Shameful Vienna Antics Contrived to Change Course of Celts' History; Parkhead Coach Grant Recalls the Utter Chaos of His Club's Last Clash with Rapid and Insists That the Ramifications Were Long-Lasting
Byline: Jim Black
PETER GRANT can think of two reasons as to why Celtic lost so much ground on their archrivals and fell so spectacularly from grace for the best part of a decade - Mo Johnston decided to sign for Rangers and, more crucially, Rapid Vienna were given a second chance in the European Cup Winners' Cup.
As far as historic moments go, Grant insists the significance of that shambolic meeting with the Austrians in late 1984 simply cannot be underplayed. In fact, the former Parkhead captain, now assistant coach, claims the events surrounding the Cup Winners' Cup tie destroyed the ambitions of a generation of players and set the club back years.
As preparations begin to host Rapid in European competition again this week, 25 years on from an unforgettable episode, focus has temporarily switched to the Scottish football archives of infamy.
To recap, Celtic had lost the first leg of the tie in Austria 3-1 but looked to be heading through when they went 3-0 up in the return meeting in Glasgow. However, Rapid were incensed when the third goal, scored by the late Tommy Burns, was allowed to stand.
This resulted in Burns suffering two assaults, the second of which saw Roman Kienast sent off.
The award of a penalty to Celtic sparked further bedlam, during which Rapid substitute Rudolph Weinhofer feigned injury as missiles were hurled from the stands.
Grant missed the penalty, but Celtic still won 3-0 and, seemingly, secured their passage. However, Rapid appealed against the result and, remarkably, UEFA decreed the second leg should be replayed 100 miles from Celtic Park.
Old Trafford was named as the venue for Celtic's subsequent 1-0 defeat and they were punished again after Celtic fans attacked Rapid goalkeeper Herbert Fuhrer and goalscorer Peter Pacult (now Rapid's coach) at the end of the match.
The home leg of the following season's meeting with Atletico Madrid had to be played behind closed doors as a result. Celtic lost and, according to Grant, the price of defeat was heavy.
'What happened set Celtic back five to 10 years, in my opinion, because the better you did in Europe, the more players wanted to come to the club,' he said.
'Celtic were, and still are, a massive name, but to attract the best players you have to be progressing in Europe and that is still the case to this day.
'I felt that the Rapid affair and the Mo Johnston incident were two massive moments in the club's history.
'I honestly don't believe we would have gone so long without winning the title or that Rangers would have achieved nine-in-a-row if Mo Johnston had returned to Celtic.
'Rangers had the money to buy the England goalkeeper, captain and right-back, as well as other top-quality players.
'Meantime, we were financing a new stadium and the club couldn't pay top dollar to bring players of a similar quality to Celtic Park.
'So these events had a huge effect on the club and the supporters and they also impacted on players' careers, including my own.
'The effects of the Rapid Vienna affair were felt far beyond the tie when we had to play Atletico Madrid behind closed doors the following season.
'Having done exceptionally well to draw 1-1 in the first leg in Spain, the complete lack of atmosphere in the return match definitely affected our performance and we lost 2-1. 'That period was the most disappointing of my career because we had a good mix of young and experienced players and we proved that by going to Madrid and getting a result.
'I really do feel we could have gone on to achieve something in Europe with the players we had at that time, guys like Danny McGrain, Paul McStay, Roy Aitken and Tommy Burns.
'So the Rapid business had a definite snowball effect, both financially for the club and on the players because we felt we had beaten them fair and square and had done nothing wrong as a team. …