Celtic 4-2 Rangers – Tell Me Why They Don’t Like Mondays

The final run-in would start at Firhill, on a Bank Holiday afternoon, with a game deferred from January. And it would start badly, with a Somner goal in the opening minutes. Striker Tom McAdam played the first of what would be many games in central defence, as emergency cover for the previously ever-present Edvaldsson, who had been injured at Hampden.

Another Davie Provan strike at Firhill provided an equaliser and set up an all-out assault on Rough’s goal for a winner, which finally came in the last quarter from George McCluskey, emerging as a key player for Celtic, in this season of seasons. Three from three now required.

George was again to the fore in Celtic’s next match. This bizarre season continued for me in the unlikely setting of the main stand at Ibrox on the Friday night, as St Mirren chose to play their home game in Glasgow, whilst work on their new terracing commenced. I would stand on that terrace twelve months hence, to watch another dramatic title climax play out.

Bobby Lennox scores against St Mirren on a Friday night at Ibrox

In the meantime, the fans who said goodbye to the old Broomloan End, scene of so many Celtic parties and not a few heartbreaks over the years, witnessed two late headers from McCluskey and Lennox, to win a tense match and move the Hoops to the summit for the first time, on goal difference from United who had completed their programme, as Rangers prepared for a Cup Final meeting with Hibernian the following day. Two wins for an unlikely title for Celtic.

For those of us at Celtic Park for the penultimate game of the season, against Hearts on the Monday night, it was another nervous ninety minutes. A Mike Conroy header, Celtic’s 100th goal in all competitions that season, proved decisive and sent the Hoops three points clear of our Glasgow rivals.

Thoughts now turned to our final match of 1978/79, Rangers at home on the following Monday. Two Hampden stalemates with Hibernian meant that their final two League matches, against Thistle and Hibs, would now take place after the Parkhead clash. A win or draw would leave the title in their hands, only a Celtic win would be enough for us.

The tension was crackling in the old ground, as the week’s talking stopped and play began. On a bright May Monday night, Old foe MacDonald came back to haunt Celtic again with an early strike and we trailed at the interval.

Things went from bad to worse early in the second-half, as a grounded MacDonald felt the wrath of Johnny Doyle and suddenly we were ten. But not just any ten, as led by Roy Aitken, in his finest of many fine hours, Celtic attacked the Ibrox side at will and took the lead, following goals from Feed the Bear himself and George McCluskey.

There was a final act of defiance from Greig’s Rangers, just two minutes later, as they rallied to protect their dream of back-to-back domestic trebles. My heart sank into the seat below, as Bobby Russell’s shot following a corner, arrowed through our defence to crash against the Janefield post and bounce over the line.

However, there is often a magic about Celtic and this particular night was not to end in tears for those of a Hoops persuasion. Inspired by a blood-curdling Jungle roar, the sheer willpower of Aitken and McCluskey drove them down the Celtic right, forcing a fatal mistake from Jackson and providing a precious lead with just five minutes remaining.

With those five minutes feeling like fifty, Roy again brought the ball out of defence and found Murdo MacLeod on the left side of the box.

As 50,000 fans screamed in unison for him to hit it anywhere, he came up with a better option, as his shot flew past McCloy into the top corner and the title was ours, amidst incredible scenes of joy.

Some time later, thanks to the fact that Dad ‘worked’ in the stand on matchdays, providing hospital broadcast and Golden Goal services with his colleague Jim Divers, I had the privilege of standing in the Director’s box, as the stocking-soled Celts did their lap of honour in front of a delirious support.

I recall ex-Celt, Pat McCluskey, standing next to me and simply repeating the word ‘Wonderful’, then shaking his head. A veteran of Hampden triumphs and European Cup semi-finals, he may have thought that he had seen it all, however this night was something else.

In the foyer downstairs, sat an expressionless Alex Ferguson, the manager of Aberdeen. He would not know at this point, that his team would be the successors to Celtic, as champions of Scotland. But that would be another day. For now, the night belonged to Billy McNeill and his team of young Lions, who had persevered through this strangest and tightest of seasons to reclaim the title in the most dramatic of circumstances.

The legend of Ten Men Won The League had been born.

Hail Hail,

Matt Corr

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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