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Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 17:25 UK

Mowbray the natural leader

New Celtic manager Tony Mowbray
Tony Mowbray has been a leader throughout his career

By David McDaid

"You can see, when you look behind a player's eyes, if there is something ticking away or if it's all just dormant."

When Celtic players first meet their new boss they would do well to bear in mind his words, uttered five years ago as he took the reins at Hibernian.

Passion, energy, and a will to win are what Tony Mowbray will want to find - qualities he possessed in his own playing days at Middlesbrough, Celtic and Ipswich.

The 45-year-old has become the 16th man to manage Celtic in its 121-year history.

This is Mowbray's third managerial appointment after Hibernian and West Brom, but many say the pressures involved in bossing an Old Firm side constitute a totally different proposition.

The sixth incumbent at Celtic Park, David Hay, gave an insight into the necessary attributes any Celtic manager must possess.

"You've got to be strong, single-minded and have a good football knowledge," he said, before adding as a footnote, "and you must finish above Rangers!"

Hay was sure Mowbray fitted the identikit, although no one can know whether the Yorkshireman can wrest the league title back from the blue half of Glasgow.

What is certain is that Mowbray's leadership qualities have shone from early on in his career, when at the age of 22 he became club captain at Middlesbrough.

His boss there, Bruce Rioch, thought so highly of the towering centre-back, that he said if he was going to the moon and could only take one man with him, then Tony Mowbray would be the man he would want by his side.

Celtic fans display a banner when Mowbray's Hibs visited in 2004
Mowbray is still held in high regard by the Celtic fans

Subsequent employers have been of a similar opinion, as he captained each of his teams on the pitch, and has also marshalled with success from the sidelines.

Hibernian surprised many when they gave a rookie Mowbray his first managerial job in 2004.

But in successive seasons he guided a youthful side to top-four finishes in the Scottish Premier League, becoming the first manager to do so since Eddie Turnbull in the 1970s.

The lure of the English Championship proved too great and, shortly into his third season at Easter Road, he departed for West Brom.

In 2008 he took the Baggies back to English football's top flight, although relegation was swift.

Some may feel that his decision to leave the Championship for a return to the SPL - on the brink of a cash crisis - is a step down the career ladder.

But, as well as Celtic being a perennial contender for domestic honours and Champions League football, it is a club that has left an indelible mark on Mowbray.

Bonds forged through adversity are often the strongest and Mowbray's time on the pitch is almost incidental to his five-year spell at Celtic Park.

He arrived in 1991 as a 28-year-old, signed by Liam Brady for £1m. Over the course of the next two years he fell in love with a local girl, married, and lost her to breast cancer.

Mowbray has spoken of his "affinity" with the club's fans who sent him "thousands upon thousands" of letters of support at a time he said his life was "decimated and empty".

Hay said that being a former Celtic player will mean he is accepted quicker by the club's support, but that sentiment will be forgotten if the team is not winning.

Having played under three different managers at Celtic, during an inauspicious spell when rivals Rangers dominated, Mowbray will know the demand for success - and the price of not delivering it.

He has a tough act to follow, as in four seasons under Gordon Strachan Celtic celebrated three SPL titles, a Scottish Cup, two League Cups and two appearances in the Champions League last 16.

Despite the trophies, for a section of the Celtic fans, Strachan's methodical, patient playing style was a source of frustration.

His at-times irascible demeanour and lack of a 'Celtic background' also chafed with others to varying degrees.

Tony Mowbray with Abdessalam Benjelloun during their Hibs days
Mowbray prefers the quiet word to the dressing down

In these respects Mowbray is perhaps a polar opposite from his predecessor.

On evidence, the brand of football should change to reflect his principles of playing the game at pace with fluid passing.

Strachan half-joked that he'd been named PFA Manager of the Year mostly for his man-management in coping with complex characters such as goalkeeper Artur Boruc, as well as dealing with a frosty relationship with winger Aiden McGeady.

It will be interesting to see how Mowbray deals with the various personalities in the Celtic dressing room.

Again going by past form, his style will differ to his fiery predecessor.

When he took over at Hibernian he spoke of taking players aside individually to try to build a rapport with each of them.

He also said he favours an arm round the shoulder, rather than a clip round the ear.

These philosophies will probably sit well with the Celtic players and support alike - as long as he gets his hands on trophies.



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see also
Mowbray confirmed as Celtic boss
16 Jun 09 |  Celtic
Tony Mowbray's career in photos
16 Jun 09 |  Scottish Premier
Celtic must pay for Mowbray - Hay
09 Jun 09 |  Celtic
Strachan resigns as Celtic boss
25 May 09 |  Celtic
Mowbray leaves Hibs for West Brom
13 Oct 06 |  West Brom


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