I didn’t want to sign for Rangers, says Catholic Celtic legend
Celtic legend Frank McAvennie has revealed that he has no regrets about turning down the chance to become Rangers’ first major Catholic signing.
The Glaswegian shared his thoughts on the 30th anniversary of fellow former Hoops player Maurice Johnston’s shock move to Old Firm rivals Rangers on 10th July 1989 – which saw him become the first high-profile Catholic to play for the side.
Then-Rangers manager Graeme Souness engineered the controversial transfer despite the club’s unwritten rule that they would not sign any player known to be a Roman Catholic.
However, he has since revealed that Johnston wasn’t the first Catholic player he had tried to sign as Rangers manager, following unsuccessful attempts at getting Ray Houghton and John Collins to sign along the dotted line.
Speaking about Johnston’s signing, Souness told The Sunday Times: “He wasn’t the first Catholic I’d tried to sign for Rangers. Ray Houghton and John Collins both originally fancied it, then backed out.
“Initially, they said yes, but then spoke to their family or advisers and decided not to.
“You have to give Maurice great credit for being the one brave enough to do it.”
Another Catholic player, McAvennie also revealed he had been offered the chance to make the historic move during his time at West Ham United – three years before Johnston.
“Mo said on telly that two people before him bottled it – I didn’t bottle it, I just didn’t want to sign for them!” McAvennie, a lifelong Celtic fan, told SunSport.
He revealed that Souness had asked him about joining the Light Blues while he was representing Scotland in the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
“He asked me before Mo. But it was never going to happen,” he said.
“I love football and football was what my life was all about.”
However, at this point in his career McAvennie had yet to play for his beloved Hoops and knew that playing for their fierce rivals would have ruined his chances.
“It just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t for religious reasons,” he added.
“I’m a Celtic supporter. My dad, a big Celtic man, took me to watch them.
“He would’ve been proud of me but he wouldn’t have been happy.”
McAvennie also paid tribute to the incredible mental strength Johnston displayed during the controversial signing.
“I’ve got thick skin, but Mo was something else,” he said.
Picture: Frank McAvennie is jubilant after scoring the first of his two goals for Celtic against Rangers during the Old Firm match at Parkhead on 2nd January 1988. Celtic won 2-0. (PA).