The season of 1990/91 under Billy McNeill saw Celtic improve upon a woeful 5th place finish in the league the year before to finishing 3rd behind Aberdeen and Rangers. By the end of this season, Celtic hadn’t won anything since the Scottish Cup in 88/89.
The week between the 17th and the 24th of March saw Celtic play Rangers twice at home winning 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. It was to prove to be the best week in Celtic’s season as they were knocked out of the Scottish Cup in the semi-final by Motherwell after a replay and had earlier that season lost 2-1 to eventual double-winners Rangers in the final of the League Cup. One of the few highlights was Paul Elliott being voted as Player’s Player of the Year.
This season was to be the last straw for Billy McNeill as he became fully aware of the fact that there was not enough money being reinvested in his squad in order for his team to be competitive enough to fight for the Scottish title. In reality, this had been a problem that had existed ever since the double-winning centenary season, his first season in his second stint of managing the club.
Regardless of this, on St Patrick’s Day of 1991, all was well in Glasgow’s East End as Celtic knocked their deadly rivals out of the Scottish Cup in a fiercely contested quarter final tie.
Billy McNeill many years later reminisced about that day in a documentary stating, “I think the fact that it was St Patrick’s Day meant a lot to the fans, so maybe St Patrick was watching just a little bit that day and decided to give us a hand.”
Looking back on the game Celtic did their work and got their goals in the first half and in the second half Rangers truly imploded in a fit of petulance and stupidity. You would gauge the calibre of a side in the way they accept defeat and on that day Rangers were utterly deplorable.
Gerry Creaney opened the scoring in the sixth minute firing a volley past the English international ‘keeper, Chris Woods. Celtic were two nil up by half time as in the thirty-eighth minute a pile-driver of a free kick by Darius Wdowczyk took a deflection off Terry Hurlock into the Rangers net.
The second half saw the game develop into a proper grudge match, seriously hard-fought even by the Old Firm’s standards. A moment of madness by Peter Grant saw him illegally charge down a free kick on the edge of his own box, earning himself a second yellow and an early shower. Grant was unfortunately given to that type of error in judgement, but it was born out of an incredible passion for his club and in his own words “perhaps caring too much”.
Ireland international Tommy Coyne had a busy day laying on Gerry Creaney’s opener in the sixth minute as well as being involved in two big moments in the second half of the game. He was involved in a tussle with Hurlock, who in an off the ball exchange elbowed the Scotland born striker in the face resulting in Hurlock following Grant down the tunnel. Mark Walters, who quite incredibly was the first black man to appear for Rangers, THIRTY SIX years after Jamaican Gil Heron had played his last game for Celtic, was the next ‘Ger to get his marching orders as he was involved in a number of meaty challenges against Celtic players, his tackle on Coyne bringing his game to an end.
The final nail in the coffin for Rangers came when Mark Hateley got involved with Anton Rogan – Rogan for his part was booked while Hateley joined his fellow Englishmen in what must have been a somewhat crowded Rangers shower. An absolute embarrassment to the Scottish game perpetrated by supposedly top class English players.
It is remembered by some as the St Patrick’s Day Massacre but probably more for the footballing warfare that had been witnessed on the pitch rather than the end result.
HH and Happy St Patrick’s Day
Lá fhéile Pádraig shona dhaoibh!
KEVIN JOHN THOMSON