v St. Mirren
A LESSON IN CELTIC SPIRIT
HOW LATE IT WAS! HOW LATE!
By David W Potter
(Following is from the wonderful Keep-the-Faith website (link)
It’s been a bleak few days for Timdom, although gradually the realisation is once again dawning that Celtic remain masters of their own destiny. David W Potter recalls another time, another place, when Celtic were dependent on others. That significant other was Albert Kidd. How the League was won – Love Street , May 3rd , 1986.
May 3 rd 1986 was a dull wet day. In the East of Scotland, mist was prevalent, that cold unpleasant mist which hangs around and makes one wonder whether there is to be any kind of spring this year. In the West, it was wet – nothing unusual about that – as 17,557 fans made their way to the still primitive Love Street with its open terracings and toilets that were, frankly, a health hazard.
The Celtic fans were hardly upbeat. There was a slight chance of winning the title, but only a slight one. Celtic had to beat St.Mirren by four goals and hope that Dundee could beat Hearts at Dens Park – another stadium, like that of St.Mirren, which was long on the proud traditions and history of Scottish football, but short on basic amenities and hygiene.
The word “reconciled” was appropriate to Celtic fans that day. Hearts were going to win the League, and in a moment of weakness, we could confess that they deserved it. After all, it was difficult to be jealous of Hearts who had last won a trophy in 1962. And it would have to be agreed that Celtic had not really had a great season – a fragile defence, talent abounding in midfield, but the team seemingly unable to convert dominance into goals. Up front, Brian McClair and Maurice Johnston, fine players both, but already showing signs of lack of commitment to the Club. Manager Davie Hay was a likeable man, but too often, we felt, not really up to the job.
Hearts on the other hand were a bunch of honest journeymen, well managed by ex-Ranger Alec McDonald, and they had emerged from nowhere as Championship contenders some time about November. Steadily they had seen off the challenges of Aberdeen , Rangers and Dundee United, until Celtic with their staying power pushed them ever so slightly. But Hearts still remained ahead, albeit they were playing in a pedestrian way. They might have won the League the previous Wednesday, but Celtic beat Motherwell to take it to the last day.
The Gorgie area of Edinburgh was galvanised into travelling to Dundee that day, even though the support was full of Johnnie-come-latelies who had been nowhere in sight when they were relegated in 1977, 1979 and 1981. The Hearts support of 1986 had a great deal of new scarves. Yet, one supposed that it was good to see some sort of interest in football in Edinburgh , a city where interest was traditionally and lamentably low. It was a “good thing for Scottish football”, whatever that nonsense meant.
There were other side issues at stake today as well. Rangers, now under the command of Graeme Souness, were at Ibrox and it was between them and Dundee for qualification for Europe . But Rangers fans were less concerned with that then they were with the fortunes of Hearts, who, they hoped, would win the Championship today.
As Celtic buses headed out to Paisley , there were the usual finger gestures from Celtic fans as they passed Ibrox, but it was all rather half-hearted, for the season was finishing like a damp squib for both teams who had let their fans down this year.
Celtic started their game brightly. They had nothing to lose and their slight chance of the League depended on goals being scored. Goals came, five of them, all good, four before half time, so that the Jam Tarts at Dundee heard about this at half time and became despondent. McClair and Johnston scored two each and Paul McStay the other one, and Celtic actually looked (as they had done very rarely this season) like Champions.
Hearts meantime huffed and puffed, but couldn’t score. The first half was dire, and it was only at half time with the news from Love Street that it dawned on them, that although a draw would win them the Championship, it just needed Dundee to score.
John Robertson, their centre forward, had a few chances but went wide of the defence with his best one and blew it. Still, Dundee weren’t like scoring either. But it was still tense as the second half wore on. The half time tannoy man had been in little doubt, however, for he had pleaded with Hearts fans to stay off the pitch at the end of the game so that the League Championship could be presented.
An eerie atmosphere had settled over Love Street . Celtic had done their bit but it hadn’t been good enough. It was raining, and hammering a team 5-0 was not edifying watching, particularly as the players seemed to be a little despondent as well. It could have been so much different this year.
Dundee brought on a substitute called Albert Kidd. His career had flopped badly and he felt that he might emigrate to Australia soon, or if he stayed in Scotland , give up professional football and get a job doing something else. He might become a supporter of his favourite team, Celtic. Still, here he was getting a chance.
Time was passing slowly at both grounds. Love Street was becoming depressing, and Dens Park was tense as the older Jambos recalled 1960 (the last time they had won the League) and the younger ones wondered how they would celebrate that night. At Recreation Park , Alloa, the only supporter on the terracing behind the goal had a transistor radio and kept the players of Alloa and Forfar abreast of developments. “5-0 and 0-0,” he shouted to all who wanted to hear. He was enjoying his moment of power.
But then it happened. St.Mirren’s goalkeeper Jim Stewart, who had once played for Rangers, picked the ball up and bedlam erupted on the terraces as the commentator said, “Kidd has scored!” At Easter Road, Hibs’ Joe Tortolano took a throw in and found himself cheered ecstatically. At Recreation Park , the lad with the tranny started to jump and punch the air. At Ibrox there was also cheering, for they thought that it was Walter Kidd of Hearts who had scored with only seven minutes remaining at Dens Park , not the little known Albert Kidd of Dundee . The cheering died away suddenly when the truth dawned.
Hearts supporters collapsed, some of them literally, but most of them in the figurative sense for they felt a disaster coming. Celtic’s management team signalled to the players to keep calm, for there were minutes remaining. St.Mirren’s players Abercrombie, Fitzpatrick and McGarvey were also glad, for they shared the same allegiance as Albert Kidd, who had done the job 100 miles away to the north east.
Then Kidd (yes, Albert) did it again! A brilliant goal this time! Love Street erupted, so did Easter Road and the miniscule Dundee home support at Dens Park . Ibrox went quiet and Hearts fans slumped over their crush barriers as one or two idiots ran on to the field to try to get the game stopped. Fortunately there were only one or two, and the police cleared them away.
Full time came at Dens a minute or so before it did at Love Street . Thus were Celtic, in their horrible lime green strip, the Champions of Scotland at the eleventh hour.
Albert Kidd disappeared from the game soon afterwards (moving to Australia), but will remain a Celtic hero. It was almost as if Destiny kept him for that purpose and for no other.
For Hearts there was more agony. They lost the Scottish Cup Final next week as well. No-one should ever be jealous of Hearts, we decided. We were even magnanimous to them, but it served them right for singing Rangers songs and all that nonsense of “Weegie scum” and “hunting in dustbins for something to eat”.
But Celtic, well, they were the Champions. Forgiven were all the poor games this year, saved was the Manager’s job of Davie Hay (temporarily at least) and raised were the fingers as we drove past Ibrox that night.
We had made it, but oh how late it was, how late!
Bonner, McGrain (Grant), Whyte, Aitken, McGugan, MacLeod, McClair, P McStay, Johnston, Burns, Archdeacon
Goals: McClair (6, 54), Johnston (32, 33), P McStay (38)
Stewart, Wilson, D Hamilton, B Hamilton, Godfrey, Cooper, Fitzpatrick, Abercrombie, McGarvey, Gallagher (Spiers), Mackie
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