TOM Boyd is predicting a no-holds-barred battle of wits as Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan go head-to-head in Dublin on Saturday evening.
The Republic of Ireland boss and his Scotland counterpart will be in opposing dug-outs at the Aviva Stadium having both occupied with some distinction the home bench at Celtic Park earlier in their managerial careers.
However, while the three precious Euro 2016 qualification points at stake will be the main focus for both, former Bhoys skipper Boyd, who played with Strachan and for O’Neill, insists they will not be the only motivation for the pair.
He said: “They’re both winners and you can see that coming right through them. They’re enthusiastic about the game as well and have a real passion for their football.
“Martin comes alive on match day, but Gordon is probably like that 24 hours a day - even at training, I hear. They think about the game very deeply, and are just so passionate about it.
“There is an edge to it, especially with both being successful Celtic managers in the past as well. Managers like to get the better of their peers, so that will certainly be an element, the bragging rights that come with that in terms of managers.
Martin comes alive on match day, but Gordon is probably like that 24 hours a day - even at training, I hear.Tom Boyd
“They’ll be putting on a nice public face for the cameras, the two ex-Celtic managers and all that. But deep down, both want to win. Even if it is just for the bragging rights, they want to win. That doesn’t change, that comes from your will to win, your desire to win.”
Former Scotland international Boyd will be hoping for a repeat of the Group D victory the Scots secured over their neighbours courtesy of Shaun Maloney’s lone strike in Glasgow in November last year.
However, having served as captain in O’Neill’s 2001 Treble-winning Celtic team, he knows just how effective the 63-year-old can be in rallying his troops when they need it most.
He said: “Whether or not it was the fact that he was a lawyer or not, I don’t know, but he can certainly command an audience of people and of players. He could keep control, a controlled aggression.
“I did see him lose it after one game, when we lost 1-0 at Inverness after we’d beaten Liverpool. There were a few expletives after that game and I remember he lost it a little bit.
“But then he came in and apologised to us later because I think it affected him. He liked to express himself, but to keep it controlled.
“I was captain at the time - team captain initially and then he saw through me and eventually made me club captain and started to leave me out. I’d say I was getting old, but Martin will say I was getting rubbish. That was towards the end.
“He was great to work under, treated you with respect as long as you treated him with respect as well. There was no problem that way, he’s a very good manager to work with.”
However, for all the positivity surrounding O’Neill’s appointment in November 2013, the Scotland game could prove pivotal to the current campaign and in the longer term, to his future, and Boyd, who was speaking in Dublin at the launch of Ford’s exclusive ‘152’ Summer Sales Event, is not convinced the Ireland boss will get the result he craves this weekend.
Asked for his prediction, he said with a smile: “Scotland will win 1-0 with a set-piece with 10 minutes left.
“I think there is a renewed enthusiasm about the [Scotland] team and there is a pride back in the performances. It’s not just about getting the results, which is vitally important, it’s the way the team is trying to play football under Gordon.
“When we had success when I was playing way back all those years ago, we were built on solidity, on not giving much away, winning 1-0 quite often.
“This team is slightly different, they are more adventurous. They seem to be getting there, which is better to watch for the fans. It’s more entertaining.
“It’s about trying to get the balance of getting to a championship eventually. But you do want to see attractive football. I think the way Gordon has gone about it, he is getting both - success and performances.”