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Jorge Cadete’s Celtic career: Goals galore, terrace chants and the canary

Remembering the striker’s extraordinary year in Glasgow

Jorge CadeteThe highly encouraging start made by Pedro Mendes to his career at Rangers has sparked memories of another Portuguese footballer who left his indelible mark on Scottish football just over a decade earlier.

When Jorge Cadete was paraded as a Celtic player before a 4-0 defeat of Partick Thistle at the end of February 1995, it was one of those signings football fans love. Exotic, flamboyant, proven on a European stage and a guaranteed player that people would pay money to go and watch.

Signed towards the tail end of the 1995/96 season, Cadete actually was only at Celtic Park for a little over a year. The period could never have been called boring.

Freed after a lengthy contract wrangle with Sporting Lisbon, Tommy Burns convinced him that career rejuvenation was possible in the East End of Glasgow.

Uefa Cup calling card

Celtic fans knew all about Cadete after his two goals for Sporting Lisbon knocked the Glasgow side out of the 2nd round of the 1993/94 UEFA Cup. They were sufficiently impressed by the memory of that performance to be confidently pleased at the new Portuguese acquisition.

However, there was one major obstacle to overcome before Cadete was to pull on a Celtic jersey. He wasn’t allowed to play for the club. Problems with the medical? A previous suspension hanging over his head? Nope. The Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association deliberately delayed the registration of Jorge Cadete so that he would miss the registration deadline for a Scottish Cup Semi Final defeat v Glasgow rivals Rangers. Absolutely true.

Whether it was ‘institutional bias’ against Celtic, as the then Celtic Chairman Fergus McCann claimed, or simply a personal vendetta between Farry and McCann, is open to interpretation (following a subsequent enquiry, Farry was found guilty of the misdemeanour and sacked for gross misconduct by the SFA). 

Instant hit

Five weeks after being paraded, Cadete finally made his debut. And what a debut. Celtic were already 4-0 up at home to Aberdeen when Cadete came on as a late substitute to a tumultuous reception. With his first touch, he ran on to a through pass and deftly lobbed the advancing goalkeeper. The subsequent reaction of the Celtic support was so loud that it knocked the national BBC Radio 5 Live commentary reception of the match off the airwaves for a full 15 seconds. The fans had a new hero.

Cadete played a bit part role in the matches between then and the end of the season, but was still able to score 5 goals in 6 matches.

The 1996/97 season was of absolute importance to Celtic and their fans. During the European Cup winning days of the 1960s and 70s, the club had recorded an unparalleled achievement of 9 league championships in a row. However, at the start of the 1996/97 campaign, Rangers were looking to level that feat. Nine in a row had to be stopped.

Cadete went a great way to helping that cause. A glut of early season goals stamped his place in Celtic hearts, along with a little tune that is possibly one of the best football chants ever.

“There’s only one Jorge Cadete,
he puts the ball in the netty,
He’s Portuguese and he scores with ease,
walking in Cadete wonderland.”

Genius, huh? To be fair though, the Rangers riposte was equally as good.

“There’s only one Jorge Cadete,
he’s got hair like spaghetti,
He’s Portuguese and one of these
(here the fans would make the universal signal of putting the thumb and forefinger together and making an up and down motion),
walking in a Gers wonderland.”

While the goals kept flowing for Cadete, the next controversial incident was to come in the traditional New Year Old Firm derby fixture. With 5 minutes left and Rangers leading 2-1, Cadete took a ball down on his chest in the box and swivelled to crash a shot high into the Rangers net. Delirium at the Celtic end was cut short by the linesman’s flag. But for what reason? TV showed Cadete was clearly onside and the ball had not touched his arm.

No official reason for the decision was ever given, just that the goal was disallowed and moments later Rangers ran up the field to add a third. There is a very substantial argument that this call cost Celtic the league that season. Certainly, the linesman in question was the subsequent subject of a very severe public scrutiny in the press and amongst Celtic supporters.

In reality, the reason Celtic succumbed to Rangers’ 9 in a row bid was the over reliance on the ‘Three Amigos’ - Cadete, Pierre Van Hooijdonk and Paolo Di Canio. Dubbed that name by Chairman McCann because all would leave the club in acrimonious circumstances, when those three didn’t play well the script would 99% of the time read Celtic didn’t play well.

For Cadete himself, the 1996/97 season was a personal triumph. He augmented his status as a top quality penalty box finisher and was the Scottish Premier League’s top goalscorer with 33 goals.

At the end of the season, Van Hooijdonk had already left, everyone knew Di Canio would be on his way but it was expected that Cadete would remain at the club despite the departure of Tommy Burns. However, at the start of pre-season for the 1997/98 campaign there was no sign of Cadete.

McCann given the bird

Citing psychological problems and stress, Cadete claimed he could not face the prospect of going back to Glasgow. He blamed Fergus McCann for causing him ‘hell’ and after a protracted to-and-fro of whether Cadete would return to Parkhead, Celtic sold him to Celta Vigo for £3 million.

As a bizarre footnote, Cadete proceeded to call his new pet canary ‘McCann’.

So that was that. A brief and bizarre cameo back in Glasgow with Partick Thistle in season 2003/04 meant it was not the last time the Celtic supporters saw Cadete, but the main images will probably be of him wheeling away in his matador-like celebration at the Celtic End.

Despite the disappointing conclusion, most would remember him fondly. It was never dull with Jorge Paulo Cadete Santos Reis around anyway.

by Duncan Hare (28 October 2008)


Comments (2)
2 Friday, 07 February 2014 21:45
Hugo Barreiros / Portugal
I'm a Benfica supporter, and in 1999-2001 played for my club. His debut was against Sporting Lisbon, (his club), and he scored twice. But I remember that I thought thad day that if I was Cadete I'd never leave Celtic.
Jorge Cadette
1 Tuesday, 27 July 2010 16:52
True Celtic superstar

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