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1988-05-14: Celtic 2-1 Dundee Utd, Scottish Cup Final (Most Memorable Game by THT)
Saturday May 14th 1988 - 3pm Kick-off
(Frank McAvennie 76, 90)
Dundee United 1
(Kevin Gallacher 49)
Celtic: McKnight; Morris, McCarthy, Whyte (sub: Stark 70min); Rogan, Miller, Aitken, McStay, Burns, McAvennie, Walker (sub: McGhee 70min).
Dundee United: Bowman, Hegarty, Narey, Malpas, McKinlay, McInally, Bannon, Ferguson, Gallacher, Paatelainen (sub: Clark 71 min).
Referee: G B Smith (Edinburgh).
It seemed like every vehicle in Glasgow was heading towards Hampden. Since leaving Coatbridge green and white scarves fluttered out of windows from almost every passing car. It was Celtic's birthday and we were all going to the party.
This, the club's Centenary season, had proved to be a year to remember. The league title had been deservedly claimed a couple of weeks prior after a vintage championship campaign in which those traditional Celtic attributes of flare and fight had been displayed in abundance.
Before a ball had been kicked that season the media had hastily dismissed Celtic's hopes of silverware with Graeme Souness' big-spending Rangers expected to steamroller their way to the major honours. But as Celtic had shown so many times during the previous 99 years it was a foolish act to ever write off the Bhoys.
With Billy McNeil back at the helm Celtic were now on the verge of writing a fairytale ending to a most incredible century of tears and cheers. Victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final would be the perfect final chapter.
Saturday May 14th 1988 was a beautiful day. The sun was shining from early morning. Despite living in England I had been to other cup finals. The extra time triumph over Rangers in 1980 was my first and five years later I was back at Hampden to see Frank McGarvey's later winner against today's opponents.
But this was different. Magical as the other occasions were there was a real sense that today history would be made. Triumph today and season 1987/88 will go down in Celtic history books as a year to compare with virtually all except 67. As a 13 year-old I had simply never witnessed anything like it.
Having travelled up from England on the Friday night we stayed witn my granny. The next day, after a roll and sausage for breakfast, my old fella and myself made our way to the game on a coach with the Coatbridge St James CSC.
As we hit Glasgow my heart was racing with anticipation and excitement. I caught a glimpse of the Celtic Park floodlights and kept my eyes locked on them as the bus joined a seemingly endless convoy of coaches which boomed with noise from hopeful fans, their hands and feet beating out a thunderous battle march on the floors and windows.
Mini-buses, crammed to bursting with supporters, carefully but noisily crawled their way through the busying mid-day traffic as they expectantly headed south of the Clyde.
We crossed the river and passed Shawlands stadium. Even in the sunshine of a beautiful May afternoon the then home of Clyde FC appeared rather sad and forlorn. Clyde had long since been a major force in the Scottish game and in my mind it was impossible to imagine how the Bully Wee had once proved to be more than a match for Celtic on cup final day.
But the old stadium could still evoke a real sense of history and tradition and after all that was what today was all about. A chance for the likes of McStay and McAvennie to write their names alongside those of Quinn and McGrory.
The foot soldiers of the Celtic army were now emerging from every street. Green and white was everywhere.
Youngsters waved their flags and scarves at the passing coaches while the women simply smiled. The men were in fine voice and humour.
Traffic police halted the coach at a junction and directed us along a road where we eventually parked beside an argipeligo of ash football pitches which seemed to stretch all the way back to Coatbridge.
As we stepped off the coach I could hear the loud whirring of a helicopter directly above in the blue sky. Suddenly the huge bowl of Hampden was looming in front of us.
A tide of green and white was streaming towards the stadium. Every ten yards it seemed there was a fat man shouting "Gerrahatsscafsnbadges!"
I bought a flag emblazoned with the drawing of two anonymous Celtic players in 60s-era kit and the words 'Hail! Hail! The Celts Are Here'. It would hang on my bedroom wall for years afterwards.
As we shuffled ever closer to the turnstyles the hum and sizzling of the take-away vans was becoming more frequently drowned out by one Celtic song after another. The steep stairways leading to the terracing was now in sight and my heart began to punch against the inside of my chest.
Once inside I savoured the last few steps to the top of the stairway and as I reached the summit Hampden opened up before me. The first thing that hit me was how green the grass looked. The pitch looked carpet perfect and although the stadium had seen much better days you could sense that today the famous ground would be a very special place.
We stood directly in line with the corner flag opposite the main stand. The ground was heaving a good 15 minutes before kick-off and already the noise from the expectant Hoops was deafening.
I can't remember the teams appearing from the tunnel but I can vividily recollect the moment Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took her seat in the stand. At first their was piercing boos and whistles as virtually the whole stadium united in their abuse of the Tory leader. Then from the terraces boomed the chant of 'Maggie, Get to ****, Maggie, Maggie get to ****'.
For a few minutes Hampden's slopes became a blanket of red as supporters throughout the ground waved red cards in protest at Thatcher's pressence. It wasn't the most hospitable welcome for a guest of honour but it was certainly the most deserved.
Now usually I would have got a clip round the ear for using such industrial language but knowing my Dad's politics I took a calculated risk and joined in the chant. The old man was actually too busy waving his red card to really notice what I was doing so I made the most of the occasion and flicked Maggie the V's as well - I was begining to get the feeling this was going to be a great day!
In truth there is little I can remember of a first half which ended goalless. Celtic were on top and the Tangerines had caused few problems for the Hoops. Celtic had not capatilised on their domination though and you had to take your chances against a side like United.
Under Jim McLean the Tannadice side were a classic counter-attacking team, prepared to soak up pressure before delivering their opponents a fatal blow on the break.
Little more than a year previously they had deservedly reached the final of the UEFA Cup, beating Barcelona home and away in the progress. They may not have quite hit those magnificent heights in season 87/88 but they remained on their day a talented outfit and a formidable challenge to any side.
And so it proved. Celtic continued to press from the restart but United held firm giving little encouragement to the prolific strike pairing of McAvennie and Walker.
Then it happened – bang. A poor clearance from McKnight was headed straight back towards the Celtic goal. United striker Kevin Gallagher outpaced Roy Aitken to reach the ball first and from the edge of the area lashed an unstoppable shot high into the goal.
At the time my view of the goal had been blocked by a trackside policeman but the sudden roar from the Mount Florida end said all I needed to know. The explosion of noise echoing from the covered end of the stadium hit like a sly uppercut to the stomach.
It was a sensational finish from Gallagher – grandson of the legendary Celt Patsy. Could it be that my chance to witness Celtic history would be wrecked by goal from one of our own?
The Celtic support were for the briefest of moments stunned. Around me some fans raged to themselves in frustration while others placed their hands on their heads and for the first time began to silently contemplate the unthinkable.
But the doubt was soon over. We’d been here so often before. This Celtic side simply didn’t know when they were beat and while there was a second remaining on the clock there was hope.
By the time Celtic had placed the ball on the centre spot ready to restart the game the support knew the dream finish to the season – to the century – was still very much alive and that they had their part to play in making it become a reality.
Slowly Celtic began to push United back further and further and by the hour mark the Hoops were seemingly launching constant raids towards the mountain of green and white which was the Kings Park terracing.
The celebrations of the United fans had been dampend and were replaced by a growing anxiety as the cavalier Celts set about their task with a growing sense of purpose.
An unstoppable momentum was building and the Celtic support didn’t just sense it, they knew it. A permanent roar of encouragement had engulfed Hampden. United’s previously stubborn defence was now beginning to creak under the pressure.
Celtic were using the wide Hampden pitch to their advantage, moving the ball quickly from one wing to the other and stretching their opponents to breaking point. In terms of Celtic’s hunt for an equaliser it was now a question of not if, but when.
With twenty minutes to go Billy Stark and Mark McGhee came off the bench for Derek Whyte and Andy Walker and their impact was sudden.
With about 75 minutes gone Celtic full-back Chris Morris collected the ball just inside his own half over on the main stand side and played it back to Mick McCarthy whose long ball found Stark .
The midfielder flighted the ball to the opposite wing where left-back Anton Rogan had advanced up field. Rogan jinked past a United defender and swung a perfectly weighted ball into the area. The United defence were suddenly struck by stage-fright and the ever alert McAvennie pounced at the back post to head home the equaliser. Pandemonium.
Three sides of Hampden seemed to rock with joy. Scared I would lose my dad in the chaos of the celebrations
I grabbed hold of his arm but soon found myself smothered in a mass of jubilant embraces from total strangers. I’m not sure how many minutes had passed before I finally emerged from the hugs and dancing to turn my attention back to the game but when I did Celtic were on the attack again.
United’s resistance was looking increasingly futile. They were not just taking on a fine Celtic side but also a century of proud football tradition and fate was now demanded a happy ending.
So as we entered the final minutes of a century of Celtic FC Joe Miller trotted over to the main stand side to take another Celtic corner. Both teams piled men into the box.
Miller's tired low cross trundeld towards the edge of the area where Stark connected with his right leg to divert the ball towards goal. As the ball bounced past the penalty spot the unmarked McAvennie again reacted first and in a flash had smashed the ball into the net.
Ths time the whole of Glasgow rocked as the Celtic support errupted. I was carried about twenty feet in a surge of uncontollable joy. The roar that greeted the goal was as loud and as long as I ever heard.
As a degree of calm eventually returned I looked round and about 20 rows back up the terrace I could make out my Dad joyously waving my flag with this huge smile across his face.
The final whistle signlled more bedlam as did skipper Roy Aitkin leading his team up the stairs and liftinng the cup proudly above his head.
The players danced on the pitch and the fans partyed on the terraces.
Tommy Burns skipped across the turf, a Celtic scarf proudly draped around his neck and the Scottish Cup, twinkling in the late afternoon sun, cradled in his right arm. Celtic history had been made.
The triumphant Bhoys lapped up their moment in the sun, waving to the adoring support. They were now heroes for eternity.
Eventually the players, Billy McNeil and the cup disappeared up the tunnel and the support streamed down the stairways and made our way along the dusty road back to the coaches, mini-buses, cars and vans.
The songs and congratulations continued as the thousands of Hoops fans headed to homes and bars to raise a toast to an unforgetable game and an unforgetable century.
Just 14 days short from the date a hundred years previously when a Celtic team kicked a ball for the first time Billy McNeill and his men had given this world-wide green and white family the perfect birthday present - 'Happy birthday dear Celtic, Happy birthday to you!'
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