|Gordy, a Monty perspective|
|05-12-08 09:02 AM|
From day one of rumours about him being our next manager I was raging. Fair enough he done an ok job in England, nothing special but guiding a poor Premiership side to the FA Final deserves credit and at that time that was the only credit he was getting from me.
He eventually signed for Celtic and I for one wasn't delighted at all and wanted him out as soon as possible. Honestly, I just never thought he was up to the task of rebuilding an aging, injury prone, inconsistent and low morale squad. The friendlies started, and as per expectations, poor results and poor performances followed. Already I was getting tore into him. His first major task came in the Champions League against a team whom few had ever heard of. I expected a narrow defeat due to the fact that a lot of big clubs tend to struggle against central/eastern European sides at their home venue and that we had a poor squad left by a great manager who sadly couldn't deal with the pressure he was under but he stayed there in the end and helped us win the Scottish Cup. Instead, we were humiliated, and by that point I really hated him. His next challenge, could he get his team to bounce back, or had the squad morale been completely wiped?
First day of the SPL, a disappointing performance with Celtic conceding 4 goals and taking it to the final minute to get a point. Celtic fans celebrated like mad when we leveled the score, but I certainly didn't. I thought it was the sign of bad things ahead. Things got worse when we had were later defeated by our arch enemies. By now a majority of Tims had lost faith and wanted Strachan out. The next test, could his team do it against the scum?
As the season progressed, it became clear that improvements had been made. The standard of our football had risen and a gain in team spirit was evident. Strachan’s team had risen to this challenge- we had matched and bettered the scum. Twice in one week, his Celtic mauled the Huns. Credit was due. Many fans felt that good times were ahead and much faith had been restored.
The season went on with us topping the league. Rangers appeared to be falling apart and a great Hearts side was playing the best football in the league- battling against us for first place. In came January and one of the greatest comebacks I have ever seen. Hearts showed that they were still on form, and were mauling us. We were 2-0 down within the first 8 minutes, but a brilliant Celtic bounced back to win 3 - 2.
One week later saw Roy Keane’s debut- and Celtic crumbled to a young Clyde team. Despite that result, Strachan’s team recovered: pumped the Huns; pumped every other SPL side; and won the league comfortably. In the course of the year, we also took the CIS Cup. Despite this success, questions remained: Could he do it in the Champions League?; did we improve or did we just beat an appalling Hun team?; could Strachan’s team be consistent? This was the next hurdle - with the demise of Eck - to defeat a Hun manager who appeared to be bringing big time excitement back to Ibrox.
Season 2 came and in we went: defeating the champions of England; sweeping aside a good Benfica side with some stunning football; and defeating the Danish champions. An unlucky loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford was followed with a dramatic return match as Celtic Park which saw Celtic clear the group stages for the first time. The tally for Strachan’s first season in the Champions’ League group stage was 8 goals for and three clean sheets. This was all the more remarkable given that the defence had been rebuilt in the close season. After many attempts, we were up where we belong- in with the big boys. We then later went out to the team who won it that year, conceding only 1 goal in both legs after a brilliant defensive performance. No way could we have gone on the attack in both legs as they would have destroyed us with their counter attacking football. We simply did not have the players to play sexy football. We didn't have the players to dominate a side who were full of skillful, composed and world class players who had played at the highest level their whole career. Much praise was due to everyone at Celtic for achieving this fantastic run: to raise their game from SPL to CL was an achievement in itself- and many clubs in poorer leagues struggle to do this.
Domestically, we continued to win ugly, playing some very poor football but getting the results that mattered. The Huns had been having a nightmare- with the “resignation” of Le Guen. Still when Walter Smith came in, they sealed up their leaky defence and the managed to close the gap. In the end, we won the league and the Scottish Cup, but all could see a Hun team which was clearly improved. The challenge had been thrown down. Anyway, Celtic, yet again were successful, despite winning ugly. We remained “the big bhoys” in Scottish football and were looking forward to European football with a restored reputation. Strachan had seen off yet another Rangers manager. LeGuen was well regarded throughout Europe and was reputed to have been wanted by many big clubs.
Season 3 was the real test… the big one- the one to show if he really was a great manager. Attractive football had been played, high scoring results were being accomplished and Celtic dominated most of their SPL games. In Europe, once again we were successful. We defeated a Shaktar side that had spent £20 million on two players, winning against the Champions of Europe at Celtic Park, and beating Benfica once more. Once again, Celtic were able to make the step from SPL to Champions’ League and into the last 16 we went again. We went out to a fantastic Barcelona team full of the world’s best: Xavi; Iniesta; Messi; and Henry. We did well to score two against them at home while only conceding one at the Camp Nou.
Domestically, our initially strong form faded. Embarrassing results followed in rapid succession. We failed to beat the Huns in four attempts. We could not beat Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup, we could not beat Motherwell at home. By New Year, the pressure was building. Having played more games, we were potentially thirteen points behind a Hun team who had a great chance of winning every tournament they were in, including the UEFA Cup. Morale was low and the form was largely disappointing, but somehow with the fantastic appointment of Neil Lennon and signing of Barry Robson, Strachan had made the right choice: fight and dig. It was needed. We then went on to win comfortably. We then went on to beat the Huns on two consecutive occasions- and winning the league on the last day of the season. Under all that pressure, Strachan's ability to bounce back had come through again. We all wondered when he first came, if he could: 1 - Do it in Europe; 2 - Bring us success; 3 - Put the Huns in their place; and 4 - Show commitment towards the club. Well, he has done all four, and he showed his commitment to Celtic people when his personal pain over the death of a Celtic legend was plain to be seen. He showed commitment in fighting through the tough days- when many were calling for his head. To win the league last season-under so much pressure- and in this manner, really touched me, it was the best league win of my time as a Celtic fan. As the first manager since Jock Stein to win 3 in a row, Strachan deserves much praise and respect.
Season 4, very attractive football is being played, top of our league, banging in the goals for fun at times, some fantastic and promising signings, more Champions League football and still in the chance for the domestic treble. We were unlucky in the Champions League this year with the first game missing a penalty and getting a good goal chopped off, second game with the opposition getting a free kick which shouldn't have been, 3rd game where Manchester United got 2 offside goals, 4th game, a game where we played brilliant but Manchester United finally broke down a defence who seemed disciplined and properly organised and last night we go put out by a team we dominated, missed 4 great chances against and had given away two unlucky own goals. It's the law of averages, it was sooner or later when Celtic were going to do very poor in the best competition in the world, it isn't easy for a team like Celtic to raise their game after playing against shit week in and week out. It isn't easy for a team who don't get as much money as a lot of other top class sides do.
Now onto the progress of players. Another one of Strachan's doubts in his game was if he could cope with the ability big players have. 2 in particular were Thomas Gravesen and Roy Keane, the first two big names we expected a lot from considering their past. Gravesen got off to a good start but then faded, went to Everton and from what I seen he would be considered as a disaster. Why the decline? Was it just one of them signings which weren't to be?
Roy Keane, a player who was world class, in his prime he bossed the best and in his prime he was considered the best. Fair enough the guy hadn't played in a while before his move to the Parkhead club we all love but his debut was contemptible. A Clyde side, a side that had played in the lower leagues most of their days, a team full of inconsistent football "kids". Keane was destroyed that night, not the only played that night don't get me wrong but a player of his calibre was focused on that night. As the season went on, slight improvement was made but none so spectacular, reasonable game against the scum but that was it in my opinion, Neil Lennon still the more effective player.
So 2 big name players underperformed, why is that? Can Strachan not deal with players with a lot of talent or was this just two unfortunate signings? Maybe a sign of bad days ahead as a team like Celtic can attract big names but if this keeps up, why would a big name player come to Celtic when the track record of big signings coming to Celtic is poor? They may bring a bit of success but that is team work not an individual effort.
Nakamura first came to Celtic with the technical ability and composure you would expect from a world class player and recognized as one of the best free kick takers in the world. His problem was consistency and playing in away fixtures, had a reasonable season first season, showed some class but at times he was annoying to watch. His second season with Celtic, he exhibited what he was really capable of. Scoring against a world class side twice under so much pressure, being one of the main reasons why we reached the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time and putting in some decent performances in the Champions League (with the one against Benfica being a superb performance). Domestically, he gained more consistency at home and away fixtures and scoring the goal to help us win the SPL. Promising news there for Strachan, one big player who went on to be a success.
Scott Brown, after a promising start, his form declined and we all knew what to expect from Brown, an industrious midfielder, when he put in a performance to remember against two International teams full of world class players, France and Italy. Not to forget, good performances in the Champions League especially against the current European Champions, AC Milan. Sadly his form dipped due to family reasons but to come back from an emotional period like that won't be easy. He did though, this season he has easily been one of our best players, creating lots of chances, scoring his chances and quite high up in the assist table for Celtic. Dominating our midfield, brilliant at breaking up moves and brilliant at getting the ball forward. Not the Scott Brown of Hibs, but has adapted to Celtic's style of football perfectly and is just as effective as he was at Hibernian.
Artur Boruc, Strachan has helped Boruc develop into one of the best goalkeepers in the world and one of the best Celtic goalkeepers ever and certainly the best in my time. Brilliant in the Champions League for us giving world class performances against world class sides such as AC, Manchester United and Barcelona and impressing for his country as well in the biggest two tournaments on the International stage (have never watched Copa America so can't make a comment on that).
Hinkel, the German Internationalist, had a reasonable start but soon faded and ended up as a catastrophe. The man frequently got ripped apart by SPL standard players and his link up play/support for his winger was poor. To be fair, he merited a lot more time to progress as he had not played proper football for 2 years due to him not being able (and to be honest no one probably could) fight for his place due to arguably the worlds best right back, Daniel Alves, keeping him on the bench. Anyway, time was given, Hinkel improved, a call up to his national side and some brilliant consistent performances had been given. So much better at tackling, attacking and supporting the winger and other players. It's quite clear this man has a football brain.
Samaras, instant hit, not really much else to say as he didn't need time. Robson , another instant hit, scored against a world class side, one of the main reasons why we achieved 3 in a row and still put in some great performances in Europe and in Scotland.
Caldwell, after a poor start he has gradually got rid of his mistakes in his game and went on to be an invaluable asset to the team and for the past 11 - 12 months he has easily been one of our best players. Brilliant performances in every competition he has been in and has now started to look like a top class holding midfielder, only problem there is, we need him in defence.
McGeady, always had the ability, just had to be more consistent with it and have a better end product, under Strachan he got that and McGeady himself thanked the manager and that tough time Strachan put him through actually had a point to it. It made him progress extensively. Wilson after being hit by injuries, the injury prone versatile right back has now been fitter than ever and showing what a class full back he was, showing he can put in a tackle and skip by players for fun at times, so much improvement has been made in the number of months he has been back in first team football.
Scott McDonald, instant hit but his general play and ability at times had to be questioned, he was greedy and his ball control let him down at times. Now, he isn't as greedy and his first touch has improved on with his ball control also being great now. Showed this by dribbling by players for fun at times and putting in a world class performance (a wonder performance) against the current champions of Europe.
Hartley, I am a critic of him but he has improved, he is willing to get on the ball more and get it forward. Fair play to the man who has his fair share of critics and compared to the rest of the team, doesn't have the ability they have. Still a few players in our team that need to improve but I am sticking with the saying "No one is perfect". Players who sadly departed from the club then went on to feature in arguably the best league in the world, the English Premiership with some actually doing not bad and others actually getting first team football.
I ain't clued up on the financial side of things, but the man has reduced the debt at the club by a large margin, he has reduced the total wage packet to a large extent, he has bought brilliant bargains such as Samaras, Nakamura, Maloney, Boruc, Caldwell and Hinkel and he has sold players and got good money from them.
Basically he stayed here through tough times and got us what we wanted, he took on the pressure and then applied it to Rangers. He has brought success and he has put the Huns in their place, He has improved our financially stability. He has brought Celtic a great reputation.
Guy is a great in my opinion and I don't see why he can't go on to be a legend .
In Strachan, I trust.
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