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  • Celtic View feature: Story of the 1978/79 winter shutdown: Part 3

    Celtic View feature: Story of the 1978/79 winter shutdown: Part 3

    By: Joe Sullivan on 13 Jan, 2019 19:01

  • This article was originally published in the Celtic View on January 9, 2018 (on sale now). For more quality articles, exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes team news, you can subscribe here.

    The third and final part of our feature on the winter shutdown of 1978/79, and a momentous Monday night in May 1979...

    HOWEVER, as it happened, the next weekend had a Scottish Cup card and Celtic, ironically, did travel to Pittodrie but, to throw more oil on the fire, the game was drawn and the possibility of playing a league game in midweek was thwarted by the replay – which Celtic lost 2-1.

    At least Celtic could concentrate solely on league business and on St Paddy’s Day, a 2-1 win over Motherwell saw Celtic move up to sixth place, eight points behind frontrunners Dundee United but having played five games fewer.

    Next up were Rangers, who had played in Europe in midweek, with the game scheduled for Hampden because Ibrox was under reconstruction – but the match was called off although the ground was perfectly playable and the approach roads clear. The Ibrox side, meanwhile, managed to arrange a Glasgow Cup tie against Partick Thistle.

    By now, because of games elsewhere, Celtic were back down to seventh and remained there the following Saturday despite a 3-0 win over Morton, and had now played SIX games fewer than the leaders.

    A midweek 2-1 defeat at Easter Road didn’t help matters but Celtic bounced back with a tight 4-3 win at Fir Park – the Motherwell game was the first of EIGHT games packed into 24 April days.

    There were six wins, one draw and one defeat, with the points dropped against title challengers – a 2-1 defeat at Tannadice and a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen.

    Celtic’s positions after each of those matches were 6th, 6th, 7th, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd. The battle was now truly on and Celtic began May in second place to United who had 43 points to Celtic’s 38 while Rangers were on 37. Crucially, Celtic and Rangers had played only 30 games to United’s 35.

    In May, Celtic would face Hibernian (H), Rangers (A), Partick Thistle (A), St Mirren (A), Hearts (H) and Rangers (H), all within 20 days.

    There was a blip, however, in the second game following a 3-1 win over Hibs. In that rearranged game at Hampden, Rangers won 1-0 and moved into second place, a point above the Hoops. A point further on were Dundee United, who by now had played their full 36 games.

    Celtic carried on regardless, though, and, two games later claimed top spot for the first time, at Ibrox of all places, with work at Love Street meaning St Mirren couldn’t host Celtic in Paisley and goals from Bobby Lennox and George McCluskey gave the Hoops a 2-0 win.

    On May 14, a Mike Conroy goal gave Celtic a 1-0 win over Hearts, leaving the Hoops on 46 points with one game to play – against Rangers on Monday, May 21, while Rangers were on 43 with three games left.

    The maths were simple, if Celtic won, they were uncatchable and champions – while even a draw would leave Rangers with two games to pick up the points they needed.

    We all know what happened on that glorious night. Rangers took an early lead and that’s the way it stood until the 51st minute when Johnny Doyle was sent off. Against the odds, Roy Aitken equalised only for Rangers to go ahead again 10 minutes later.

    George McCluskey equalised again, but Rangers were still in the title driving seat. That is until the 85th minute when Colin Jackson put the ball in his own net, then in the 90th minute came that thunderbolt of a shot from Murdo MacLeod – game and title over.

    The 4-2 game and the ‘10-men-won-the-league’ title came following one of the longest and best winter breaks ever.

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