Category: Archive

Soccer Scene: Strachan makes recovery after nightmare start

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

There was no way that the Bhoys would bounce back from a 5-goal deficit. All eyes were on their next game against Motherwell in Celtic’s first Scottish Premier League game. At half time Celtic was looking okay coming in to the break up 3-1 with a hat trick from John Hartson. However in the space of a few minutes just on the hour Motherwell stunned the Hoops making it 3-3. Then Motherwell’s William Kinniburgh scored in the 84th minute as silence fell upon Glasgow and Celtic fans all over the world. Not even a 90-minute equalizer from Craig Beatie could save face. Nine goals against in his first two games for Celtic rocked Strachan’s world. It was unbelievable. It was unacceptable. How on earth could the new manager make amends? Was it possible?
On the positive side of things Celtic showed they were capable of scoring goals. But there was no way could they beat Artmedia in the return leg of the CL. Beattie once again showed up late in the 82nd minute to make it 4-0. Celtic Park was hopping. The faithful were back in full voice. The silence it seemed had vanished. But it was too late. Celtic had given themselves too much to do. The comeback miracle fell short. Fans left the park losing 5-4 on aggregate and out Celtic fell from the CL. The departure of Martin O’Neill was felt instantly. Strachan was completely depressed. Fans didn’t know what to think. The players were rattled. Had Celtic taken on the right man in Strachan? There was no choice but to give him a chance. Early days saved his bacon.
Two expected home wins followed for Celtic with a 2-0 result over Dundee United and a 3-1 margin against Falkirk. Their next game back on the road against archrivals Rangers was arguably a must win. This Old Firm clash was considered Strachan’s first real test to show that his team was back on the right track. It was the chance to put the pitiful start to the season behind them.
In the 88th minute Nacho Novo scored from the spot to give Rangers a 3-1 victory over Celtic. The jury was immediately out on Celtic’s new manger. How much more could the fans take? Indeed how much more could Strachan take? Here was a man who had taken a break from the pressures of the English Premier League. Even his good run at Southampton and the manner in which he had that team playing looked like he was happy. The truth is we don’t really know why he packed it in for his break. Perhaps he felt he was burning out.
Nonetheless if he thought there would be less pressure at Celtic Park and the SPL he was definitely thinking twice after the 3-1 loss to Rangers back in August. Once again, Strachan and Celtic had to prove themselves after losing to the club’s main rival. And they did so in style winning 6 games on the trot while scoring 16 goals and letting in only 2. Nevertheless no way were Strachan and his Hoops being left off the hook here. It was the big crunch games that mattered and so far Celtic was not producing the results at this level.
That next level came in the form of Hearts under the guidance of George Burley. After this good 1-1 tie for Hearts on the road Burley claimed, “We are a team that doesn’t give up easily and hopefully we can keep it going.” The same could be said for Celtic at this point as far as the patient fan was concerned. However an element of support felt Celtic was missing something to go all the way. That was evident against Hearts.
Burley was more upbeat about the result whereas Strachan still had to prove himself to a very critical fan base. The Celtic season so far was still hanging by a thread. But credit had to be given to the job Burley was doing at Hearts. As he kept his team on top, Celtic chipped away. The 1-1 for Celtic was just about acceptable. But something was missing.
Events on and off the field towards the end of last month may have seen Celtic’s season take a turn for the better. The Hoops finally got the rub of the green when Chris Sutton, having hit into his own net against Dundee United, made amends by scoring at the other end. But Sutton’s turn of fortune lasted only two minutes when Collin Samuel equalized for United. Then it happened. Four minutes later Dundee’s Alan Archbald scored an own goal and Celtic went on to win 4-2. And off the field over at Hearts, George Burley fell out with his administration and left the club.
Celtic like everybody else couldn’t believe it. What the hell is going on at Hearts? It’s absolute madness. And Celtic has taken advantage by going top of the table on goal difference. Today it’s Rangers in the Scottish CIS Insurance Cup and on the 19th it’s another Old Firm battle in the league. Crunch time it seems has arrived for Strachan at Celtic Park.

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