Exclusive:Clint Hill opens up on shock Celtic Park goal and makes early Rangers James Tavernier admission

Former Rangers defender on that 'mental' goal at Celtic Park, early Tavernier memories and gives his prediction for this weekend’s Old Firm at Ibrox

Maurice Edu. Richard Gough. Mo Johnstone. Just a handful of players have basked in the glory of bagging a last-gasp Old Firm goal in front of a sea of blue and white.

For unlikely derby-day hero Clint Hill, that moment came for him at the age of 37 during a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in 2017. Blasting the ball into an empty net from just two yards out, Hill became an instant cult hero the second the net rippled with an Ibrox faithful thankful for his chink of light during some of Rangers' darkest days.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It was Graeme Murty’s first Old Firm and all week the papers were saying we were going to get pumped five, six or seven so there was a little bit of that behind it,” Hill told The Scotsman. “Being able to go there and put on a good performance was important. The actual goal was mental though. Full house in the corner and the noise, flares going off, dejection in their fans faces - which was nice. It is unbeatable.

Clint Hill celebrates his late goal at Celtic Park in 2017. Cr. Getty Images.Clint Hill celebrates his late goal at Celtic Park in 2017. Cr. Getty Images.
Clint Hill celebrates his late goal at Celtic Park in 2017. Cr. Getty Images.

‘A club in transition’

“We were a club in transition. Celtic were ahead of us in terms of team and structure, so it was quite a difficult season. When it flies in you’re just delighted for the fans and your team. There’s no ‘wow I’ve scored in an Old Firm’ type feeling. We actually played quite well. We had quite a few chances and could have been ahead before that.”

The outlook at Rangers is somewhat different these days, with Ibrox preparing itself for a potentially title-deciding clash this Sunday. However, the euphoria and unrivalled passion that comes with any Old Firm meeting will remain largely the same. For Hill, his Old Firm experiences are games that are etched into his memory forever.

“The actual experiences of playing in those games were mental. Not just on the day but the whole week leading up to it,” laughed the ex-Rangers man. “You go for a sandwich or a meal and people are there reminding you of it. When you get there on the day, at Ibrox you are cheered, at Celtic Park you’re getting coins launched at you and everything - you can make a few quid if you pick them all up! Different atmospheres but really intense. You can’t even hear yourself think.”

‘Magnificent’ James Tavernier

Just one Rangers player remains from the side that started that game in March 2017: James Tavernier. The Gers skipper became the highest-scoring defender in British history with his opening goal against Hibs last weekend and Hill, now assistant manager with promotion-chasing Stockport County, believes the right-back will cement legendary status at Ibrox if he can add more trophies to his cabinet this season.

“The way he has grown and matured into the role he has now is magnificent. I have to be honest - did we see it back then in terms of leadership? Probably not but he was a young kid new to the game. How he has developed that leadership role is fantastic,” explained for ex-Gers man“He took all the pressure on board and put it on his shoulders, I don’t think he hides when there’s a big penalty or a big free kick. God knows how many assists he has. I don’t think many people can argue that he is a legend at Rangers. If he can add another one or two trophies to the one he has already this season, then he is right in that mix.

James Tavernier was on the scoresheet during last year’s Old Firm. Cr. Getty Images.James Tavernier was on the scoresheet during last year’s Old Firm. Cr. Getty Images.
James Tavernier was on the scoresheet during last year’s Old Firm. Cr. Getty Images.

“If you took his goals and assists out of the team, it is almost like losing a striker. If you lost a top end striker in your team, you’d feel it. People say ‘he’s a defender’ but if somebody is contributing that much to your team going forward - he would be hard to replace.

“You learn from adversity and there was certainly a few occasions in the season I played where we had to suck it up. You can either grow with it and become a better player and person and he has certainly shown that he has taken it on board. He will also be helping the new boys know about the Old Firm, the pressures and what it brings. He will be there to remind them what it is and what it is takes to be a Rangers player.”

Impact of Clement

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For Hill, his 87th-minute strike at Celtic Park was admittedly as good as it got but ahead of Sunday's almighty clash between the pair, he believes Philippe Clement's side are in pole position to wrestle the Scottish Premiership trophy from Celtic’s grasp come May.

“It is always about the team that can adapt to the pressure, control the emotions and stay disciplined,” revealed Hill. “It can be end to end at times, so it is about those teams that hold their nerves and can take their chances at critical moments. I fancy Rangers to win at home, I really do. They’re on a good run, looking strong and have the crowd behind them. Its got all the ingredients to be a proper Old Firm.

“Tav will be important with his set pieces and I really like Mohamed Diomande. He has great energy and the midfield battle will be massive. It always is. Set plays will be massive but I think Diomande in the middle with his engine is huge.

“Clement has a presence and an aura that a Rangers manager needs. It’s a lot of weight on your shoulders but he has had success at previous clubs. He knows what it takes to win. The way the players speak about him is a clear sign he’s a man that they respect. He treats the players well from what I’ve heard. He’s all round a really strong appointment.

“They clearly have a good manager in their club and he’s already won a trophy - he now has two more to try and get. It is exciting times.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.