My extra special memories from our wonderful Centenary season

THE Celtic team of 1987/88 will always hold a special place in the history of the club.

Celtic had gone through a massive re-building process over the summer months of 1987, Davie Hay had been sacked as manager after his failure to secure the league title at the end of the 86/87 season and a host of quality players had decided to move on to clubs across Europe. The club was in need of a spark & some new faces to propel the club into its Centenary year.

Billy McNeill was brought back as Manager and given the task of wrestling the league title back from our city rivals. He began to make signings across the team, Andy Walker from Motherwell; Billy Stark from Aberdeen and Chris Morris arrived from Sheffield Wednesday. As the new season approached the fans hoped these players could gel and get results quickly.

A new commemorative strip was released replacing our traditional four-leaf clover badge with a Celtic cross. Other events would be planned over the course of the season including an exhibit at the Peoples Palace and a stage show at the Pavilion theatre in Glasgow.

In the August of that year my Dad took me on a surprise visit to Celtic Park, I was recovering from open-heart surgery and he had arranged for me to get a personal tour of the stadium.

Walking through the front doors of the stadium under the famous Celtic frosted glass window was a dream. There to meet me was Stevie Chalmers, the scorer of the winning goal from the 1967 European Cup Final. Also there was Neil Mochan, another Celtic stalwart, who also scored big goals from our history – he had scored 2 goals the day Celtic beat Rangers 7-1 in the 1957 League Cup Final. They were telling me stories of the matches they had played in from the 50s, 60s and 70s as if they had happened yesterday and I loved every minute of it.

After a tour of boardroom and look at the trophy cabinet and seeing many of the pennants given to Celtic on the tours across the globe, I thought my tour was over. However, as we walked through the corridors of the main stand, the first team started to arrive back from their training session. During the course of the morning, I met most the squad and was in awe of the heroes I would normally see playing on the pitch.

After a positive start to the league campaign, spirits were high around the club. A strike from Billy Stark gave us a 1-0 victory over Rangers in the first derby match of the season.

As the season moved into October, Frank McAvennie signed for Celtic from West Ham. His attacking qualities gave clear intention that Celtic were out to win and score goals.

In the second derby clash of the season at Ibrox Celtic drew two each with Rangers, although the biggest talking point was the 3 players sent off for their involvement in an on-field fracas. New boy McAvennie was sent off along with 2 Rangers players Butcher & Woods. Celtic lost a goal in the dying moments of the match in what felt like a defeat.

November saw another new arrival when Joe Miller signed from Aberdeen. Moving into December the new players were beginning to make their mark in the team, just in time for the visit of Hearts to Celtic park. In a pulsating match Celtic were 2 goals down late in the second half.

With less than 10 minutes remaining Andy Walker scored from a penalty to make the score 2-1 to Hearts, Celtic continued to pile on the pressure and with 4 minutes left Paul McStay fired a low volley into the bottom corner of the Hearts net. The fans around the stadium went wild, McStay showing what it meant to him ran to the famous Jungle enclosure arms out wide and his face beaming with delight. From certain defeat Celtic had salvaged a draw and kept their unbeaten run in the league in tact.

A late goal from Joe Miller against Dundee United at Tannadice on Boxing Day ensured Celtic would end the year in first place and looking forward to welcoming their city rivals in the traditional New Year derby match.

The weather conditions for the derby match were awful, but Celtic mastered the conditions and powered over Rangers for the majority of the match. The opening goal was created by our midfield Maestro in Paul McStay. Picking up the ball near the centre spot, he made room for himself and released a 40-yard pass across the ground to Chris Morris. The pass from McStay simply ripped the Rangers defence wide open, Morris crossed for Frank McAvannie to finish the free flowing move and give Celtic a 1 nil lead at half time.

Celtic’s dominance continued into the second half, but the fans had to wait until 8 minutes from time before McAvennie headed his and Celtic’s second goal. This was met with a roar from the jungle and then a chorus of “Happy Birthday Dear Celtic, Happy Birthday to you”. The players and the fans were beginning to believe this could be a big year. With the match finished the Celtic fans could continue with the New Year celebrations.

The unbeaten run continued through January finishing the month with a poor 1-0 win against Stranraer in the Scottish Cup. February saw more drama, with late winners coming against Dundee and Morton in the League and Hibs in the Scottish Cup.

Two huge matches in March would tighten our grip on the title. Paul McStay again produced an outstanding performance capping his display with a stunning volley to give Celtic the lead in the second half. Rangers hit back to level, but with 11 minutes remaining Andy Walker used his chest to turn the ball into the Rangers net and send the Celtic fans in the stadium delirious. This game was featured on The Celtic Star earlier today, read HERE.

A one nil win a Pittodrie all but confirmed Celtic as Scottish champions, fans stayed in the stadium long after the final whistle refusing to leave until the Celtic team came back out to join their celebrations.

Hearts ended our 31 match unbeaten run with a 2-1 victory in a league match at Tyncastle on 16 April. However, 7 days earlier in the Scottish Cup Semi-Final Celtic had defeated Hearts 2-1 thanks to two very late goals. Hearts had taken the lead after an hour of the match. Celtic struck an equaliser on the 88th minute and then took the lead in the final minute of the match in one of the most dramatic finishes ever witnessed at Hampden Park.

The team’s ability to pull out late goals to secure victory was astonishing, matches that seemed lost were turned on their heads in the dying minutes, a fighting spirit and never say die attitude that enthralled the fans up and down the country.

Celtic were crowned champions of Scotland on the 23 April after a 3-0 vicory over Dundee at Celtic Park. I travelled to the stadium early that day with my sister Helen and brother Stephen, but the crowds around the stadium meant it was difficult to get to our usual place in the Celtic end. We made our way to the opposite end where it was a little quieter at the time.

The match kicked off at 3pm and Celtic had the lead within 2 minutes thanks to a goal from Chris Morris, the roar around the stadium was incredible. Fans still streamed into the ground and spilled over onto the running track to watch the match. Two more goals in the second half from Andy Walker ensured the title was ours. The Celtic fans sang You’ll Never Walk Alone in one of the most amazing sights I’ve seen at a football stadium. The celebrations went on long after the final whistle blew.

Celtic were presented with the championship trophy 2 weeks later in 1-0 win over Dunfermline. The stage was now set for the Scottish Cup Final against Dundee United at Hampden as we looked to secure the League and Cup double in our Centenary season.

On a beautiful sunny day on 14 May fans made their way to Hampden stadium hoping to see the club secure their first double since 1977. 74,000 fans watched on as the first half passed off without any goals. Dundee United then took the lead early in the second half.

Celtic pushed to find a goal to get them back into the match and looked to be running out of time and ideas when Anton Rogan crossed the ball to Frank McAvennie to head in the equaliser on the 76th Minute.

With the match heading towards 90 minutes, Celtic made one final push towards the united goal. A low driven corner from Joe Miller was met by Billy Stark who shot towards goal, the ball bounced off a Dundee united defender to the feet of Frank McAvennie who hit the ball into the united net. The scenes around Hampden were incredible.

With almost the last kick of the match in the last match of the season, Celtic had won the Scottish Cup and sparked wild celebrations amongst fans in the stadium and in pubs, clubs and homes all over the country. Indeed all over the world.

I met Frank McAvennie recently and we spoke about that season and how after all these years the centenary year of 1987/1988 will always be remembered as one of the great times to be Celtic supporter.

Martin Donaldson

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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