McLaughlin's performance breaks Hearts' resolve Celtic on easy street after early strikes
4 Mar 1996
Celtic 4, Hearts 0
CELTIC'S pursuit of the premier division championship, which they have not won since season 1987-88, continues to impress.
Hearts, who were on something of a roll themselves, became the second team to lose 4-0 on successive Saturdays.
Partick Thistle lost by that amount the day Jorge Cadete was paraded before Celtic's supporters, but even the disappointment of discovering the Portuguese striker was not free to settle in Paradise after all failed to dampen the enthusiasm of Tommy Burns' players.
Within 17 minutes they had scored three splendid goals and Hearts were in disarray.
The game was over as a contest and nothing much happened until the final minutes, when Celtic scored again to reinforce the message that Rangers will have to play a bit to collect their eighth successive title.
Afterwards, Burns, who was disappointed that his team idled after their spectacular start, spoke at length about the Cadete saga, and after stressing the move was "still alive," the Celtic manager added: "I can assure the fans that there will be other players of similar quality coming to Celtic Park." Confidence is flowing freely about the new stadium and, turning back to Cadete, the manager insisted Celtic are prepared to pay a transfer fee for the internationalist.
"If we had been told there was fee, we would have paid it," Burns said.
"We are pursuing this player vigorously and if he is prepared to commit himself to our club for a few years rather than three months, then we will pay the transfer fee." Initially, Celtic, who were told by Cadete and his advisors that he was free to play in the premier division until the end of the season, were prepared to pay him handsomely by the game.
Speculation had his match fee ranging from between £8000 and £10,000 a time, but a completely different deal is in the process of being struck.
Celtic, dealing now with Sporting Lisbon who are asking for £1.5m, need Cadete to pledge himself to a long stay, but Burns added: "I spoke to the player at length and I think something can be done quickly.
He is a good player, but his career is grinding to a halt and he isn't going to play with Sporting Lisbon again.
"The good thing from our point of view is that I don't have to go to Lisbon to sell Celtic to him, because he knows all about us.
It is up to him to decide if he wants to be a part of that." Celtic captain Paul McStay, who opened the scoring in seven minutes with a spectacular shot from outside the box, also mentioned Cadete after the game.
"There was an excitement last week when the players heard Cadete would be coming," he said, but, so far as Saturday was concerned, the player who caused most excitement was Brian McLaughlin.
The little one teased Hearts' defenders, and even though four of them, Pasquale Bruno, Dave McPherson, Steve Fulton, and Gary Locke, were close by him when he took possession 12 minutes into the match, no-one prevented him from playing a sweet pass through to Andreas Thom.
The German kept the move going and supplied Tosh McKinlay, whose cross was headed into the net by Pierre van Hooydonk.
Five minutes later, McLaughlin scored the third at the end of a run which bewildered a posse of Hearts players, and McStay could not disguise his admiration for the winger, who played because John Collins was injured.
"Brian has been out of the picture a bit, but again he took his chance to show what he can do," McStay said.
There aren't many, if any, in Scottish football who can do what he does.
He's a small guy, but strong enough to hold off defenders." Even though Collins, who has still to reach agreement with Celtic on a new contract, was out, Burns found himself rich in alternatives with McLaughlin, Morten Wieghorst, and Phil O'Donnell all eager to get into the side.
"I chose Brian because I thought he was the player for this game," the manager said.
Simon Donnelly scored the fourth goal four minutes from the end leaving Hearts disconsolate, but their manager, Jim Jefferies, was not as downhearted as you might have imagined.
"This defeat might end up being a good thing," he said and then explained his logic.
"We didn't play well against Kilmarnock last week, but we got away with it.
This time, we were punished and maybe the players have been reading too much into the praise and plaudits they've been receiving," he said.
"Maybe they were getting carried away with it all.
"We could undo a lot of good work if we don't start working hard again and getting back to the things which lifted us in the first place." Hearts had a problem even before the match started with their keeper, Gilles Rousset, injured and unable to play.
Craig Nelson went between the sticks, but he was never sure of himself behind a three-man central defensive line which also was uncertain until Jefferies changed to a flat back four.
"There was a pressure on Nelson and when he got his first pass-back and sclaffed the ball out the park, that set the tone for him," said the manager.
Hearts are due some credit, I suppose, for their spirit, which grew even when three goals down and in the second-half they created a few opportunities.
In fact, John Robertson, who started the second half with Bruno kept indoors, should have scored, and Alan Lawrence, Fulton, and John Colquhoun all had chances.
If only Hearts could open negotiations for Cadete.
Taken from the Herald