The Coca Cola Cup final. 1994, Ibrox.
I attended my first (and only) cup final that year as a 10-year-old boy. I still remember everything about it to this day.
I was at the semi final against Aberdeen and one of my lasting Celtic memories is streaming down the stairs out of Ibrox at full-time having beaten Aberdeen 1-0 to tune of ‘Hey Jude’ being belted out by the fans around me. We were going to a cup final!
On the way home we stopped at Harthill services for chips and talked about the game. My Dad had taken me to about 15 games by this point and I’d seen Celtic win them all. “He’s coming to the final!” my Dad’s mate (who we used to get tickets from) insisted.
On the day of the final we set off early from St Andrews and took a detour through Kirkaldy with the Celtic songs blasting and scarves hanging from the windows. In our heads, we had already won the Cup and were doing what would turn out to be a premature lap of honour.
We arrived at Ibrox (a neutral venue as Celtic Park was being re-built and we were playing our home games at Hampden) early and met Billy McNeill at a burger stall, or Billy “in my car” McNeill as my Dad calls him. (having been a wee boy himself when Celtic won the European Cup, my Dad idolises Billy and has met him on several occasions. Most notably, when he gave him a lift to his hotel after a charity event in St Andrews)
“Hi Billy, you may not remember me but a few years back I…….”
We cringed. Billy’s stalker had returned!
Billy, being an absolute gentleman, stopped my Dad mid sentence and tapped his head as if to help him remember then pointed at my Dad and said “Derek? am I right?”
He had remembered his name!
A moment my Dad lapped up!
I remember being asked a few questions about the game by a camera crew for TV but cant recall exactly what I said. I think I predicted a 3 nil win!
Into the ground. I remember there being a party atmosphere…. Until Raith opened the scoring! “What’s going on?” I turned and said to my Dad who just smiled and said “Dont worry about that” in reply. Sure enough, Andy Walker soon had us level and my spirits were lifted once again.
Into the second half and I remember getting anxious. I don’t recall Raith having many chances in the game before Charlie Nicholas put us in front quite late on. The party had started! But it was to be short lived. We were in, I think, the Broomloan end, and we were only 30 yards from the goal as Gordon Daziel stuck it in the net to equalise. I swear it came off that big nose of his!
Penalties it was.
I remember not being able to look for the most part, but I saw Paul McStay take his run up…….
We all know what happened next.
At first, I couldn’t believe he didn’t score, The Maestro! I suppose at that age you’re not really appreciative of the pressure these guys are under when taking penalties. I’m sure Paul felt worse than any fan in the ground or watching at home.
We drifted out of the stadium in shock. Scarves were raining down from the stand onto the Ibrox turf in disgust. My Dad’s mate and his daughter threw theirs. I held on to mine.
It was a long drive home and we didn’t detour via Kirkaldy!
I’ve never been to a Cup Final since….