The late 1980’s is a period we haven’t really covered in the Back to the Fixture series – and there is a reason why. The start of 1988/89 was bleak in general; Margaret Thatcher was still in office, Leon Jackson was born and Celtic had lost six of their opening twelve fixtures. Despite winning the league the season prior, the Hoops’ had only claimed one title in the last five years and Celtic were now a club in seasonal tumult. The general consensus at the club was that it could only go uphill from here – sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
That isn’t to say that good times didn’t occur that season, however – following the 2-3 defeat at home to Dundee on Halloween weekend, Celtic only lost twice in their following fifteen games; including a 2-1 home win over St Mirren on this day 33 years ago.
As previously stated, this was one of Celic’s worst starts to a campaign ever. Six defeats from their opening twelve games left the Bhoys’ in fifth place come the end of October, and Billy McNeill’s men were in freefall – already six points behind league leaders theRangers with the Ibrox side having played a game less.
St Mirren turned up to Celtic Park having had a strong season in their eyes – with the Buddies just six points behind the home side, however, they were to be no match for Celtic on the day.
An unlikely source by the name of Chris Morris proved pivotal in this game; the former out-of-sorts Sheffield Wednesday player had found a new home in the East End of Glsagow, and having been made surplus to requirements at Hillsborough, the man from Cornwall impressed heavily infront of the Parkhead faithful – the Celtic ever-present chipped in with just his fifth goal in Celtic colours with a deft front post header that caught St Mirren lacking.
If that was St Mirren lacking, then the next goal was marginally worse on their behalf – a weak backpass from Buddies’ striker McDowall left Andy Walker through on goal, and despite his best efforts to regain possession, the striker gave away a needless penalty – which Walker duly tucked away to give McNeill’s side a healthy two-goal cushion.
It was to be a future Celtic hero that gave the Jungle jitters just ten minutes from the end – Paul Lambert, the future Champions League winner and Scottish title claimant, bent a shot past a hapless Pat Bonner with little time remaining, the side from Paisley bore no real threat following this to give the Bhoys’ the two points they craved.
The win left Celtic now just five points behind their bitter rivals with no games in hand at all; however, McNeill’s men were unable to reclaim the title, falling ten points short at the campaign’s culmination and even finishing behind Aberdeen. They were, however, able to win one piece of silverware – the Scottish Cup was claimed in late May with a 1-0 win in the derby following a Joe Miller winner at Hampden.
The team that day was: Bonner, Morris, Rogan, Aitken, McCarthy, Grant, Miller, McStay, Walker, McGhee, Burns.