Celtic and Rangers locked horns on a miserable, typically dreich, Glasgow afternoon in October 1982. There was huge interest in the game as Celtic were top of the league with Rangers just behind them with the Ibrox men being, at that time, unbeaten in the domestic game.
Despite the inclement weather, a massive crowd in excess of 60,000 turned out to watch. This attendance was the highest gate in British football for the entire 1982/83 season and dwarfed anything the big English clubs could produce, proving that the big Glasgow duo were still the biggest attraction in the UK.
Paul McStay had just celebrated his 18th birthday a week previously and he was to have a huge bearing on this game. It was a sign of the times that seven of Celtic’s thirteen man squad were home grown players. Rangers came in fine fettle and had their new Swedish internationalist. Robert Prytz in midfield.
Celtic started brightly by taking the game to Rangers. The wet surface made the ball zip quickly along the turf and the players had trouble judging their passing to begin with. Rangers took the lead when Pat Bonner misjudged Prytz’s in swinging corner and only succeeded in punching the ball into his own net. Celtic equalised just three minutes later when McStay thundered into a tackle on Prytz which allowed Murdo MacLeod a clear run on goal. Rangers ‘keeper, Jim Stewart, saved MacLeod’s shot but McStay had followed up from midfield and fired the rebound into a gaping open goal.
Gregor Stevens was required to make a goal line clearance from Frank McGarvey before Rangers regained the lead. Bonner was not having the best of games and he allowed a Davie Cooper header to float inside his far post. Half time arrived and the fans were able to take a breather.
The turning point of the game came on the hour mark. Robert Prytz, Rangers’ best player on the day. swivelled 30 yards out and beat Bonner all ends up. The ball smashed off the face of the crossbar and into the arms of the grateful Celtic goalie. After this Celtic were the stronger team and Graeme Sinclair saw his header cleared of the line by Rangers’ captain, John McClelland.
On 66 minutes the Celts deservedly equalised. McStay again was the inspiration with a beautiful sliding tackle on Jim Bett. He then beat another Rangers player before rolling a perfect pass to McGarvey, who slid the ball home to make it 2-2.
Both teams continued to attack and win the match. Bonner partially redeemed himself for his earlier errors when he saved a good effort from Bett. There was not long remaining as Davie Cooper came over to take the resultant corner. The players on both sides were now clearly exhausted from their exertions in the heavy conditions. However, Davie Provan sprinted across and he showed great initiative by blocking Cooper’s corner. As the ball broke clear, this allowed Celtic to attack on the break and Charlie Nicholas held the ball up superbly and sent a great pass to MacLeod to race in on goal. As desperate Rangers defenders descended upon him, Murdo sent a powerful, low shot into the net.
The Celtic fans erupted with joy on the Parkhead terraces. MacLeod had gone on a lung busting 80 yard run to score and he was so drained of energy he could only smile and weakly raise an arm in celebration in front of a heaving Jungle. He was knackered.
Celtic held out to won 3-2. This was a magnificent game of football played with the highest quality in difficult conditions. After the game Celtic manager, Billy McNeill, described the teenage McStay as a ‘lighthouse’ in view of the way he had illuminated the game on a dreary afternoon. To think this was actually his first experience of a big Glasgow derby and he had played like a proverbial veteran on the day.
On a personal level I will always recall standing near the front of the Celtic end, soaked to the skin – ‘droont’ ! And I will never forget that feeling of exultation when Murdo’s shot hit the net. To think the winning goal all came from the simple action of Davie Provan running over to block a corner.
At the end of the match the jubilant Celtic fans exited the stadium singing ‘It’s so f****** easy !’ It had been anything but.