‘But, of course, after some prompting, they all recall the goal. Who wouldn’t in a Cup Final?’
Extract taken from More Than a Game: Living with the Old Firm
By Archie MacPherson
Published by Luath Press
Trying to recall much of the game itself is difficult for most of us. It is shrouded in the downpouring of images of the riot, smothering many of the game’s details, like Vesuvius’ ash did for Pompeii. Even for the victors. Roy Aitken admitted to a block in his memory:
I honestly can’t remember much about it. I can recall the 1985 final against Dundee United much better than that. I don’t know why that is.
Gordon Smith also treated it like a challenge to memory:
It’s difficult to look back on the game itself. Some games stick out in your mind. But with this one it was like just some few key moments I recall.
David Provan’s primary remembrance was of relief when the final whistle went:
I remember, above all, running down towards the Celtic end with the Cup. That stands out. The rest is blurred.
Derek Johnstone’s comment reflected what most people thought of the quality overall:
I thought it was one of the poorest Old Firm games I ever played in. Only one or two moments stick out like the great chance I had near the end when Davie Cooper crossed to Tam [Tommy] McLean who volleyed it to me. But I mistimed the flight of the ball at the far post, even though I was only a more than a game: living with the old firm staircase 13 67 couple of yards out and it just sailed past. That’s about all.
But, of course, after some prompting, they all recall the goal. Who wouldn’t in a Cup Final? The unlikely source was Danny McGrain. Unlikely in the sense that one of the best right-backs I have ever seen, harboured no desire to be the nation’s primary goalscorer. His wonderful ventures down the right side of the field were characterised by speed, control and vision. But, around the opponents’ penalty area, his whole instinct was to be a provider. In 17 years with Celtic he managed only four goals which for a man who invaded penalty areas with unceasing regularity, looks a meagre return. But that bare statistic tells you nothing of the rich harvest his side reaped off his play. That day, deep into extra time, he was sweating. And although everyone on the field at the time remembers the goal, they certainly didn’t know what exactly was going through the mind of the Celtic captain, who at that stage in his life was triumphantly dealing with Type 1 diabetes. ‘It was hot’, he told me:
I thought it was getting to me and I was worried about getting cramp. That’s what was going through my mind. We had won a corner-kick and I was well up the field for it. There must have been 20 players in that area. Remember it was extra time and just one goal would do it. Everybody knew that. I was just outside the penalty area myself and I was concerned about what would happen if Rangers counter attacked. There was nobody behind me except Peter Latchford in our goal. Somebody cleared it high out of the penalty area. So, the ball dropped out of the skies towards me. As I say, I was worried about my legs and getting cramp. So, my first thought was, ‘How are my legs going to last if Rangers get hold of the ball’. My first instinct was to kick the ball out of the park, get it away from there to safety, anywhere so they wouldn’t get hold of the ball. Now, it had been a tiring game, so like everybody else I was suffering. So, when it eventually reached me, I totally mistimed it. Rather than putting it out the park, out of play, anywhere, the ball struck the bottom of my leg and it went towards the 18-yard line. It was threatening nobody. However, George McCluskey was rushing out, just after the corner had been cleared. I saw him sticking out a leg diverting it more than a game: living with the old firm staircase 13 68 away from Peter McCloy who was moving in the other direction. He had no chance. I tell you, when I saw the ball landing in the net after just trying to belt it anywhere for safety, I felt I had won the lottery.
Viewers who travel back in time on the magic carpet of YouTube might have looked at that goal and consider McGrain’s interpretation of that moment, as modesty taken to extremes because. Even as I recorded it at the time, it looked a direct attempt at goal. ‘Danny McGrain’s shot’, I clearly said instinctively. Indeed, the commentator on our rival channel credited him solely with the goal itself almost immediately. Overall, it does provide a moment of insight into how YouTube can play tricks with history. And, in any case, in all the years of knowing McGrain he has always spoken with absolute candour about anything he did on the field. Like admitting to me a mistake he had made in the Scotland–Yugoslavia World Cup game in 1974, which he believed had cost his team dearly.
Have a look for yourselves – did McGrain mean to score? 18.10 minutes in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cveJKKJyJlg
More Than a Game: Living with the Old Firm by Archie MacPherson is published by Luath Press, priced £14.99