Despite being paraded before the Celtic supporters on February 24th 1996, it was to be 5 weeks later on April fool’s day when we finally got to see our much vaunted new striker in the Hoops. The Monday night match against Aberdeen was already in the bag when a cheer rose around the stadium as he lined up ready to come on as a late substitute. ‘Let the lad settle in,’ a chap beside me said, ‘I wouldn’t expect too much too soon as he’s got to get used to our style of play and this bloody weather.’ Two minutes later Peter Grant slipped a pass through the Aberdeen defence and the new bhoy sensationally outpaced his marker before clipping the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and into the net. The roar which greeted that goal was so loud it blew out the Radio 5 Live microphones and the station was briefly off the air. We had waited 5 long weeks to see our new player in action and now that we had we were delighted that he seemed to be the real deal. Draws were hampering Celtic’s pursuit of Rangers in the SPL title race and we needed a striker who could turn our dominance into wins. Jorge Cadete looked like the very man to do that.
The following week it hit home that his registration problems had meant he was ineligible for the Scottish Cup Semi-final match with Rangers and dark mutterings were heard among the support about why it took the SFA 5 weeks to register a player when a few days was usually enough time. All of this going on as the season was entering its climatic phase. Cadete missed 4 league matches, 2 of which Celtic drew, during the period his registration was held up and some wondered if those dropped points would prove fatal to their efforts to halt Rangers make it 8 in a row. Celtic lost the cup semi-final 2-1 in a frantic match in which they fought back from the loss of 2 goals to take the tie to the wire. However, the chances they created were squandered and they were out of the cup. Cadete looked from his seat in the stand, no doubt wondering what might have been had he had a chance to run at the Rangers defence.
Fergus McCann was furious about the hold up in Cadete’s registration and demanded answers from the SFA. The SFA closed ranks and defended the man responsible, their rather autocratic chief executive Jim Farry, but McCann was nothing if not dogged in his pursuit of justice. An internal SFA investigation cleared Farry of any wrong doing and it was to take 3 long years for McCann to force the ruling body to admit there had been serious breaches of the rules which disadvantaged Celtic at a vital time of the season. The case hinged on the wording of an International Transfer Certificate for Cadete, who joined Celtic from Sporting Lisbon. Celtic forwarded the ITC to the SFA on March 7, 1996 with all other relevant paperwork having arrived two weeks earlier. Celtic believed Cadete was a free agent. He wasn't, but that should not have stopped Farry registering him. Celtic could not convince Farry of this because of a conditionality clause within the ITC. Under law, this was an irrelevance. Indeed a fax from FIFA explained the situation clearly to Farry and suggested he get on with registering the player. It was not until Celtic lodged a third application to register Cadete at the end of March that Farry was eventually persuaded of that fact. Under the SFA's 14-day clearance rule, that was too late for the striker to play in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers. He could have registered Cadete retrospectively in the interest of fairness but chose not to and Cadete was out of the cup tie.
When fobbed off with unsatisfactory explanations from the SFA, McCann decided to bring in his legal team and bring chief executive, Jim Farry, to account for his actions. McCann said at the time….
"It is deplorable that a prominent member club should be disadvantaged in this way when on several occasions the SFA's chief executive had the opportunity to make the correct decision. Mr Farry's failure to properly and timeously register Jorge Cadete leaves the club in no other position than to ask for the office bearers of the SFA to recognise that Mr Farry's position is untenable. This case demonstrates clearly that Mr Farry cannot be allowed to hold and exercise such powerful authority."
At a meeting held in Glasgow’s RAC Club, Farry entered the room in his usual bombastic and rather pompous manner. He left an hour later having been ripped apart by McCann’s legal team, his career at the SFA over. He was warned by the chairman about consistantly evading questions and giving contradictory evidence. He was unable to explain why, once the Cadete registration had gone through, he didn’t apply the registration retrospectively to allow the player to play in the Scottish cup tie. McCann was entirely vindicated as the SFA were forced to send a written apology to Celtic as well as pay compensation. It was a victory for natural justice and an utter humiliation for the SFA whose own Chief executive had been shown to be guilty of ‘gross misconduct.’ There was no way back for Jim Farry and he was sacked. Astonishingly a man fired for gross misconduct went with a parting pay off of £200,000.
Celtic fans respected McCann for his terrier like pursuit of justice and began to ponder on Farry’s motives. To hold up a players registration at such a vital stage of the season gave rise to the opinion among some that he was simply anti-Celtic. Fergus McCann and the club were careful always to couch their opinions in diplomatic language and never suggested Farry was out to harm the club’s prospects. What they thought and said in private remains unknown but for a sizable number of Celtic supporters the actions of Jim Farry spoke for themselves.
Cadete proved to be a good striker for Celtic scoring 5 goals in 6 games as season 1995-96 petered out disappointingly with Rangers winning the SPL for the eighth successive season. He scored 38 goals in 47 appearances for Celtic as season 1996-97 saw Tommy Burns’ marvellously entertaining team lose out on the title again. One incident at Ibrox demonstrated the difference between success and failure for Burns’ team that year. With Celtic 2-1 behind and outplaying Rangers deep into the second half as they sought an equaliser, Cadete controlled the ball with his chest in the box, swiveled and fired the ball high into the net. The referee blew his whistle and disallowed the goal much to the consternation of the Celtic fans behind the goal. Cadete was clearly onside and the Referee, no stranger to controversy where Celtic were concerned (Jim McCluskey) stated later…
I had raised my hand when I blew for the infringement to indicate an indirect free kick – in other words for offside rather than hand ball. Seeing the footage later it became clear that we had got it wrong.”
Losing the title that year was to cost Burns his job and Cadete was soon to follow him out the door as his increasingly disruptive behaviour tried the patience of Fergus McCann. Rangers entered season 1997-98 looking to shatter Jock Stein’s record by making it 10 in a row. Celtic fans looked desperately around for a striker to replace Cadete and help the team hold onto a piece of Celtic history.
Their prayers were answered in the form of a sallow skinned Swede sporting his trade mark dreadlock hair style.