A BIZARRE sequence of events will probably end today with Celtic

signing their former star, Frank McAvennie, despite the fact that he

posed in a Partick Thistle shirt yesterday and looked forward to making

his debut for the Maryhill team against Motherwell at Firhill on


The strange goings-on, which resembled a condensed version of the

infamous change of mind by Maurice Johnston when he signed for Celtic

and then reneged to join Rangers, encompassed such diverse points as

Parkhead, Firhill, and Phoenix, Arizona, and eventually left the Thistle

manager bewildered and angry.

John Lambie had planned to field his new man on Saturday and nothing

that happened when McAvennie arrived at Firhill yesterday seemed to

affect that intention.

Although the player had not signed anything, Lambie was satisfied the

deal was done after negotiations with the player's agent, Bill McMurdo,

who also acted for Johnston on that more renowned occasion in May, 1989.

McMurdo, in Arizona, had a long conversation with Celtic manager Liam

Brady at about the same time as his player was meeting the press to

declare his pleasure at joining Thistle, albeit on a short contract.

Brady said: ''I spoke to Bill McMurdo and have asked to speak to

McAvennie. I hope to do that over the weekend.''

Lambie, who was out for dinner with his wife as frantic officials

tried to tell him of the twist in the tale, said: ''I had a gentleman's

agreement that he would sign for us. There was one little thing to be

sorted out but all the details were down in black and white. There were

no problems. Surely your word should be good enough but if this is

correct there is no way Partick Thistle will be made a scapegoat.''

Now it is certain that the Thistle shirt McAvennie wore to pose for

the cameras is the only one he will don. A confirmed Celtic fan from

boyhood, McAvennie had been a great favourite with the Parkhead

aficionados during his three-year spell with the club but his

will-he-won't-he-leave saga in his final season lost him many admirers.

Now 33, he has spent the past 18 months with various clubs, among them

Aston Villa and lately South China in Hong Kong.

At Firhill, before the astonishing turn of events came about, he had

said he would not come back to Glasgow to make a fool of himself. ''I

know what the people there are like and I had no intention of going back

without being fit to play in the premier division.''