THERE is something extra-special about a trophy winning last minute winner. I can think of three off the top of my head that had real significance and brought extra-special joy and delirium to the Celtic Support at the games.
1. MONDAY 21 MAY 1979 – A MURDO MACLEOD SCREAMER!
RANGERS were going for the Treble. A draw would do them in this game which was the re-arranged New Year fixture – it had been a particularly harsh winter. It was Celtic’s last game of the season and a victory was needed to win the league. But Rangers scored early and kept the lead to the interval. Then Johnny Doyle got himself sent-off early in the second half. Things looked bleak for the Hoops but remarkably they got the two goals they needed through Roy Aitken in 66 minutes and George McCluskey 8 minutes later. Paradise was rocking!
Then Rangers got a corner and Bobby Russell drilled in the equaliser to silence the Jungle – for about five seconds! The clock was ticking down as the Ten Men of Celtic pushed for the winner and when the Rangers goalkeeper Peter McCloy and centre-half Colin Jackson got themselves in a terrible mess from a McCluskey cross, the ball rolled delightfully towards the Rangers net. Big Roy Aitken could have got a touch but let it find the back of the net on its own steam, the Bear preferred an own-goal!
But Rangers still had five minutes to get the draw that would deny Celtic the title and it was the longest five minutes of my young life. Then Celtic pushed up the park to relieve the pressure – deep into stoppage time, and Murdo MacLeod, with everyone screaming for him to bloater it into the back of the Celtic End, decided to do something different.
From 30 yards he put it in the postage stamp corner. People say that the Celtic Huddle started by big Tony Mowbray in the 1990s. It didn’t – it started that night in the Jungle, huddle upon huddle as we celebrated the Championship win in the most dramatic of circumstances. Ten Men had Won the League – what a night that was!
2. SATURDAY 14 MAY 1988 – CELTIC’S CENTENARY FAIRYTALE
Celtic had left it late more often than usual that season. It was Celtic’s 100th year and what a Birthday celebration we’d already enjoyed a few weeks before on 23 April when a 3-0 win over Dundee in front of 60,000 (cough), supporters wrapped up the title. Now it was all about playing the other side from the City of Discovery in the Scottish Cup Final on a gloriously sunny afternoon.
But it was Kevin Gallacher, ironically, the grandson of Celtic legend Patsy, who gave Dundee Utd the lead early in the second half. Surely that wouldn’t turn our fairytale into a nightmare, but it was looking that way. Frank McAvennie though brought Celtic level on 76 minutes after a fine cross from Anton Rogan, and it was all to play for.
In the final minute, just as Dundee United thought they’d managed to get to extra time, Celtic won a corner, so poorly taken by Joe Miller that it caught the Tangerines by surprise. Then Billy Stark’s mishit fell nicely to Frank McAvennie – the ultimate Celtic poacher – who sweetly placed the ball into the net. The celebrations were legendary and went on long into the night!
“Tommy Burns summed it up perfectly in his post match interview on the pitch at Hampden. “That’s what’s so special about them right there, Jim. Just right up there, that’s what’s so special about them. They’re there and they’re always there. And God bless every one of them,’ he said.
3. SATURDAY 27 MAY 2017 – TOM ROGIC, THE WIZARD OF OZ
The last minute winners from Murdo and Macca, described above were extra special moments in my life as a Celtic Supporter and the collective joy among the Celtic Support is something you’ve all been lucky enough t experience yourself at the games that mattered the most to you. But Tom Rogic’ goal at the 2017 Scottish Cup Final, I’ll confess was the first one that made me cry.
Again Celtic were behind, ironically again as the goalscorer was Jonny Hayes who was a Celtic fan and rumoured to be on his way to Parkhead that summer. But Celtic weren’t just going for a Treble that afternoon, they were going for an Invincible Treble. The kicked off after the Hayes opener and no Aberdeen player got near the ball as Celtic played them off the park, ending in a sweet shot from outside the area from Stuart Armstrong. Celtic were level.
The second half saw one Aberdeen counter attack that could have given them an underserved lead but other than that it was relentless Celtic pressure but the goal just wouldn’t come. Then in the closing second, with a thunderstorm in progress and lightning actually striking the pitch yards behind substitute Tom Rogic, you’d need to play Aussie online blackjack to be as lucky as the Celtic supporters in the National Stadium as this developed, Rogic collected the ball, drifted past Aberdeen defenders before from the tightest of angles found the back of the net. Hampden exploded like never before, sheer green and white joy and of course one or two Celtic tears.
Matt Corr’s stunning new Celtic book is titled INVINCIBLE and is published next month by The Celtic Star.
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