Happy Father’s Day, Andrew McKeever – a Celtic rite of passage

Happy Father’s Day, Andrew McKeever – a Celtic rite of passage


Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football in the third Millennium continued with another League and Scottish Cup Double last season, but 40 years ago the landscape in this country looked very different.

Celtic supporters at the 1984 Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen

Aberdeen, under Alex Ferguson, were the side to be feared, the Dons completing the first Double in their 80-year history with a 2-1 extra-time Scottish Cup final victory over David Hay’s Celtic at Hampden in May 1984, the Hoops boss thus ending his first campaign in the Parkhead hotseat as runner-up in all three domestic competitions.

By the spring of 1985, Ferguson was in pole position to repeat that Double, his defending champions six points clear of Celtic at the top of the Premier League and due to meet Dundee United in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle on Saturday, 13 April 1985. The Dons were chasing an unprecedented fourth consecutive success in the competition.

On the same day, Celtic faced First Division Motherwell in the other last-four tie at Hampden, the Hoops fans unusually allocated the west end of the national stadium as refurbishment work continued there. They made up the bulk of the 30,000 crowd.

Hay would be familiar with a number of the Motherwell players, having led the club to the First Division championship in 1981/82 in his first season as a manager, before heading to the USA. The Steelmen enjoyed a brief two-season stay in the Premier League before suffering relegation in the spring of 1984, but now under the leadership of Tommy McLean, they were currently running neck-and-neck with Clydebank and Falkirk in the race for promotion.

Motherwell would eventually finish two points clear of the Bankies – managed by former Celtic wing-half Sammy Henderson – to make an immediate return to the top-flight, but back on Saturday, 13 April, all eyes were on Hampden and the possibility of a major upset. The teams lined up as follows.

John Gardiner, Iain MacLeod & Derek Murray; Jamie Doyle, Graeme Forbes & Tommy Boyd;
Rab Stewart, Gary McAllister, Andy Harrow, Ally Mauchlen & Ray Blair.

Substitutes; Andy Walker & John Gahagan.

Pat Bonner; Danny McGrain & Mark Reid; Roy Aitken, Pierce O’Leary & Murdo MacLeod;
Davie Provan, Paul McStay, Maurice Johnston, Tommy Burns & Brian McClair.

Substitutes; Tom McAdam & Frank McGarvey.

Brian McClair was another in the Celtic camp facing his old team, whilst Motherwell featured a number of youngsters who will be familiar to present-day Hoops supporters, most notably future Celts Tom Boyd and Andy Walker, plus Gary McAllister, who made his name south of the border after joining Leicester City alongside ‘Well captain Ally Mauchlen that summer. McAllister won major honours at Leeds United and Liverpool as well as captaining his country.

Walker would have an unusual cameo role on the day, coming on for Rab Stewart six minutes from the break but replaced himself due to injury before the half-time whistle blew, but it was McAllister who opened the scoring after 13 minutes, firing a low shot home after Pat Bonner had failed to cut out a cross from Ray Blair. The highlight of a disappointing Celtic performance was the equaliser which arrived 10 minutes later, Danny McGrain and Paul McStay combining brilliantly to send Tommy Burns racing in on goal, the midfielder then producing a sublime chip over the head of ‘Well keeper John Gardiner to restore parity.

That would be the end of the scoring, but Celtic survived a huge scare in the dying moments, Motherwell centre-half Graeme Forbes heading inches past the post from McAllister’s curling free-kick with the goal at his mercy. The highlights of that first match can be viewed below.

That late Forbes miss would allow Andrew McKeever to commence his lifelong journey as a Celtic supporter at Hampden for the replay four days later. Andrew had recently celebrated his 20th birthday, having been born in Lisburn – where Counties Antrim and Down meet across the River Lagan – on Monday, 5 April 1965. Curiously enough, that was the day before baby Andrew Francis Walker was born in Glasgow, a player now lining up against Celtic and who would be wearing the Hoops himself with distinction within a couple of years.

That period in April 1965 was a hugely significant time for the Grand Old Team and its huge army of supporters, with The Celtic Rising only recently underway following the appointment of former captain Jock Stein to succeed Jimmy McGrory as the club’s manager in March. Jock’s first major test had been to steer Celtic to the Scottish Cup final at the expense of… Motherwell, the coincidences continuing as Steelmen striker Joe McBride hit a double in the drawn semi-final at Hampden, a performance which effectively ensured he would the first signing target for the new Parkhead management team. The replay had ended in a 3-0 victory for the Bhoys and the clubs had not met at that stage since. And Celts had duly won the final. Let’s hope that was an omen.

Andrew McKeever and his family had travelled across the Irish Sea at the age of 11 to settle in Tarbolton, Ayrshire. The Celtic rite of passage would commence for him at Hampden for that midweek replay against Motherwell at Hampden on Wednesday, 17 April 1985 with his friends Derek, Ian and Andrew, a ritual which would continue into the next decade.

Roy Aitken scores

Injuries forced David Hay into making changes, although his description of the performance on Saturday as ‘scandalous’ suggested that he may have made some anyway. With Mark Reid and Pierce O’Leary injured, in came Tom McAdam and Willie McStay, the latter now free of suspension, with Danny McGrain moving across to left-back.

Andrew Francis Walker had recovered sufficiently to start in the Motherwell attack, the only change from the side which had started at Hampden four days earlier. More than 25,000 rolled up at the old stadium as Andrew McKeever watched Celtic take the field for the first time ever, the teams lining up as follows.

John Gardiner, Iain MacLeod & Derek Murray; Jamie Doyle, Graeme Forbes & Tommy Boyd;
Andy Walker, Gary McAllister, Andy Harrow, Ally Mauchlen & Ray Blair.

Substitutes; Robert Clark & John Gahagan.

Pat Bonner; Willie McStay & Danny McGrain; Roy Aitken, Tom McAdam & Murdo MacLeod;
Davie Provan, Paul McStay, Maurice Johnston, Tommy Burns & Brian McClair.

Substitutes; Peter Grant & Frank McGarvey.

Walker was first to threaten for Motherwell, Pat Bonner at full strength to deny him in the opening 15 minutes, but Celtic’s performance had improved significantly from the weekend, Maurice Johnston hitting the woodwork on no fewer than three occasions. It was a rather less likely scorer who did break the deadlock, with less than 20 minutes remaining, central defender Roy Aitken showing the composure of a striker to sell a dummy before sliding the ball past John Gardiner from the edge of the box. Man-of-the-match Tommy Burns had set up that goal and he was also involved in the second, his pass releasing Johnston on the left, the Scotland star clinically drilling the ball past Gardiner for 2-0 with nine minutes remaining.

The former Partick Thistle and Watford striker then completed the scoring in the final seconds, his close-range header from substitute Frank McGarvey’s cross confirming Celtic’s place in the 100th Scottish Cup final. There they would face Dundee United, 2-1 victors over Aberdeen in the Tynecastle replay the same evening. That would be a repeat of the 1974 final, United’s first appearance in the showpiece, Jim McLean’s men seeking revenge for a 3-0 defeat from a Harry Hood-inspired Celtic side that day.

United would not enjoy their afternoon in Mount Florida the following month, the Arabs leading 1-0 with around 15 minutes to play before two fairytale strikes from Davie Provan and Frank McGarvey – the latter in the final act of a wonderful Hoops career – brought the cup back to Celtic Park after a five-year absence, a first honour as Celtic manager for David Hay and no doubt one Andrew McKeever.

Aberdeen ended the League campaign seven points clear of Celtic to clinch their first-ever back-to-back titles, Ferguson’s third and last at Pittodrie before heading for Old Trafford in 1986. Cup finalists Dundee United were five points further back, followed by a nine-point chasm where Jock Wallace’s Rangers edged out St Mirren on goal difference for fourth place.

That taste of Celtic glory commenced a journey which endures to this day, Andrew moving to Edinburgh and enjoying trips to follow the Hoops with another set of friends, Tony, Jim and Ray, as Celtic spent that difficult year at Hampden as a home venue before the return to Parkhead and the glory which would follow from the summer of 1995.

Andrew McKeever supporting Celtic in the 1990s

Domination in the third Millennium would coincide with the next step of his Celtic-supporting life, Andrew’s three-year-old son Jack making that special journey with his dad from the family home in South Queensferry to see the genius Henrik Larsson and the rest of Martin O’Neill’s incredible side destroy Livingston at Parkhead on Saturday, 30 August 2003.

30/08/03 SPL CELTIC V LIVINGSTON  Henrik Larsson bullets home a header to open the scoring for Celtic.
30/08/03 SPL CELTIC V LIVINGSTON Shaun Maloney (left) claims Celtic’s second goal as goalkeeper Alan Main looks on helplessly.

Jack recalls thinking the noise in the stadium was too loud and asking to go home shortly after kick-off.

Thankfully, that request fell – quite literally, perhaps – on deaf ears and the rest, as they say, is history. Daughter Sally joined the fray a few years later, season tickets were purchased and a McKeever family connection which began back in the spring of 1965 continues to this day. Andrew travels from his home in east Fife, Jack makes the short trip by rail from his Glasgow flat and father and son meet outside the stadium before willing the Hoops to victory.

Dad Andrew McKeever at the James Forrest Testimonial with son Jack and daughter Sally.

The Celtic rite of passage.

There is nothing quite like it.

Happy Father’s Day, Andrew, with love from Jack and Sally.

Hail, hail,

Matt Corr

Follow Matt on Twitter/X @Boola_vogue

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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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