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Unquestionably One Of The Finest, Most Talented Celtic Players Ever
Paul Michael Lyons McStay MBE was born on 22nd October 1964 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

Paul Michael Lyons McStay MBE was born on 22nd October 1964 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire. Grand-nephew of former Celtic team captain and manager Jimmy McStay, playing for Celtic was in the family blood.

A hotly tipped youth prospect Paul was a member of Celtic Boys Club who burst onto the football scene in remarkable style when he hit two goals and was man of the match as Scotland schoolboys defeated their English counterparts at Wembley in front of a live TV audience in June 1980.

He signed for Celtic aged seventeen and made his senior Celtic debut in a 4-0 home Scottish Cup win over Queen of the South on January 21st 1982. Part of a great Celtic dynasty - his Great Uncle's Jimmy and Willie were both Hoops greats while brothers Willie and Raymond also played for the club - Paul seemed almost destined to write his name into Celtic folklore..

In mid-1982 he captained Scotland to victory in the UEFA European Under-18 Championship. This is the only major trophy (to date) won by Scotland.

Despite his tender years McStay had a talent so significant he was simply too good to sit on the bench or learn his trade with the reserves. A key man under Billy McNeill and then Davie Hay, the precocious youngster soon earned international recognition with Scotland and by the end of season 1985-86 – at the age of 21 - he had collected two league titles plus a Scottish Cup and a League Cup winners medals.

A trophyless campaign followed but during the course of Celtic’s wonderful Centenary season of 1987-88 McStay was at his magnificent best. Throughout the course of a truly memorable season the man affectionately christened ‘The Maestro’ by the Bhoys support was a class apart from anyone else in Scotland.

At his best McStay was a peerless performer in Scotland and among the very finest midfielders in Europe. He had it all – wonderful touch and footwork, composed and elegant in possession and with the vision and ability to dissect any defence with a single pass. He would pick the ball up and glide effortlessly pass opponents before delivering an inch perfect killer pass. In one book on the Centenary Season (1987-88) the other players are said to have tagged him as 'The Hat' as he was always able to pull a rabbit out of the hat when needed most.

A fine performance in the 1989 Scottish Cup final against Rangers saw McStay add another winners medal to his list but it would be some time before any more silverware came his way. By the early 1990s McStay had the burden of captaining one of the poorest Celtic sides in history. Years of under-investment on the playing squad saw the Hoops struggle badly to compete with big-spending Rangers. McStay's talent remained undoubted but many of those who played beside him simply didn't deserve that privilege.

It seemed inevitable that the Bhoys would lose their one true class act and at the end of season 1991-92 McStay would throw his shirt into the Jungle in a gesture which all but signalled the end of his time at Parkhead. He was easily the stand-out performer for Scotland at Euro 92 (where he scored a great goal v CIS (ex-Soviet Union)) and subsequently Inter Milan were rumoured to be keen to take him to Italy.

However McStay performed a dramatic U-turn and to the surprise and delight of the support he remained at Celtic Park (although on the other hand ex-Celtic director Michael Kelly revealed that no offers actually came in for him, but there was said from various people that there was interest for him). Celtic continued to struggle and it was only natural that Paul himself would suffer a loss of form. In November 1994 he missed a decisive penalty in a shoot-out as Celtic blew a golden chance to claim their first major trophy since 1989 as Raith Rovers won the League Cup thanks to a shock spot-kick shoot-out victory.

Such heartbreak was a cruel injustice for a player who had given everything he could to the Celtic cause so it was with extra glee that the support finally witnessed McStay lift a major trophy when the Bhoys defeated Airdrie in the 1995 Scottish Cup final and end their trophy drought.

Paul was a revived character under Tommy Burns but an ankle injury forced his surprise retirement at the end of the 1996-1997 season. It says everything about his immense talent and commitment to the Celtic cause that despite the second half of his career being at a time when the Bhoys were overshadowed by rivals Rangers, in 2002 he was voted in as one of Celtic's greatest players ever as part of the greatest Celtic team ever in a poll conducted by the club's fans.

Must be mentioned that he was not without his critics. He could have been more direct in his general play; ex-Celtic director Michael Kelly childishly said "McStay could not shoot for toffee"; others said that McStay did not score as much as he could have. McStay may have been lauded but John Collins on various occasions was too often overshadowed by McStay despite that Collins was on many occasions the far more productive player on the pitch. McStay as a quiet man could also not be the imposing player that a captain should be, and many openly thought that it was a burden he found difficult to carry. His prodigious talent had suffered greatly in his development by staying at Celtic through the worst of times, and for a player with the talent to fit into any world class team, he likely never reached that possible peak due to the circumstances that Celtic were in during the barren years.

Truth is that his ability elsewhere more than made up for any criticisms and many a time they could be cheap shots against him knowing that he wasn't the character to retaliate so McStay was easy game for some. They were best ignored, and during the darkest days watching McStay play made up for much of the dirge dug up by some of the rest of the team at the time.

Unquestionably one of the finest, most talented and most respected Celtic players ever.

Posted by voc1967 on Thursday 08 August 2019 - 17:32:37 | Comments (0)  |  printer friendly
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