John Hartson recounts Celtic’s 2002 Scottish Cup heartache

Celtic will face theRangers in this year’s Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park, which will be the first time the Hoops have faced this version of the Ibrox club in a Scottish Cup finale. Of course, we did face the Oldco back in 2002, when we unfortunately faltered to a 3-2 defeat on the day, causing heartache for Martin O’Neill and his team.

Arthur Numan of Rangers reaches the ball ahead of Didier Agathe of Celtic during the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden on May 4, 2002. . (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

We did win the League that year though and it somewhat mitigated the other mob winning both domestic cups. That’s always your bread and butter and it would be the same this year if that’s how it were to pan out, in a repeat of the 2001/02 campaign. John Hartson spoke this week on the Go Radio Football Show and recounted his memories from that day at the national stadium and the heartache it brought.

“Absolutely, I remember every little minute of that game. How it went, how the scorelines went. I think both teams had almost settled for extra-time. I think we were all out on our feet. We put so much into the game. And then your accepting then, well let’s drive on and see who can get the winner in extra-time.

“But as it was, Neil (McCann) put a great ball in and Chris Sutton was at the back. I think Lovenkrands had just peeled off on his shoulder if you like. He didn’t really connect with it great. But he makes connection towards the goal and the Rangers fans are ecstatic,” Hartson recalled.

“They are celebrating and from a Celtic point-of-view, your heads in your hands. And you can’t believe you’ve lost a goal at that particular time. I can honestly say it was a brilliant game. It was end-to-end. Two really good teams. If you look back at both teams. You know we were all full strength. Rangers were as good as full strength as well. Good players on the park.”

Picture Christopher Furlong Scottish Cup Final. Celtic v Rangers at Hampden -John Hartson’s goal

On his own goal that he scored that day in the dramatic fixture of two fierce rivals, he added: “It came from a corner. I think it came from a corner. I think I got above Ronald de Boer which was a mismatch really. He couldn’t deal with me on the back post. And I head it in on the back post. I like sort of jumped and the ball had bounced. And then I ran off. But the problem was Paul, that was in the 19th minute and Rangers equalised on the 21st. It’s like an old clichè.

Celtic players celebrate during the  Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers played at Hampden on May 4, 2002.  (Photo by Gary M. Prior/Getty Images)

“We want to hold onto the lead as long as you can. Just to settle – because you do. You score the first goal in a cup final it’s huge because all of a sudden your players all want the ball. It’s huge. It gives you a confidence boost. But as I said, we allowed Rangers back into it within two minutes.”

When asked about his manager being unhappy at letting the lead slip so easily and quickly, he admitted: “No of course not because the length of time it took for Rangers to equalise. It’s a common theme when teams score and then your at your lowest concentration level. Your trying to get back in shape. When Rangers hit back all of a sudden, the first goal doesn’t mean as much because it’s back level again.”

Celtic players celebrate during the Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers played at Hampden  on May 4, 2002.. (Photo by Gary M. Prior/Getty Images)

Paul Gillespie

About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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