Gordon Strachan tells ‘the keyboard cowboys’ to go and support their teams
THE saga of newco Rangers being sent to start again in the Third Division has prompted former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan to issue a challenge to the fans of all those clubs who voted according to their fans’ wishes.
“One Sunday I was bored out of my skull and I counted up the Scottish Third Division attendances,” said Strachan. “All the crowds put together came to 2,300.
“I think the strongest people, the people who get crowds to turn up, should get more of a vote, that’s for sure.
“Why are we listening to people who only get 200 at their games? They can’t be bothered turning out to see their local side so why do we listen to them? You can listen to the fans that turn up – fine.
“But this is the chance for the phone-in fans, the keyboard cowboys, to get out there and actually go and support their teams. Looking from a distance, there are a lot of fans talking about what should happen here and what should happen there, so come on fans, go and support your club now.”
Asked what he thought the effect on Scottish football of Rangers having to go down to the Third Division would be, Strachan replied: “I really don’t know. We are all guessing now. It’s a situation that has never arisen before with a club like this so we’re really just waiting to see what happens.”
Strachan was speaking at the ‘fans’ Old Firm match staged by Ladbrokes at Pollok FC where he was in charge of the Celtic team that drew 1-1 with Walter Smith’s Rangers XI.
For the real teams, Ladbrokes have Celtic at 1-33 to win the SPL, with Rangers at 1-25 to win the Third Division. Given that overwhelming favouritism, Strachan has some concern for the position that his successor at Celtic, Neil Lennon, finds himself in this season. “It’s the shortest odds of any football team in history,” said Strachan.
“Neil enjoys the challenge of everything he does and the Old Firm games are part of that huge challenge so he’ll miss that.
“You might think he wouldn’t miss the sleepless nights that come with being Celtic manager but that’s part of being alive and if you’ve not got that your life becomes monotonous.
“There’s an intensity that makes you feel alive.
“You’re talking about a special club, where every minute of your day you have to be on your toes. There’s always something happening – if it’s not a crisis, I’ll guarantee you it will be a crisis the next day.”
Strachan said the Celtic fans will turn out to watch a “good product” even if the games are not always competitive: “It’s not going to be a walkover because the coaches and players of other clubs will say they can win things and come second and qualify for Europe.”
Players will still want to come to Celtic even though there are no foreseeable Old Firm games – barring Cup ties – for three years. “Having a better chance to play in the Champions League will bring them,” said Strachan.
“A lot of players think that playing in the Champions league will give them a better chance of getting megabucks in the bigger leagues.” Although he did not see the 2-1 first-leg win on Wednesday evening, Strachan is confident that Celtic can qualify for the Champions League play-offs by beating or HJK Helsinki in Finland this coming Wednesday.
“One goal isn’t going to be enough for Helsinki,” said Strachan. “I think Celtic will progress nicely. They went to Rennes and Udinese and got a draw and that’s good, that’s progress, but I think they’ll win over there in Helsinki.”
Celtic getting into the Champions League is hugely important for the club and for Scottish football, said Strachan, not least because Celtic could spread the European money by buying players from other clubs. And nothing compares to a Champions League night at Parkhead. “I’ve been to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, and I don’t think they compare to Celtic.
“It was the one time I used to want to go down the tunnel early. I wanted to get there to soak up the atmosphere.
“We beat AC Milan, Benfica, and Man United, but the Spartak Moscow game had everything, the best ever.”
For his part, Strachan is only grateful that he and chief executive Peter Lawwell and main shareholder Dermot Desmond stuck to Celtic’s business plan.
“It is easy to say you must spend, you must spend,” said Strachan, “and it’s easy to fall to that kind of pressure.
“It’s hard to stand up and be stubborn. You must stick to your principles.”
• Gordon Strachan was speaking as Ladbrokes staged this season’s Only Old Firm Derby. Ladbrokes is No 1 for Rangers and Celtic betting with Old Firm coupons available in shops now and best prices & money back offers every weekend. Bet online at Ladbrokes.com or with your mobile now.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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