Strachan has simple masterplan to succeed at Celtic

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The Independent Football

With a mixture of trademark wit, self-deprecation, sarcasm and honesty, Gordon Strachan yesterday inherited one of the most demanding, pressurised, criticism-inducing jobs in British sport, then promptly declared that achieving success is no mystery.

With a mixture of trademark wit, self-deprecation, sarcasm and honesty, Gordon Strachan yesterday inherited one of the most demanding, pressurised, criticism-inducing jobs in British sport, then promptly declared that achieving success is no mystery.

"It's not as cosmic as people make out," said Celtic's 48-year-old new manager. "You need a good formation to stop you conceding, and good players to score. Simple."

Before Celtic fans start thinking that Strachan, whose management career to date has comprised five years at struggling Coventry and two at struggling Southampton, thinks life back in Scotland will be easy, he does not.

"I know what I'm letting myself in for and it still doesn't deter me," he said "The target at my previous clubs was to stay in the Premiership. Now we have to win every game.

"I've got an idea how huge this job will be. But I think it's going to surprise me how huge." Asked if he considered himself "the special one", à la Jose Mourinho, he laughed and replied: "I hope I'm just the successful one."

Strachan has not always had the best of relations with Celtic's fans, not least the one who tried to attack him on the pitch when he was an Aberdeen player some 23 years ago.

"Oh yes, it was always great coming to Parkhead," he quipped. "It was great getting attacked. It was one of the highlights of my career that.

"I think the guy got fined £100 and they had a whip-round in the pub and he made £200! And that was more than I got that day because there was no bonus because we got beat."

Strachan is now in the position where one of his former Aberdeen colleagues and best friends, Alex McLeish, the Rangers manager, is now his greatest professional rival.

"My ex-friend," he joked. "No, we will be friends but it is very unusual. I don't think Celtic and Rangers have had people who have been that close, as managers. But we have been competing for years, me and Alex. We even competed for the acne cream when we were younger - obviously I won that one.

"We understand that at this level there can only be winners and losers but as long as we compete then that will be fine by me."

Celtic have certainly been competing in the last five years, under the control of Strachan's predecessor, Martin O'Neill, who won seven trophies and re-established the green side of Glasgow as a force after more than a decade of Ibrox dominance. O'Neill only stepped down because his wife, Geraldine, has cancer, a fact that Strachan sombrely acknowledged.

"The Strachans know the O'Neills well and it is hard for me to celebrate being Celtic manager because of the circumstances that have brought me here," he said. "I can assure you if I could swap places and Martin was here with a healthy Geraldine I would do that, no problem."

The fact is he is in charge, and has been chosen, according to Celtic's chief executive, because of "his coaching expertise, his enthusiasm and desire to win".

Strachan's history of good working relationships with his players also helped, and may yet persuade Craig Bellamy to sign permanently.

Strachan said he had had "very positive talks" with the Wales international, who is also considering other offers.

"I have been working behind the scenes - with Martin's permission - in the last two weeks, cross-referencing his [transfer] targets and players which I would like to bring in," Strachan said, adding he was confident that Neil Lennon and Jackie McNamara will stay.

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