I caught parts of Ireland’s win over Bosnia last night, then read the odd truculent comment about their style. Bosnia are a decent team. They reached the last World Cup and would have reached France, if Ireland didn’t put on a classic Martin O’Neill performance.
Football is a game of systems and Martin’s defensive system is perhaps one of the most effective in Europe. Good enough to get the better of Germany over two games and eliminate Bosnia. The goal Shaun Maloney scored against Ireland at Celtic Park was exceptional, while Scotland’s goal in Dublin was a deflection, any defence is susceptible to exceptional and deflected efforts.
If Ireland had attempted to play the ranging 30 yard passes which Bosnia used to put the home team under pressure, they would have lost the game last night. It’s hard to escape comparisons with our own European performances this season. Robust in Amsterdam, but expansive and vulnerable elsewhere.
The first job of any team is to make itself hard to beat. Martin’s been in the game a long time, and managed this from the off at Celtic, at home, anyway. His systems in the road in Europe failed. Apart from Amsterdam, of course.
The Winds of Change, Managing Celtic 1991 – 2005, published by CQN, is out TODAY, available on the relaunched CQN Bookstore! Alex Gordon, who wrote the prequel, Caesar & the Assassin, covering Billy McNeill and Davie Hay’s time as Celtic manager, leads us from Liam Brady’s time to the end of Martin’s era in 2005.
Celtic transformed beyond recognition during this period. Liam Brady, then ‘Luigi’ Macari managed Celtic through perhaps our most turbulent periods, before everything changed. Fergus McCann arrived, be brought in Tommy Burns and together we built a stadium.
The ultimate prize (as winning the league was then regarded) had to wait until 1998, during Wim Jansen’s short but historic time in charge. Fergus left us with Dr Jo, a man he wished he’d met earlier in his tenure, before the magnificent (cough) John Barnes era, and King Kenny’s League Cup.
Then Martin O’Neill came and took us all to school. We learned things about football that we didn’t know before.
Alex Gordon was a working journalist through this period and gained excellent access and insight into the club and our managers. Forewords by Billy McNeill and Davie Hay.