herald

Monday 18 December 2017

strachan tries to dampen rivalry

Wee Gordon plays down clash of former Celtic bosses at Parkhead

Gordon Strachan has made a doomed plea to the Scottish media to concentrate on the players rather than managers for next month's international with Ireland.

A 2-2 draw in Poland was warmly welcomed by the Tartan Army although John O'Shea's late goal against Germany has taken some off the shine off the point taken home from Poland.

All Scottish eyes are now on the meeting of Strachan and Martin O'Neill at Celtic Park which has umpteen sub-plots running through it involving Roy Keane, Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy.

It's well over two years since the 'Old Firm' saga came to a halt with Celtic's Europa League double-header against Astra of Romania hardly likely to capture the imagination of football supporters and writers.

BACK BURNER

Into that void has come the Strachan v O'Neill clash which will put the first visit of England to Scotland in 15 years, four days after the match with Ireland, firmly on the back burner.

During his five years in charge of Celtic O'Neill made no attempt to sweeten up the Scottish media pack with his success directly responsible for the demise of Rangers as they chased the dream through unsustainable spending and an illegal tax scheme that led to administration followed quickly by liquidation.

Around many parts of Glasgow there is an undercurrent of resentment that the match will be played at Celtic Park although it's hard to imagine O'Neill being any less motivated if the game was staged at Ibrox.

Against that background Strachan's wish that the managers stay in the background will be ignored with the build up underway as soon as the final whistles blew on Tuesday night.

"We'll not be locking horns, it's the players who're playing," the Scotland boss pleaded. "Martin, like me, doesn't over-think football. We generally leave it to the players. We give them an idea of how to play and then let them get on with it.

"It'll be a British cup-tie type thing. Neither of us will be too interested in who wins the possession count, put it that way.

"There will be analysts telling us at half-time how many passes each team had. They'll be like: 'you've had 452 passes, you're going great,' so the lads can keep passing. No, Martin and I will feel the same about it."

Strachan was among the many targets in Roy Keane's latest book but the Scotland boss claims that there is no bad feeling between the two men.

Keane went on record to say that he signed for Celtic in spite of Strachan's lukewarm approach to the deal but it seems that time together in television studios has healed any lingering rift.

"We have spoken about bits and bobs from our time at Celtic in the last three years with ITV," Strachan explained. "We just laugh at things.

"You need to take into account how he wrote the book. He was sitting smiling when he told that story. He laughs and so do the people round about him. There you go, it's funny."

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