottish Cup and I’m not too proud to say I shed a tear that day. To finally just win something after all those years was such a relief. We were on our way back. We all knew it would be a long process, but there was no doubt we were on the road to recovery.
In the background was the spectre of the huns continually winning the league. The holy grail of 10 in a row looked a distinct possibility. Every Celtic fan’s worst nightmare. Despite Tommy Burns philosophy of attacking football, the huns still managed to come away from Celtic Park with a win each time we played them. Smith seemed to know exactly what to do and how to get the points to overcome us.
Tommy made way and eventually in came a wee Dutch guy with , what looked like a dodgy 1978 perm. He told us he would do his best. Personally I was on the verge of despair as this was THE season. They could do 10 in a row.....With Fergus’ backing , Wim splashed out and bought Gould, Burley, Lambert, Rieper , oh and this guy called Larsson. Jansen rated him and it turned out to be possibly the best and most astute signing ever made in our history.
To cut a long story short, we stopped them and on 9 May 1998 we won the first league title since the days of Chris Morris and Mick McCarthy .
Would this have ever happened without Fergus ? In a word. ..No. The old board were dogmatic and rigid in their outlook. They were “custodians” , so they continually told us. They were caught like rabbits in the headlights in the late 80s when the harsh reality of the commercial world kicked in.
A few dodgy seasons followed our “ 1 in a row” , Fergus left and we had a brief reconciliation with Kenny Dalglish, but you can’t go back.
2000 saw the appointment of Martin O’ Neill and the rest....as they say...
So to get to the crux. Would MON have been our manager had Fergus never came on the scene?
Would we have stopped the huns winning 10 in a row had Fergus never appeared ?
Would we be enjoying the luxury today of winning titles, being in the last 16 of the CL and generally being the “benchmark” in Scotland if Fergus had not come to us in 1994 ? Its highly doubtful.
Had the old board still been in situ, in my opinion, we would be languishing with the likes of Hibs and Hearts. A team who once did good things, but their best days are behind them.
Look at us now, the dominant team in Scotland, the team to beat, the team the media cannot stand due to our success.
Would any of this happened without the input of Fergus McCann ?
It is highly unlikely. That is why we should be naming a stand in his honour. Think 1993 – think 2009.
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