Tony Mowbray admits he's taking a 'gamble' with Celtic overhaul

TONY Mowbray has admitted his radical January overhaul of the Celtic squad carries a significant risk factor but insists he will continue to consider all options in his pursuit of what he describes as football Utopia.

• Picture: SNS

Danish striker Morten Rasmussen became Mowbray's fourth signing of the current transfer window yesterday when he completed his 1.5 million move from Brondby and is poised to make his debut against Hibs at Celtic Park tonight.

Rasmussen joins Dutch defender Jos Hooiveld, South Korean midfielder Ki Sung Yueng and Norwegian defender Thomas Rogne as new recruits to take Mowbray's spending to around 5.5 million since the turn of the year. That has been offset by the departure of Gary Caldwell to Wigan Athletic and the trio of Barry Robson, Chris Killen and Willo Flood joining Middlesbrough.

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The Celtic manager confirmed yesterday that his predecessor Gordon Strachan is also keen to take Stephen McManus to Middlesbrough on loan for the rest of this season, while Burnley have made an offer, believed to be in the region of 1.5 million, for Danny Fox.

Mowbray claims he is in no rush to see club captain McManus or left-back Fox, whom he signed from Coventry City just six months ago, leave the club. But he is prepared to sanction their moves if it allows him to pursue other signing targets before next Monday night's transfer deadline.

"Whenever you change your team, it's a gamble," said Mowbray, whose side go into tonight's round of SPL fixtures seven points behind champions Rangers with a game in hand.

"But you either sit on your hands and do nothing, or you try to make improvements, which is what I'm trying to do. Is everything going to gel? We will have to wait and see.

"I don't chase footballers out of the door. They either go because of frustration at not getting enough football, or there is a contractual situation where value has to be accrued.

"They day I have 20 to 22 players who I love to bits and can play in any position is what you search for. I don't think many managers ever get to football Utopia, but I strive to get there every day.

"Stephen McManus understands what I'm trying to do here. If there is an opportunity for him to go to Middlesbrough, I'm happy for him to explore that. If not, then I will be delighted if he is still here, because he is such a strong personality around our dressing room.

"Both he and Danny Fox are very good footballers and good men to work with. There is an opportunity for Danny to move to the English Premier League and I've had a good chat with him about it. We identified him early here and brought him to Celtic, but my job is to put a whole team and squad together over a period of time.

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"To do that, I need to be flexible in prioritising which area of the team needs strengthening most. If I need to spend a few more quid in a certain area, then I need to create funds. If that means making some tough decisions on my first-choice left-back, then I will make them.

"I know the Burnley manager Brian Laws very well and he has made an enquiry for Danny. It's potentially an opportunity for me to wheel and deal a little bit. If Danny goes, then Darren O'Dea, Paul Caddis, Mark Wilson and Lee Naylor can all play at left-back for us. But if Danny stays, then he will be first-choice left-back." Mowbray rubbished speculation linking him with a move for West Bromwich Albion midfielder Robert Koren and also insisted he has no desire to see Marc Crosas make a rumoured return to Spain with Malaga.

While he expects to remain active over the remaining few days of the transfer window, Mowbray is firmly focused on the search for three points against his former club Hibs tonight. He confirmed Rasmussen is likely to be involved but dismissed the widespread comparisons of the player with Duncan Ferguson.

"I don't see any similarity," said Mowbray. "I played against Duncan and he was an awesome physical presence, a foil for other people. Morten scores goals in the six-yard box and I don't think that was Duncan's game. Morten brings us competition up front, he is a different kind of forward to Georgios Samaras and Marc-Antoine Fortune."