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|Valdas Ivanauskas||<-auth||None||auth->||Douglas McDonald|
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FUND & GAMES
7 April 2006
CELTS MUST GIVE GORD CASH TO MAKE HIS MARK IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
THE quality of Scottish football has dipped towards the poverty line this season but Gordon Strachan has enriched Celtic in his first year at Parkhead.
Celtic are worthy SPL champions and I'm pleased for Gordon, a guy for whom I've had a soft spot since I first coached him as an S-Form at Dundee in the late sixties.
The next challenge for the Parkhead club lies in Europe and I'm not telling the directors anything they don't already know when I say the manager needs millions this summer if they are to be competitive in the group stages of the Champions League.
I honestly don't think the overall standard of the SPL this season has been particularly good and even Celtic, at times, have not been exceptional.
I say as I see and, Hearts apart, the early stages of this season's championship in particular did not bring great quality or excitement.
I tipped Celtic at the start of the campaign because I still felt they had a stronger base to their squad, with Martin O'Neill's players, than the Rangers pool, which still has too many mediocre performers.
Gordon definitely went through a dodgy period in his first weeks in the job but he showed the character that has typified his career by sticking to what he knew was right.
Everyone has respect for the job Martin did at Celtic but it was vital Gordon stamped his authority on the squad and let them know what he expected of them tactically.
Given his frame, Gordon could never have been anything but a possession player when calling the shots in midfield at clubs such as Aberdeen, Manchester United and Leeds.
He couldn't compete with his opponents physically and it's no coincidence Celtic's qualities this season have been in possession football, which should always be the priority of any manager.
Gordon has also freshened up the squad and while all his signings have not been brilliant, I'm sure the club is at the stage he had hoped after his first 12 months.
But if Celtic wish to compete in the Champions League next season they need significant investment over the summer, especially in a defence that has already been found out at that level.
Gordon's squad is short of quality and they will pose no threat to the top clubs on the continent unless there is money made available - the manager knows that and so, too, do the Parkhead board.
I'm in their corner - Celtic directors run their business the right way. If they've got it, they spend it but they don't allow the club to go too deeply into debt and risk taking a path to financial suicide.
I can't be two-faced and would not ask backers such as Dermot Desmond to put their hands in their pocket every season because we aren't talking a million here or there.
The gap between the elite clubs in the bigger countries and clubs such as Celtic and Rangers, in television revenues alone, runs to tens of millions and cannot be plugged from the pockets of generous benefactors.
Nevertheless, it's vital revenue is found to at least give Celtic the opportunity to challenge and emerge from the first group stages and then, with the luck of the draw, push on from the last 16.
By the way, I fancy Hearts to join Celtic in the Champions League next season, despite their narrow defeat on Wednesday night.
They have shot themselves in the foot so many times off the field this season and if Vladimir Romanov had resisted the temptation to interfere I've no doubt the SPL race would still be alive as we head into the last six games of the season.
I've criticised Romanov this season, hopefully constructively, and it was fully deserved, but I must also say the quality of foreigners he has brought to his club has been exceptional.
Some of the worst signings I made came from abroad but Romanov clearly has an eye for talent to go with his Scottish backbone of Paul Hartley, Steven Pressley, Andy Webster and Craig Gordon. We tried to get Paul Hartley to Tannadice when Paul Sturrock was boss and I know all about the many qualities of Pressley, who spent a couple of years at the club.
I still have sleepless nights about Webster because we had him training at United as a kid but for some reason never made him an S-Form offer. We tried to get him from Arbroath with an offer for £20,000 but he chose Hearts instead and the rest is history. I could accept United missing players from the central belt as youngsters but never a lad on our own doorstep.
There was nothing between Hearts and Celtic the other night and if, as expected, they strengthen their squad still further in the summer they will also be genuine title challengers again next season.
If they make it, they also have the potential to be a surprise package in the Champions League because they have considerable strength in depth in their talented squad.
Rangers will also pose a significant threat next season under Paul Le Guen as David Murray, who can attract fresh investment to his club like no one else, bankrolls his ambitions.
But the plaudits for now go to Gordon Strachan, although I'm not surprised there has been debate over the possibility of him being named manager of the year.
I've always believed there should be two awards available in the Scottish game because the SPL is, basically, a two-tier league.
The Old Firm have dominated for years and have now been joined by Hearts, but managers such as Tony Mowbray and Jim Jefferies deserve to be recognised for their achievements at clubs where the budgets are much more limited.
But that's an argument for another time because today belongs to Gordon and Celtic - and, knowing him, he'll be determined to deliver much more success in years to come.
THE first person fingered for the blame when a pitch is not up to scratch is always the groundsman.
I did it as a manager and players are also never to slow to let them know when the surface fails to meet their expectations.
However, criticism of Dundee United's Albert Dawson, a former Groundsman of the Year, is wide of the mark.
The Tannadice pitch is in a terrible state at the moment and I know Albert, one of the best in the business, will be as frustrated as anyone.
There are two problems - firstly, the undersoil heating is burning the roots of the grass and preventing it from growing.
Secondly, previous managers at United trained the team far too often on the pitch.
It was often tempting for me when it was windy and raining to lead the players out the tunnel for a session on the park but we always headed for our training area instead.
It's not Albert's fault the pitch is in such a bad way but no one will be working harder to get it back in order.
Taken from the Daily Record
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