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Few tears shed for Strachan

Gordon Strachan has left his post at Celtic
Strachan's record of success did not win over all of the Celtic support

By Colin Moffat

Gordon Strachan won three league titles in four years at Celtic Park and twice steered the Glasgow giants into the last 16 of the Champions League. Yet there is a significant section of the club's support that will not be sorry to see the manager leave.

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone sometimes and the criticism has always bemused me," said BBC Scotland football correspondent Chick Young on hearing of Strachan's departure.

"Quite a large minority of the support never quite got to grips with Gordon Strachan."

Not since the great Jock Stein has a Celtic manager delivered three consecutive championship successes.

Indeed, Strachan is just the third manager of the club to deliver a hat-trick of titles.

And, despite a limited budget, the 52-year-old at least matched the domestic record and eclipsed the European achievements of his predecessor, Martin O'Neill, who enjoyed near-Messianic status among the Celtic faithful.

So why did the supporters fail to warm to the former Coventry and Southampton boss, who was such a fantastic player for Scotland, Aberdeen and Manchester United?

It has been suggested that it stems from his days with the Dons, when he played a key role as Alex Ferguson's team would regularly visit Glasgow and humble both sides of the Old Firm.

On two occasions, once at Celtic Park and once at Pittodrie, Strachan was attacked on the pitch by idiotic Celtic followers.

Then there is the theory that his prickly relationship with the media played a part in his lack of popularity.

"One of his problems was with his media interviews," former Celtic midfielder and assistant manager Murdo MacLeod told BBC Scotland.

"Fans love to hear about what's going on behind the scenes and Gordon was quite often abrupt with reporters.


"He wouldn't answer questions and sometimes just walked away. I think that went against him with some fans."

His behaviour may not have always painted the club in the best light, but it is hard to believe Celtic supporters would be overly sensitive to the feelings of Scotland's assembled hacks.

Some fans have complained of a lack of panache under Strachan and the team has struggled to entertain over the last two seasons.

Following two runaway successes while Rangers were in disarray, the last two campaigns have gone down to the final day, with the honours being shared by the Old Firm rivals.

There was disappointment in Europe this season, with Celtic crashing out of the Champions League group stages and losing out on a Uefa Cup place to a very ordinary Aalborg side.

And the initiative in the title race was thrown away rather meekly after building up an eight-point lead during January.

An evenly fought contest was lost at Ibrox in the closing straight, but a tame 0-0 at Hibs was followed by another blank scoreline against Hearts as the challenge fizzled out.

Gordon Strachan has left his post at Celtic
Strachan had an uneasy relationship with sections of the media

Strachan could only dream of the money spent by O'Neill and he may have made a few duff signings - Thomas Gravesen and Adam Virgo spring to mind, while Roy Keane made little impact.

However, he did introduce Scotland to the genius of Shunsuke Nakamura, while Scott McDonald, Gary Caldwell, Andreas Hinkel and Scott Brown have all been excellent captures.

The fans tolerated Strachan while he was winning, but there was simply no well of good will to draw from once he encountered difficulties.

But perhaps we are reading too much into the role played by the mood of supporters in Strachan's decision to step down.

Maybe he had just grown weary of the monotony of the Scottish top flight and was fed up at a lack of financial backing.

"He tried to get new faces in January; he didn't manage to do that," added MacLeod.

"Maybe he has been told for next year there's going to be a similar amount of money to be spent."

Only squad player Willo Flood arrived in the winter transfer window, while an attempt to land Hibs striker Steven Fletcher proved fruitless.

The new manager is unlikely to receive a vast transfer war chest and he might have a large rebuilding job on his hands.

"Striker-wise, the middle of the park needs to be freshened," continued MacLeod.

"The strikers (Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Georgios Samaras), struggled all year. It's maybe time for both of them to move on and get a new team-mate up front for Scott McDonald.

"The centre-backs, I think they're strong enough in that area. Full-back could be strengthened.

"(Goalkeeper Artur) Boruc might want to leave in the summer as well, so there could be a lot of changes happening within Celtic Park."

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see also
Hunt for Strachan successor is on
25 May 09 |  Celtic
Strachan resigns as Celtic boss
25 May 09 |  Celtic

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