NEIL LENNON teamed up with Roy Keane in the Celtic midfield on the afternoon the team took a massive step towards their fortieth title.
Gordon Strachan was the manager who brought the Manchester United legend to Parkhead to fulfil a boyhood dream.
The 34-year-old Republic of Ireland powerhouse partnered the Northern Ireland captain against Alex McLeish’s Rangers at Ibrox on May 1 2006. It was another must-one encounter as the Hoops sought revenge from their championship lapse the previous season when they gifted the crown to Alex McLeish’s side on the last day of the season at Motherwell.
Author Alex Gordon recalls Strachan’s momentous debut season in his latest Celtic book, ’50 Flags Plus One’,when Martin O’Neill’s successor embarked upon the first of three domestic championship triumphs.
The new man had suffered a 3-1 loss in Govan in his first Glasgow derby in August, but had turned things around by the time a return to the venue was due nine months later.
READ ALL ABOUT IT…Alex Gordon’s latest Celtic book, ’50 Flags Plus One’.
Alex, the veteran of fifteen Celtic books, writes: “Now, after two triumphs over Rangers – one in the Premier League and one in the League Cup – five goals scored and none conceded, Strachan was a veteran of the fixture. There were no hidden terrors, no snakes under every rock.
“The manager had been bold in his team selection and formation. He paired Neil Lennon alongside Roy Keane, with a combined age of sixty-eight, in the heart of the side’s engine room with cynics insisting they could not play beside each other; ‘too slow, too similar’, they said.
“To offset their accepted lack of pace, the Celtic boss relied on the industry of Stiliyan Petrov and Shaun Maloney in the middle of the park. John Hartson, who appeared to relish the face-to-face duels with antagonistic defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos, led the attack with Maciej Zurawski supporting. It worked a treat.
“Celtic went into the affray in the realisation they could go thirteen points ahead of nearest challengers Hearts who had lost 2-1 against Aberdeen at Tynecastle twenty-four hours earlier. The only goal arrived in the eleventh minute with Maciej Zurawski waltzing onto a stabbed pass from Stiliyan Petrov to tuck a neat effort wide of the stranded Ronald Waterreus into his bottom right-hand corner. The gap between the clubs had grown to twenty-one points.
TWO’S COMPANY…Roy Keane and Neil Lennon celebrate after the 1-0 win at Ibrox on May 1 2006.
“Alex McLeish’s managerial stint at Ibrox was also nearing an inglorious conclusion. The euphoric delight of last season’s unexpected final day gift of the league championship had been emphatically extinguished.
“In the aftermath of his third consecutive victory over Rangers, Strachan observed: “I picked the team for the heavy going. I thought it would be a physical game and so I picked physical players. It doesn’t surprise me that Neil Lennon and Roy Keane can play together. We looked relaxed, but that comes from having good players and their touch makes them look that way.”
Neil Lennon, who had been red-carded at the final whistle in his previous visit to Ibrox, added: “In the context of the weekend, with Hearts losing yesterday, it was a big incentive for us. The whole team and the club are delighted with the way it has gone. There has been a big swing for us.
“There are still twelve games to go and every one will be different in their own way. This win, though, will give us a massive lift, but we are going to take it one game at a time. Hopefully, we will have learned from last year. You can’t take anything for granted. You can’t foresee what’s ahead and all we can do is go out and be fully committed, play our football and be brave, just like we were today.”
’50 Flags Plus One’ highlights the dramatic and thrilling 2005/06 campaign and is told with insider knowledge by Alex Gordon, a former sports editor of the best-selling Sunday Mail, and his latest publication is acclaimed by club legend and Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld as “a truly unique tribute to Celtic”.
CQN Bookstore is the only place to buy the book – and we are giving away a copy of ‘SEVILLE: The Celtic Movement‘ ABSOLUTELY FREE with every order.
Please hurry – the offer is limited to while stocks last and they are going fast.
’50 Flags Plus One’ is the unique collection of hitherto unknown tales behind the fifty-one title triumphs in Celtic’s glorious history.
* REVEALED! The half-time pep talk by Jock Stein against Rangers that sparked the first nine-in-a-row title sequence.
* FROM the dole to title delight – how things changed so dramatically and gloriously for a Celtic legend in the club’s Centenary Year.
* DAVIE HAY reveals how Hearts HELPED Celtic to overcome the Edinburgh team in the dramatic race for the 1986 title.
* THE day Neil Lennon threatened to quit in his first spell as Celtic manager.
* THE History Bhoys – the day Celtic won TWO games in the same day to claim their thirteenth title.
* FIFTY-GOAL Jimmy McGrory ends a decade in the doldrums with eighteenth flag in 1936.
* THE Jimmy Johnstone Show – Celtic icons remember the day Wee Jinky ran amok at Ibrox. And the team won their second successive title in the nine-in-a-row glory days.
* JOCK STEIN’S heartfelt salute to Celtic greats after the Lions’ Last Hurrah with title victory in 1971.
* BIG Jock’s tenth championship – the legend goes out with another remarkable title triumph in 1977. The legend talks about dealing with tension in a thrilling campaign that was capped with a Scottish Cup victory over Rangers. Discover what Kenny Dalglish did to bewilder the Celtic manager.
* ‘CELTIC are a fairy-tale football club,’ insisted Billy McNeill on his return to Parkhead as manager. And his first-season success with the championship – and the transfers that made it happen.
* THE night ten men won the league. Why Billy McNeill threatened to throw red-card culprit Johnny Doyle ONTO the field.
* ‘CELTIC: 50 Flags Plus One’ celebrates the club’s remarkable fifty-one league championships in their glorious history. To order a copy – and get a FREE book, ‘Seville: The Celtic Movement’ – please go to: ‘CELTIC: 50 Flags Plus One’.
* PLEASE note that CQN will be processing orders as swiftly as possible to make certain the books are with you well in time for Christmas. The Post Office has stressed the importance of having the books processed early and to allow three working days for the books to be shipped. All orders before midnight on Thursday, December 17, WILL be in the mail the following morning for pick up and delivery. Hail! Hail!