THE SCOTTISH football 1978-79 season can be rather succinctly summed up in five words: ten men won the league.

It’s now 43 years to the day since club legend Billy McNeill guided Celtic to his first league title as manager.

McNeill had taken over the managerial reins from a side that finished fifth the previous season under Jock Stein and was still trying to recover from the departure of Kenny Dalglish to Liverpool for £440,000 in the summer of 1977.

It was, in many ways, a transitional phase. Yet Celtic would go on to win the title against the odds after a poor start and a team in a state of flux. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

There was no European football for the Hoops that season and they had to endure the ignominy of an Anglo-Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Burnley as well as deal with a campaign disrupted by severe weather – the winter of discontent and all that.

It turned out to be a blessing.

The first half of the season had been poor with Celtic posting only seven wins from 18 matches. When the season resumed in March they dropped just seven points out of a possible 36 which included winning seven matches from their last eight league encounters to seal the deal.

The acquisition by McNeill of Kilmarnock winger Davie Provan for £125,000 – a club record at the time – and midfielder Murdo MacLeod on a six-figure sum from Dumbarton were to prove to be the catalyst for the title win. That, and the return to fitness of world-class full-back Danny McGrain.

The 'Ten Men Won The League' game itself has entered Celtic folklore. Legends and myths have since sprung up around it.

Ask anybody who was there and stood in the old 'Jungle' at Celtic Park. There has never been and never will be an atmosphere and tension that could rival this game.

Andy Lynch played in it.

A surprise £35,000 signing from Hearts in February 1973, Lynch was a left winger who converted to full-back. He thought he had already enjoyed his crowning moment at the club when he scored the winning goal from the penalty spot against Rangers in the 1977 Scottish Cup final at Hampden. How wrong could he be?

May 21 1979. Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government had just been elected weeks before. There was industrial unrest in every part of the country and the TV cameras went on strike.

While most fans were blissfully unaware at the time, the event was never recorded for posterity.

The low attendance of 52,000 is still disputed by some as there was a bus and rail strike in Glasgow that Monday evening and some people found it difficult to travel, thus keeping the attendance down from the 60,000 or so expected.

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It was a match that had originally been postponed from January 6 due to the adverse weather. It was also a match that had everything and required in a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale ending.

That included spawning two Celtic supporters' chants that are still alive and well today.

‘We've won the league again... fly the flag!’ was the first, the fans’ answer to the highly successful British Airways ad campaign of the time.

The other, well, it’s nothing short of genius as Boney M’s 1978 hit Brown Girl in the Ring morphed joyfully into ‘Ten men won the league’.

Musical interludes apart, according to Lynch the night in question had to be seen to be believed.

Yet the scenario was a simple one for Celtic. They were on 46 points and had one game to go while Rangers were on 43 with three games to go. This was in the two-points-for-a-win era remember – a victory would see them crowned champions.

The Hoops trailed to an early Alex MacDonald goal and then suffered a monumental blow to their title hopes when winger Johnny Doyle inexplicably booted the goalscorer in front of the referee after 51 minutes.

Celtic’s title hopes were on the ropes, and that’s where Lynch takes up our story.

"It's hard to explain what the atmosphere was like,” he says. “I never experienced anything like it. Ask any Celtic fan who was there and they will tell you it ranks as number one in terms of atmosphere.

“Doyley kicked MacDonald – it was a pathetic effort but he was standing right in front of the referee. He made the most of the situation and went down as if he was seriously hurt. He wasn't.

"I was a few yards away from it. I couldn’t believe Doyley had kicked him when he was in full view of the referee. I knew he was going to get sent off.

"When we were trying to get back into the game it was as if the crowd just sucked the ball into the net. I kid you not, when we went down to 10 men after Doyley got sent off the Celtic fans just started roaring. They just knew what to do. They came into their own even when we went down to 10 men.

“They built it up into a crescendo and I have never witnessed, heard or experienced anything like that in my life. They guided the players over the line to the title that night. It had to be seen to be believed.”

Despite the one-man disadvantage, it was indeed Celtic who galvanised themselves and deservedly equalised after 66 minutes when Roy Aitken drove home following a pass from Provan.

After 74 minutes, pandemonium erupted inside the ground as George McCluskey hammered into the net from 12 yards to put Celtic 2-1 ahead.

Two minutes later, however, it was Celtic's turn to put their supporters through the emotional wringer once again.

Celtic Way: Andy Lynch during the 1978-79 seasonAndy Lynch during the 1978-79 season

“Somehow the 10 men got ourselves 2-1 in front,” Lynch recalls. “It was a wonderful game of football at that point – it was like a basketball game. Celtic attacked then Rangers attacked.

"Bearing in mind, Celtic have got 10 men at this stage but we’re still piling bodies forward with the championship on the line.

"Rangers got a corner just after George had put Celtic 2-1 ahead and I remember we were all back. I was on the right post and Danny McGrain was on the left post and as the ball was swung over I distinctly remember shouting ‘I don't care who does it, just fucking clear it!’

"We were just getting close to the title it was getting a bit desperate and Rangers were throwing the kitchen sink at us.

“It was cleared by someone but then Bobby Russell did a wee shimmy and skelped the ball through a whole ruck of players. It hit the metal post but when I turned around and looked into the net the ball was there. My heart just sank. I thought ‘the ten men are going to have to do it all over again’.”

They did. Eventually. It was 2-2 after Russell’s goal – a result that suited Rangers at that point – and so it looked like it would be the Light Blues who would be clinching the flag and heading into the 1979-80 European Cup.

Undeterred, Celtic pressed forward again into the dying minutes.

Aitken was denied a certain goal by Rangers goalkeeper Peter McCloy before Light Blues defender Colin Jackson turned McCluskey's cross into his own net to make it 3-2 to Celtic with just five minutes left.

Lynch concedes he felt obliged to turn the air blue again soon after when Murdo MacLeod's injury-time screamer pierced the net from 25 yards.

MacLeod has always maintained that he was aiming for the Celtic end in order to waste time. Lynch, who had made an overlapping run, cursed his Hooped team-mate until he saw the ball nestle high in the rigging to make it 4-2.

“We were trying to run down the clock and Murdo picked up the ball,” Lynch says. “I offered the overlap on the wing and I wanted him to either hold it or release it to me.

"I was shouting, screaming and swearing at him then I realised he was going to shoot. The ball flew like a bullet into the net. What a goal it was.”

The ten men had indeed done it all over again. And this time it won them the league.

For Lynch, the impact of Aitken on proceedings cannot go without comment.

“Now and again I have a look at that team and who played in it. Roy Aitken that night was inspirational,” he said. “He really came into his own. He became a great Celtic player and he never changed since he was a 15-year-old boy.

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"Roy had a good personality and a great temperament. He kept his cool and would get the job done. He had a great engine as well and ran from penalty box to penalty box. A terrific player. He was also a great guy too."

In the aftermath of their famous victory, some of the squad headed into Glasgow to an Italian restaurant and partied into the wee small hours – before Provan turned paperboy for the rest.

“The celebrations inside Celtic Park were unbelievable,” Lynch remembers. “It was a school night as the game was, strangely, played on a Monday so all the supporters must have eventually headed home as they had work in the morning.

"The players went into Glasgow and commandeered an Italian restaurant. We wanted to celebrate with a wee drink and something to eat as we were all pretty hungry after the game.

"The owner of the restaurant just emptied the place of all of his customers and told them he was locking up for the night. He cleared the place and then the food and drink were flowing.

“We ended up staying until the early hours of the morning. When we staggered out into the streets and there was a wee guy selling the daily papers. Davie Provan bought us all a copy each and we were the front-page headlines.

"He dished them all out and when we asked him where he had got the papers and why he had bought them, I’ll always remember his reply. He told us he had bought the newspapers from the guy across the street as he just wanted to make sure he wasn't dreaming. And it was like a dream. It all felt surreal."

It still does. It is a match that has gone down as one of the best in the illustrious history of Celtic – but also taken on a life of its own.

Lynch said: “It was an incredible occasion and I have nothing but wonderful memories of that night.

"You will never top this match or replicate it without a doubt,” contends Lynch. “The legend and folklore surrounding this game have been passed down for many generations.

“It was an incredible occasion. I am not saying we had the best team of all time in 1978-79 but the supporters just refused to give up on the team that night. They were always going to see us over the line. We were going to win that title no matter what.

"There have been some magical and wonderful special moments in Celtic's history but the 10 men won the league night will live with me and that squad of players forever.

"There is just something really special about it. It’s mystical."

May 21 1979: Ten Men Won The League. Tra la-la-la-la.