The phrase Poisoned Chalice could have been written with the Scotland national team manager’s job in mind. Even in the 80s when we had great players, and the likes of Stein and Ferguson in charge, a sense of under-achievement followed Scotland in tournament football.
In Gordon Strachan’s favour as he takes over at Hampden today, is the 14 years in the wilderness which has reset expectations to ‘Incredibly Modest’. This contrasts with his arrival at Celtic Park seven and a half years ago, a few weeks after the messianic Martin O’Neill left the premises. Then expectations were huge, but Gordon had to achieve put a winning team on the field while curtailing expenditure against rapidly increasing budgets in the English game.
The result was not always pretty but it was effective. He became only the third manager in our history to win three-in-a-row and took us to the knock out stages of the Champions League twice, eclipsing O’Neill’s achievement in Europe’s top tournament. Few could have measured up so well.
In 2006, when he won the league at the earliest date in the history of Scottish football, he took his players, backroom and support staff onto the field in a moving movement of triumph. The stoicism with which he clung onto the league campaign in 2008, when all seemed lost, was remarkable. There can be few more enjoyable ways to win the league than from a 15 point deficit in April – one of the great times to be a Celtic supporter. When his team ran out of steam in 2009 he left the scene with much less fanfare than he deserved.
Of all the former Celts working in the media Gordon is truest to the club. Celtic is his team and the joy he gets as a supporter is evident. Such comment will be tempered now he is Scotland manager, but we wish him every success.
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