The Falkirk manager during Gordon Strachan’s first season at Celtic Park was former Hoops defender John Hughes, and ‘Yogi’ was the guest speaker at a hospitality event we attended at Almondvale yesterday.
The Big Man was in great form, and his huge personality would be a welcome additional to the top-flight football scene in Scotland today. A Scottish Cup-winning manager with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with whom he also reached the League Cup final the season before, and a title-winning boss at Falkirk, who he also led to the Scottish Cup final a few years earlier.
That successful track record does not always get the recognition it deserves but hopefully John will be back in the game soon. It’s quite remarkable that Inverness are looking at bringing Yogi – their most successful manager of all time – back to replace Billy Dodds.
Hughes spoke passionately and humorously about his time at Celtic under Tommy Burns and some of the characters he played alongside. I loved the fact that he didn’t take the opportunity of cheap shots against any of his former colleagues but instead shared with us how he lived the team of pulling on that Hoops jersey for his boyhood club, the famous Glasgow Celtic. He thoroughly deserved the lovely ovation he got at the end.
John Hughes actually spoke in some detail about the match below, which is the subject of the latest extract from my forthcoming Celtic book, Majic, Stan and The King of Japan, which is published by Celtic Star Books next month.
Big Yogi is desperate to get back into management, his track record is pretty remarkable and his philosophy is built on playing football like that excellent Tommy Burns team he played in.
I hope you enjoy it.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue
An extract from Majic, Stan and the King of Japan…
There was another fright for Celtic in midweek as Falkirk returned to Parkhead for their second visit in a month, this time in the League Cup in front of the regular 25,000 hardy ‘Home Cup Ticket Scheme’ souls.
The Bairns had been on the end of an 8-1 mauling from Martin O’Neill’s Celts at the same stage of the competition the previous season, the Irishman choosing to make eight changes that night on the back of, strangely enough, a tough game at Easter Road and ahead of the Champions League trip to Milan.
Ross Wallace had scored a hat-trick that evening, however, the young winger did not even make the bench here, Gordon Strachan making only three tweaks to Sunday’s winning team at Easter Road. Those saw Shaun Maloney and fit-again Chris Sutton coming in for suspended midfield duo Neil Lennon and Alan Thompson, whilst John Hartson had earned a welcome breather in the back seat of the home dugout, Craig Beattie getting an opportunity to partner Maciej Zurawski up front.
There would be no danger of any repeat of that 8-1 humiliation as Falkirk traded blows with Celtic, Bairns veteran playmaker and coach Russell Latapy a particular delight on the eye. Having opened the scoring in the recent League match in Glasgow, the visitors managed to do so again, this time through Alan Gow, 10 minutes into the second half, the big striker robbing the rusty Sutton to fire home.
Strachan was concerned enough to call up his prize hitman Hartson from the bench to replace Beattie on the hour, his introduction paying immediate dividends as the big Welshman combined brilliantly with Maloney to set Zurawski up for a curling equaliser just two minutes later. Artur Boruc then made an excellent fingertip save to prevent Gow winning the tie in the dying seconds, Falkirk having cause to rue that miss just four minutes into extra-time as Hartson rose yet again to become Celtic’s saviour, his header taking Celtic into the draw for the last eight of the competition.
It had been a bit too close for comfort.
Hoops boss Gordon Strachan was brief but balanced in his assessment afterwards…
“If you create four times as many chances as your opponents, you have to be impressed with that. We made changes from Sunday but should have had the game finished before extra-time. Chris Sutton returned to the side after injury and did very well before tiring.”
…whilst Falkirk’s player-coach Russell Latapy was both positive and pragmatic in his post-match comments.
“We put in a great performance. We could not get forward as much as we like to, as that is a good Celtic side, but we kept the ball well in the first half and scored a good gaol in the second. We are learning all the time at this level and hopefully that will come.”
At least Celtic had progressed.
Across at Almondvale, Paul Lambert’s Livingston faced Hearts, 10 days after a 4-1 mauling at the same venue from the League leaders. The Lions had managed just a solitary point from their opening six matches but turned the form book upside down to win 1-0 and send the Gorgie men tumbling out of the competition.
Another struggling side, Dunfermline Athletic, edged a seven-goal thriller with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, whilst at Ibrox, Rangers were just 17 minutes from elimination at the hands of First Division Clyde – co-managed by their former player Graham Roberts and ex-Celtic winger Joe Miller – before they won through after extra-time.