It was a strange season, was 2005/06! It was the first season of Gordon Strachan as manager, and it would take a long time for him to be totally accepted, particularly after we went out of both Europe and the Scottish Cup at the first time of asking to Artmedia Bratislava and Clyde.
Yet the Scottish League was won quite easily, although this year the main opponents were Hearts, then under a quixotic (some would have said “mad”) Lithuanian Chairman. In tune with the rest of this bizarre time, Hearts played Gretna (yes! Gretna!) in the Scottish Cup final and needed a penalty shoot out to win!
In this context, the Scottish League Cup was almost normal. Celtic began with a narrow and not entirely deserved win after extra time over Falkirk at Celtic Park. Falkirk had taken the lead but Maciej Zurawski equalised, and then John Hartson came off the bench to score with a header in the first period of extra time. It was a grim game in which Celtic ground Falkirk down rather than defeated them with any degree of brilliance.
This set up a big Glasgow Derby clash on 9 November at Celtic Park. At a similar stage a year ago Rangers had been triumphant, but on this occasion a great goal from about 30 yards by Shaun Maloney set Celtic on their way and then Bobo Balde pressurised Stefan Klos to concede an own goal in the latter stages. It was an easier triumph than the 2-0 score line would have suggested.
A real challenge faced Celtic from Motherwell in the semi-final in Wednesday 1 February at Hampden. Motherwell scored first and for long stretches of the game looked the better side, but Zurawski equalised for Celtic, and then in the dying minutes after Motherwell conceded an indirect free kick for a pass back to the goalkeeper, Shaun Maloney scored the winner from a John Hartson cut back.
The final against Dunfermline was played on 19 March a few days after the death of Jimmy Johnstone and in tribute all the Celtic players wore no 7 on their pants.
A month earlier in the League, Celtic had beaten the Pars 8-1 at East End Park, and this was a fairly easy Cup final for Celtic. Zurawski scored late in the first half, Maloney made it 2-0 with a free kick in the second half and then substitute Dion Dublin won his one and only medal in his long and distinguished career by scoring the third. It was Celtic’s 13th triumph in this tournament, and Gordon Strachan’s first trophy for the club.
David Potter on Celtic’s League Cup Triumphs – Win No.14 will appear on The Celtic Star later this morning. Check out our home page or use the search function to enjoy David’s features on all of Celtic’s League Cup wins.