Football: Celtic in surprise sacking of Macari

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CELTIC have sacked Lou Macari, their manager, less than eight months after his arrival from Stoke City, writes David McKinney.

The announcement was made yesterday by Fergus McCann, the club's chief executive, who cited failure on the part of the manager to fulfil his contractual obligations as the reason for his dismissal.

McCann, who informed Macari on Tuesday, indicated his unhappiness that his manager had consistently refused to move his family to Glasgow and as a result frequently stayed in Stoke for as many as four or five days in a week.

The suggestion, however, was yesterday denied by a member of his coaching staff, Peter Henderson, who suggested Macari worked harder than any manager he had ever known. McCann's move will add fuel to suggestions that he never got on with Macari, whom he inherited when he took over the club last November. McCann said: 'I regret having to make the change but we felt we had to have a manager here to manage things.

'Macari has received written instructions and reminders since 29 March regarding his obligations to communicate and report on his activities, to attend to Celtic Park on a full-time basis and other matters and he has failed to follow these directions. I feel - and all members of the Celtic board agree - that his replacement as manager is in the best interests of the club.'

Macari, currently at the World Cup, was appointed last October and proved an instant success with Celtic supporters, taking the side to a 2-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox in his first game.

However, defeat in the Uefa Cup by Sporting Lisbon and an early Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Motherwell followed and, despite finishing fourth in the league, the club failed to secure a place in Europe. At the time of his arrival Macari asked to be given time and money to reshape the side but he incurred the anger of several senior players as he set about changing the style of the team to accommodate a long-ball game.

The Celtic board have indicated a replacement will be sought as soon as possible and that replacement might be Tommy Burns, the former Celtic player who is currently manager of Kilmarnock. Others in the frame include Ivan Golac, the manager of Dundee United, Mark McGhee, of Reading, and possibly Tommy Craig, who has operated as caretaker manager on a couple of occasions. Burns said: 'I am the manager of Kilmarnock at the moment and that's all there is to it.'

The fact that Burns is also a registered player with the Ayrshire club suggests Celtic could have a difficult time in prizing him away from Rugby Park.

At the same time as he announced Macari's dismissal McCann indicated there is a problem with the proposed transfer of Andy Walker from Bolton. The player, who arrived on Monday, has a fitness problem and will undergo a second medical on Monday before any deal is completed.