In an exclusive interview with Casinosite.nl, former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan previews the mamoth semi-final clash in the Scottish Cup on Sunday, between Rangers & Celtic.
Strachan reveals the one tactic Rangers need to employ to beat Celtic, whilst also outlining the 3 ‘favourable’ advantages Rangers have already going into Sunday’s Cup tie.
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- Celtic a top team similar to Man City (Rangers don’t have the fitness to compete)
- Reveals what Rangers need to do to beat Celtic on Sunday
- 3 advantages already in Rangers ‘favour’ for Sunday’s game
- How Rangers can stop Kyogo from scoring
Question: Would any current Rangers players get in the Celtic team at the moment?
Gordon Strachan: “It’s very hard when you make it black and white like that. If you asked any Celtic supporters if you wanted to bring some Rangers players over, that wouldn’t happen. But just say if James Tavernier wasn’t playing for Rangers, they’d probably say he’s not a bad player and he could get in there. They do have some good players. I think John Lundstram is a good player. I think Malik Tillman could be a good player, he’s got the potential. Ryan Kent is a good player but I don’t know if he’d suit the Celtic team at the moment because of the way they play with wide players who actually play wide. I think under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Ryan was playing wide and wasn’t as effective as when he was playing through the middle. I think there’s four or five that would make an impact. But if you want to play for Celtic now there’s certain criteria you must meet.
“The first thing is, you must be technically good, and along with that, you have to be super fit. Also, you have to have the mentality to keep playing week in, week out at a high tempo. There’s plenty of talented players over there but do they have the fitness level and the attitude that the team comes first if they don’t play for 90 minutes? That’s the criteria to play for Celtic so that might be a problem for some players, and I think that Michael Beale himself has said that. I watched the League Cup final myself and it was very close like most people thought. It wasn’t a one-sided affair in the first half and Celtic didn’t actually create many chances in that first half. Rangers had a shape that didn’t allow Celtic to have any chances. But what happened after about 38 minutes was Rangers’ fitness levels went, which allowed Celtic to dominate the last 10 minutes of the half. That shows how important fitness is. That’s the test for anyone that plays against Celtic. Do you go for it and close them down and keep going at it? There’s two problems there. If you’re not super fit you’ll run out of energy and if you do close them down and win the ball comes back, do you have the energy to play again? That’s what the Celtic players can do. That’s what the top teams like Manchester City do.”
Q: How can Rangers deal with Celtic’s intensity and pressing ability?
GS: “What you’ve seen a couple of times is Rangers say ‘alright we’ll go up against them’, especially in the last couple of games. But they now might be thinking, ‘why don’t we just sit back a bit and conserve our energy, let them come at us and then try and hit them on the break?’ To do that you need to have speed up front. So there might come a time where Rangers utilise the goal scoring ability of Alfredo Morelos and Antonio Colak. They might just say ‘why don’t we just play everybody with frightening pace?’. So this game might be a wee bit different. With big games like this Celtic won’t change their style but sometimes, if you’re not the best team on the pitch, you have to try something different to win a game of football. The pitch at Hampden always seems bigger. I think there’s a couple of yards either way, which funnily enough can make a big difference and might help Rangers. But the other fact which might help Rangers is the ball boys are neutral and aren’t ‘on either team’ so to speak. Because at Celtic the ball boys are part of the team. The number of times you watch and the television cameras can’t keep up with it. The ball goes out and you think ‘I can have a rest’ but you look up and the game’s on again! The pitch is a bit softer at Hampden as well. There’s a softness to it, so there are some things in Rangers’ favour.”
Q: Does having the treble on the line again put extra pressure on Celtic?
GS: “No I don’t think so. Ultimately what Rangers and Celtic fans want from this game is just to win. They don’t care how you play, just win. Of course fans will say they want to see attacking football, lovely football. We don’t. We just want to see winning football. That’s all we’re after because it makes us feel superior if our team’s winning. That’s all most fans want. The elation of winning.”
Q: Kyogo loves scoring against Rangers. Can they stop him this time and if so how?
GS: “They’ll need to make sure no one can get their head up and play the ball in behind because Kyogo’s first thought is always ‘in behind’. That’s where he wants to go. So if you cannot do that, you’ve got to drop right back deep and make sure Kyogo doesn’t go in behind. No matter what happens, this fella’s not going in behind. He might go short but at least you’ve got a chance if he goes short. Rangers have got two options. They can press up higher to stop it that ball in behind at source but once you get the ball back are you a better team than Celtic? If you don’t have the ball that’s not a concern. If you can’t do either of these two things your third option is to go back and sit in and say whatever happens you’re not going in behind and neither are the two wingers.”
Q: How much will Celtic miss Reo Hatate in a game of this magnitude?
GS: “Well he might be back, you never know. He’s got super fitness but if he is training this week Ange will have to decide if he’s got enough in his locker to play a certain amount of time. Can he keep up to the standard that’s expected? People say the Rangers fullbacks need to push forwards and take their wingers back but if you’ve not got the ball you can’t do that and you’ll look stupid just standing on the pitch waving. It’s very important for the players in the middle of the park to be brave, skilful on the ball and sharp.”
Q: Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic contract expires in May. What are your thoughts on his
likelihood of extending?
GS: “There’s nothing wrong with being on a rolling contract. The situation at Celtic is always that you’ve got a year. That’s different from signing contracts. I really don’t know about his contract situation. The fact is that Ange will be enjoying it so much. You get a buzz just from being there. He had some good spells last year in the Champions League for half an hour against Real Madrid and they played well against RB Leipzig. But I think Ange really wants to get out of the group stage and have a go at the last 16. That would be a feather in his cap. I really think he’d enjoy that. I think the whole of Europe would sit up and take notice of Celtic and say ‘wow there’s really something going on there’. This is one of the most exciting Celtic teams I’ve ever seen. Maybe not the best I’ve seen, but in terms of excitement it’s right up there. They can hurt teams but the problem is that they can get hurt as well.”
Q: Which areas do you feel Celtic should look to strengthen in the summer? Are there any names that you’ve seen linked that you feel would be a good fit. Could they look for a new goalkeeper?
GS: “People have said about previous club heroes like Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer, Olivier Ntcham ‘we must keep them’ but Ange has said ‘no, if you don’t want to be here then go’. Because what happens is there will always be new heroes at Celtic. So from ‘must keep them, must keep them’… Celtic now have Jota, Maeda, Kyogo, Hatate and all these new players that have become heroes. In terms of a new goalkeeper Joe Hart seems to be making good saves at the right time in the games I’ve seen. But like anything, if you want to get better than Joe Hart what do you have to spend? Do you spend £15m on a goalkeeper? What do you have to spend on a midfield player who’s better than McGregor and Hatate? Celtic have not got that money. They’ll have to keep going along the way they have been doing, spending £2m, £3m, £4m, £5m on players. Because people say if you want to buy someone at £15m he’ll want £100,000-per-week and that cannot be done at Celtic. The huge amount of money Chelsea and Newcastle are spending on transfer fees is not even the big deal. The big deal is the wages. That’s what kills clubs. That’s why Celtic have to search far and wide to get the players they’re after.”
Q: How concerned should Celtic fans be that Cameron Carter-Vickers will need an
operation on his knee?
GS: “Again he’s been one of these signings at £5m, and that’s probably the limit at Celtic, I think he’s one of these guys that can play with an injury by the looks of it. He needs something done but he never seems to complain about it; he just turns up and plays. I don’t think it’s a concern with today’s modern sports science and health. But it’s up to the player himself. What can he do? Is he of a standard that’s going to win Celtic games playing with the pain or is he needing to protect himself?”
Q: Is Postecoglou’s stock high enough to be offered a role by a Premier League team?
GS: “He’ll stay at Celtic for another year, I think we all hope so anyway. If he does leave, he’s got to go to a club that feels right to Mr Postecoglou. It will have to be a club that buys into his philosophy. Some teams have refused to change no matter who the manager is. I’m hoping that Ange doesn’t move for a long, long time but if he does it has to be to a club that will say ‘right we’ll back you’. But it’s going to be hard to bring players in that want to do what he wants to do, in the way he wants to. There’s a couple of names of clubs that have been mentioned that make you go ‘ooh that’s a two- or three-year job and that one’s a four-year job.’ In saying that, most people probably thought that Ange going to Celtic would be a two-year job, but he did it within two months because he had a group of players there that had humility, as did the ones that he brought in. They had a work ethic and a desire to get better. He’s got to look at these clubs and think ‘do these players want to do that?’.”
Q: Who would get your vote for POTY? Perhaps Jota?
GS: “You can’t take Tavernier out of the equation. The goals he’s scored have been quite phenomenal. From Celtic there could be six or seven in there, there really could. And then you’ve got Kevin van Veen at Motherwell who’s having a terrific season. McGregor should be in there. Hatate, excellent. Jota, excellent. Kyogo with 29 goals and his work rate closing down defenders. Carter-Vickers as well. But Celtic are an out-and-out team, everything works as a unit.”
Q: After the win over Spain, Scotland must feel like they can beat anyone. Has that
mentality been missing up until now?
GS: “They’re a good group. I think these players have always been a great group but I think there’s a more physical aspect to the team now which is fantastic, especially in the middle of the park with John McGinn and McTominay. They’ve got to score as a group because a lot of countries have got individuals who will win the game for them but at the moment Scotland are struggling with that. What we’ve got is a unit that can score goals from set plays and coming from midfield. We wear teams down. We’re the opposite of nations like Poland who rely on Lewandowski or Wales with Gareth Bale.”
Q: What did you make of Southampton’s point at Arsenal on Friday night. Can they avoid the drop?
GS: “Getting a point at Arsenal will make them feel better about their chances but I still think it’s going to be an uphill struggle for them. Obviously I want them to stay up, it’s a wonderful club. Buying and selling players over the years has finally caught up with them because there’s only so much your recruitment can do. And there’s only so many times you can chop and change players.”
Q: James Ward-Prowse has for a long time been rumoured with a move. If Saints go down, should a big club look to sign him?
GS: “I don’t at the moment. I like him. Obviously his crossing is and set plays are magnificent but I can’t see the bigger clubs coming for him. I think they’ll go further afield. But it would be a loss, that’s for sure, if he does leave.”
Q: What did you make of the appointment of Ruben Selles? Someone hired from inside the club.
GS: “Usually when you pick an assistant manager to step up you pick him because you think he’s ready and the players think he’s right. But the players always give the thumb to the assistant manager because the assistant manager never actually has to tell them the truth at any time. The assistant manager is always the one that everybody likes because he’s never had to say horrible, nasty things to them to make them play. He’s only had to massage their egos.”
Q: Leeds spent a club record £35m on Georginho Rutter in January. He’s yet to score or assist in 10 Premier League appearances. What have you made of them splashing that amount of money without seeing a return?
GS: “I think Jesse Marsch would’ve had the final say on that one. He’d have probably known him from his time in Germany. They have a couple of front men who don’t score too many goals but do still give something to the team. Jesse probably thought if we get him in and he can hold the ball and bring my wide men into play and get something from our midfield players. He’s had an image of how he wants his team to play but obviously that’s not worked and they’ve had to change the manager. Sometimes when you change a manager that a player was close to it might cause confusion in his mind that’s for sure. I saw Leeds a couple of months ago at Aston Villa and they played some wonderful football. But their only problem I thought was that they’re a bit lightweight compared to most teams. Villa kind of muscled them out of the points but Leeds’ performance as a team was quite good. I didn’t see them against Fulham but that sounded like a disappointment. Relegation battles are about not being scared of the situation. I’ve been there myself as Coventry City manager. It’s about taking on the challenge and not being worried about the consequences and relishing the chance of staying up.”
Q: How do you assess the ongoing focus on Harry Maguire at Manchester United. Do you think he still has a future under Ten Hag next season?
GS: “I think Harry has to have a conversion with Erik ten Hag and ask him ‘do you really want me?’ because he’s really taking some flak, albeit mostly on social media which is a horrible world to get involved in. For his own good he should want to go somewhere where the manager wants to play him as first choice. What he doesn’t want is to be this whipping boy when something goes wrong. He needs to decide what his future holds. I had a similar situation myself at the end of my time at Manchester United and ended up going to Leeds where I had a wonderful time. I think he deserves a break.”
Q: What have you made of Antony’s debut season in the Premier League?
GS: “Well he has assets. He kind of reminds me of Ronaldo, although it’s never nice to throw another name in the mix. He seems to think he is, but I don’t think he’s anywhere near as good as Ronaldo. There’s too much work on the ball. When Ronaldo first got there, at that point you had people in the team who would tell Ronaldo the truth and say ‘excuse me, we don’t want you dancing about when you can cross it in earlier! Use your ability to get in good areas and produce something. We’re not here to see you.’ I think at that point Ronaldo took on board what Sir Alex was saying, what Roy Keane and Paul Scholes was saying. He understood what they wanted from him and he became this once in a lifetime player, well apart from Messi, of course, this unbelievable player. I don’t think Antony can get anywhere near where Ronaldo reached but I think he’s got to ask himself; ‘am I doing this for myself or am I doing it for the team?’ If you’re genuinely doing it for the team then fine. If you’re doing it for yourself then cut it out. It’s the kind of thing Neymar does. He does it for himself. You never see the top players try and ridicule the players they’re playing with. They do it for the team with humility. Ronaldo picked it up really early and still understands that. The last couple of weeks we’ve seen magical things from him [Antony] but sometimes when life’s not great you have to be a good teammate first.”
Q: Is Bruno Fernandes the type of captain you’d want as a manager?
GS: “It depends what he does behind the scenes but as a leader on the field you are meant to be everything that the club wants from a player. When you’re the captain you have to try to be the best player, you have to get the best out of everybody on the team. You have to be the best in training, set the best standards on and off the pitch but again this comes down to how brave are the people around you. If the people around you have low standards and don’t understand because we’re actually telling the world that some of these standards are acceptable. The lads on the commentary wouldn’t have had it in their day. There’s young player on this team who are thinking ‘oh that’s part of life’. Well no it’s not part of life. What we’re talking about is a wonderful footballer but he doesn’t do himself any favours. If he could just take away the play acting he would be one of the best loved footballers in world football. Think about that. But he needs people around him to tell him that it’s not acceptable. Be a leader. People follow his example so do you really want players all the way down to the youth system to follow that example?”
Q: If United signed Harry Kane this summer would they have the firepower to challenge City and Arsenal next season?
GS: “Yes I do. And if he does leave, every Tottenham supporter, every Tottenham player and every Tottenham manager should thank whatever God they believe in that he’s been there for the last 10 years. Because he’s made you as a player better, as a fan you’ve enjoyed watching him and as a manager he’s made you better. He deserves to go and win something. I’ve not got a clue where he will end up. It could be Bayern Munich, it could be Real Madrid with Benzema coming to the end. I think along with Benzema he’s the best front man in the world. I think he deserves to be told to go off and enjoy yourself and then it will be interesting to see how good Tottenham are as a club without one man.“
Q: You’ve been linked with the Leeds and Aberdeen jobs recently. Are you looking for the right opportunity to return to management?
GS: “No, no, no that’s in the past now. I do know more about the game now than when I managed Coventry or even when I left Scotland. I keep collecting information but I no longer have the anger or the drive that you need as a manager. But what I do is I use my knowledge to help younger coaches and younger players. I’m in a good spot at the moment, life is fantastic and I wouldn’t put that at risk by going back into management that’s for sure.”