Loyalty to home team never dies

By Craig Stephen


Jonathan Gould is a familiar name and face to New Zealand soccer aficionados. Ahead of the A-League season, CRAIG STEPHEN caught up with Gould at the Phoenix's training ground at Newtown Park in Wellington to talk about his career.

Soccer

Jonathan Gould was playing, or rather wasn't playing, at Bradford City in 1997, despite having played for Coventry in the English Premiership and gained a call-up to the Scotland national team in 1993.

He was struggling, not even getting a regular game in the second-string, so naturally it was a massive shock to him, and everyone in Scotland, when he signed for the 1967 European Cup winners and many-times winners of the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Cup.

"When I got the call I was on the training field and Jock Brown [Celtic's general manager] asked me if I could play an Old Firm game and obviously I said 'no problem' and the next thing I knew I was in the car driving up to Glasgow having been released by Bradford.

"It was certainly a shock to the chairman that I was allowed to go on a free transfer to one of the biggest clubs in the world."

It would be no ordinary season in Glasgow in 1997-98, as Rangers' dominance had left Celtic flailing, unable to win the League for a decade.

Their bitter rivals had won nine successive league titles, the same as Celtic had under Jock Stein from 1966, and there was huge pressure from the fans to stop what became known simply as The Ten.

"I had no idea what it meant when I arrived or what it meant to the supporters and the pressure that was around that group of players, but within three or four weeks it was pretty obvious that to stop ten-in-a-row was crucial to the supporters."

Celtic picked up the League Cup earlier in the season but had stumbled towards the finish line in the league, leaving them with a must-win game against St Johnstone on the final day of the campaign.

Even a draw could have handed the title to Rangers.

"It was probably one of the most intense days of my life, and even at half-time we were 1-0 up and you come in [to the dressing room] and you realise you are 45 minutes away from clinching a massive title and you go back out and there was a helluva lot of nerves flying about.

"It wasn't till Harold Bratbakk got the second with a great finish with about 15 minutes to go that we could relax.

"The team that season was the tightest I've ever experienced in football, in 25 years of playing and coaching.

"It was helped that there were no real superstars in the team. I know Henrik Larsson is now a world superstar but when he came in he was going through a difficult time in his career, and we all bonded pretty quickly.

"There were a group of Scandinavians, and they had a little clique, and there was also a group of Scots and Poms but we somehow came together and that showed on the field at the times when we needed it."

However, despite winning two titles that season, Celtic failed to capitalise on their success and the man who steered them to those wins, Dutchman Wim Jansen, left soon after the league trophy was lifted in acrimonious circumstances.

Managers came and went, and Rangers lifted the primary domestic trophy twice in two years.

John Barnes, a Liverpool legend, was given his first managerial role at Glasgow under the guidance of Kenny Dalglish. But Barnes' inexperience showed, and internal strife festered, coming to a head when Celtic infamously lost to lower league opposition in Inverness Caledonian Thistle at home to exit the Scottish Cup.

Australian international Mark Viduka refused to take the field for the second half, but the finger was pointed at Gould and he was dropped from the subsequent league game, and reported to be on his way out.

But Gould says he was the last person into the changing room at half-time and came into a scene of chaos.

"If you went through the dressing room with everyone who was there, they would have absolutely stuck up for me, otherwise I don't think I would have been allowed back in the changing rooms.

"I remember vividly walking in there and it had already kicked off. Viduka had most of his gear off and was standing on top of the bench shouting at [assistant coach] Eric Black.

"It had nothing to do with me, I just added to it, because I felt it was the right time to voice my opinion on what had happened.

"I certainly wasn't the perpetrator but when things were being said, yeah, I'm going to stand up and say what I think is right.

"My point was that there were players other than Viduka who deserved to be spoken in that way by Eric, and I also felt it was more of John Barnes' role to point the finger as he was head coach."

As Gould points out, that night and the subsequent sacking of Barnes led to better things, with Martin O'Neill being appointed head coach in the summer of 2000.

Almost immediately there was a lift in the team, and the incredible defeat of Rangers by 6-2 in the first Glasgow derby game of the season, set them on their way to domestic dominance winning all three trophies that season and starting a renewed and successful campaign in Europe, where they would reach the final of the UEFA Cup in 2003.

But it was not the start of something special for Gould.

Despite being the No1 keeper at the time, O'Neill wanted more strength between the posts and brought in Rab Douglas.

Gould was "gutted" at losing his place, and left for first-team football in 2003.

"When I was left out, we were about 12 points clear in the league and hadn't lost a game domestically.

"I hadn't made a mistake; I made a couple of errors in Europe that didn't cost us anything, but that's why managers are brought in, to make decisions like that, and I've got huge respect and a lot of time for Martin, he was the greatest manager that I've played under.

"He was probably right."

O'Neill's cruel move hasn't dampened Gould's love of Celtic FC, his son Matt also a goalkeeper rates The Treble on the 2001-02 season as one of his favourite DVDs, and Gould hankers a return to Celtic Park in a coaching role at some stage.

The attachment to Celtic is as strong as ever.

"It's huge, it never dies in you, and that's hopefully what supporters realise, that the players, when they've been ingrained in the life of Glasgow and Celtic football club, feel it as much as they do."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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