Football: Celtic hit by more conflict

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The Independent Online
Hibernian. . . . 0

Celtic. . . . . .0

Attendance: 14,704

JUST when Celtic's supporters thought it was safe to crawl back out from the cupboard under the stairs and return to the football buoyed by the boardroom coup led by Fergus McCann, they have emerged to the sound of even more sniping.

Gerald Weisfeld, whose ego was bruised when his takeover attempt failed, was expected to marry his considerable wealth to that of McCann's and together chart Celtic's route back to the top of the Scottish game, but the alliance, like most things associated with Park head club these days, seems ill-fated.

Weisfeld's people say it has been impossible to open mean ingful talks with McCann, whose camp retaliates that they were willing to talk but that the other side had nothing to say, apart from demanding the chairmanship for Weisfeld and a seat on the board for his stepson Mike McDonald. It all amounts to more bickering at boardroom level. Denied the opportunity to welcome McCann to Celtic Park when the match against Dundee was postponed in midweek, the fans shouldered their way through the waxed-coat brigade on their way to Murrayfield yesterday and filed into Easter Road. McCann is still seen as the Messiah and support for him remains absolute, although nothing is forever at Celtic Park.

The fans' difficulty in Edinburgh was that, with no directors to scream at, they had to concentrate on the football. They were soon reminded that their team is short of genuine talent. Hibernian were better and even though both sides are pursuing places in next season's Uefa Cup, they were unable to produce a skilful game.

The action was frenetic and physical and anyone who tried to put a foot on the ball risked being trampled into the turf. Charlie Nicholas, a player who relies on touch and reflex, was dumped in the first few minutes and did not finish the match.

It was all too crazy for Nicholas, and his place was taken in 74 minutes by Simon Donnelly, a 19-year-old striker making his first move away from the reserves. He was not given the support someone in his position was entitled to expect.

The best chances of the match were second-half shots in rapid succession by Hibs' Darren Jackson and Brian Hamilton, but Celtic's goalkeeper, Carl Muggleton, made excellent saves. At the opposite end Jim Leighton's dive denied Nicholas before he departed, and then Gordon Hunter blocked Paul Byrne's attempt. It was a relief when it was over.