“I am proud to say (The Berserking) is the only Piano Concerto in the history of classical music to be inspired by the away-goals’ rule.” James MacMillan on the Partizan Belgrade game

Paul Elliott was correct in describing his second appearance for Celtic as “memorable”. It was one of the most remarkable matches in Celtic’s history, an astonishingly bitter-sweet occasion.

To re-cap: Celtic had lost the first-leg of the European tie against Partizan Belgrade by 2-1 but had hopes of winning through on an aggregate score at Celtic Park on September 27th 1989. Certainly, the 49,500 who turned up that night thought so.

7 minutes: Partizan score to lead 1-0 (3-1 on aggregate); a neat header from a corner-kick. Parkhead is stunned.

26 minutes: Celtic equalise. Elliott heads a McStay free-kick across goal and Polish striker Dziekanowski nets with a second header. 1-1 at half-time.

47 minutes: Dziekanowski puts Celtic in front 2-1. The tie is perfectly balanced, both teams having an away-goal.

49 minutes: Celtic give the ball away in own half, and Partizan take full advantage. Celtic now need to win by two clear goals to get through.

56 minutes: Dziekanowski scores again. The TV commentator: “The Pole scores against the Slavs; the Scots go crazy!”

59 minutes: Partizan beat Celtic’s offside trap and score to make it 3-3 on the night.

65 minutes: Andy Walker alertly nips in to net a rebound from the keeper. 4-3 for Celtic and Parkhead now a bedlam, on and off the pitch.

80 minutes: Celtic’s pressure finally tells. Dziekanowski’s neat flick leaves Partizan’s goalkeeper stranded as Celtic Park erupts. Ten minutes to play, and Celtic, ahead by 5-3, lead for the first time. Celtic still attack instead of holding the ball, slowing things down and wasting time; in fact, full-back Anton Rogan races over to grab ball from ball-boy to take a throw-in!

89 minutes: Disaster! Partizan break away yet again and an unmarked player heads past Bonner. The TV commentator has the last word: “All Celtic’s celebrations have turned into a massive wake!”

That’s it! One of the most astonishing games in Celtic’s history has ended in defeat after a most dramatic see-saw of a struggle. Paul Elliott, after playing for Pisa in the Italian League, must have wondered what he had let himself in for. I was at that game, and left utterly dazed. A friend summed it up for me: “Winning 5-4 and out on our arses! Bitter-sweet, that’s an oxymoron. Oxyfuckenmoronic! Let’s get drunk!”

Listen to PAUL ELLIOTT with A Celtic State of Mind here:

James MacMillan is a leading British classical music composer, and a life-long Celtic supporter. In his schooldays in deepest, darkest Ayrshire he was known as ‘Jim, the Tim’. Speaking at A Tommy Burns Supper in Edinburgh, he revealed a surprising fact:

“A few years ago I was invited to be a guest speaker at the nineteenth annual Tommy Burns Supper, hosted by Heriot Watt and Edinburgh Universities’ Celtic Supporters’ Clubs. Based on, but rejecting the traditional Rabbie Burns model, it turned out to be a deliciously raucous clash of culture… As far as my invitation was concerned, there had been a curious interface in my life between Celtic and composing … and they wanted to hear about it.

“Tommy Burns, the principal honoured guest of the above-mentioned evening, was unaware that he and his colleagues from past and present have been a constant source of inspiration for me, and some of my works have celebrated them.

“In September 1989 Tommy and the team flew to Belgrade to take on Partizan in the UEFA Cup. Celtic were beaten 2-1 but returned with high hopes that this could be overturned in the home leg.

“That game in Glasgow turned out to be one of the most extraordinary in Celtic’s history, when the entire Celtic family experienced every football emotion from confident apprehension, tension, frustration, elation to ultimately despair. The team was characteristically passionate and frenzied in attack, careless in defence. The dazzling exhilarating display was ultimately futile for, although they won 5-4 on the night, they lost on the away-goals’ rule.

It struck me as a vivid illustration of the facility in these parts, in these tribes, for shooting ourselves in the foot in sporting and for that matter in political endeavours.

“It reminded me of stories about ancient Celtic and Viking ‘Berserkers’, warriors who would work themselves into an aggressive frenzy on mead and magic mushrooms, plunging headlong into wild, often suicidal, attacks.

“My Piano Concerto ‘The Berserking’ came about in response to this game, and I am proud to say is the only Piano Concerto in the history of classical music to be inspired by the away-goals’ rule.”

Tom Campbell

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