Strachan sees title there for the taking
Middlesbrough’s vastly improved performance in their unfortunate 2-2 draw with Preston yesterday, capped by a brilliant Adam Johnson goal, will provide encouragement for the man openly touted to be unveiled as their new manager tomorrow, Gordon Strachan.
For a man who will ever be associated with the red shirt of Manchester United, Strachan’s playing career was perhaps most significant at its bookends. In the early eighties he was a tireless presence in a never to be forgotten Aberdeen side, winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983 after a win over Real Madrid in Gothenburg; at the dawn of the nineties, he was the pivotal figure as Leeds ended an eight year sojourn in the second division in 1990 and followed it up with a full English league title two years later.
Strachan always looked like management material, but like another former Red Devil Steve Bruce, his progress has benefitted from experience and the kind heartedness of Chairmen who were prepared to overlook early failures. At Coventry, he accepted the job in controversial circumstances and failed to improve on that club’s miraculously mediocre record in the top flight, although the dramatic win at White Hart Lane on the final day of the 1996-7 season was ironically enough to take advantage of a three point deduction suffered by his prospective new employers.
After finally being sacked in 2001, Strachan found his way to Southampton and the experience of scrapping against relegation in sky blue served him well in a stellar period for the Saints. This was capped with a somewhat anticlimactic FA Cup Final appearance in 2003 as well as more than creditable 11th and 8th place finishes. Strachan got the best out of James Beattie and Kevin Phillips and it was a surprise when he chose to take time out in 2004, although he maybe reasoned he had taken the club as far as it could go.
A spell of leave mainly spent on the Match of the Day 2 sofa revealed Strachan to be an insightful pundit although his three titles for the Bhoys are hard to judge given that success in Scottish football is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. To provide Strachan with his due, Celtic usually looked superior to Rangers in that spell north of the Tweed and wins over Milan and Benfica provided unforgettable European nights. He rejoins the managerial ranks with his reputation strong
in a league that could be there for the taking.