Neil Warnock: Celtic aren't a bunch of kickers - why should they lie down for pretty passers? - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Neil Warnock: Celtic aren't a bunch of kickers - why should they lie down for pretty passers?

What I Learnt This Week: It’s funny how often you see one side had 60 per cent of the ball but lost

Congratulations to Neil Lennon for masterminding a fantastic victory for Celtic over Barcelona. Watching it was the highlight of my week. I started the night flicking between them and the Chelsea and Manchester United games but I became glued to the Celtic match. Even though goal flashes kept coming in from the other games I just couldn't stop watching and when the young kid put them two up I was jumping up and down.

After the game over there, when Barcelona won in injury time, I read some critical columns about how it was good for football that Barcelona won as they were a fantastic team and Celtic had just gone out to spoil. I don't agree.

I know Barcelona have a very good youth system but they have spent plenty of money building that team, money which is way out of Celtic's reach. It is inevitable that they will have more ability in their team, but why should Celtic just lie down and let them walk through them? It is up to those quality players to work out how to beat a team. It is not as if Celtic were kicking lumps out of them.

I thought Lennon got his team selection and set-up just right. There is a weakness when Barcelona defend zonally and they picked that out for the first goal, isolating Dani Alves against Victor Wanyama at the far post. Then they defended in numbers but always maintained an attacking threat, which paid off when Xavi, of all people, made a right cock-up and Tony Watt scored.

It did make me think. There was Barcelona stringing together 70 passes and being unable to score, then Celtic launch a long kick from the goalkeeper and Watt takes two touches and scores.

Charles Hughes, the former high priest of FA coaching, who counted the number of touches before a goal and preached direct play, must have loved it. I never did understand his theories myself. Statistics can be so misleading. It is funny, though, how often at the moment you see one team had 60 per cent of the ball but still lost. Teams are increasingly prepared to let opponents pass the ball in front of them.

The atmosphere was incredible. Both Ibrox and Parkhead are fantastic grounds when full. I am disappointed there will be no Old Firm derbies for a few years as I've not been to one yet and it is on the list of things to do when I pack in, so I hope Rangers don't take too long to get back in the top flight.

I've been to our "local" club up there, Greenock Morton, a few times, but I'm told that's not quite the same as an Old Firm derby.

Local? It's the nearest club to Sharon's grandparents' place. We've even got some named bricks in the wall – me and the kids bought them one day. I didn't get Sharon one; she's never let me forget it.

I also want to see a Clasico, Real v Barça, when I stop. I'm told that's also a different sort of game to an Old Firm derby.

2. Flipping Mancini

I can't believe Roberto Mancini has got away with accosting the referee at the end of Manchester City's match with Ajax. Apparently it was not mentioned in the report of the referee or the Uefa observer so he is in the clear. I bet if it had happened in a domestic game the FA would have been on the phone making sure it was mentioned.

It just shows how the pressure gets to you, even someone who looks so in control can flip. I did have sympathy with him, though – it was a stonewall penalty and with Mario Balotelli never missing from the spot they would have picked up three vital points.

Chelsea did nick a winner – from a once unlikely source. When Victor Moses was at Palace one headed goal a season was his limit; he's now scored three for Chelsea, all with his head. Victor seems to be enjoying playing for them and he's part of what's become a wonderful Chelsea team to watch. The new signings have transformed the way they play.

3. Wilshere joy for Roy

Everyone knows how much England need Jack Wilshere so it is very handy for Roy Hodgson that he is suspended this week. Arsène Wenger has said he is unhappy Wilshere has been called up for the match in Sweden but it is not as if he is going to be overworked playing for 45 minutes in a friendly.

I'm really pleased Leon Osman has been recognised. I think in that Everton team he has been an unsung hero. It used to be Tim Cahill got all the attention, now it is Marouane Fellaini, yet I bet Osman is one of the first names on the team sheet now, just after Phil Neville.

It's unusual to get a first call-up at 31 but I didn't think Osman was that old. He seems to have been 25 for about 15 years. It certainly takes me back as I thought about taking him on loan to Sheffield United when he was a real youngster. I watched him twice in Everton reserves and loved him. He was full of energy, looked like he wanted to play anywhere, enthusiastic and could see a pass. He was so positive in his play but I thought in such a physical league as the Championship he would be gobbled up as he is so small. Then he went to Derby County and did all those things and I regretted not taking him.

Roy has also brought Raheem Sterling into the side, which will please QPR because I expect they made sure when they sold him to Liverpool they'd receive a nice bonus if he was capped. They knew he had talent but it's hard to keep kids that young and since they needed cash they were rubbing their hands at selling a 16-year-old for a tidy sum. I don't think anyone appreciated how quickly he would come on.

It is a significant game with Steven Gerrard's 100th cap. He's been a tremendous servant for club and country, but I wonder if he has any regrets about not moving to another club. Like all loyal players there must be times when he thinks "what if?" Liverpool are a fantastic club and he has been their heartbeat for what seems an eternity, but at the end of the day players want to win things and, while he has done that in Europe, the English league title has eluded him.

4. Burnley pickpockets

My comments after Leeds' defeat at Burnley appear to have had more coverage than the match. You always feel bad when beaten by a late goal but knowing we'd have won with decent finishing made it worse. I was asked, somewhat superfluously, if I was disappointed and replied: "I've not been as disappointed as this since I had my pockets picked in Vietnam"; I paused, then added, "by a 75-year-old woman". At least it brought a smile, unlike our finishing.

We've got Watford today and as well as hoping for an improvement I'm looking forward to seeing Gianfranco Zola. He was a player I'd have been prepared to pay money to watch. I thought he brought enjoyment wherever he played and gave a new dimension to football. Now he's trying to build something at Watford and preaching the type of football he liked to play. It'll be a good challenge for us today. That is one of the attractions of English football, the different styles.

5. A good result in US

As usual after a game I couldn't sleep on Tuesday. Your mind is going at 100mph. Sometimes I watch a DVD of the game but I couldn't face it so I started watching the US election coverage. I found it fascinating. I'm pleased Obama won. It became clear he would at about half-two, at which I voted too... for bed.

6. Swann's way is right

I think the England cricket management have done the right thing in allowing Graeme Swann to come home from India to be with his wife and sick baby. I've always said family comes first. His mind would have been elsewhere anyway.

I had a player once whose wife had twins and one of them was in and out of hospital for a year. You just have to give people as much time as they need.

I'm looking forward to the Test series, especially now Kevin Pietersen is back in the team and making runs. The timing is good for TV viewers. I'll be able to watch it over breakfast. I might even have a tandoori instead of cereal, to get in the mood.

7. Amy's waltzer agony

Amy went on the waltzer on firework night in Plymouth. The guy said, "Scream if you want to go faster". She were getting squashed so she was screaming in pain. "Right, we'll go faster," said the guy. She said she was so pleased when it stopped.

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