Football: Parkhead revisited

Calum Philip finds the Celtic chiefs on a new search for the perfect manager
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WE should have known that Wim Jansen was not going to be around long the minute he told the press last weekend that he would be going to the World Cup in France to look for potential signings.

That is the kiss of death around Celtic Park. Four years ago, Lou Macari set off on a similar scouting mission for the United States and got as far as Manchester Airport before a phone call from Fergus McCann told him that he could could look at all the players in the world, he simply would not have a team to put them in.

Now it is McCann, and the Celtic general manager, Jock Brown, who are on the recruitment trail. It has been like that quite often during McCann's four years in charge of Celtic. In the summer of 1994, he lured Tommy Burns to replace Macari, and last July he swapped Burns for Jansen. The club would have endured a summer of discontent in 1995 too if Burns had not wriggled out of the noose after criticising McCann for failing to back him with money.

The only year there was not even a hint of upheaval was 1996, but since Burns had taken his side through a league campaign which brought just one defeat, though no title, McCann left well alone.

This year, however, the chairman was unable to resist it. Celtic have been head-hunting since the start of the year. It has emerged that approaches were made as far back as January to enquire about various coaches' contract situations. Relations between McCann, Brown and Jansen had deteriorated so rapidly that Celtic knew the Dutchman would not be staying. "I had hoped that once he came here and saw what we had at Celtic," reflected Brown, "he would want to stay on a long-term basis. But a coach like Wim appears to prefer the short-term situation.

"We have had to give thought to Wim's replacement because he cast doubt on his future here. We had to make contingency plans."

Certainly, Jansen, whether by design or fortune, has made Celtic a much more attractive job than when he took over. The club are now in the Champions' League and will play in front of sell-out 60,000 crowds next season now that Parkhead's renovations are complete.

McCann believes that he will have "no shortage of quality applicants" knocking on the door. But in truth, Celtic are already knocking on doors themselves. Jansen was the end-product of a laborious search a year ago which centred around Bobby Robson, who prevaricated at Barcelona before staying at the Nou Camp, and then forced Celtic to pull the ready-made substitute in Jansen off the shelf.

The intention this time is that the hunt will be much quicker. Among the top candidates are Leicester City's Martin O'Neill, Gordon Strachan of Coventry, Anghel Iordanescu of Romania, the ex-Celt Mick McCarthy who now manages the Republic of Ireland, and Antonio Oliveira, coach of Porto.

Oh, and Craig Brown. Jock's elder brother has just signed a new four- year contract with the SFA but knows that the financial rewards of club management are greater. Celtic are believed to be looking closer to home, which boosts McCarthy's chances. Yet O'Neill's intelligence and geniality could be greater assets. The Celtic support would also take to the Belfast boy who has proclaimed his love of the green and white hoops.

Strachan has counted himself out. The Coventry manager joked: "I've just bought a new kitchen and I want to get some use out of it." Does the redhead feel too combustible to stand the heat in McCann's kitchen?