‘We stood with pride and took defeat’- Supporting Celtic in the 1990s

Being a Celtic supporter back in the 1990s…

Joe Miller celebrates after netting the winner for Celtic in the 1989 Scottish Cup Final. It would be a long wait until 1995 before we lifted another trophy.

Some younger Celtic fans don’t like us slightly older supporters harping on about it, but the early to mid-nineties were a particularly bleak time to be a Celtic supporter. Each and every one of us who lived through that period know all about the footballing hardships we endured. Maybe that’s why that generation of supporters cherish today’s success more than most.

Watching Rangers run away with trophy after trophy, while we languished in mid-table mediocrity was total anguish. In fact our only trophy of note was the Tennents Sixes, our very own Petrofac cup and remember how the second Rangers celebrated that particular ‘triumph’.

Back in those days, Ibrox was being upgraded while our stadium was crumbing, as the Old Board shysters in charge of our club, were running it into the ground. It was very bleak, but we still faithfully supported our side, that’s what you do after all.

Things turned on it’s head when the board were finally ousted and wee Fergus rode into town and saved us from the anguish the financial hardships but as Willie Haughey recently reviewed there was never any chance of Celtic going into administration far less liquidation, a double ‘triumph’ that awaited Rangers FC two decades later.

Love the ‘Lest We Forget’ scarf in this photo

The Celtic supporters more than played their part as well through  participating in record breaking numbers in share issues, unlike the supporters across the city we were never going to let our club die.

Just over a year after Fergus McCann took over Celtic won a Scottish Cup, beating Airdrie in the final and it was celebrated with such joy among the support. It was our first major trophy in six long and painful years. You can’t imagine that happening nowadays.

We then moved back to a rebuilt Celtic Park, a magnificent new Paradise. We had a great manager in Tommy Burns, who signed top quality players. We were being entertained, it was a joy to watch the Hoops once more.

However silverware and the holy grail that was the league title still evaded us. Rangers were still spending more and winning more, backed of course by their supporters with whistles and wee flags.  Their Nine in a Row was clinched and it was gutting to see them equal Celtic’s record achieved by the magnificent Celtic sides managed by the legendary Jock Stein.

Tommy Burns – Celtic Manager – 15 September 1996. Photo Mary Evans Allstar Richard Sellers 

Sadly Tommy Burns lost his job as Celtic manager with Dutch World Cup winner Wim Jansen tanking charge.

Rangers then set their sights on a record breaking ten. They spent more, but wee Fergus refused to budge. He spent money but not on the level of David Murray. Fergus was a shrewd businessman and he would later be proven correct.

That season when we aimed to stop the ten was excruciating. Them winning ten was unthinkable, it was dreaded by every one of us. It made for a heart stopping campaign. It was completely unbearable.  Anyone who lived through that season will tell you so.

The only way I could describe it to younger supporter was take the feeling you had when we were hanging on against theRangers in the League Cup Final of 2019 with ten men and multiple it by ten and you still wouldn’t be close. It was like that for the entire campaign, each and every game.

Anyway Celtic prevailed and won the title. Our first in ten hard years. The feeling was more of incredible relief rather than mere euphoria. All that anguish of the past decade had disappeared.

We were free of ridicule, we could stand tall and proud and it was the turn of Rangers supporters to weep. Celtic were now back at the top of the Scottish game. More obstacles were to follow, but we were back in a successful place and have never looked back since as Celtic entered the new century and with it the most successful period of sustained trophy winning in our history.

The nineties, a roller closed of a decade, but it was well worth enduring for the rewards that followed.

Derek Warfield summed this all up, writing his brilliant Celtic song ‘Four Leaf Clover’ –  lyrics below…

With a four leaf clover on my breast,And the green and white upon my chest,It’s such a joy for us to see,For they play football the Celtic way.
It’s been ten years, long time indeed,We stood with pride and we took defeat,Our beloved team, our ancient ground,Has been rebuilt, a club reborn.
McCann he rode the winds of change,And the things he brought will long remain,A phoenix rising, a house of steel,And 60, 000 Celtic dreams.
The work is done and the stage is set,The Celtic dream can now be met,In a sea of dreams, we’re here today,Let’s sit and watch the Champions play.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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