Paul McStay is one of the best midfielders in Celtic history. The player was a key man for the Bhoys throughout all of the 1980s and most of the 1990s.
It seems that he has been slightly forgotten about to an extent, as not long after he retired McStay moved to Australia and has mostly kept out if the spotlight. But he deserves to be remembered as a Celtic legend.
McStay was thrown in at the deep end when he made his Hoops league debut as a 17-year-old as Celtic travelled to Aberdeen on league business in January 1982.
In those days Aberdeen were Celtic’s main challengers for the title, so it was a big test for the player. Hoops boss Billy McNeill must have had plenty of faith in the player though, and that faith was rewarded as McStay scored for the Bhoys in a 3-1 win.
McStay went from strength to strength after that debut, and he became an integral part of the Hoops squad which won the Scottish Cup in 1985, and the league title in 1986. Indeed, McStay found the back of the net for the Bhoys in the 5-0 win over St Mirren which clinched the title in 1986, hammering the ball into the net to put the Hoops four-nil up.
‘The Maestro’ – as McStay was nicknamed – had his best season for the Bhoys in 1987/88. He was integral to the Celtic side which won the league and Scottish Cup double in the Hoops’ centenary season.
McStay popped up with some vital goals in that season, scoring an equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Hearts when at one stage the Bhoys were two-nil down, and smashing home the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox into the back of the net.
Celtic retained the Scottish Cup the following season, but then the club went a period of six years without winning a trophy. This coincided with the appointment of McStay as club captain after Roy Aitken joined Newcastle.
McStay wasn’t to blame for the trophy drought though. Indeed, throughout the barren years of 1989 and 1995 he was arguably Celtic’s best player.
It looked as if the trophy less years were going to end in 1994, when the Hoops faced Raith in the League Cup Final. Unfortunately, the Bhoys would lose the game in a penalty shoot-out, with McStay missing the vital spot kick.
Thankfully, redemption wasn’t that far away, and in 1995 Celtic won the Scottish Cup after defeating Airdrie in the final. The most memorable moment of the day by far was McStay’s delight and relief at lifting his first trophy as Celtic captain.
With the trophy drought now over, a revitalised Celtic under the management of Tommy Burns came close to winning the league in 1996, but it wasn’t to be.
Sadly 1997 saw the Hoops fail to stop Rangers winning nine in a row, Burns lost his job as Celtic boss and injuries forced McStay to retire at the end of the 1996/97 season.
It was a sad way for McStay’s career to end, as the Hoops would win the league in 1998. That was bad timing, but it doesn’t take away from just how important McStay was to Celtic for around 15 seasons.
He spent years as Celtic’s best player, and was at one stage arguably one of Britain, if not Europe’s top midfielder. He more than deserves to be recognised as a Celtic legend.