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PersonalFullname: Paul Michael Lyons McStay MBE
aka: Paul McStay, Maestro, 'The Hat'
Born: 22 Oct 1964
Birthplace: Hamilton, South Lanarkshire
Signed: 20 Feb 1981
Left: 31 May 1997
Position: Midfielder, Centre-midfield
First game: 23 January 1982 Queen of the South home 4-0 Scottish cup
Last game: 5 April 1997 Raith Rovers away 1-1 League
First goal: 30 January 1982 Aberdeen away 3-1 League
Last goal: 29 January 1997 Dunfermline away 2-0 League
International Caps: 76
International Goals: 9
BiogPaul Michael Lyons McStay MBE was born on October 22 1964 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.
Grand-nephew of former manager Jimmy McStay, playing for Celtic was in the family blood. A hotly tipped youth prospect Paul was a member of Celtic Boys Club who burst onto the football scene in remarkable style when he hit two goals and was man of the match as Scotland schoolboys defeated their English counterparts at Wembley in front of a live TV audience in June 1980.
He signed for Celtic aged seventeen and made his senior Celtic debut in a 4-0 home Scottish Cup win over Queen of the South on January 21st 1982. Part of a great Celtic dynasty - his Great Uncle's Jimmy and Willie were both Hoops greats while brothers Willie and Raymond also played for the club - Paul seemed almost destined to write his name into Celtic folklore.
In mid-1982 he captained Scotland to victory in the UEFA European Under-18 Championship. This is the only major trophy (to date) won by Scotland.
Despite his tender years McStay had a talent so significant he was simply too good to sit on the bench or learn his trade with the reserves. A key man under Billy McNeill and then Davie Hay, the precocious youngster soon earned international recognition with Scotland and by the end of season 1985-86 – at the age of 21 - he had collected two league titles plus a Scottish Cup and a League Cup winners medals.
A trophyless campaign followed but during the course of Celtic’s wonderful Centenary season of 1987-88 McStay was at his magnificent best. Throughout the course of a truly memorable season the man affectionately christened ‘The Maestro’ by the Bhoys support was a class apart from anyone else in Scotland.
At his best McStay was a peerless performer in Scotland and among the very finest midfielders in Europe. He had it all – wonderful touch and footwork, composed and elegant in possession and with the vision and ability to dissect any defence with a single pass. He would pick the ball up and glide effortlessly pass opponents before delivering an inch perfect killer pass. In one book on the Centenary Season (1987-88) the other players are said to have tagged him as 'The Hat' as he was always able to pull a rabbit out of the hat when needed most!
A fine performance in the 1989 Scottish Cup final against Rangers saw McStay add another winners medal to his list but it would be some time before any more silverware came his way. By the early 1990s McStay had the burden of captaining one of the worst Celtic sides in history. Years of under-investment on the playing squad saw the Hoops struggle badly to compete with big-spending Rangers. McStay's talent remained undoubted but many of those who played beside him simply didn't deserve that privilege.
It seemed inevitable that the Bhoys would lose their one true class act and at the end of season 1991-92 McStay would throw his shirt into the Jungle in a gesture which all but signalled the end of his time at Parkhead. He was easily the stand-out performer for Scotland at Euro 92 (where he scored a great goal v CIS (ex-Soviet Union)) and subsequently Inter Milan were rumoured to be keen to take him to Italy.
However McStay performed a dramatic U-turn and to the surprise and delight of the support he remained at Celtic Park (although on the other hand ex-Celtic director Michael Kelly revealed that no offers actually came in for him, but there was said from various people that there was interest for him). Celtic continued to struggle and it was only natural that Paul himself would suffer a loss of form. In November 1994 he missed a decisive penalty in a shoot-out as Celtic blew a golden chance to claim their first major trophy since 1989 as Raith Rovers won the League Cup thanks to a shock spot-kick shoot-out victory.
Such heartbreak was a cruel injustice for a player who had given everything he could to the Celtic cause so it was with extra glee that the support finally witnessed McStay lift a major trophy when the Bhoys defeated Airdrie in the 1995 Scottish Cup final and end their trophy drought.
Paul was a revived character under Tommy Burns but an ankle injury forced his surprise retirement at the end of the 1996-1997 season. It says everything about his immense talent and commitment to the Celtic cause that despite the second half of his career being at a time when the Bhoys were overshadowed by rivals Rangers, in 2002 he was voted in as one of Celtic's greatest players ever into the greatest Celtic team by the club's fans.
Must be mentioned that he was not without his critics. He could have been more direct in his general play; ex-Celtic director Michael Kelly childishly said "McStay could not shoot for toffee"; others said that McStay did not score as much as he could have. McStay may have been lauded but John Collins on various occasions was overshadowed by McStay despite that Collins was on many occasions the far more productive player on the pitch. McStay as a quiet man could also not be the imposing player that a captain should be, and many openly though that it was a burden he found difficult to carry. His prodigious talent had suffered greatly in his development by staying at Celtic through the worst of times, and for a player with the talent to become world class, he likely never reached that possible peak due to the circumstances that Celtic were in during the barren years.
Truth is that his ability elsewhere more than made up for any criticisms and many a time they could be cheap shots against him knowing that he wasn't the character to retaliate so was easy game for them. They were best ignored, and during the darkest days watching McStay play made up for much of the dirge dug up by some of the rest of the team at the time.
Unquestionably one of the finest, most talented and most respected Celtic players ever.
Scotland careerPaul McStay captained Scotland at all age levels, including to victory in the 1981 UEFA European Under-18 Championship, which is as yet the only major trophy won by the Scottish Football Association to date. The Maestro made his full international debut in 1983, and it was to last 14 years. During this period he was awarded 76 caps, and also participated in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups.
He is the player to receive the most international caps for Scotland whilst at Celtic, and also appears in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.
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Honours with CelticScottish League Championships
Banners & Tributes
Early opinion piece on a then-19 year old teenage Maestro by Huge Taylor of The (London) Times, Wednesday November 2nd 1983.
Quotes"Celtic Football Club is the fans, without them there is no club."
'The game was ninety minutes longs but for me the game lasted as long as my five years as captian and six years without a trophy'
Paul McStay speaking after beating Airdrie in the 1995 Scottish Cup Final
"I had the privilege of playing against Van Basten and Maradona, but in terms of my most talented team-mates, there was a Brazilian called Carlos Verri, better known as Brazilian legend Dunga and Paul McStay at Celtic."
Paul Elliott (link)
"I remember Paul McStay saying to Krankl, in very clear English, 'You're a cheat'. The bottle had landed 20 yards away from their player."
Peter Grant, 2003, on the Rapid Vienna fiasco. Krankl was Vienna's captain.
Q: What would you do if you weren't in soccer?
A: I'd like to be a DJ.
Paul McStay, Cut magazine, 1986
PAUL McSTAYBy David Potter
It seems bizarre to use the word “unlucky” in the context of such a brilliant player, but the fact remains that this extremely likeable and personable young man had the misfortune to be around at some of the saddest low points of Celtic history, suffering as few others did from incompetent, even corrupt Directors and one or two Managers who were as unlucky as Paul McStay himself.
He was even born at an unlucky time in Celtic's history in October 1964, just a few days after Celtic's gnawingly painful defeat in the League Cup Final of that year. Yet he was born of impeccable Celtic stock with his great uncles Willie and Jimmy McStay having written many glorious pages in Celtic's history. Not only that, but his brother Willie was also destined for his share of Celtic glory, albeit not so spectacularly as Paul.
There was really only one team for Paul, and he was on an “S” Form as early as 1975. We all noticed him for the first time when he played at Wembley for the Scottish Schoolboys against their English counterparts in 1980. There was a great deal of talent on view that day, but Paul McStay outshone them all.
In 1981, Paul McStay became a professional. No agent negotiated his terms. He was accompanied by his father who presumably said things like, “Just you dae whit Mr. McNeill says noo, Paul”, and his debut was in a Scottish Cup game at home to Queen of the South in January 1982. He had a few games that season and won his spurs in the final game of the season when Celtic were struggling to beat St.Mirren. The score was 0-0 at half time, and the news from Pittodrie was that rivals Aberdeen were four ahead of Rangers who had (mysteriously) lost form. Had Celtic not won that game against the Buddies, Aberdeen would have won the Title. Young McStay took charge of the midfield, and Celtic won 3-0.
It was the following season that Scotland began to realize that there was an outstanding player on view here. Celtic won the League Cup, and really should have won the Scottish League (but lost it because of a loss of bottle) and the Scottish Cup as well (lost, largely due to the mysterious non-appearance of Charlie Nicholas in the Semi Final against Aberdeen ), but everyone was impressed by the quality play of McStay. He had the silky playing skills of a Peter Wilson, the commitment of a Bobby Murdoch and the cannonball shot of a Neil Mochan.
Season 1983-4, a horrendously unfortunate one for Celtic now under the temporary management of Davie Hay, brought the first of Paul's 76 Scottish Caps and further recognition that he was a great player, scoring for 10-man heroic Celtic in the last minute of that desperately unlucky Scottish Cup Final of 1984.
Worse was to come from the cheats of Rapid Vienna, but then in 1985 Davie Hay at last landed the Scottish Cup. Paul had picked up a slight injury and was substituted to his manifest disgust in the Cup Final, but there was no one prouder than the McStay family as the brothers Willie and Paul emulated the feat of their great-uncles in the 1920s by winning the Scottish Cup. Then who can forget that great day in May 1986, when Celtic thrashed St.Mirren 5-0 to win the League? Paul was inspirational that day, but no doubt like everyone else was on frustrated tenterhooks until Albert Kidd did the needful at Dens Park .
Then it was off the Mexico for the World Cup. Little success for the team came from that, but more and more were English teams interested in Paul McStay. Any offer however was scorned for Paul had a pre-destined job to do for Celtic. This came in the Centenary Season of 1988 when the Cup and League Double were landed under the determined management of Billy McNeill. Paul was Player of the Year that year and it was no more than he had deserved.
But Paul and Celtic supporters deserved more than came their way after that. Only the Scottish Cup of 1989 was lifted as Celtic's management reacted with astonishing naivety and fecklessness at the Souness Revolution at Ibrox, simply lying down in the face of it in such a way that it was difficult to feel any sort of sympathy at all for the Kelly regime as their comeuppance arrived belatedly in March 1994. Paul had kept his dignity through all this, although at the end of the 1992 season he threw his jersey into the Jungle, a gesture widely interpreted as meaning that he had had enough of all this nonsense. But he came back, and suffered, like the rest of us.
Yet his greatest suffering was yet to come in a Celtic jersey. This was 27 th November 1994 when it was Paul McStay, of all people, Paul McStay the best Scottish footballer of a generation, head and shoulders above all the rest, Paul McStay who missed the crucial penalty in that agonizing shoot-out. He has since described the next six months in vivid agony, an agony shared by us all, until the situation was resolved when the Duchess of Kent presented the Scottish Cup to Paul, exactly six months later, after a really dreadful Scottish Cup Final, but one which heralded the return of Celtic.
Yet it would be Paul's last triumph. Two years later in April 1997 at Stark's Park, Kirkcaldy, Paul would limp out of football, to lead the quiet life for which he seems so suited. He is a lovely man and those of us who were privileged to watch him in his prime will never doubt that we saw a great player. But oh, what a player he would have been if he had come twenty years earlier or ten years later! The past remains painful for Paul – but then it is painful for us all as well. However, Paul shines like a beacon through the dark days of the 1990s.
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