I think we can all agree that Celtic’s worst ever newspaper headline was “SupercaleygoballisticCelticareatrocious” with reference to the dire events of February 8 2000.
But a close rival to it must be “Dziekanowski, Aitkenoffski and Milleronandoffski”. This one refers to a distressing game in the Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park on 20 September 1989 when Celtic went out narrowly and excruciatingly to Aberdeen before a crowd of 45,637.
The game must be seen in context. Celtic had won the Scottish Cup last season, but were already clearly losing out to Rangers in the Scottish League, having lost to St Mirren and drawn with Dundee United.
The fact that Judas Johnston was now playing for Rangers, having said he would play for Celtic, created its own crisis and lack of faith in the club. Confidence was far from high, but we had reached the semi-final of the League Cup, a competition in which Celtic’s record had been particularly woeful of late. Sadly Ian Cameron of Aberdeen scored the only goal of the game.
But let’s take Dziekanowski first. He had arrived amidst a fanfare of trumpets and he had started off well. He was nice looking, charismatic almost, clearly talented, a good ball player and with a proven track record of scoring goals for Legia Warsaw in his native Poland. This game was his chance to show everyone just how good he was.
It was probably true to say that “Jackie’s” heart was in the right place as far as Celtic were concerned, but it is also true that he found it difficult to cope with the “freedom” of a prosperous Western democracy as distinct from the stern repression of the East. That night, sadly to the immense dismay of his admirers, he misfired badly, making no impression on Miller and McLeish in the Aberdeen defence.
And then we had Aitkenoffski. No-one could ever accuse Roy Aitken of not trying or of being less than totally committed. Sometimes however we questioned his judgement. He did have an odd relationship with Aberdeen. He had been sent off harshly in the Scottish Cup final against them five years ago, and on this occasion he suffered even more injustice when he was sent off by referee Brian McGinlay.
This was for two bookable offences. Neither in truth looked all that bad, and manager Billy McNeill was adamant that Jim Bett “went down” for the second one. The red card for Aitken happened late in the game and killed what little hope Celtic had.
By January, Aitken was away to Newcastle United and this game may have played a large part in his decision to leave the club he loved.
And then we come to Milleronandoffski. Joe Miller had been with the club since 1987. He had had his moments – notably in last year’s Scottish Cup final when he was the hero of the hour – but over the piece, there had been more disappointments than triumphs.
Billy McNeill was now beginning to share the misgivings of the support, for Joe was only on the substitutes’ bench this night. But Steve Fulton was not “doing it” and Joe was brought on in the second half. Sadly, Joe himself made little difference and shortly after Aberdeen went ahead, in desperation, Billy brought on Andy Walker to replace the unfortunate Joe whom Billy believed to have been disobeying instructions.
The Aberdeen supporters (Joe used to play for them) found this funny, the Press were bewildered and the Celtic fans did not know what to make of it. Joe exchanged a few pleasantries with his Manager as he ran off, put in a knee-jerk request for a transfer the following day and it would be fair to say that relationships between McNeill and Miller were never quite the same again.
The real losers of all this were Celtic, but it was merely the start of our troubles. The game itself saw some good football, but it was Aberdeen who won and indeed who went on to beat Rangers in the League Cup final in October 1989. The following midweek in a European tie, Dziekanowski scored four – but Celtic still lost the tie! The rest of the season, give or take the odd good result, was a painful one with the departure of Roy Aitken in January 1990 and then the loss of the Scottish Cup final in May 1990 to Aberdeen in that most agonising of ways – a penalty shoot-out!
David Potter’s new book Alec McNair – Celtic’s Icicle is now available at Celtic Stores (for those of you with a £50 voucher to spend why not buy, this plus Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys or maybe even Matt Corr’s (Proper) Invincible? Using your voucher means you can get all 3 Celtic Star Books for less than a tenner!
You can also order from Celtic Star Books ( click on image below) and Icicle is now available on Amazon.