As part of our build up to Wednesday night’s special Midweek Falkirk Fix on Falkirk TV, Jamie McGowan looks back on our famous Scottish Cup Semi-Final ties v Celtic in 1997.
The Bairns went into the semi-finals as massive underdogs to a Celtic team that, although struggling by their standards, were still fearsome opponents. Despite this, Jamie doesn’t remember any fear among the Falkirk squad going into the game:
“We knew we had a great team that all worked for each other, and we knew that Celtic wouldn’t find it at all easy to break us down. We were very good going forward, we had the players; Scott Crabbe, David Hagen, Crunchie, and a whole other load of guys, who could score goals. We were confident, but we didn’t know what animal was going to come out for the opposition, they’d had a little dip in form that season.”
Under the lights at Ibrox, due to Hampden being renovated, The Bairns put up a spirited performance but seemed to be on their way out of the competition after Tommy Johnson’s goal capped off some intense pressure from the hoops. Against the odds Jamie managed to get involved in the equaliser that sent the travelling Falkirk fans into raptures:
“It seemed like we were a goal down for an age in the first game. We just kept plugging away, then I got the ball and just kept running with it. I played a one two with Albert Craig and just hit it with all my might. Luckily, big Kev was there to get a good connection on it and with that much power it just flew past the keeper. It was just elation; we knew by scoring against them we had a chance.”
“They had so many chances and we had to put our bodies on the line, it was absolute world war stuff. After the game we got into the changing room and we knew we could go on to the next game and probably win it. Then it was off to the Roman Bar, where I don’t remember leaving that night!”
“I don’t think we were lucky; we were very hard-working footballers. Alex Totten was great in instilling that into every football team that he’s managed. We were such a unit, we used to go out together, play golf together, it was just a wonderful team atmosphere and I was really proud to be captain.”
Despite many sayings about never getting another bite of the cherry against the old firm, Falkirk managed to pull off a massive upset with Paul McGrillen’s goal, which again involved Jamie in the build-up. The former Bairns captain reflected on a famous night under biblical conditions at Ibrox.
“I had my parents come up from England and they were saying about how terrible a night it was, I wasn’t bothered! You just put your longer studs on and make sure you don’t slip, because if you slip you lose a goal.”
“It was a nice bit of football at the halfway line on the left-hand side and we got away with it, then it got switched to me. I was in acres of space, they didn’t mark me at all, so I was free to wander from right back straight down the line. Usually I’d have Crunchie to give it to, but he wasn’t there, and I saw David Hagan was in the middle. He was just immense in the air, just a great runner, athlete and leaper. I knew if I got it anywhere near him something would happen, either he’d head it towards goal and score or just do something with it.”
“I whipped it in again, from a deeper area, and he luckily got in front of Andreas Thom. Instead of heading it he jumped up and side footed it back, into the ground. Wee Mowgli had a look, and he must have thought in his head ‘dare I?’. He dinked it and all I thought was oh my god, what a goal!”
“We did really well in possession against a wonderful footballing side, and we did the nasty stuff too; the kicking, the pulling, the scratching, making sure they didn’t get the crosses in and if they did marking tightly, putting our lives on our line to be honest.”
“I had to make sure everyone was concentrating and doing their job, and if they didn’t, they heard about it from everyone. Nobody dived in, and if they did it was last ditch. It was one of those games where we had a feeling about it and thankfully saw it through to the end.”
“Again, it was jumping about the place in the dressing room, then back to the Roman Bar again. There were hundreds of people outside, it was immense, it was like we’d won the cup! It was great for the fans and great for the town, things like that don’t happen very often.”
“I feel proud of it, not just for myself and my family, but for everyone. Honestly, we did really work so hard. Even in training there was no messing about, we wanted to be as fit and strong as we could be. You always dream of lifting the cup as captain. I believed we could do it, but it wasn’t to be.”
This Wednesday at 7pm we’ll be re-living the legendary 1997 Scottish Cup ties against Celtic with a special programme only available to Falkirk TV subscribers.
A pay-per-view option is available to purchase for only £4.99.
The programme will include action from both ties and feature exclusive interviews with Alex Totten and members of the 1997 team.
Pay-Per-View passes can be purchased from https://www.falkirkfc.tv/subscribe/