On 6th October 1993 Celtic went down tamely by 2-1 to St Johnstone on a wet, miserable night in Perth. This was the last straw for Celtic manager, Liam Brady, who was now into a third season in his disappointing tenure as manager. Hours after this game Brady announced his resignation and earned the great respect of Celtic supporters by refusing to demand any pay off as he left Parkhead in a most dignified fashion.
Celtic turned to their faithful servant, coach Frank Connor, to lead the team for a short spell as interim manager until a new manager could be found. Connor’s spell at the helm was impressive as Celtic racked up impressive wins over Dundee and Sporting Lisbon. By the time of this visit to Ibrox, Lou Macari had just arrived as Celtic’s newly appointed manager from Stoke City. Macari knew nothing of his new charges so decided to allow Frank Connor to pick the team whilst he observed.
On Saturday October 30th, Rangers were overwhelming favourites and had won the League Cup after beating Hibs in the final just six days earlier. Somewhat strangely, Rangers were in fourth place in the SPL with Celtic below them in sixth, going into this match.
The first half was even with few chances made by either team. However, the game sprang into live in 67 minutes when Ally McCoist opened the scoring after pouncing on a rebound in the Celtic six yard box. Things looked bleak for the Celts at that point but they showed great character by equalising just three minutes later. Pat McGinlay sent a high ball into the area where the Rangers goalie, Ally Maxwell, badly blundered by dropping the ball at the feet of Charlie Nicholas. The Celtic striker showed terrific skill to work the ball to John Collins who then had only one Rangers player between him and scoring. Collins showed remarkable composure by steadying himself and firing the ball into the net as the Celtic fans behind the Broomloan stand goal had palpitations over his delay in dispatching the ball into the huge open goal.
The game was petering out for a draw when Celtic forced a corner at the traditional Celtic end of the ground. With the Ibrox clock showing 92 minutes and the Celtic fans roaring them on, John Collins swung in a vicious in-swinging kick. Maxwell’s day of misery was finally complete when he missed the ball completely and allowed Brian O’Neil to head home a powerful winner. The Celtic fans in Ibrox erupted with joy as Connor and Macari cavorted on the touchline. O’Neil had only entered the park as a substitute for Nicholas as the clock ran down after 88 minutes and he was a most unlikely hero. There was barely time to restart the match and seldom had Celtic enjoyed a more dramatic end to any game at Ibrox.
Frank Connor could now look back proudly on a short unbeaten run in his tenure as caretaker manager. Macari had not been in Ibrox since 1973 and had endured a torrid time of verbal abuse from the Rangers’ support. Now he had the last laugh as the Rangers’ hordes marched disconsolately from the stadium in total silence. In contrast, those in green and white were to enjoy a fine weekend. At the final whistle they had mercilessly taunted Maxwell with cries of ‘Ally for Scotland!’
Sadly for Ally Maxwell it was said that he was that he was attacked harassed outside Ibrox in the days that followed by irate Rangers fans following his blunders, forcing Rangers to increase stewarding outside the stadium for players arriving for training.
With hindsight, Celtic may have been wiser to let Connor carry on as permanent manager. He had turned the team’s fortunes around and had earned the trust of the supporters. As storm clouds gathered over Celtic Park and ‘rebel’ fans regularly gathered outside the stadium in protest, perhaps Frank Connor would have been both a better, and cheaper, option than Macari.