Classic season: When Rangers made Celtic work for those medals

first_img 4 This feature first appeared on retrofootballblog.comMore: It has been 40 years since ‘the King of White Hart Lane’ stunned Glasgow and made Tottenham fans cry. Under David White, the 34-year-old new boss, and with the likes of John Greig and Willie Johnston among their ranks, they were looking good. Rangers were holding off their rivals and were two points ahead of them when they arrived at Celtic Park on 2 January.A 2-2 draw in front of 75,000 people furthered their claim to the crown given that this was the last Old Firm league meeting of the season. Would Rangers really lose to anyone else? Celtic probably were the better team in this game, but still couldn’t win, so it appeared doubtful.But following that draw, Celtic began putting together a series of wins and March saw them score 32 goals in seven games. It was all they could do and then hope for a Rangers slip up, which they got at the start of April in a draw with Dundee United.Now a point separated the Glasgow clubs and before the month was out, Rangers dropped another when they drew with Morton. There were two games left to play, but Celtic were now top on goal average (goals scored divided by goals conceded).Then, in the penultimate game of the season, a moment of confusion and miscommunication had Rangers fans on cloud nine. They had beaten Kilmarnock and supporters were ecstatic because of a rumour about the result over in Parkhead. Had Celtic really drawn with Morton?“The news spread like wildfire. There was pandemonium. Party songs were sung,” Taylor wrote. “The fans danced with each other. Banners and flags were waved jubilantly.” It looked like the team now held a one point lead with just one game remaining.Except there were still seconds remaining and that was long enough for goal machine Bobby Lennox to pounce and make it 2-1 to those boys in green. Celtic were still top ahead of the final match.“No one knew it yet, but Celtic would now win the league without kicking another ball,” Hoops historian David Potter wrote in Classic Season: Maintaining Excellence.So after Rangers’ loss to Aberdeen where they had twice taken the lead, fans could only hope that Scottish Cup winners Dunfermline beat Celtic by a considerable amount three days later. Spirits had been broken and this really was wishful thinking. Celtic won 2-1 victory and sealed a third successive title. They had been behind their city rivals for much of the season, but still crossed the finish line in first place.Taylor ended with this: “So it was a triumph again for that great manager, Jock Stein, and his brilliant team – but again it was a tragedy for Rangers, who to be fair, had performed so well for so long, but who were still under the shadow of their bitter rivals, Celtic.” Celtic and Rangers were involved in a very thrilling fight for the title 4 4 There was a time when Celtic were made to work for those title medals and history is littered with close calls (the 1985/86 and 2004/05 campaigns spring to mind). Here, Retro Football Blog looks at ?the thrilling 1967/68 Division One season when things were decided on the final day.Celtic weren’t even playing, but Jock Stein couldn’t hide his delight at Hampden Park where Dunfermline had just won the 1968 Scottish Cup at the expense of Hearts.It wasn’t anything to do with events on the pitch, though. No, across Glasgow, inside Rangers’ Ibrox home, Aberdeen had come from behind to score a last-minute goal to all but hand Celtic the First Division title on the final day of the 1967/68 season.“That’s the best result I’ve heard at Hampden,” Stein joked, as journalist Hugh Taylor noted in The Scottish Football Book no.14.Celtic were not playing – they were due to play Dunfermline a few days later – so Stein ran off to find his players who were watching the Cup final and tell them the good news.It was just another twist in what was, according to Taylor, “one of the most exciting, dramatic two-horse races in the history of Scottish soccer.”The title had been Rangers’ to lose and that’s exactly what they did because not only was the Aberdeen match their last of the season, it was also their FIRST defeat.Rangers fans were angry and booed officials and players at full-time. Hopes for the season had been high and focus was firmly fixed on wiping those huge smiles off of Celtic faces.Stein’s men had completely dominated the previous year when they hoovered everything up, including the European Cup and another year like it couldn’t be allowed to happen.As a result of that clean sweep, it is often forgotten that Rangers ran their bitter rivals close; finishing three points behind in the league and reached the Cup Winners Cup final.Things were actually looking rosy as early as the second game of the new campaign when they beat Celtic, but then the bizarre decision was made to get rid of manager Scot Symon in November despite Rangers being top of the league.Even a man who had guided them to six titles, five Scottish Cups and four League Cups across 13 years wasn’t safe in the club’s desperation to match their Glasgow rivals at home and abroad.And to top it off Symon was informed his services were no longer required by the club accountant.During this time Celtic’s fixture list became congested. They had a League Cup final to focus on and then travelled to South America for the World Club Championship. They lost that, but did manage to retain the Cup.Rangers made sure they took advantage and opened up a lead at the top, putting pressure on their neighbours. 4last_img

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