(Courtesy of The Celtic Wiki)
The New to the Fore.
- League Position – 1st – Eighth League title in a row – a record
- League Cup – Losing Finalists
- Scottish Cup – Losing Finalists
- Glasgow Cup – Not played this season
- Drybrough Cup – Losing Finalists
- European Cup – Second Round
So close to being a Double; so close to being a Treble! And in the end a record consecutive eighth League Championship title. Season 1972–73 should have been the season when the club-developed players of the Quality Street Gang became the new Lions. It was the best season so far for them, with Kenny Dalglish showing himself as the most exciting footballer in Scotland at the age of 22; where George Connelly had it all and was very nearly an ever present in the side; where Davie Hay showed what a great utility player he could be,the emergence of Danny McGrain as a great overlapping full back.
But it was also the season of the wayward youth, with Lou Macari – spotted and developed by the club – demanding more and then heading south when he didn’t get his way. Suppoprters opinions of Macari tend to be tainted by the later period when he returned to the club as manager between 1993 to 1994. As a player for Celtic, Macari was a superb goal scorer and poacher. But he was a very different kind of beast from players of the Lions era. Macari had not only quickly endeared himself to the Celtic support but had made the full Scotland international team early and had been on international tour to the States and to Brazil. He had married in St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, and it was very clear he did not like the fishbowl life of football in Scotland. In the closed season he had played in Brazil for Scotland with Tommy Docherty as Scotland manager and Docherty had woven him tales of football south of the border. At the start of the season when he returned to Celtic he began or continued to make demands for better terms. As the season wore on towards 1973 these demands continued and unrest began to ferment in the dressing room. Finally Jock Stein and the Board had enough in December. He’d been injured through much of November and came back for the away game against Dumbarton in early December and then he was out with ‘flu and a ‘stomach upset’ and out over the Christmas period. This coincided with a crisis period at the club with Jock Stein taken into hospital with a cardiac scare. By the New Year Macari was on the transfer list. It was no longer a question of ‘if’ he would go but ‘when’ and ‘where’ and ‘for how much’. Would it be Liverpool where he was a guest at their home match after inspecting the club facilities. But it was to team up again with Tommy Docherty, now manager at Manchester Utd, that he always wanted and there he went for £200,000. (There is a very good appraisal by St Anthony of Macari’s playing time at Celtic here.)
Such was the surfeit of riches at the club at the time that it could be argued that his departure was barely missed. And the £200,000 his transfer brought in allowed the purchase of Ally Hunter, Andy Lynch and Steve Murray.
The season had begun with the sterile competition that was the Drybrough Cup, with altered offside rules, with Celtic losing to Hibs in the final, the game going to extra time after Celtic pulled back three goals to level the match at the 90. But Hibs found the gaps in extra time and lifted the trophy.The League Cup also had changed format somewhat with teams now seeded in the Group stage and winners and runners up going through to a home-and-away second round before the quarter finals. Everything went well till Celtic met Dundee in the quarter finals. In the away leg Dundee had scored after 20 minutes and then withstood strong Celtic pressure to carry a single goal advantage to Celtic Park. There, a weak linesman and referee Bobby Davidson contrived a 3-2 scoreline which saw a replay on a Monday night at Hampden. The Bhoys made no mistake here and ran out 4-1 winners. A semi-final win over Aberdeen set up the final against Hibernian. And on the day Celtic ran up against Stanton in great form. Two Cups played. Losing finalists twice!
And the third Cup would go the same way. It began well with 4-1 and 4-0 wins against East Fife and Motherwell respectively. At the quarter final Celtic played Aberdeen who came to bore everybody to death. On top of that Jimmy Johnstone lost the place and was sent off. The replay at Pittodrie was nearly as boring – except on 86 minutes up came Big Billy and the ball was headed in the back of the net. Dundee, as in the League Cup but this time at semi final stage, and for some reason Aberdeen’s defensive tactics caught on and Dundee bored everyone to death with a 0-0 draw. The replay saw a continuation of dull football but a tactical switch which saw Hay switched to defense and Connelly to midfield resulted in Jinky receiving the ball and scoring two good goals and Dalglish getting one. And so…. on to the final against the auld enemy in their centenary year. A cut-n-thrust game in which Connelly scored a penalty (in the light of a succession of missed penalties in previous games from other Celtic spot-kick takers) saw Forsyth on the goal line where Brogan, who had just been subbed, would normally have been, steal in and nip the ball into the net. Celtic tried to get back the goal but it was Rangers cup. Three Cups played. Losing finalists thrice!
The League was tighter than it had been for a while with Celtic topping out by just the one point but a huge goal difference margin.Throughout the season there were periods when the team played less well as a unit and that aweful sin of profligacy in front of goal raised it’s ugly head again. All this contributed to the punditry and journos doubting Celtic’s ability to take the title this season and continue with the Green Machine the following season.
In Europe, Celtic ran up against one of last season’s teams – Ujpesti Dosza of Hungary. Last season they had met when the Hungarians were only starting their season. This time they were well warmed up and Celtic found them too good in Budapest. A 2-1 win at Celtic Park was countered by a 3-0 loss in Hungary and Celtic were out at the Second Round.
Dalglish, Hay, Connelly, McGrain and Macari have already been mentioned. The veterans also had their part to play. Big Billy was Captain Dependable as ever. Jim Brogan was missing more games through injury but when he was in he made the perfect left back to Danny McGrain’s right. Bobby Lennox might see a good few sub spots this season but he still had lethal speed and his knowledge of the game was special in a forward. And Bobby Murdoch was noted when missing and his cool head made for reflection on the game when he played. The goalkeeper crisis was ‘real’ till the arrival of Ally Hunter from Kilmarnock who would have an outstanding first season between the sticks. His sureness inspired confidence in those in front of him. Jinky had off and on periods throughout the season and for his off periods he paid for by being dropped. The luxury of the team with so many good players was that it could and was tailored for conditions and teams.
At the end of the season there were those who asked if Celtic could go on and do it again the next season or if the newly resurgent Hibernian or Dundee or, god forbid, Rangers would make a serious challenge next season.
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