It started with a chance meeting in a Clydebank car park with Billy McNeill and Jack McGinn in the summer of 1987.

It ended in Scottish League and League Cup double-winning glory during the Celtic season 1987-88. It truly is the stuff of legend.

"There is something of a fairytale about this club,โ€ European Cup-winning captain McNeill once said.

Joe Miller was part of the story Cesar was talking about.

A lifelong fan, Miller signed for his boyhood idols in November 1987 for ยฃ650,000 as Celtic attempted to go toe-to-toe with big-spending Rangers at the onset of the Graeme Souness years.

The Ibrox side had won their first title in nine years and were plundering England and beyond for the cream of top football talent.

England number one Chris Woods, internationals Terry Butcher, Graham Roberts, Trevor Francis, Ray Wilkins and Mark Walters โ€“ as well as the likes of Richard Gough and John Brown โ€“ had all been brought on board in Govan.

By stark contrast, the Hoops had just lost the likes of Murdo Macleod, Mo Johnston, Brian McClair and Alan McInally while Danny McGrain and Davie Provan had also parted company with the club.

Despite the adversity โ€“ and alongside Mick McCarthy, Chris Morris, Billy Stark, Andy Walker and Frank McAvennie โ€“ Miller became a vital cog in the green and white machine as Celtic enjoyed a magical campaign.

McNeill somehow fashioned a team from this supposed group of rag, tag and bobtail players as they at the time created a unique slice of football history by becoming the first club in world football to win the title in their centenary year.

Miller, 55, recalls how an 88th-minute diving header against Dundee United on Boxing Day 1987 which handed Celtic a crucial 2-1 win was the catalyst for McNeill's men's title charge.


READ MORE:ย Courts, the Kray Twins, expensive suits and 'not proven' - the infamous 1987 Celtic v Rangers shame game


"The day I scored that diving header from 35 yards out against Dundee United in the last minute at Tannadice โ€“ well it was actually from 35 inches out โ€“ we had a feeling then that we were going to go on and win the league,โ€ Miller told TCW.

โ€œThe players felt that the Dundee United game was a real turning point in ourย season. We all felt great after winning that match and we knew we were going to kick on from there and win the title.

โ€œThere was an air of inevitability after that match and that Celtic were going to win the league in their centenary season.โ€

The club saved the best for laterย though. April 23 1988 is a date etched in the mind of every fan who was lucky enough to be around to witness it (confession time: yours truly never missed a game home or away during the entire campaign).

Some 35 years on since clinching of the coveted centenary crown when a reported 60,000 piled into Celtic Park โ€“ the actual figure was surely somewhere between 80,000 to 90,000 โ€“ to see Celtic defeat Dundee 3-0 with a goal from Morris and a brace from Walker and put Miller and company into Hoops folklore.

It sparked wild scenes of delirium as Celtic and their supporters celebrated their birthday in the finest possible style.

โ€œThe players were delighted that we could actually clinch it at home against Dundee and we were wondering how many fans would pile into the ground that day,โ€ Miller added.

"I remember the drive to Celtic Park. We left really early as we knew it would take an eternity to get to the ground. The official attendance was given as 60,000 but there were estimates that the real attendance figure was somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000.

"It was the old-fashioned turnstiles and fans were just leaping over them, doing double-shuffles, the lot. Every Celtic supporter wanted to be inside Parkhead to see this one game in particular. The old joke was that the supporters used to guess what the attendance would be before it was announced over the tannoy.

โ€œThe fans were crammed into Celtic Park like sardines that day. It was a crazy atmosphere. They even let supporters into the ground at half-time because they were still queueing up to get in by that stage.

โ€œI'm not kidding, there were so many fans inside the ground that during the game I ran into a punter who tackled me going down the wing! That's no joke.

"We scored so early โ€“ after three minutes through Chris Morris โ€“ and we thought would the rest of the game be a damp squib but the way we were playing we knew we would also entertain. I got a goal disallowed before Andy Walker scored two in a minute in the second half and, after that, it was just party time.

"The players partied for weeks after winning the centenary title โ€“ thank goodness we did not have mobile phones back then. Big Billy took us all away to Portugal before the Scottish Cup final against Dundee United and then we came back and we won that with two late goals from Frank McAvennie."

Miller also smiles as he thinks of how Ange Postecoglou's current Celtic side has taken on the โ€˜we never stop' mantra. Indeed, it has become the battle cry of the Australian's team.

However, he insists that the concept is nothing new to Celtic sides; the centenary team itself became famed for scoring dramatic late winners in a campaign where the Hoops felt as if the hand of fate was driving them to their destiny.

Celtic Way:

There is even footage of Billy Connolly and writer Willam McIlvanney paying tribute to Celtic's centenary side when both are standing inside Parkhead and Hoops-daft Connolly turns to McIlvanney and says: "There were Celtic supporters that season saying to their pals who were getting set to leave the stadium โ€˜it's alright, hang on there's still a minute-and-a-half to go! We'll score and win this! Steady on!โ€™ It was the manifestation of the game lasting 90 minutes and beyond... a kind of don't let go!"

For donโ€™t let go in 1988, of course, read we never stop in 2023.

"That Celtic centenary team was synonymous with late goals and pulling results out of the fire,โ€ Miller said. โ€œThe catchphrase under Postecoglou is โ€˜we never stopโ€™ butย  the centenary team were doing all of that in 1988.

โ€œThis is nothing new, it is not a unique concept. The Lisbon Lions never stopped either. Celtic would always have at least one or two minutes of injury time but there was never any longer than that. We used to ask referees and they'd say it's all over and I'd be saying โ€˜no it's not we've still got time to score a goal and win this yet!โ€™

"But something was driving us to success that season. I don't know what it was. Call it fate, call it the hand of history, but whatever it was Celtic in their centenary year were always going to win the title and do it in fine styleโ€ฆ and that's exactly what happened.

"There was a touch of the fairytale about it all as big Billy had said. It was just joyful and magical to be at Celtic at that time in the clubโ€™s history."

Amid a wonderful time of celebration, Miller even recalls the team getting the chance to play dress-upโ€ฆ for a good cause.


READ MORE:ย How Celtic derailed the Souness revolution - Billy Stark remembers โ€˜a wonderful fairytaleโ€™


Miller also recalled how it was a wonderful time of celebration as the team all dressed up to recreate the first-ever Celtic team photo from 1888 to publicise 'The Celtic Story' which was being shown in theatres up and down the country.

The players were all immortalised in a still photoshoot as they donned the first-ever Celtic kit and put Brylcreem on their hair as they all sported fake moustaches.

Miller said:

He said: "The Celtic Story was doing the rounds in the theatres and the photo of the very first photograph of the first-ever Celtic team โ€“ or it was certainly the oldest photograph of a Celtic team in existence. I'm sure it dated from 1888 and it was actually discovered by another club.

"Willie Maley is in the photo and the kit was ragtag and made of the same material that the players wore back in 1888 with the long-knee length shorts and books stuck down the socks for shinguards.

"Well we recreated that picture to promote The Celtic Story musical. It was such a fun thing to do. It's such an iconic image now after what happened in the centenary season."

In fact, formidable Scottish football journalist Ian Archer wrote and produced a wonderful documentary which aired on Sunday April 24th 1988 called In Praise of Caesar [sic]. Miller admits that it was genuine tears-in-the-eyes, heart-stirring emotional stuff.

He revealed that Celtic's centenary side was the only title-winning team in the clubโ€™s history to stand on the raised platform of the old Parkhead directors' box and take the acclaim of the supporters after clinching the league.

"I'm still learning stuff about that day against Dundee 35 years on,โ€ said Miller. โ€œThat Ian Archer Scotsport documentary was class. Everyย now and then I will see a clip whichย reminds me of it all again and what that Celtic team actually achieved.

"The scenes against Dundee were great that day and it was just a great season for me in general. I played in all three cup finals โ€“ I won the Scottish Cup with Celtic, lost the League Cup with Aberdeen and won the Premier League with Celtic. I would love to have had a hat-trick of winner's medals from the centenary season but it was not to be.

"I joined a great Celtic dressing room and played alongside players I admired like Roy Aitken, Paul McStay and Tommy Burns. The whole team just gelled on and off the park.

"Celtic utilised 19 players that season. What a statistic that is. That's incredible, isn't it? People talk about pressure but I'll tell you what pressure is: big Billy telling me if I didn't have 20 crosses into the box by half-time I was coming off, that's pressure!

โ€œNeilly Mochan used to count them for me and wind me up as he'd get me into a panic and say stuff like โ€˜you are only on 18, Joeโ€™ and there would be two minutes to go until half-time. I would end up crossing the ball from the halfway line!

"To win the league and Scottish Cup double with the Celtic in their centenary season was genuinely a dream come true."

It's perhaps most apt that the final words on the 35th anniversary of Celtic's centenary title should belong to Archer.

In the Scotsport tribute, heย closed with these magnificent words as it cut to a musical montage and a close-up still of the photo of all the players dressed up as if from 1888.

On the day it was Bonner, Morris and Rogan, Aitken, McCarthy and Whyte, Miller and McStay, McAvennie, Walker and Burns. Subs: Stark and McGhee. Peter Grant in plaster.

โ€œCeltic have come a long way in 100 years and stayed the same as well. They say the joy has gone out of football and it's no longer the beautiful game โ€“ but they weren't at Parkhead yesterday.

"There is but one certainty about the next century, we will see their likes again."