You remember Celtic manager, Gordon Stachan, third manager in our history to win three-in-a-row? Took us to the Champions League knock out stages for the first time, did much of this while comparative economics were moving against us, remember him? Is he the same Gordon Strachan who has transformed the Scotland national team’s results?
Gordon is unequivocally a successful manager but his Scotland team is performing far better than I thought possible when he took over what looked like a poisoned chalice. The most stunning fact of his record there is that they have not conceded a goal in three successive away games. Gordon’s Celtic covered 15 months, across two championship winning seasons, without keeping a single clean sheet away from home, no matter how lowly or distressed the opponent. Even good, experienced, managers learn, especially from their earlier troubles.
Jock Stein is viewed mostly through the prism of 1967 but during his final season as Celtic manager, 1977-78, the sentiment among many in the support was decidedly downbeat. Rangers (remember them, played in blue, I think?) would win their third title in four seasons, with two trebles thrown in for good measure. Celtic finished fifth in the league, Jock’s judgement was widely called into question.
At the time Leeds United were a top club in England and after Celtic sacked Jock they moved to secure him. Leeds had no doubts as to his abilities. A little over a month later the SFA offered him the Scotland job, which he took and excelled at, twice succeeding in World Cup qualifying campaigns. His talents were without question but stood in sharp contrast to how many in the support viewed him a few years earlier.
I don’t know if Jock was a better manager in 1982 and beyond than he was in 1978 but there’s a decent chance his football education didn’t stop when the trophies dried up at Celtic. Gordon Strachan is, like Jock was until the end, a student of the game. Neil Lennon is too, he is also receiving some of the reviews his illustrious predecessors would recognise. Gordon was an excellent Celtic manager but he’s better now, perhaps as a result of life’s experiences along the way.
It’ll be really interesting to see how Euro qualifiers reflect on the comparative progress of Gordon and Martin O’Neill, who for my money was a better manager than Mourinho when the latter deployed some of the best players in the world against Celtic in Seville, and needed to deploy every underhand trick in the book to come out on top.
I was blown away by the stunning contributions to our Mary’s Meals campaign yesterday. First in was an incredible £200 + £50 gift aid donation, followed by others, large and small, every one appreciated. Ignore those who would tell you society is dead. You can get involved here.
Seville, The Celtic Movement, launches this month.
“Porto were favourites and would go on to prove how good a team they were by winning the Champions League 12 months later. Their players would demonstrate their prowess across the world for the next decade. They had fabulous talent, so much so, that they should have aspired to better than the gamesmanship used during their run to the UEFA Cup and Champions League wins.”
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