Ten Twenty

“Scarves, banners, jerseys. Green and white hoops raised in triumph. It may not have been a vintage championship, but believe me it will taste as sweet to these Celtic supporters as any they have ever secured. Because they have stopped Rangers talking away the history book record of ten in a row.”

There is a generation of Celtic supporters who don’t know what we went through in the 90s. I hope they never do.

My generation probably had it the worst. Anyone old enough to remember what it was like would have felt it, but I’m just of the right age that I went through most of school at the same time that Rangers were winning title after title.

And I went to a non-denominational school, so believe me when I say I knew all about it every single day, week and season.

Worse still, my memories of football start just a little too late. I don’t remember the centenary season of thirty years ago, I only have vague memories of Celtic signing two Polish players soon after one of our own did something unspeakable and signed for the other lot.

I don’t really remember the 1989 Scottish Cup final either though I distinctly remember the final of 1990, losing to Aberdeen on penalties.

Almost all of my early memories of Celtic are doom and gloom. It was so bad for us back then that my first football top was an Aberdeen one as apparently me hoping they stopped Rangers winning the league was badly misinterpreted.

It’s not as if Celtic could do anything, we were too busy finishing fourth and fifth.

When people on social media and message boards say “remember the 90s” in the context of what we’re achieving today, they’re really not joking. That decade was almost all awful. At one point Rangers won no fewer than seven trophies in a row, split across three different seasons. We couldn’t even win one for six whole years.

Oh, and we nearly died.

In an era long before the myth of separation of club and company was born, Celtic came far too close to being closed down. Only the efforts of the Celtic supporters in putting pressure on the old board to sell up to Fergus McCann stopped that from happening.

After that it still took several years to put things back together. The stadium was rebuilt, we won a trophy, we made up ground on Rangers in the league. At the end of the season where they won their seven in a row, we thumped them 3-0. It gave us hope.

But time was running out. When they equalled Celtic’s record of nine in a row in 1997 it was a dark day. It was even darker when Tommy Burns left and we were left to rebuild again. How would we ever stop them doing ten if we had to effectively start from scratch?

But stop them we did.

It was twenty years ago today, that Wim Jansen got the Bhoys to play, they clinched the league title in style, and that day is guaranteed to raise a smile.

Of course, we should have won it the week before, but somehow it was all the more fitting to do it at home in front of a full, if not quite fully built, Celtic Park.

There are moments in that game that will live with me forever, and I was only listening to the radio at home!

I wasn’t there. But I was in spirit.

Yes, a title clinching final day being played out at 3pm on a Saturday. There are many aspects of the 90s that a generation can’t truly grasp and I suspect that’s one of them.

Henrik Larsson curling in the early opener to settle the nerves. George O’Boyle missing a header to equalise from practically under the bar. My nerves getting more and more shredded with every passing minute.

When you haven’t known your team to win a league title, it only adds to the nerves. Each St Johnstone attack had me more and more convinced that they’d equalise, and with Rangers beating Dundee United at Tannadice that would be enough to give them the title.

It was so bad that I was hiding under a pillow when Tom Boyd picked out the Jackie McNamara run. When he found Harald Brattbakk who then doubled our lead, that pillow went flying across the room.

There was still time left in the game, but we all knew that was the clincher. Celtic, champions for the first time in a decade. Only the third trophy I could remember Celtic winning, the second having come earlier that season in the League Cup.

But this was the most important. The quote from Roddy Forsyth reporting for BBC Radio 5 that I opened with says it all. The images after the game are burned into my mind, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard You’ll Never Walk Alone sung quite like it was that day.

Even thinking back to it now, twenty years on, it means so much to me. All the emotions come flooding back. That might be hard to understand when you’re watching a Celtic team now going for a double treble in just a week and a half from now!

But to me it only serves to remind that each and every trophy is important. You never know what might be round the corner. When I first took an interest in football, I didn’t know it would be six years until I would see us win a trophy. I also didn’t think we’d stop ten in a row from practically a standing start at nine.

Beyond that it continued though. I didn’t think we’d be back to nothing the next season. Or that we’d win a treble immediately after such a miserable season. Perhaps most importantly though, I didn’t think that a little over five years after stopping the ten I’d be standing in Seville watching Celtic play in a European final.

Football is full of twists and turns. Never forget that, and never, ever, take winning for granted.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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