An occasional series where we look back at some of our more offbeat hooped heroes of recent years.
Thanks to a combination of Hugh Dallas and the tabloid press Stephane Mahe will probably be recalled in Scottish Football lore as the bloke who caused a stooshie during an important Celtic v Rangers game because he was a nutter. Another injustice to compound that which he suffered in the above match.
Signed from French club Rennes in 1997 by The Perm he certainly provided a contrast with the player whose position he filled. In his first season he appeared to tethered to an invisible rope which confined him to a patrol up the left wing which went no further than the halfway line. It was clear that Jansen preferred his defenders to defend in their own territory rather than in the opposition penalty box, like Tosh McKinlay.
He made his debut against Berwick Rangers in the second round of that season’s League Cup and thereafter claimed the left hand berth of a back four featuring Boyd, Stubbs and Rieper. A miserable 24 goals were extracted from that defence in 36 league games. The mantle of the Sieve was temporarily cast aside.
November 1998 saw Mahe pick up a red card in his first appearance against Rangers. Those in favour of crude racial stereotypes – that is most of the Scottish hacks – would probably put this down to the Frenchman’s Gallic temperament getting the better of him on the big occasion. But the truth is that one of his yellow cards was for a foul on Laudrup (‘nuff said) while the other was for an unavoidable handball which Willie Young decided was deliberate.
He finished that season with a League Championship and League Cup medals having made 36 appearance and scored one goal, a shot from the edge of the box after he’d cut in from the wing against Dunfermline at East End Park in a tense 2: 1 win in the Scottish Cup.
Apart from the red card against Rangers a mere five yellows besmirched his disciplinary record.
Under Jo Venglos Mahe retained his place in defence and was one of our more consistent performers that season.
Then along came Dallas.
It’s true that Mahe threw a wobbler at the match official, but in his defence it must be pointed out that his fuse was lit following an elbow in the mush which Pooh Dallas ignored, choosing instead to book the Frenchman for dissent. The second booking was for a fairly innocuous challenge, and that signalled the removal of the pin from the hand grenade inside his noggin.
Another season of manful performances under John Barnes, his third Celtic manager in as many years, couldn’t persuade Our Favourite Martin that Mahe would be anything other than a bit part player. He managed 13 appearances in O’Neill’s first season – without a booking in sight may I add – before he retired from football altogether and signed for Hearts.
Personally I liked Stephane Mahe. Quite soon after he signed he did an interview for Scotland on Sunday and he seemed genuinely appreciative of the support he got from the fans.
In return he never gave less than his all when wearing the Hoops, even if he wasn’t the most brilliant foreign import ever to swing through the Walfrid’s revolving door.
I’ll finish with a question. Who said of Mahe: “Stephane Mahe? I’ve never had a moment’s trouble with him. He’s a wholehearted player and sometimes he does dive in too quickly, but more often than not he comes out with the ball. I’m impressed with his ball control going forward.”?
It was Jim McCluskey the referee in an interview with Tom Campbell.
“What’s that?” I hear you cry, “The same Jim McCluskey that refused to give Celtic a penalty at Ibrox when Mahe was blatantly tripped in the box by Kanchelskis?”
Yep, the very same. McCluskey did admit in the same interview, “No excuse. I got it completely wrong.”
Truly, when it came to referees, he was more sinned against than sinning.