Former Celtic striker Frank McAvennie has opened up on the infamous Ibrox bust-up that saw him and three Rangers players land up in court.
McAvennie, who had signed for his boyhood heroes from West Ham two weeks earlier, was enjoying his first taste of action in that fixture when he was caught up in a rammy with Chris Woods.
The Hoops striker had alreadly bundled the English keeper into the back of the net challenging for a high ball, when he again came face to face with Woods as he chased down a through ball from Chris Morris.
McAvennie and Woods exchanged “handbags”, recalls McAvennie, before Terry Butcher and Graham Roberts jumped the unfortunate Celt, like a gang of fish supper raiders after closing time.
McAvennie was the first to see red, heading down the tunnel after only 17 minutes. Woods’ protestations were to no avail and he was also sent for an early bath.
Speaking in the Scottish Sun, the former jack-the-lad who turns 60 today, says: “The next time I went for the ball Chris could’ve picked it up earlier and he didn’t, he wanted me to go for it.
“When I went for it he grabbed it and tried to bring his elbow up and it really was handbags.
“As me and Chris separated that was it finished, but as I backing off Terry Butcher shoved me and as I’ve come back in I saw Robbo coming over the top and I thought it was time to go down.
“They should’ve got us all together and said ‘What are you doing? Behave as men’.
“It was handbags, it was nothing. I thought even to book us was too much. One of the stronger referees would’ve asked what we were doing.”
Roberts, who had grabbed McAvennie by the throat, escaped censure at this point, and took the goalie’s jersey, while Butcher picked up a yellow card following the incident.
It wouldn’t be Butcher’s last involvement, however. Two minutes after Celtic had taken the lead through Andy Walker, Peter Grant tried to get on the end of a through ball from Walker, only for Butcher to stick out a leg and chip his own goalie.
It was the first of two great own goals Butcher scored in this fixture, the other being a diving header a year later, and it saw the Broomloan erupt.
Peter Grant, meanwhile, appeared to claim the goal, blessing himself in front of the ecstatic Celtic fans.
As the second half unfolded, Butcher woud see red having had a dig at Celtic’s grounded keeper Allen McKnight.
At 2-0 up and with an extra man, Celtic’s game management would ultimately let them down, allowing Rangers to steal a draw in the last minute. Roberts would then be involved in another unseemly incident, “conducting” the Rangers fans as they belted out the sectarian Billy Boys anthem.
Milking the celebrations would be the high point of Rangers league campaign, with Celtic winning the three other fixtures in what turned out to be a famous Double-winning season.
There were repercussions, however. Coming only seven years after the Scottish Cup final riot of 1980, the powderkeg clash came under the scrutiny of cops, with McAvennie, Woods, Butcher and Roberts all being charged over the disorder.
Much to the amusement of McAvennie and Celtic fans everywhere, the striker was found innocent while Woods and Butcher were convicted of breach of the peace.
Roberts was found not proven, a verdict the Englishman didn’t understand.
McAvennie recalls: “Graham Roberts got not proven and he was punching me in the docks asking what that meant and I said ‘They know it was you but they can’t prove it!'”
He continues: “We shouldn’t have been charged, we shouldn’t have been taken to court. If one got found guilty then we should’ve all been found guilty that was what I thought but the police should never have got involved.”
Former Rangers striker Duncan Ferguson no doubt would agree. Seven years after this match, the striker got a three month stretch in Barlinnie after sticking the head on Jock McStay of Raith Rovers.
Clubs playing out of Ibrox just seem to love a courtroom drama. Then, as now, they’re usually on the losing side!