This match was played on this day in 1997 in truly atrocious conditions.
This was a huge occasion for Celtic. It was the club’s last chance to pick up a trophy during that season of 1996/97, which frankly had been a disappointing one. Celtic had finished second in the league behind Rangers; had been knocked out of the League Cup at the quarter-final stage by Hearts; and had made an early exit in the UEFA Cup at the hands of Hamburg.
The Celtic team on the day was Kerr, Boyd, McKinlay, MacNamara, Stubbs, O’Donnell, Di Canio, Hannah, Donnelly, Thom, Cadete; and both sides took to the field in poor conditions, a heavy wind and a slippy, unpredictable pitch. The surface made life difficult for everyone, Stuart Kerr being tested early on when dealing with firstly, a high cross and then a fierce shot.
Paolo Di Canio was the main Celt, his talent shining like a beacon through the gloom. However, the crucial strike was made by Falkirk and it arrived as early as the 19th minute. A long, diagonal cross fell at the feet of inside-forward David Hagen, his miss-hit shot rose into the air and Paul McGrillan was able to send a looping header in a perfect arc over Stuart Kerr. From then on, the match was fairly even, even if the quality of play was poor, although Falkirk came close to a second when outside-right Scott MacKenzie hit the post with a shot.
This result was a real blow to everyone connected with Celtic. It meant not only another season without a trophy, it was also the 2nd time in 3 years that Celtic had lost to 1st Division opposition at Ibrox. By that time, Tommy Burns had been in charge for three years, had spent 15 million on new players and only won one trophy, the Scottish Cup against Airdrie, another First Division side. Six months earlier, Celtic had lost to Raith Rovers in the League Cup final.
NB If we exclude the 1940s, six years of which were interrupted by the 2nd World War, the 1990s was the poorest of the 11 full decades thus far in Celtic’s history. The figures apply to victories in the two major domestic trophies until the 1930s and then three trophies from then on;