The two OLD FIRM clubs, Celtic and Rangers were level on points in the Scottish Premier League going into the final game of the season on Thursday evening. Montrose in the lowest division of the league over the border was the unlikely centre of activity on this day. It's half way between Pittodrie Park in Aberdeen where The Dons were entertaining Rangers, and Dundee United, The Arabs, 75 miles south at Tannadice Park where they entertained Celtic, Champions for the last 2 seasons.
Their coach is Gordon Strachan whose first pro club as a teenager was just 150 yards up the same street with Dundee F.C. at Dens Park-yes, they are THAT close. He later played with distinction for Aberdeen, Manchester United, Leeds United and Coventry City and 50 times for Scotland. Rangers are managed by Walter Smith who left his post with the Scottish National Team to join the Ibrox club. A month ago Celtic were 7 points behind and many of their fans wanted Strachan out. It has been a very busy month for the royal blue Rangers with 9 matches in 23 days including a 1-0 loss last week to Zenit Leningrad in the UEFA CUP FINAL in Manchester.
The helicopter was on its pad in Montrose with the Championship trophy, ready to take off to go north to Aberdeen or south to Dundee on the signal. Well, after both games kicked off at the same time, it was over an hour before any goals were scored. Suprise, Suprise, THE DONS scored against Rangers, which had the green and white hooped Celtic fans dancing with glee at Tannerdice when the news reached them. When Jan Vannegoor of Hesseling scored for Celtic the show was over and the 'copter took off and circled overhead the Tannadice pitch before landing at the local airport where a police car was waiting. Then Aberdeen scored a second goal and Nacho Nova was shown a red card,and the Rangers-going for 4 trophies were reduced to having won one trophy-the League Cup already and only FORTY ONE HOURS LATER on Saturday afternoon would have to take on Queen of the South from Dumfries, the semi-pro club that had beaten Aberdeen in the semi-final at the same Hampden Park. Incidentally, Queen of the South is the only soccer team mentioned in the Bible.
For Strachan, with this 3rd title in a row it was a triumph, bettered only by the legendary Jock Stein who won 9 in a row in the '70's. It also meant an AUTOMATIC berth in the final stages of next season's CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. For Scottish soccer, there is a bit of a resurgance and the Celtic hoops had done well in Europe this season and the national team is doing much better recently. Less second class players are being imported with only classy ones signing contracts, giving young Scottish talent a chance to shine. So, the league trophy stays in the East End of Glasgow and after returning to the dressing rooms Celtic returned for the presentation with T shirts dedicated to the spirit of TOMMY BURNS, their former captain and coach who had died of cancer a few days earlier at the young age of 51 years old.