In the last twenty years they Police have done their utmost to avoid a title decider between Celtic and the team that plays out of Ibrox. It all goes back to a game that was played on the 3rd of May 1999. Rangers won three nil to clinch the league but this day will always be known as the ‘ Hugh Dallas game.’ I certainly won’t forget that May Bank Holiday weekend in a hurry.
Nowadays it seems crazy to think that any match between Celtic and Sevco would kick off at 6 pm on a Sunday but back then TV companies seemed to hold sway over police advice. In recent years youth cup finals between the two clubs have to be played behind closed doors for God’s sake. My accomplice and myself set out on a boat and coach day trip with Naomh Padraig CSC. For the purpose of this article we’ll call him Gerry. The unusual kick off time meant that we had time for a few drinks in Belfast before we boarded the ferry. Unfortunately our choice of drinks were Buckfast and Vodka and Red Bull. That’s where it started to go wrong.
When I got stuck in the disabled toilets in the KFC near Parkhead the warning signs should have been there that things would go awry. It was one of the craziest games of football that I’ve ever been at and the atmosphere in the ground can only be described as poisonous. We had stopped the 10 in a row the previous year and now rangers wanted to win the league in our back yard. There were crazy scenes in the ground.
Referee Hugh Dallas harshly sent off Stephane Mahe and the crowd went mental. One guy fell from the top tier of the stand and then somebody hit Dallas in the forehead with a coin. It was some shot and there’s a famous photo of the former referee from Lanarkshire with a bloodied forehead. Seconds after he received treatment Dallas controversially awarded the away side a penalty. At this stage things inside the stadium had gone well past boiling point, rangers clinched the title and after they did a mock huddle in front of the main stand they were pelted with all kinds of missiles when they left
For some reason myself and Gerry decided not to get the coach home and decided to stay in Glasgow. The tension in the town that night was something like I’d never experienced before or since. To describe it as toxic probably wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration. If memory serves me correctly we spent the night in the residents bar of a hotel where we weren’t residents.
The next morning, with very little sleep, we headed to the Gallowgate before making our way to Motherwell. A fateful mistake, as it transpired, we continued our session in the old Tully’s Bar in the centre and all the talk was about the story that Hugh Dallas’ windows had been put in. Everyone had a good laugh at that but we weren’t laughing for long. I think the ballad group Athenrye were playing and then somebody got on stage and called out Dallas’ address over the microphone. So what else could we do, only order a taxi to said address, Total and utter madness.
Bear in mind that this is the night after the referee’s windows have been put in. There’s a bit of commotion when we reach our destination. Somebody comes out of the house and goes to get golf clubs from the boot of a car. I can’t be sure but remembering his size and checking his age now on Wikipedia I’m sure it was another one of our favorite refs, namely Hugh’s son Andrew. I look up the avenue behind me and all I can see is a convoy of police vehicles heading towards us.
Not so much planes, trains and automobiles as cars, vans and bikes. A copper grabs me and asks me what I’m doing there. I respond with the first thing that comes into my head ” I heard there was a party on here.” Of course he is having none of it and we’re bundled into the back of a van and brought to N division in Motherwell. The policemen in the station are not shy in giving us stick and unbeknown to us at that stage they had given our names to The Sun who reported the story. The next morning as we are led out like a chain gang to be brought to Hamilton Sheriff Court the on duty coppers hum the theme tune of the TV show Dallas as they put is into the van.
When we reached the holding cell at Hamilton sobriety and reality began to kick in as we started to realize the possible consequences. I’m not sure how true this is but someone told me that when Celtic play Rangers the police go around mopping up outstanding bench warrants as they know that people are going to be at home watching the match. It certainly seemed liked it in this packed cell. The main topic of conversation was what crime had you committed to end up in this lovely establishment. We had all sorts present. Some were in for drug offences, assault or house burglary but when we said that we were arrested outside Hugh Dallas’ house; the collective response from those around us was ” oh yies are fooked. ” It did little to improve the mood of someone who was on a serious comedown from weekend alcohol excesses. We weren’t sure what we were going to face in court as we waited for seemed like an eternity. Eventually we were called in and advised that we were been released and our file was going to the Procurator Fiscal.
It was late Tuesday afternoon now but we should have been in our beds in Dublin in the early hours of Monday morning. As we walked through a sunny Strathclyde Park on the way to Motherwell I could have done with a drink but I don’t think we could even muster up the price of a pint between us. Thankfully one of the lads in Motherwell helped us out with flights home.
We heard no more from the police or courts in Scotland and were never charged with anything. Stories about our alleged escapade spread around the place. The Sun named us as the ones that broke the windows and one Irish paper ran a story that, as part of some kind of community service, we had gone out and replaced the windows. Can you imagine Gerry and I rocking up to his house mate ” Sorry about that Shug but that was never a penalty mate, Gerry do you want to measure that big window while I get the putty out of the van. ” The funny thing about the episode was that when we were arrested and our belongings taken off us one of us had a copy of the Daily Record and the headline on the paper said ” Hugh Dallas’ windows smashed. ”
I wouldn’t say I have dined out on the Hugh Dallas story but back in the day I would have got the odd free taxi or bus journey from Celtic fans and have had many a pint bought for me in Dublin, Belfast or Glasgow. At the start of this year when all the stuff about the ref cheating us at Ibrox was going on I received a text from a mate in Motherwell enquiring if I wanted to know John Beaton’s address. ” Don’t even go there ” was my prompt reply.
I meant it in more ways than one.
Jason Maloney is a Shamrock Rovers and Celtic fan. His first game was in August 1987. Celtic won one nil and Souness was sent off. Celtic have been his long time mistress ever since. His first Celtic hero is now his most hated tv pundit who should have the letter N in the middle of his surname. He comes from Dublin but can be often seen roaming about north Lanarkshire for photos opportunities with Kieran Tierney. Stopping the 10 will be only bettered by doing the 10.