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Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Mowbray pays for attacking instinct

Former Celtic manager Tony Mowbray with some of the players
Mowbray's brand of attacking football proved unsuccessful at Celtic

By Thomas McGuigan

Tony Mowbray breezed into Celtic Park last summer vowing to deliver silverware with attacking football.

Nine months later his blue eyes had lost their sparkle as he parted company with the club amid growing self-doubt over his philosophy.

Wednesday's 4-0 drubbing at the hands of relegation-threatened St Mirren was the final straw: 10 points behind league leaders Rangers, having played two games more.

Progressing to the last four of the Scottish Cup was not enough to rescue Mowbray from the sack after a horror debut season.

When paraded last June, Mowbray said he lived his life by "honesty, integrity, humility and respect" and that he hoped to bring those qualities to the Celtic team.

Unfortunately, his turbulent reign was characterised by inconsistency, poor form, passion-free displays and tactical naivety.

To be fair to Mowbray, who played for Celtic between 1991 and 1995, straddled by spells with Middlesbrough and Ipswich, he faced a difficult task when he agreed to succeed Gordon Strachan.

His predecessor, despite not endearing himself to some Celtic fans with his style of play, secured three SPL titles in four seasons and twice got to the last 16 of the Champions League.

The former West Brom boss showed during his time at the Hawthorns that he was not shy when it came to overhauling his squad.

Tony Mowbray's Celtic reign
Games - 45
Wins - 23
Defeats - 13
Draws - 9

And his cull at Celtic Park was swift and brutal: captain Stephen McManus joined Middlesbrough on loan; while Massimo Donati, Gary Caldwell, Scott McDonald, Barry Robson, Chris Killen and Willo Flood were all shown the door.

However, Mowbray failed to bring in players of sufficient character who could show leadership and mettle on the park.

Danny Fox, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Landry N'Guemo, Zheng Zhi, Josh Thompson, Ki Sung-Yong, Jos Hooiveld, Morten Rassmussen and Thomas Rogne were all added as Mowbray sought to stamp his authority on the club.

And Robbie Keane, Edson Braafheid and Diomansy Kamara joined the club on loan during a busy January transfer window.

Midfielder Scott Brown, who has rarely scaled the heights since his £4.4m move from Hibs, was given the captain's armband following his return from a long-term ankle injury.

When Brown was handed a domestic suspension, defender Darren O'Dea captained the side, despite spending a large chunk of the current season on loan at Championship outfit Reading.

Chopping and changing his central midfield also did Mowbray no favours, with Marc Crosas finding himself on the bench too often for some fans' liking.

Celtic's main weakness this term, unlike Rangers, has been their inability to win consistently and keep clean sheets.

Former Celtic manager Tony Mowbray
Mowbray departed Celtic after nine months in the job

Mowbray's men scored 56 goals in 30 league games but conceded 33, and their knack of frittering away valuable points caused growing alarm and frustration among supporters.

Leading 1-0 against Dundee United and Hearts before losing both games, and dropping more points against Aberdeen, Falkirk and Hibs intensified pressure on Mowbray.

He was unlucky with injuries to his defensive signings: both Hooiveld and Rogne were sidelined shortly after signing in January.

Eighteen-year-old Thompson has been pitched alongside O'Dea and the defence has shown a frailty in dealing with balls into the box.

And failing to beat Rangers in the league raised questions over Celtic's ability to deliver when it matters.

Celtic supporters became exasperated with Gordon Strachan's post-match thoughts, and they were frustrated in equal measure by Mowbray's laid-back style as the championship slipped through their fingers.


Fans didn't expect Celtic to overcome Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier but a poor showing in the Europa League cast further doubt on a squad that struggled to gel.

Time to settle is always in short supply for a Celtic manager and the drubbing by St Mirren signalled the end for Mowbray.

The manager and his backroom staff looked on helplessly as the Buddies swarmed all over Celtic's wilting backline.

"Maybe it isn't a league for trying to force the game and be expansive," the shell-shocked boss said afterwards.

And, in a swipe at Rangers, he added: "Maybe it's a league for playing defensive, negative football and having quality up front to counter-attack."

That self-doubt led Celtic to act and they are now looking for their 17th manager.

It's fair to say Mowbray has some thinking of his own to do, too.

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see also
Celtic part company with Mowbray
25 Mar 10 |  Celtic
Mowbray's Celtic reign in pictures
25 Mar 10 |  Scottish Premier
Improve or leave Celtic - Mowbray
22 Oct 09 |  Europe
Celtic challenge excites Mowbray
17 Jun 09 |  Celtic
Mowbray confirmed as Celtic boss
16 Jun 09 |  Celtic

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