As part of our build up to Wednesday night’s special Midweek Falkirk Fix on Falkirk TV, Andy Seaton looks back on our famous Scottish Cup Semi-Final ties v Celtic in 1997.
When Falkirk drew Celtic in the 1997 Scottish Cup semi-final, most of the experienced squad members saw it as just another game while still being wary of how difficult it would be. For young left back Andy Seaton, the prospect of facing one half of the Old Firm in Glasgow was a bit more daunting.
“I was 19 at the time so it was a bit daunting for me, I think I was more nervous than anything. But the likes of the guys in the team: Crunchie, Scott Mackenzie, Crabbo, Paul McGrillen, all experienced guys who sort of talked you through it and told you to enjoy the occasion and not to be over-awed by it, which was hard when you’re nervous and you’re going up against Celtic.”
Falkirk were the underdogs. The truth is that most Celtic fans were probably already looking ahead to the final that they hadn’t reached yet and had completely written off The Bairns, who were a first division side at the time. First division side or not, they still had a solid, experienced squad who could match any team for fitness.
“Let’s face it, nobody gave us a chance, did they? In all honesty I think they expected to put a lot past us. They were worth millions, but in fairness, if you look at our squad, it was a good squad, a mixture of youth and experience. They thought they would be a lot fitter than us too so it was a compliment to the gaffer and his training techniques because we were fit.”
“We played them on the Saturday and I think everybody wrote us off, that’s us had our one chance, and we proved them wrong.”
Although Andy was nervous for the fixtures – any 19 year old would be – he had a lot of experienced players round about him to give him advice and reassure him. Alex Totten was also there to take the pressure off ahead of what was the biggest game of his career so far.
“I don’t know if it’s because I was young but Crunchie came and spoke us and told us, “obviously if you’re coming up against players like Di Canio it’s always in the back of your mind, but as soon as you get out onto the park, it’s just 90 minutes.” I’d just been told by the gaffer, “Just defend, that’s all I’m asking you to do, don’t let him by you” which is easier said than done! Crunchie and Scott Crabbe had a wee word with me as well, saying “just relax, do what you do.”
A lot of the pre-match nerves ahead of the first game were forgotten for a little while thanks to the immense travelling support, and the atmosphere they created. It gave the Falkirk players hope.
“When you’re out there for the warm up and you see all the Falkirk fans, I mean, it was incredible, even just the fans that we took and the atmosphere. I think after we drew with them the guys thought, ‘what the hell, second game, let’s just do the same again.’ The thing is, we had nothing to lose, they had everything to lose.”
“I was that knackered when we equalised in the first game that I just stayed in my position because I didn’t think I could run to celebrate. I remember wee Mowgli’s header and him getting wiped out as well, so that was interesting, God rest his soul.”
Andy put a lot of their success, not just in those games, but around that time in general, down to the strong bond that everyone at the club shared, and how hard-working every single one of them was.
“We had a good squad, a good hard-working team and I think we all complemented each other. The goal was all to do with our team spirit at the time as well. We had one of the best dressing rooms that I’ve ever been in and I think a few of the guys, even the more experienced players, have said that as well. The dressing room at Falkirk was fantastic and I think that sort of got us through. It got us through a lot of other games and situations too.”
Aside from the goal in the replay, Andy recalled one moment from the game that stood out in his mind and shows a side of football that not many get to see.
“I remember there were a couple of buses that ran from West Calder, and I was sponsored by a local pub there, The Mason’s Arms. They actually sponsored me and my strips, so they ran a couple of buses full of Falkirk, Rangers, Hearts, and Celtic fans, just a mix.
“During the match I got a throw-in in the Celtic end and I went to get the ball and I just heard, “Gon yersel, Andy!” I looked up and it was a guy from the buses, a Celtic fan, clapping me. Even after the two legs I always went back to the pub to see my sponsor and all the Celtic fans were congratulating me and It’s good to see that side of it.”
Just like the others, Andy also has fond memories of the feeling he felt after the full time whistle blew, and the celebrations that ensued.
“It was incredible. I don’t think you could ever describe it if I’m being honest, to actually come up against a team like Celtic and do what we did, especially over two legs, it’s a fantastic feat. After the game it’s euphoric, you don’t even know what to do, if that makes sense. I think we were on cloud nine forever, it was incredible.”
“What was good was we got to celebrate together but we also got to go back and celebrate with our families and friends who were all at the game and even now they all still talk about it, still talk about what happened back then.”
“I think everybody and their dog was there, everybody involved with the football cub, every single person was there, so it’s fantastic. It’s something that will live with me a long, long time.”
What makes the occasion even more special for Andy though, is that the happiness was not only shared by the team and the fans, but the whole town.
“The atmosphere in the whole town, there were just people everywhere, it was crazy. Even when we went back to training there were people waiting outside Brockville to see you, just to say thanks, because we’d given them one of the best nights they’d ever had. Thats a great feeling as well, knowing that you’ve made other people happy as well as yourself.”
The memories of that semi-final are memories that Andy is very proud of, which is evident as he looks out a framed newspaper article from that year and reads it out:
“To get the memories that I got, especially from those semi-final games, I mean, to say that you’ve marked Paolo Di Canio out the game not once but twice. People keep saying that to me and I’m like, “oh aye, that was me!” There was actually a headline after the game and it says: ‘ANDY’S A REAL LIFE FOOTBALL FAIRYTALE.’ It also says, ’Seaton snuffs out Celts ace Paolo.’”
Not only are they memories that he is proud of, they are also memories his family are proud of, and when we relive that special occasion on Wednesday, there will be some very proud relatives watching from home.
“All the family, we’re going to watch it on Wednesday night. We’re quite happy to watch the build up and relive it. We’re looking forward to it.”
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/