The spring of 1998 was a very nervous time for Celtic supporters. The Celts were involved in a three way battle with Rangers and Hearts, for the prize of the SPL trophy, and it was the most exciting title race in Scotland for many years.
Hearts ultimately dropped out of the chase during the run in, to allow the big Glasgow two to fight it out, and no Celtic fan will need reminding that this was the season where Celtic were required to prevent Rangers attaining the magical ‘ten in a row’.
At the beginning of that season, Jonathan Gould had been a very low key signing for Celtic. He had been plucked from the wilderness of Bradford City reserves as cover during a goalkeeping crisis, when Celtic’s first two ‘keepers, Gordon Marshall and Stewart Kerr, had both been out injured for a considerable period. As often happens, Gould made such an impression that he was to keep the goalkeepers jersey for the rest of the season, and even beyond that.
Aberdeen were having a difficult season and had recently appointed Alex Miller as their new manager. He had the Dons well motivated on the day and they had the better of this encounter and was it not for Jonathan Gould’s intervention then Aberdeen would have been worthy winners.
Celtic led 1-0 at half time courtesy of a coolly taken Craig Burley penalty, after David Rowson had fouled Stephane Mahe in the penalty area when he was in full flight.
In the second half Aberdeen upped their game and pressed Celtic back for almost the entire forty five minutes. Celtic appeared nervous and were struggling to break out, as Aberdeen attacked furiously, backed by the noisy home support.
The game livened certainly livened up after the break and Gould showed his passion when he squared up to Billy Dodds after a late challenge, which led to both players being booked. Just after that the impressive Stephen Glass fired in a terrific 25 yard volley which Gould threw himself across to turn way. This was an impressive save and he then followed that up with a terrific stop, when ex-Celt Derek Whyte’s header looked like dropping in at the far post, only for the Celtic goalie to manage to palm the ball out of lay to safety.
Celtic were missing the influential Alan Stubbs in defence, and Aberdeen became desperate and threw in a succession of corners and high crosses which Gould dealt with impeccably, especially taking into account the blustery conditions on the day inside Pittodrie.
It had not been pretty to watch and the Scotland on Sunday newspaper described it perfectly as such: ‘Celtic finished with their shoulders to the wall and Aberdeen’s hands round their throat. In the last ten minutes Lambert hirpled off and Larsson was poleaxed by cramp. Yet the league leaders could not be moved as their supporters boasted via the old song on their way out.’
In May Celtic prevailed and won the title by a narrow margin. Jonathan Gould’s fine display on this day went a long way to helping achieve that success. For a player who arrived as an unknown quantity, Jonny Gould will always be fondly remembered for playing his part in such a historic season.