Lifelong fan Ross Wayne recalls his memories of these 2 iconic fixtures. What are yours?
Saturday – 10 days before…
The two Celtic games in 97 will always be “up there” for me in my greatest games following the Bairns. Two games, one stadium, same supporters but two very different matches and 2 very different outcomes.
Before the first game, no one really gave us a chance. Not even sure we gave ourselves much of a chance versus big spending Celtic, even though we had already beaten premier league Raith Rovers and Dunfermline by that stage. But as the old saying goes, we expect the unexpected when it comes to Falkirk Football Club, in good times and in bad.
I remember meeting up with my mates before that first game in the town centre, as we were too young to visit the local hostelries (officially) with us being a year or so shy of 18. It was brilliant to see so many people walking around the town in Falkirk shirts and scarves. I had been going to the games since the late 80s as a young boy and days like this hadn’t happened too often, Cup Final at Fir Park in 93 and Clydebank promotion party in 94 aside.
We made our way down Grahams Road down towards Bainsford, where we were booked onto the North End Supporters buses ran by well-known Bairns, Robert Stirling and Stewart Wilson. On our way, the build-up continued as we passed so many packed pubs on route who were spilling outside onto the streets – Behind The Wall, Drookit Duck, Elliots, Colonial Bar and Cheynes to name a few, some of which are now long gone.
We got to the top of Davids Loan in Bairnsford at the old “Big Bar”, which was long gone by that point too, but as we turned the corner there were buses as far as we could see down the street. The Atmosphere was fantastic at the bowling club as we received our match tickets which read Copland Road stand. This was my first time at Ibrox where I wouldn’t have sat in the usual away end at the other end of the stadium so was something different.
Journey through to Glasgow was loud, as you would expect and the double decker we were on was literally rocking. Can’t recall how many buses we seemed to pass but almost all had navy and white flags or scarves in the windows. Our bus, along with what seemed like 100 others, got stopped outside Glasgow by the police at an arranged check point. Police came on, checked for alcohol and then we were on our way – the guys on the bus (us to) hid the bottles well from the Glasgow constabulary.
At Ibrox, the navy & white supporters were soon outnumbered by those in green & white although not for long, not in voice anyway. Over 10,000 Falkirk supporters were in that Copland Road end of Ibrox and at Kick Off it sounded like 50,000. The Celtic team went into a huddle but as an act of defiance, seeing the Falkirk players go hand in hand approaching the Falkirk supporters brought shivers to the back of my neck and still does when I think about.
The match itself is almost a blur in my mind due to the hot weather that day and the few beers consumed but I`ll never forget the feeling as Jamie McGowans cross came in and big Kevin James rose like a salmon to head the ball in the net. The noise of 10,0000 earlier now sounded like 100,000 never mind 50,000.
We were still in this.
Wednesday – 10 days later…
The pre match atmosphere for the replay couldn’t have been much different. A cold, wet Wednesday evening and the rain was biblical. As with the first game, we made our way down to Bainsford for the supporter’s buses and you would have assumed Falkirk wouldn’t have too many fans travelling for this game, how wrong we were. Buses for as far as we could see and once at Ibrox, we had 9,500 fans roaring the team as they emerged from the tunnel.
There was a nervousness at this game that wasn’t felt 10 days before. Celtic fans seemed less cocky and Falkirk fans were in a slight daze that we were 90mins from the Scottish Cup Final. As with the first game, my own memories of this night (during the game) are again quite blurry but that was due to my hands being in front of my face for most of it.
It was a tense opening, Celtic looked up for making amends. And then, we ventured up the park and only went and scored. Bedlam ensued, limbs were everywhere in the Copland Road stand. That was the good news, the bad news was that there was 70mins left plus whatever the referee added on.
My heart was in my mouth, my hands over my eyes and my throat was hoarse from singing every Bairns song in our repertoire. It felt like a week but those 70 plus minutes eventually ended and we had done it. The players were again over at the support, linked arm in arm as our scarves were held aloft. This was, and may well still is, THE best moment of my life so far as a football fan.
The afore mentioned double decker seemed to glide along the motorway back to Falkirk, the songs were sung well into the night. I got home around 1am and my dad, who wasn’t able to go, stayed up for me coming in. He must have heard the door unlocking as he greeted me in the hall way. We just looked at each other and he said to me, what I had almost forgotten in the celebrations of beating Celtic, “I can’t believe we are in the Scottish Cup Final”.
Tonight 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/