Remembering when Chic Charnley fired Hibs to opening-day win over Celtic in 1997

Larsson made Hoops debut but gifted Hibs win
Chic Charnley wheels away in delight after netting the winner for HibsChic Charnley wheels away in delight after netting the winner for Hibs
Chic Charnley wheels away in delight after netting the winner for Hibs

The visit of Celtic to the Capital on the opening day of the 1997/98 season may have seemed ominous for a Hibs team that had narrowly avoided relegation the previous term.

Easter Road boss Jim Duffy had rung the changes over the summer, bringing in goalkeeper Olafur Gottskalksson, defender Jean-Marc ‘Jimmy’ Boco; Trinidadian winger Tony Rougier, and striker Stevie Crawford.

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But it was the wily Chic Charnley who caught the eye on this occasion. The mercurial midfielder, signed on a pay-per-play deal, was a surprise hit with supporters initially less than enthusiastic at the arrival of the 34-year-old.

While he was never the most consistently brilliant of performers, on this occasion he ran the show in the middle of the park – a “joy to watch,” Duffy would say after the match.

Hibs started the game strongly, and it was Rougier who fashioned the first goal, curling in a wicked cross from the left on 23 minutes that Power was on hand to nudge over the line as Gordon Marshall hesitated.

The visitors rallied and defender Malky MacKay squared the game six minutes later as he nodded home a Simon Donnelly corner, despite a valiant effort from Willie Miller on the goal-line.

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Darren Jackson was next to try his luck but the striker’s shot was poor and prompted a cacophony of jeering from sections of the home support still sore at his departure to Celtic earlier that year.

Shortly after that, Charnley tried his luck from all of 35 yards, with the frame of the goal coming to Celtic’s rescue, and the Hoops had another narrow escape moments later when Welsh got on the end of a Charnley cross only to miss the target when it looked easier to score. Crawford then saw a shot hit the bar and post before rebounding out.

Donnelly was next to try his luck for Celtic but contrived to lift an effort over the bar from close range with just Gottskalksson to beat, and a last-ditch clearance from Welsh

Larsson was handed his introduction to Scottish football when he replaced Thom on 57 minutes. The Swedish striker went on to earn legendary status at Parkhead but his first appearance was forgettable as Charnley latched onto a slack pass from the debutant, took a touch, and rifled the winner low into the bottom corner with 15 minutes remaining.

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This had been the Charnley show, everyone else merely supporting characters.

Charnley netted a double in a 5-2 win against Dunfermline five weeks later, but that was as good as it got for the midfielder and for Hibs as a 2-1 defeat at Easter Road to Dundee United in early May consigned them to the First Division.