LATE ARRIVALS – 1992 FALKIRK

The summer of 1992 had been a good one for Celtic. After a disappointing, trophy-less season in 1991-92, the Celtic captain ,Paul McStay, had committed himself to long term deal, much to the joy of the Celtic support.

There had also been an unexpected bonus from UEFA. Celtic had failed to qualify for Europe but the civil war in Yugoslavia that summer caused Yugoslav teams to withdraw from European competition, which allowed Celtic to participate in the UEFA cup. Sadly, that country would suffer from a terrible conflict which resulted in the formation of Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia, which we are now familiar with today.

Liam Brady was in his second year as Celtic manager and he had spruced up his squad by bringing in new signings, Andy Paton, Rudi Vata and Stuart Slater. There were particularly high hope for Slater as he had cost a club record £1.5M from West Ham United and had arrived with a considerable reputation for being an attacking player.

Celtic were under a bit of pressure going into this game. In the previous seven days they had lost 3-2 at home to Hibs and 2-0 to Cologne in a first leg UEFA cup tie in Germany as the cracks in Brady’s new side had began to show.

This game was to be one that would long live in the memory of those who witnessed it. At half time the score was 1-1 due to a penalty for either side and when Gerry Creaney gave Celtic the lead in the 46th minute the hope was that Celtic would go on to win convincingly. However, Falkirk scored an astonishing three goals in just 13 minutes. By 68 minutes Celtic were 4-2 down with Brady’s much vaunted central defensive partnership of Tony Mowbray and Gary Gillespie lying in tatters as the nippy Falkirk forwards tore them apart.

Much to the joy of the large Celtic support in the 10,000 crowd, Celtic rallied. First Payton, then Creaney scored to give Celtic parity and the chance to leave Brockville with a bit of dignity and a point at the very least. It’s to their credit that Celtic then went all out for a winner.

As time up rapidly approached with Falkirk fans whistling for the referee to blow the final whistle, Celtic won a free kick 25 yards from goal. John Collins was developing into a dead ball specialist at this time and there was great anticipation as he waited to take the kick. There was a resultant groan when Collins struck his initial effort against the Falkirk wall but as the ball rebounded to him the bold Johnny sent a glorious volley past the Falkirk keeper and into the net.

Seldom has the Celtic support left Brockville in such good voice after that 5-4 win. The main problem with Falkirk’s old ground was always exiting the place. The fans in the covered enclosure met the fans behind the goal in a narrow exit at the corner of the ground. This created a bottle neck as fans piled in from the back, meanwhile people only dripped slowly out from the exit and into the street. Crushing always ensued with the proverbial cry of ‘Haw, there’s weans here’ as people jostled their way towards the exit gates. We should be grateful in the modern age that football supporters no longer suffer conditions like this.

Sadly, this result was a false dawn. Celtic’s form dipped in the autumn and the likes of Stuart Slater were to be viewed as expensive flops. Liam Brady would also not last long at the helm.

Although storm clouds were gathering at least John Collin’s dramatic winner on the day had given the supporters a rare feeling of happiness.

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