Thu, 28 May 2020
The 9iar Chronicles - Season not the ten 1974/75
Two Cups - but no Ten-in-a-Row
Celtic were to miss out on a world record of ten consecutive League championships this season and had to be content with the two domestic cups and the Drybrough Cup in it's last year. This season saw the retirement of Billy McNeill and the departure on free transfers at the end of the season of the last true veterans of the golden age with the release of Jimmy Johnstone and Jim Brogan. The only remaining Lisbon Lion at the end of the season was Bobby Lennox.
Celtic did not travel abroad for any pre-season games this season but used the Drybrough Cup and domestic friendlies to sort the team out. There was an embarrassing one-off trip to West Germany to play Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen which ended in the joint highest defeat under Jock Stein so far. Interest in the Drybrough Cup was faintly raised when the final threw Rangers and Celtic together with the game ending in a draw and Celtic winning the rights to the Cup 4-2 on penalties. This was the last season this Cup would be played though it would return in 1979. The performances were somewhat jaded and lacking in enthusiasm one normally expected from a Celtic team but this was put down to a short inter-season lay-off period with the World Cup and Scotland's involvement in that also taking place during the shut down. Added to this would be that Danny McGrain had returned from the World Cup having been diagnosed diabetic.
The League Cup saw Celtic in Group 4 with Motherwell, Dundee Utd and Ayr Utd. The format had been changed with one team qualifying from each group for the Quarter finals and the rather silly offside rule used in the Drybrough - only being offside beyond the 18 yard box - persisted with even though it was disliked by all. In the second game Celtic received a shock losing to Ayr Utd. The jaded performances were for real and Jock Stein found himself with three immediate problems :- a goalkeeping crisis, a vulnerable defense and the strike force misfiring. These all needed to be addressed. None could be addressed with immediate effect. Celtic, however, duly put the results together to qualify for the quarter finals with a game in hand in the Group Satge and were drawn against Hamilton Academicals managed by ex-Celt Eric Smith. A 2-0 win at home followed by a 4-2 away win saw them comfortably through to face Airdrie in the semi final. This was a turgid affair settled by a single goal from Stevie Murray in the second half. Hibernian had also made it through all the way and the final was a classic Celtic performance with Dixie Deans scoring a hatrick as well as Joe Harper also getting a hatrick and ending on the losing side.
That was one Cup in the bag done and dusted by the end of October. Already Celtic had seen George Connelly walk out and state that he was quitting football. He did relent and returned to train and eventually win a starting place again in November and December. But the assessment of the team had seen Jimmy Quinn, Vic Davidson, Jimmy Bone and Andy Lynch all told that they could leave on frees. Also by this time Celtic found themselves out of the European Cup at the first hurdle. A 1-1 draw at home achieved after the sending off of an Olympiakos player was not enough and in the flare and smoke of the Athens game Celtic went down 2-0.Olympiakos were an unfancied side and they duly made their own exit at the next round. Was this an indication of European fragility? The side that had won the big cup, made the semi final twice and had been described as European attack masters looked woefully out of sorts.
What happened in the League to lose the tenth successive title is really a continuation of the faults that had been seen at the start of the season being cruelly exposed in the second half in the New Year. By that point Ronnie Glavin had been signed after much beating around the fee from Partick Thistle. At the age of 23 he had been the Jags captain and leading player as well as a Scotland U-23 cap. Signed in November for a club record of £80,000, Glavin had been a target for a number of clubs and Partick Thistle, under manager and ex-Celt Bertie Auld were looking to cash in. Glavin arrived to add extra firepower and to help Dalglish who was turning out to be easily the most competent and rounded player in Scotland. After a successful scoring debut he found it not as easy as first thought to fit into the team and in January he found himself dropped as Stein wrestled to find a winning formula again.
The catalyst that started to bring the house tumbling down was the 3-0 loss to Rangers at Ibrox in January. Celtic did not play too badly but there were too many first team players that failed to hit form and this was worrying. With a further 4 points dropped in the next five games which included dispiriting draws away to Arbroath and at home to Dumbarton. With the goalkeeping crisis much in evidence Peter Latchford was recruited from West Bromwich Albion. Latchford came up and played in a Friendly and in wizard time he was duly signed on an initial loan deal and saw out the rest of the season as first choice keeper. At times the support and Jock Stein must have thought what they had taken on as Latchford was prone to the occasional howler and soft goal. But he would develop substantially from this his first season at Celtic. Despite trying everything the crisis could not be averted and Celtic would drop a further 13 points in 10 games to finish third behind Rangers and Hibernian. Needless to say this was a shock to the supporters who had come to see over the last 10 years the Championship as a permanent feature at Celtic Park and the League programme kicking off each season with the raising of a new Championship flag.
The reality was that the flow of players coming through had dried up. Though Dalglish was without doubt the most accomplished footballer in Scotland he could not do it all by himself. The midfield lacked a David Hay type player. George Connelly, whilst a gifted sweeper and defender as well as having exquisite skill, was now emotionally fragile. McNeill was reaching the end of his career as too was Jim Brogan. Add to that a lack of bite upfront, despite Paul Wilson having his best season ever, it was more a collective malaise within the strike force that saw them missing chances and playing underpar when before they had been the Green Machine.
The retrieval of the season came with the Scottish Cup winning 3-1 against Airdrie who were in their first Cup Final since 1928. By this point the League had already been lost so it was with absolute faith that Jock Stein sent them out onto the Hampden pitch knowing that they would return with the cup. At the end of that game Billy McNeill announced his retirement.
If the club felt low at having to bear the loss of the tenth successive League title then they could console themselves with two trophies at least. Things could not get worse. Could they?
Direct download: The_9iar_Chronicles_-_Season_not_the_ten_197475.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:35pm UTC
Wed, 27 May 2020
The Rugby League Podcast!
Welcome to the Celtic Underground Rugby League podcast. Listeners will be wondering why a Celtic fans podcast is talking about rubgy league - because we want to.
Although born in Scotland, all my relatives are from Cumbria and specifically, for those who know the area they are from an area steeped in rubgy league history - Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and into Workington.
When I grew up my mum’s dad was in to horse racing and Rugby League, Working Town Rugby League to be precise. He obviously entertained football chat with his Celtic daft grandkids, but for this man from the mines, League was the sport for him. It ingrained in me the concept that league was proper rugby and as I grew older and saw Union as the Toffs sport but arrogantly referred to as Rugby I retained that soft spot.
I’m not an avid watcher but I’ll look in when it’s on and will watch the Grand Final every year. I have always felt League and the towns where it is based have a close affinity of the central belt of Scotland where football is so strong and so I thought I’d do a podcast with an expert, providing a bit more detail on what the sport is, why it is different (and better) than Union and what better time than now in lockdown with limited sport but the Australian NRL starting up this weekend.
Thu, 21 May 2020
A Double and Nine-in-a-Row
The most outstanding accolade of the season was the completion of nine League championship titles in a row closely followed by reaching the semi-finals of the European Cup for a fourth time they had reached that stage or beyond since 1967. For a club the size of Celtic in a nation the size of Scotland this was exceptional. That they never went on to the final was down to the cheating aspects of their semi-final opponents, Atletico Madrid, and the left-over taste of the nature of the games with them has remained with the club and supporters ever since 1974.
Mon, 18 May 2020
The Celtic Underground Top Ten season 2017-18
A topical podcast this week as we review the top ten players for the 7th season of the current 9iar….but don’t worry, the first 20 mins are disccusing the fact that tonight, as we record the podcast, Celtic are officially champions of Scotland AGAIN and have officially achieved 9iar AGAIN.
First up we have a very special message from the manager to all our listeners (yes, we actually do) and then we have a 20 minute chat about achieving 9iar and how it is better than expected. From there we get to the meat and bones of the podcast and discuss your votes for the 2017-18 CU Top Ten.
You may wonder why it is season 2017-18. Well, we collated the votes but unfortunately I was too busy with work and nevergot around to actually recording the podcast. We must have a complet record and so the podcast is recorded. We will be doing 2018-19 and voting is open now (until midnight on 10th June) for the 2019-20 season Top Ten and Samars moment. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org
The voting was as follows;
Wed, 13 May 2020
The 9iar Chronicles - Season 8 1972/73
(Courtesy of The Celtic Wiki)
The New to the Fore.
So close to being a Double; so close to being a Treble! And in the end a record consecutive eighth League Championship title. Season 1972-73 should have been the season when the club-developed players of the Quality Street Gang became the new Lions. It was the best season so far for them, with Kenny Dalglish showing himself as the most exciting footballer in Scotland at the age of 22; where George Connelly had it all and was very nearly an ever present in the side; where Davie Hay showed what a great utility player he could be,the emergence of Danny McGrain as a great overlapping full back.
But it was also the season of the wayward youth, with Lou Macari - spotted and developed by the club - demanding more and then heading south when he didn't get his way. Suppoprters opinions of Macari tend to be tainted by the later period when he returned to the club as manager between 1993 to 1994. As a player for Celtic, Macari was a superb goal scorer and poacher. But he was a very different kind of beast from players of the Lions era. Macari had not only quickly endeared himself to the Celtic support but had made the full Scotland international team early and had been on international tour to the States and to Brazil. He had married in St Patrick's Cathedral, New York, and it was very clear he did not like the fishbowl life of football in Scotland. In the closed season he had played in Brazil for Scotland with Tommy Docherty as Scotland manager and Docherty had woven him tales of football south of the border. At the start of the season when he returned to Celtic he began or continued to make demands for better terms. As the season wore on towards 1973 these demands continued and unrest began to ferment in the dressing room. Finally Jock Stein and the Board had enough in December. He'd been injured through much of November and came back for the away game against Dumbarton in early December and then he was out with 'flu and a 'stomach upset' and out over the Christmas period. This coincided with a crisis period at the club with Jock Stein taken into hospital with a cardiac scare. By the New Year Macari was on the transfer list. It was no longer a question of 'if' he would go but 'when' and 'where' and 'for how much'. Would it be Liverpool where he was a guest at their home match after inspecting the club facilities. But it was to team up again with Tommy Docherty, now manager at Manchester Utd, that he always wanted and there he went for £200,000. (There is a very good appraisal by St Anthony of Macari's playing time at Celtic here.)
Such was the surfeit of riches at the club at the time that it could be argued that his departure was barely missed. And the £200,000 his transfer brought in allowed the purchase of Ally Hunter, Andy Lynch and Steve Murray.
The season had begun with the sterile competition that was the Drybrough Cup, with altered offside rules, with Celtic losing to Hibs in the final, the game going to extra time after Celtic pulled back three goals to level the match at the 90. But Hibs found the gaps in extra time and lifted the trophy.The League Cup also had changed format somewhat with teams now seeded in the Group stage and winners and runners up going through to a home-and-away second round before the quarter finals. Everything went well till Celtic met Dundee in the quarter finals. In the away leg Dundee had scored after 20 minutes and then withstood strong Celtic pressure to carry a single goal advantage to Celtic Park. There, a weak linesman and referee Bobby Davidson contrived a 3-2 scoreline which saw a replay on a Monday night at Hampden. The Bhoys made no mistake here and ran out 4-1 winners. A semi-final win over Aberdeen set up the final against Hibernian. And on the day Celtic ran up against Stanton in great form. Two Cups played. Losing finalists twice!
And the third Cup would go the same way. It began well with 4-1 and 4-0 wins against East Fife and Motherwell respectively. At the quarter final Celtic played Aberdeen who came to bore everybody to death. On top of that Jimmy Johnstone lost the place and was sent off. The replay at Pittodrie was nearly as boring - except on 86 minutes up came Big Billy and the ball was headed in the back of the net. Dundee, as in the League Cup but this time at semi final stage, and for some reason Aberdeen's defensive tactics caught on and Dundee bored everyone to death with a 0-0 draw. The replay saw a continuation of dull football but a tactical switch which saw Hay switched to defense and Connelly to midfield resulted in Jinky receiving the ball and scoring two good goals and Dalglish getting one. And so.... on to the final against the auld enemy in their centenary year. A cut-n-thrust game in which Connelly scored a penalty (in the light of a succession of missed penalties in previous games from other Celtic spot-kick takers) saw Forsyth on the goal line where Brogan, who had just been subbed, would normally have been, steal in and nip the ball into the net. Celtic tried to get back the goal but it was Rangers cup. Three Cups played. Losing finalists thrice!
The League was tighter than it had been for a while with Celtic topping out by just the one point but a huge goal difference margin.Throughout the season there were periods when the team played less well as a unit and that aweful sin of profligacy in front of goal raised it's ugly head again. All this contributed to the punditry and journos doubting Celtic's ability to take the title this season and continue with the Green Machine the following season.
In Europe, Celtic ran up against one of last season's teams - Ujpesti Dosza of Hungary. Last season they had met when the Hungarians were only starting their season. This time they were well warmed up and Celtic found them too good in Budapest. A 2-1 win at Celtic Park was countered by a 3-0 loss in Hungary and Celtic were out at the Second Round.
Dalglish, Hay, Connelly, McGrain and Macari have already been mentioned. The veterans also had their part to play. Big Billy was Captain Dependable as ever. Jim Brogan was missing more games through injury but when he was in he made the perfect left back to Danny McGrain's right. Bobby Lennox might see a good few sub spots this season but he still had lethal speed and his knowledge of the game was special in a forward. And Bobby Murdoch was noted when missing and his cool head made for reflection on the game when he played. The goalkeeper crisis was 'real' till the arrival of Ally Hunter from Kilmarnock who would have an outstanding first season between the sticks. His sureness inspired confidence in those in front of him. Jinky had off and on periods throughout the season and for his off periods he paid for by being dropped. The luxury of the team with so many good players was that it could and was tailored for conditions and teams.
At the end of the season there were those who asked if Celtic could go on and do it again the next season or if the newly resurgent Hibernian or Dundee or, god forbid, Rangers would make a serious challenge next season.
Thu, 7 May 2020
SPFL TO RFC - WTF?
It’s here, the dossier that everyone (well everyone in scottish football) was waiting for. The evidence, the whistle blower, the reports of bullying, the substantiation, the smoking guns, deep throat, the bombshells that would lead to the resignation of the CEO were all…well NOT there.
Unfortunately RFC seem to confuse questions with evidence and fact with opinion.
Following it’s publication, their CEO (who sits on the SPFL board that is so useless) appeared on Radio Clyde. after his appearance I’m even more confused as to what it is they want an inquiry into.
Anyway, we set about trying to disect it the whole mess. I am joined by Anthony Murray and David Low to look at this as objectively as Celtic fans can.
Wed, 6 May 2020
The 9iar Chronicles - Season Seven, 1971/72
A Blend of Old and New
Season 1971-72 was a significant season as it really marked the start of a new chapter for the club, of players that had begun to appear the previous season but made their true marks this season. It also marked in truth the end of the Lisbon Lions era (but not the memory of that great team) with the departure of so many that had made up that team. The Main Stand had been substantially rebuilt and upgraded during the closed season and was formally opened by Jimmy McGrory on the 1st September 1971 with a game against South American Champions Nacional of Uruguay, Celtic running out 3-0 winners.
By this point Celtic had already lost the inaugural Drybrough Cup to Aberdeen. This was an interesting competition historically as it marked the first time that outside private sponsorship was seen in the professional game in Scotland. In the League Cup, Celtic qualified from the Group stage of Rangers, Morton and Ayr Utd. with resounding wins over Rangers home and away. The 'home' leg which was actually played at Ibrox because of the final work on the new Main Stand at Celtic Park, was significant in marking Kenny Dalglish's first first team goal. There would be many more. In the away game Celtic thoroughly demoralised a Rangers team that thought they had the beating of Celtic after an even first half. Quarter final and Semi final wins over Clydebank (marked by Brian McLaughlin's debut) and St Mirren followed to give a final at Hampden against a newly promoted and envigorated Partick Thistle. The result was not expected. With Billy McNeill absent, the Jags went 4-0 up by half time. Thistle were on fire and the 4-1 result and loss would mark a turn at Celtic and bring about arrivals and departures.
The days of the Lions were gone. The emerging talent was the Quality Street Gang and the prime examples were Kenny Dalglish, Lou Macari, Davie Hay, George Connelly and Danny McGrain. Out had gone John Clark - a crisp and reliant reader and thinker of the game who had become the sweeper - and Steve Chalmers at 35 years old. After the League Cup Final loss they would be followed by John Hughes and Willie Wallace to Crystal Palace and Tommy Gemmell in December with John Fallon going to Motherwell in 1972 and Jim Craig heading for South Africa at the end of the season. In came new buys Dixie Deans, regarded as a steal of a buy from Motherwell at £17,500, and for the perpetual blind-spot of goalkeeper came Denis Connaghan from St Mirren. But it was the young gang, recruited and developed through the lean years who Sir Robert Kelly had asked the fans to be patient for who took on the new mantle of Celtic and won the Double of League and Scottish Cup this season.
Jock Stein had the team playing a fluid system this season with as ever, everyone ready to both attack and defend so that players could switch and everyone to a greater or lesser extent could be a 'utility' player. No one exemplified this so much as Davie Hay and Dalglish. Both could play anywhere on the park, were elegant and confident on the ball, could pass accurately over distance to supply the killer ball and could shoot and score goals. Davie Hay had emerged earlier and would play anywhere in the team. Dalglish really became THE player this season, at home up front or supporting in a withdrawn midfield role. To be able to release an international full back of the stature of Tommy Gemmell meant that Jock Stein was confident in the resources that he had at Celtic Park. Jim Brogan continued to play well and was a veteran giving advice and support. Jim Craig's final season saw him make 28 first team starts and he would probably have continued to be picked for the first team had he chosen to stay. Furthering his career in dentistry, the warmer climate of South Africa and new challenges called, however. Jimmy Quinn had been at the club since he was 16 and had first been used as an out-and-out striker but the previous season had seen him turned into a fast overlapping defender and this was further developed this season. He did well. Danny McGrain looked like he was ready to step up and but for an unfortunate clash of heads and the resulting fractured skull would have become a stand out this season. He had to wait but he was clearly going to be the business.
The two supreme veterans that held it together were Billy McNeill and Bobby Murdoch. Cesar impressed so much this season that he won his Scotland place back under the new international manager Tommy Docherty. His cool head in the centre of defense and his power were rarely beaten and if he did have an off-day then the team suffered. Bobby Murdoch was as important as a playmaker as McNeill was as a defender. These two knitted the younger players into a unit and continued the Celtic tradition built up over seven League titles of what was required from a Celtic team and a Celtic player.
Worth mentioning too is Tommy Callaghan. He had probably his best ever season for the club in 1971-72 and ran his heart out as a water carrier and attacker as well as being a tireless midfield player. Never a fans favourite, he sometimes found himself the brunt of the terraces' ire but his performances this season were collosal and his hard work allowed the finesse of Dalglish, Macari, Hood, Lennox and Johnstone to shine.
In the goalkeeping stakes things were still as obscure as ever in the blind-spotted Stein's mind. Not since the glory days of Ronnie Simpson had he felt so uncertain about the feller in front of the onion bag. Evan Williams had started as first choice, but Gordon Marshall and Denis Connaghan were brought in to challenge, and rejected. A young keeper Tom Lally had been brought over from Sligo Rovers but had played more games for Morton on loan than at Celtic. Lally would leave the following season. Both Marshall and John Fallon left to fill spots at Aberdeen and Motherwell when those teams experienced injury crises. Added to these can be the youths that were picked up during the season. - Neil Carr from Maryhill Juniors; Stefan Gryzska from Whitehill Welfare; Leif Neilsen - an experienced Danish keeper who was in dispute with Morton and released by them on a free; and Tom Livingstone who had been a youth international keeper and was released when he lost his first team spot with Cumbernauld Utd. To these would be added more and it would remain a troublesome position for some time - till the Big Man made his final club signing.
This was a very interesting season - the blend of youth and vigour and experience; A Double Season; so nearly into another European Cup Final; players competing for positions and keen to show what they could do; a wealth of talent that had been developed by hard training who were fit, confident, competent and keen.
It would be interesting to see how the club would develop.