Love Street ’86 – I Was(n’t) There
By The Way - Weekly Columns
By Remy It’s a badge of honour for any supporter to reminisce about great games from the club’s past through the rose tinted spectacles of nostalgia. I’m a man of a certain age so am lucky enough to have been at most of Celtic’s historic games since 1979. From the ten men won the league evening (in the main stand that night), though the road to Seville, right up to Tom Rogic’s invincible treble last minute winner, I was there. Yet there is one massive gap in my Celtic supporting CV and that is the 5-0 league winning fixture at Love Street in May 1986. It’s only one of the greatest days in many fans’ supporting lives. Nearly 32 years on, I still haven’t fully got over not being there that day. A 36 game league season that went down to the last 10 minutes before it was finally decided and became an iconic day in the history of Celtic, Hearts and saw the adoption of Albert Kidd into Celtic folklore. Nowadays, Love Street is a dilapidated crumbling wreck but it remains a living memorial to one of our team’s greatest days. Let me take you back to May 1986 and the idiotic decision making process of my much younger self.
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Going into the last week of the season, the league was all in Hearts’ hands. Under the management of the horrible duo of Alex MacDonald and Sandy Jardine, they had put together an impressive unbeaten run of 27 games (well, it was impressive in 1986), and with 1 game remaining various permutations of results would see them take the title. Celtic had two games left, both away, at Fir Park and Love Street. I was at Motherwell on the Wednesday night where we ground out a 2-0 victory. This left us needing to win by at least 3 goals on the Saturday and hope for a Hearts defeat. A draw was enough for them. At full time, I turned to my mates - honestly I do have some- and said that the league was over and it was in the bag for Hearts. Now, if you’ve ever listened to the podcast, you’ll know that I’m no fan of Hearts or their supporters and, back then, I was even worse. I could not get my head round the concept of them winning the league so I decided that, after not missing a game the whole season, I was getting out of Scotland to miss their celebrations. I decided to head to London for the glamour, i.e. meaningless, English Division 2 match between Crystal Palace and Sheffield United. I schlepped it down to London on the bus on the Friday, crashed at a mate’s house in Luton and went out for a few pints safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be there to live through Hearts’ triumph. I had phoned Selhurst and arranged for the half time announcer to read out the half time and full time scores at Dens and Love Street in the unlikely event that things went our way. Younger readers will find it difficult to visualise a time when there was no social media, or mobile phones, or live TV matches – particularly for league deciders - but this was the only way I was going to find out the score. On the Saturday morning when I came round in my half jaked state, I had a blinding vision of clarity and a) realised that we were going to win the league; and b) what the fuck was I doing in Luton? 1986 was also pre the days of cheap flights with low cost providers, so there was no chance of me getting home. I was resigned to my fate. We were going to win the league and I wasn’t going to see it. The game at Selhurst was as memorable as you would expect for a 1-1 meaningless game between two crap teams. The announcer did follow through with his promise and read out the scores from Scotland. We were 4-0 up and Hearts were 0-0, so we had done our part. We just needed Dundee to do something. I had no idea who had scored our goals or that one of them was one of the finest team goals ever scored in football. At full time, I hung around waiting for the scores. The boy on the PA system was obviously watching final score as he read out the following “The champions in England are… LIVERPOOL (he didn’t read out the dots obviously), and the Champions in Scotland are… CELTIC”. I was standing around on a rapidly emptying Holmesdale terrace and began to jump about like a complete eejit celebrating. I didn’t know the scores or the drama that had unfolded. I just knew that we had won the league and that was enough to set me off. It was about ten minutes later I realised I was in South London not in Paisley and it was then that the full impact of my stupid decision hit me. Around 7pm, I phoned the Dolphin in Partick and asked to speak to one of my mates who had been at the game so that he could fill me in on the details. I was greeted with the line “a bit of silence in the bar. It’s that fanny who was at Crystal Palace today”. I can laugh now. Well, nearly. I did celebrate in the Luton CSC later that night and it was great but I did feel like the sub who’s never played a game getting a league winner’s medal. It’s just not the same not being there. Learn from my mistake. Never doubt our great club. Don’t be like me. Don’t be a fanny. To finish, here is one of the highlights of that particular day. This image never fails to raise a smile with me. Hopefully, their supporters are miserable again this week.
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