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A Summer Night On May 21st 1979
There are times when words can almost fail us even in the context of the annals of this, sometimes, unbelievable Club.

There are times when words can almost fail us even in the context of the annals of this, sometimes, unbelievable Club. Such a night was May 21st 1979 , a Monday night at Celtic Park in summer when the football season is normally long finished.

But 1979 had been a real hard winter, of the type that one seldom gets nowadays, in these globally warmed times. Celtic lost to Morton at Cappielow two days before Christmas and played their next League game on March 3 rd , January; February having been lost to the frost and snow, and when that relented, the rain and the wind.

There were blessings about this as far as Celtic were concerned. Before Christmas, Celtic had been a dreadful mid-table side, having lost six games and drawn five.

By March 3 rd , when they beat Aberdeen 1-0 at Parkhead, they had received the major boost of the return from injury of Danny McGrain. Yet to say that they immediately turned the corner is not correct either, for the truth was that Celtic in 1979 were far from a vintage team. They played with enthusiasm, and had some fine players like Davie Provan, Murdo MacLeod and Tommy Burns, but so much of their play was mediocre - to be kind about it!

Yet Rangers struggled as well (although they did have a good run in Europe that year), and May was reached with Celtic just having the edge. A win over Rangers at Hampden (Ibrox was out of commission) on May 5 th might have given Celtic an insuperable advantage, but Celtic blew it to add to the already considerable gloom brought about by the General Election victory of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives a couple of days earlier.

Between that game and the May 21 st decider, Celtic had three games against Partick Thistle, St.Mirren (on a Friday night at Ibrox!) and relegated Hearts. The games were won by grim determination rather than any great skill, but it meant that if Celtic could beat Rangers on this Monday night, the League would be theirs. Any other result, even a draw, favoured the Ibrox men.

There was an unusual problem about tickets. Some people had bought tickets for the game in early January, and had lost them such had been the intervening time!

There was also a problem about media coverage – there was none! A silly union dispute knocked the game off TV sets, even in highlights form, and the miserly BBC Radio Scotland did not even produce a radio commentary!

Ceefax had not yet been invented, and there was thus no way one could follow the game, unless you had a ticket (and had not lost it). Only 52,000 lucky ticket holders actually saw this game, but what a game it was!

The first-half was depressing. Rangers scored early and then moved their forwards back to midfield. Football was hard to discern, but there was certainly loads of excitement, endeavour and fouls. Half-time came however, with Rangers still holding on smugly to their one goal lead.

In the second-half, Celtic seemed to have committed suicide. Johnny Doyle had a go at Alex MacDonald of Rangers and was rightly sent off by referee Eddie Pringle. Down to 10 men, there seemed little hope for Celtic, for even a draw would not be enough. But they kept plugging away and midway through the second-half, Roy Aitken levelled with a fine goal following a good move. It was Aitken again who was instrumental in Celtic going ahead with only fifteen minutes remaining. His shot was blocked, but George McCluskey hammered home the rebound.

2-1 up and only quarter of an hour to go, but the ecstasy turned to agony when Rangers equalized almost immediately from a corner kick. Rangers now seemed to be more composed and with the benefit of the extra man were quite prepared to play out time. Minutes ticked agonizingly away until, with only six minutes left, Colin Jackson scored a peculiar own goal. McCluskey's shot was parried by goalkeeper McCloy, but the ball hit the hapless Jackson and the ball rebounded into the net!

Parkhead was now seething with joy, albeit tempered with the numbing realization that Rangers had equalized before and could do so again. Yet the clock kept moving.

Several times the Celtic defence had to clear in desperation, several times it looked as if Mr.Pringle was about to blow for time, several times we had to stop ourselves thinking of the League Championship lest it all come to naught… when the ball broke to Murdo MacLeod some 25 yards from goal.

Murdo said afterwards that he was as well going for a shot because even if he missed, he would still waste precious seconds, and referees always seem to like to blow for time immediately after a goalkeeper takes a goal kick.

But Murdo's shot did not miss!

It rocketed into the net, and Celtic had won 4-2!

Posted by voc1967 on Monday 09 September 2019 - 21:36:21 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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