IT says everything about what Celtic’s championship win of 1998 means in the club’s folklore that it is essentially framed in the negative. The fraught, final day title success of May 5 that year, which prompted extraordinarily emotional scenes the like of which Celtic Park has rarely witnessed, brought a first league crown after a decade-long drought.
Yet that is not what is recalled of the team fashioned by Dutchman Wim Jansen - who promptly resigned the day after the trophy-snaring 2-0 win against St Johnstone following a turbulent season that exposed his incompatibility for working under the autocratic owner Fergus McCann. The Celtic side that won the league in 1998 are known as the men who stopped 10-in-a-row, their success ending a period of Rangers domination just as it seemed set to eclipse the title run of Jock Stein’s legendary Celtic sides of the 1960s and 1970s.
What became of the 13 men who earned a unique place in Celtic’s history on a bright afternoon in Glasgow’s east end follows.
Goalkeeper seemed a perennial problem position for Celtic in the late 1990s, and few thought it was likely to be filled by a Bradford City reserve when then 29-year-old Gould fronted up at the club in August 1997. Although he had experienced decent playing time with Coventry City and Halifax Town earlier in his career, best known about him was that his dad was former Wales manager Bobby Gould.
Yet the new keeper proved a revelation, and was a crucial component in the title winning effort, his form so flawless that he earned a Scotland call-up on the back of a keeping 24 clean sheets in his 48 outings across the campaign.
He remained Celtic’s No.1 for the short managerial stints of Josef Venglos and John Barnes and even began the club’s treble-winning season of 2000-01 under Martin O’Neill as first choice, before being displaced by £1.5m signing Robert Douglas. He remained with Celtic until leaving for Preston North End in January 2003.
In 2006, Gould became manager of New Zealand side Hawke’s Bay United, with his father assisting. He then took on a No.2 role at Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory and last year became goalkeeping coach at West Bromich Albion.
The Dane was the defensive rock on which the success of Jansen’s team was founded. The sort of powerful, commanding aerial presence that Celtic so often lacked in their struggling years of the 1990s, he was one of the many spots by chief scout David Hay that transformed the club in the championship season.
Signed from West Ham for £1m at the age of 29 in September 1997, the 6ft 4in former Brondby and Aarhus defender became a modern-day Pat Stanton. Both men came late to Celtic and only played one season for the club because injury then forced their retirement. And while Stanton allowed Jock Stein to be a double-winner after playing second fiddle to Rangers for two seasons, so Rieper was instrumental in a league and League Cup double for a club starved of such success for a generation. Capped 62-times by Denmark, his exertions in helping his country to the World Cup quarter-finals in the summer of 1998 appeared to come at cost when he sustained a foot injury that September that ended his career.
He then had a spell as a coach and assistant Aarhus and now runs a hotel in the town with his wife, the pair also having an interest in an online women’s fashion company. He also is a football talking head on Danish television.
The English defender became Celtic’s record signing when the club paid Bolton Wanderers £3.5m for him in the summer of 1996 but, in part because of injuries, it was the Jansen season that he truly came of age. Indeed, the ball-playing central defender, a whole-hearted performer, was responsible for the moment that turned the season and allowed Celtic to claim the last-day title win.
In November, in a re-arranged derby postponed in the wake of Princess Diana’s death 11 weeks earlier, Stubbs powered in a header in the closing seconds to prevent Celtic falling five points behind rivals Rangers, and six behind leaders Hearts.
Stubbs playing career at Celtic was overshadowed by the player twice having to battle testicular cancer that was diagnosed when he provided a urine sample following the club’s 1-0 Scottish Cup final defeat in May 1999. He had a cameo role in the Martin O’Neill treble two seasons later before fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition in joining Everton in the summer of 2001. Four years later he had a season at Sunderland, before he returned to Everton ahead of injury ending his playing days at Derby County.
A spell as Everton reserve coach paved the way for him to take up his current post of Hibernian manager, which he has held since the summer of 2015.
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The Italian had a more active role in the latter stages of the 1997-98 campaign than is perhaps remembered. Indeed, he deserves to be recalled for more than one despairing Glasgow punter’s shout to greet his arrival as substitute of “Aw naw, no Annoni on an aw noo!” The defender, signed at the age of 30 by Tommy Burns from Roma for £300,000 following torturously protracted negotiations in February 1997, made 14 starts and six substitute appearances in the title winning season. Most of these came in the closing months, after injury to Stephane Mahe led Tom Boyd to moved to left back and so opened up a slot for him that the captain had vacated at right back.
The bustling defender excelled in a performing a typically Italian man-marking job on Brian Laudrup in Celtic’s crucial New Year derby win that season, and was exceptional in a similar centre-back function as Celtic were rock solid defensively to give Liverpool a scare at Anfield in the UEFA Cup. The former Torino man wasn’t always so disciplined. Nicknamed Tarzan in Rome, he was something of a madcap, colourful character, remembered for going ape in celebrating trophy success at Celtic Park.
He dropped out of contention in the 1998-99 season and returned to Italy to care for his ill father at the end of that season. He has had various coaching and scouting spells in his homeland since, lasting only two months as a No.2 at Padova in 2013 before taking up this same position at Catania for a spell last year. Is now, according to his Twitter feed “free to decide”, and “looking for a new coaching opportunity”, filling his time with punditry work for Eurosport.
The modern-day Mr Celtic, the defender steeped in the club was a picture of sheer joy as he lifted the league trophy that May day. As well he might have been after suffering greatly across the previous six, sorry years as Celtic skirted both with financial oblivion and becoming an irrelevance. Boyd was one of the few lights in the darkness during that period.
A Scottish Cup winner with Motherwell in his early days, he earned a move to Chelsea in 1991 but six months later returned north to his boyhood club in a swap deal that allowed Celtic to win a watch with Tony Cascarino heading the other way following a disastrous six months in Glasgow.
A remarkably consistent and versatile defender, Boyd played more than 400 games for his team before retiring in 2003 - by which time he had become only the club’s second trebling-winning captain (after Billy McNeill) and amassed 72 caps. Only four Scots have made more appearances for the country.
Boyd coached at under-17s level for Celtic in recent years, before becoming a regular match summariser on Celtic TV. Two months ago he was made a club ambassador alongside David Hay, the pair following McNeill in being so honoured.
The conversion of the energetic teenage right-back that Tommy Burns had signed for £600,000 from Dunfermline in October 1995 into a marauding wide-right attacker by Wim Jansen was a crucial switch in the 1998 championship success. His partnership on that flank with Simon Donnelly was one of the Dutchman’s smartest innovations, and claimed him PFA player of the year award.
A great survivor across the next decade, McNamara won round Martin O’Neill after struggles for game time early on, returning to the full-back role in that era. He then left Celtic for Wolverhampton Wanderers in acrimonious circumstances shortly after receiving a testimonial as new manager Gordon Strachan took over, the club only meeting his terms - which were lower than he received in the English Championship - as he travelled south to honour a commitment.
Spells with Aberdeen and Falkirk followed for the 33-time capped Scotland international before he entered into management with Partick Thistle, who were vying for top-flight promotion when he left then for Dundee United in 2013. Two years at Tannadice provided early on-field success and cup finals, the team’s performances allowing the club cash in with sales of their prized assets. Form nose-dived and McNamara was sacked last September, quickly returning to the game with League Two strugglers York City.
Every successful teams needs personality and sense of timing. After Celtic forked out £2.5m in July 1997 to end the then 26-year-old midfielder’s stint at first-club Chelsea that had gone sour for him, Burley provided that in spades for Jansen. Initially had to be convinced of the coaching wiles of the Dutchman, but the licence he was given to make runs into the box and shoot from long-range in an otherwise tight structure brought out the best in him.
His knack for scoring game-changing goals prized Celtic from tight spots throughout the winter months of the 1997/98 campaign, a contribution recognised with the Scottish football writers player of the year award.
Peroxiding his hair and piling into a tackle that led to him being red-carded against Morocco as Scotland’s 1998s World Cup finals fell apart was followed a knee injury that cost him the next six months. As a real force at Celtic, he never really returned and left for Derby County in a £3m deal in December 1999, having not seen eye-to-eye with the management in the ill-fated John Barnes-Kenny Dalglish era. Had a bizarrely brief spell with bankrupt Dundee three years later, ending his career with brief sojourns at Preston and Walsall.
The always forthright figure has carved out a highly successful media career for himself by being, eh, always forthright. A summariser for Setanta, and BBC in recent years, he now works for ESPN in America, where he resides. His style is best served by his own description on Twitter. “Argumentative sod. PhD in sarcasm’.
There were many behind-the-scenes tales of strife as Celtic became title contenders under Jansen in the autumn of 1997. The toing-and-froing surrounding the pursuit of the then 28-year-old Lambert was one of the foremost. The Dutchman wanted the midfielder, who was keen to return home from Borussia Dortmund following his Champions League victory there that summer. Problem was that general manager Jock Brown, recalling the player from his days at Motherwell and St Mirren, thought the £2.2m asking price did not accord to his abilities.
Jansen prevailed and the Scotland midfielder, after a slow start, became one of the driving forces of the team. As he remained throughout the glittering successes in the Martin O’Neill era, when he became captain. He eased out of the side, and was curiously allowed to spend long periods studying for his coaching certificates in Germany in his last season of 2004-05, which was also O’Neill’s.
His fledgling management career then looked as if it would never fly when he had a miserable time in charge at Livingston, but this was to be a false portent. After he rehabilitated both himself and Wycombe Wanderers in almost earning them promotion, he earned the attention of Norwich City for his efforts with Colchester United. His incredible spell at Carrow Road brought two promotions and top-flight return, before he took on the task of reviving Aston Villa, enduring a miserable period there before he was sacked 14 months ago. Returned to the game this season with lower half of the Championship side Blackburn Rovers.
Phil O’Donnell’s death after collapsing on the field while playing for Motherwell on December 29, 2007 brings a poignancy to memories of the Celtic team that ended Rangers title-winning hegemony. The true gent O’Donnell was only 35 at the time of his tragic death, and then enjoying a renaissance to a career that had been blighted by injury.
There were few more thrilling sights that the midfielder in full flow, and he added a panache to Celtic when free from any ailments. The title-winning afternoon against St Johnstone marked only his sixth league start of that season, and such limited first-team exposure was typical across the five years in the east end that followed his £1.75m move from Motherwell in 1994.
Along with Simon Donnelly, he left the club in 1999 under freedom of contract to join Sheffield Wednesday. An unprofitable spell there gave way to a sense of belonging on moving back to Fir Park, where he remains a much-loved figure.
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When the Swedish striker scored in the early minutes against St Johnstone to set Celtic on their way to the championship-securing victory against St Johnstone, it as his 16th goal in 35 league outings. The return seems meagre when considering the six years at Celtic that were to follow. From that point onwards, league goals came at just under a goal a game with his 242 total second only to Bobby Lennox in the post-war period at the club.
However much lustre the league success has in the lore of the club, Jansen’s signing of Larsson was his true lasting legacy. Almost all the Celtic faithful can tell how a clause in his contract with Feyenoord - where Jansen was assistant - allowed the Parkhead side to end a troubling period for him in Rotterdam for the princely sum of £650,000. His seven years in Scotland created an indelible impression. The player, an almost supernaturally soup in which poise, precision and power were allied to ceaseless application and industry, carried Celtic to their first title in 10 years and then three more under O’Neill - as well as 2001 treble and UEFA Cup final in 2003.
It says everything about his remarkable attributes of the man who scored 37 times in 106 appearances for Sweden - whom he represented in five major finals - that after leaving aged 32 he could go on to win the Champions League with Barcelona and play for English champions Manchester United. His time at Old Trafford he squeezed in between honouring a promise to return to hometown first breakthrough club Helsingborg. In his dotage he also managed a short spell with first team Hogaborg.
A coach for the past four years, he performed creditably with Swedish second tier side Landskrona to earn a move to top flight Falkenberg. He is now at the helm of Helsinborg, with his first season bringing a mid-table finish for the club.
There is a tendency to underplay the Scottish striker’s part in the title triumph of 1998. For the early month of the season, Donnelly was an equal scoring partner in the strike-force he established with Henrik Larsson. And it was after he lost his place following the recruitment of Harald Brattbakk mid-season that Celtic’s form began to fray. The Jansen season witnessed the striker regain confidence that seeped from him as he toiled to recapture the scoring touch he had shown when breaking through as a teenager in 1994 under Lou Macari. With opportunities limited in 1998-99, though, it was no surprise he accepted an inviting contract offer from Sheffield Wednesday at the end of that season.
His later career was marked by decent spells at St Johnstone, Dunfermline and Partick Thistle, the player’s contribution at Firhill considerable. An initially three-year period from 2006 gave way to a player-coach role and he later became trusted lieutenant to McNamara, first as manager of Thistle, then Dundee United and now at York City.
The Norwegian forward’s relatively brief Celtic career is defined by the 72d minute goal he netted to make it 2-0 on the title-claiming day, a goal that provoked euphoria throughout the Parkhead stands since it effectively ended any doubts on a nervy day that Jansen’s side would finish above Rangers.
The very fact Brattbakk didn’t start such a monumentally important fixture - he came on an hour in - reflected the fact he struggled to settle following his £2m move in the December from Rosenborg, where, as a semi-professional, he had bagged 97 goals in 100 league appearances with the then Champions League regulars.
It was to Rosenborg he returned in 2001, a year after he left Celtic for Copenhagen, but the mild-mannered striker departed Glasgow with his place in the club’s history assured. The goals started to flow freely again in his Rosenborg second spell, with his 166 league total a record in that set-up and, predictably, he struck twice when his club defeated Celtic in a Champions League group encounter not long after he began his second spell.
His bespectacled, studious demeanour marked him out as an atypical footballer and that remained true of a post-playing career, with the 45-year-old an airline pilot for past five years.
The big Dane appeared for the last eight minutes as the championship was bagged and deserved a playing role after having featured in all but five of the league games in the successful Premier Division campaign. The Lyngby product performed a variety of roles across the midfield and was another player bequeathed to Jansen from the Tommy Burns era; the midfielder brought to the club at the tail end of 1995 in a deal worth £650,000 to selling club Dundee, who also acquired Barry Smith.
The 1997-98 campaign was the Denmark international’s first injury-free at Celtic, and two years later his career was threatened when he contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome, a debilitating illness attacking muscle that required him to have to learn to walk again. After more than a year recuperating, he played again towards the end of the 2001-02 season before return to his homeland to sign for Brondby.
He regained his international place, having represented Denmark at the 1998 World Cup, and after retiring moved into coaching with Nordsjaelland. He lifted the Danish Cup twice in a five-year spell with them, before becoming Denmark under-21 coach. He then had a year as assistant to Michael Laudrup at Swansea City, the club winning the 2015 League Cup, before a recent stint with Aarhus that end with his sacking in December following 14 months in charge.
Telling, perhaps, that his name became rhyming slang for ‘stinker’. The Dutch winger, who came through the ranks at Feyenoord to spend 10 years at the club while Jansen was on the technical staff, arrived at Celtic in August 1997 from Sheffield Wednesday. A move that came about when, according to general manager Jock Brown, Paolo di Canio was “traded” with Wednesday in a £4.5m deal.
He flitted in and out of the Celtic side in the three years that followed, and his 89th minute introduction to the team at the end of the title-winning encounter was little more than a kind gesture from his fellow Dutchman. He wound up his career with spells at RSB Roosendaal and Sparta Rotterdam after leaving Glasgow and he is now editor-in-chief of the Life After Football stable of football lifestyle magazines and acclaimed for extensive charity work.
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