Another home game for Celtic on Sunday, with this time St Johnstone the visitors for a league match.
The Saints started the current league campaign quite well winning three and drawing two of their first five matches. Since then, unfortunately, hit by injuries and uncertain form, they have endured a chaotic time and are now lying 8th in the league table with a record of –
P24 W7 D5 L12 F22 A36 Pts 26
From those figures, it is easy to see where the problems lie. Quite simply, the players are scoring less than a goal a game while at the same time conceding a goal-and-a-half per game. That is a recipe for disaster and they would already appear to be on a downward spiral. And when manager Tommy Wright looks at the list of league fixtures coming up, it will not help his mood, as after Celtic, Saints will play fellow-strugglers Ross County, then Rangers, Dundee, Hibs and Aberdeen.
St Johnstone have a very nice ground to visit and they have a good crowd of spectators but on Sunday, Celtic cannot afford to offer any mercy as they have their own problems to face. The first match against the Russians of Zenit St Petersburg went well, the team scoring the goal that mattered while preventing the visitors from getting the all-important away goal.
But by the time Celtic run out on to Parkhead on Sunday, it will be less than 72 hours since the match against Zenit, not much time for a footballer’s body to recover from the exertions of a competitive European tie. And the manager also has to take into consideration the fact that only four days after the St Johntone match, his players will be facing the Russians again, this time on their home ground having had to endure a 5-hour plane journey to get there.
Occasions like this are one of the reasons why football clubs have an extensive squad of players so it would appear likely that the manager might do a bit of juggling with the team on Sunday. That would be every sensible in view of the busy programme the club is facing. However, no matter who is chosen to represent Celtic come Sunday, it would come as a real shock if they failed to take all three points from St Johnstone.
In the opening rounds of the Scottish Cup, there is always the chance for a team near the top of the old First Division or Scottish Premier Division to meet a team from the lower divisions. In season 1983-84, this happened twice to Celtic.
In the 3rd round, on 28th January 1984, the Hoops, at that time 2nd top of the SPD, travelled across the border to meet Second Division Berwick at Shielfield Park and came away with a comfortable 4-0 victory, the goals coming from Brian McClair (2), Frank McGarvey and Jim Melrose.
Then, on this day in 1984, for a 4th round tie, they were on the move again, this time further up the east coast to Methil, where they would meet another team from the Second Division, East Fife.
10,000 spectators turned up at Bayview Park for the contest, with Celtic getting an early goal through Murdo MacLeod in 28 minutes. And that remained the score at the interval, as the Fifers’ ‘shut up shop’ operation proved very successful in keeping the score down.
In the second half, though, the home side rather ran out of gas and Celtic took control, scoring another five goals through Frank McGarvey, John Colquhon, Tommy Burns (2) and Brain McClair.
Celtic hit another 6 against Motherwell at Fir Park in the quarter-finals, beat St Mirren 2-1 at Hampden in the semi-final but found Aberdeen too much of a handful in the final and lost 1-2 after extra time.