McGarvey carved place in history

FRANK McGarvey will survey a very different Hampden this afternoon than the one he lit up 20 years ago with one of the most spectacular and dramatic winning goals in Scottish Cup final history.

The gleaming condition of the five-star national stadium is not the only change to occur in those two decades, which McGarvey will reflect upon as he sits with his children among the Celtic fans hoping to witness a repeat of the 2-1 victory his stunning diving header delivered against Dundee United six minutes from the end of the 1985 showpiece fixture.

Showroom fixtures and fittings now dominate the agenda for the 49-year-old McGarvey who works as a joiner. He has had hard times but is content in his new trade, eschewing any feelings of bitterness or jealousy towards those who will wear the green-and-white hoops today and earning salaries which will set them up for life.

For, while McGarvey became Scotland's most expensive footballer when Celtic signed him from Liverpool for 325,000 in March 1980, his spell as an outstanding goalscorer was hardly richly rewarded.

"I took home 190 a week after tax," he says, "and I remember the total weekly wage bill for everyone employed by Celtic at that time was 7,000. It wouldn't pay a week's wages for one first-team player today. The only way we could make good money at Celtic in my time was by winning trophies and getting a bonus. When the rest of the players mobbed me after that goal in 1985, it wasn't because we had won the cup, it was because it meant we could all afford a summer holiday."

McGarvey is only half joking. That cup final was, in fact, his last match for Celtic before he was sold to his first senior club, St Mirren, by manager Davie Hay. His time as an Old Firm luminary was over just before Graeme Souness arrived at Rangers and sparked the fiscal revolution in Scottish football which would see players' wages spiral beyond all recognition.

"I'd be worth about 2million if I was playing now," says McGarvey, "but I'm off to lay a floor instead. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my job and I'm happy being a joiner. I don't look back with regrets, it doesn't do you any good. I'm not jealous of today's players at all, in fact I'm delighted for them. They deserve whatever they can get out of the game, although you have to think something is badly wrong if a club like Celtic are in debt when they are getting 60,000 fans inside the stadium for every home game."

If McGarvey's bank balance does not have any legacy of his 19-year playing career, he is rich in memories and medals. Aside from two league championship successes, two Scottish Cup wins and a League Cup triumph in his five years at Celtic, he is equally proud of the First Division title he collected as a 20-year-old with St Mirren in 1977 and the Second Division championship which his goals powered Clyde to in 1993 when he was 37.

Capped seven times for Scotland, including a Hampden appearance against Diego Maradona et al when Argentina came to town in 1979, the only blip on his CV was his ten-month spell at Liverpool, where he was unable to make the first-team breakthrough under Bob Paisley and allowed his frustration to get the better of him.

"I should have stuck it out at Anfield," he says, "because a lot of the senior players told me it was typical to have to wait a year or two before Bob Paisley gave you your opportunity. It was a big mistake to leave when I did, but as I said earlier, I don't eat myself up by looking back and dwelling on things like that. The fact was I was able to come home and play for Celtic, which was my ambition as a kid, and I went on to win every trophy available in Scotland. I think I had a pretty decent career."

McGarvey scored 113 goals in 245 appearances for Celtic, a terrific ratio and a testament to his ability during a period when he had to fight for his place in the team alongside strikers of the calibre of Charlie Nicholas, George McCluskey, Brian McClair and Mo Johnston. Yet it is what proved to be his final touch of a ball as a Celtic player which ensured McGarvey of his place in Parkhead folklore.

"I honestly can't believe it was 20 years ago," he smiles. "It really does seem like yesterday sometimes. The time flies by, but it's great that so many people remember that cup final and my goal so fondly. Everything about the day was special. It was the 100th Scottish Cup final, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and it was a really important game for Celtic.

"We would have gone two seasons without a trophy if we hadn't won it and remember we were up against a really good United side. Their defence was brilliant, with Malpas, Gough, Hegarty and Narey, and we knew we were up against it when Stuart Beedie gave them the lead at the start of the second half."

Although McGarvey would later have reason to curse Davie Hay, he was as grateful as anyone in the Celtic camp to the tactical switch made by the manager which turned the match dramatically in their favour. A subdued Paul McStay was withdrawn from the action, Hay pushing captain Roy Aitken forward from defence into a driving midfield role which proved crucial.

With 14 minutes remaining, Davie Provan scored the first direct free-kick in Scottish Cup final history when he curled the ball beyond Hamish McAlpine after Eamonn Bannon had needlessly fouled Murdo MacLeod on the edge of the United penalty area.

"There was only going to be one winner after that," says McGarvey whose recall of his winning goal remains crystal clear.

"Big Roy stormed forward down the right and swung over what was actually a terrible cross," he continues. "I was used to Davie Provan curling them right onto my head, but I had to adjust and throw myself at the one from Roy. I couldn't have headed it better if I tried and it flew into the corner. It was a magical feeling."

McGarvey had hoped to see out his career at Parkhead but his desire for an improved four-year contract did not tally with Hay's evaluation of his worth, as he decided Johnston and McClair would be his first-choice strike pairing the following season.

"If we hadn't won the cup in '85, Davie could have been sacked, so I felt a bit hard done to at the time," says McGarvey. "I couldn't understand it, but now I thank Davie for his decision because I went back to St Mirren and won the cup again two years later. Looking back, there couldn't have been a better way to end my Celtic career than by scoring the winner in the 100th cup final with my last touch of the ball."

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