'Gordon faces a huge challenge as Martin has done a great job'

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The Independent Football

Kenny Dalglish hailed Martin O'Neill as "a magnificent servant" to Celtic after the Northern Irishman confirmed he would bring his five-year spell at the club to an end after Saturday's Scottish Cup final.

"I am not surprised because I think the family will come first and it always should do," Dalglish said. "If Martin has a problem that is more important than football then he's definitely entitled to do it. No one at Celtic Park, no supporter would hold it against him.

"The man has been a magnificent servant to the club and if that is what Martin wants to do then everyone should respect that."

The appointment of Gordon Strachan as O'Neill's successor was welcomed by his former Aberdeen team-mate Neale Cooper - who believes Sir Alex Ferguson deserves some of the credit for Strachan landing one of the biggest jobs in British football.

Cooper - named as Gillingham's new manager earlier this week - played with Strachan in Aberdeen's great team of the early 1980s. Ferguson was the mastermind of that team's European Cup Winners' Cup triumph in 1983 - and several of the players which made up that side have gone on to become managers and coaches in their own right - among them the Rangers manager Alex McLeish.

"I think almost all of that team went through their coaching badges and that had a lot to do with Fergie pushing us to do that," Cooper said. "It is incredible to think how many players from that team went into management or coaching - Gordon, Billy Stark, John Hewitt, Eric Black, Jim Leighton, Alex McLeish, Neil Simpson and myself.

"They have all been involved in management or coaching at some stage and I would say Fergie was a big influence on that."

He added: "Martin has been an excellent manager and I'm sure everyone will be sad to lose him. But they have a great character taking over there.

"It is a fantastic job and Gordon has great experience in the game. He has had a nice break from football but Celtic are a big club and Gordon knows that. He is the kind of person who will do well.

"Gordon is a tremendous character - he is full of enthusiasm and says what he feels, which a lot of people like about him."

O'Neill won the Parkhead faithful's affection when he led Celtic to a 6-2 derby win over Rangers in his first Old Firm game in charge.

Tommy Gemmell, one of the Lisbon Lions of 1967, warned Strachan that the fans will expect similar high standards under his charge. He said: "The Celtic fans will have huge expectations after the five years Martin has had here. He has had a very successful five seasons and they will be looking for Gordon to get off to a flier the same as Martin did in his first season."

Another Celtic legend, Jimmy Johnstone, believes O'Neill deserves credit for having the strength to quit the job he loved. Johnstone was struck down with motor neurone disease three years ago and he has applauded the Irishman's decision to put his family first.

He said: "There is nothing more important in life than family and I am full of admiration for Martin and I wish him and his family all the very best. Gordon faces an immense challenge as Martin has done such a great job. It's very sad to see him go, but family is worth more than anything."