Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Whole Different Country

Gordon Strachan has not lost his fan club in the English press if Kevin Mitchell's column in today's Guardian is anything to go by.

His quick wit and popular side career as a pundit have given birth to a "Cult of Wee Gordon" amongst sections of the English media. His perceived differences to another famous Scottish manager have helped in this. Perhaps unwittingly he has gone along with the idea that he is somehow a metaphorical stick with which to beat Sir Alex Ferguson.

This ignores the apparent thawing of relations between the two men since Fergie let rip in his autobiography.

More to the point if there is a massive gulf in their attitude then, in any measure of their relative success, Strachan has quite clearly chosen the wrong approach. It is also a nonsense to describe him as a man who is not obsessed by football. You don't play Premiership football past the age of 40 without a dedication that, in more sane walks of life, might be considered a tad unhealthy.

The English media, as is their tradition, also ignore the detail of Strachan's Celtic reign. Within months of his appointment the much lauded sense of humour had been replaced by something crueller, more arrogant and far less endearing.

Refusing to talk to the press, falling out with and then shunning players, verbally attacking referees, moaning about the tactics used by other teams.

Not happy go lucky, not bubbly, not a healthy disdain for the cult of the football manager. More like Ferguson's Mini-Me.

Much of this has been lost on the English press. Thus they take at face value the Strachan claim that he left Celtic in good shape (little Gordon really doing his bit to help Tony Mowbray out there, by the way. All hail the manager's union). And some Middlesbrough fans welcoming their new boss can, apparently with a straight face, look forward to the attractive, attacking brand of football that he is set to bring to the Riverside.

Like Ferguson before him, Strachan has learnt how to play the English media and, at the smaller clubs he has managed in England, he has never had the intense scrutiny that would show up any chinks in his armour.

But the Championship is a tricky place, a frustrating place. Gordon Strachan has spoken a lot about his relief at being free from the football madness of Glasgow. But the stakes for Middlesbrough are high in a league that has broken good managers and bad.

It might not be that long before the English press sees that ginger halo beginning to slip.

I don't particularly dislike Strachan. But this deification always seems to carry undertones that the SPL was somehow undeserving of his regal presence.

Most of us non Celtic fans can accept that there were faults on both side in the marriage of convenience between manager and club, faults that would be plainly evident to any English hack who bothered to do anymore than cast a glance at the Scottish top flight table come the middle of May.

But if his four year sojourn "home" taught us anything it is that Strachan himself would be extremely slow to admit that he had ever done anything wrong. Arrogance and brittleness are not an attractive trait and they will are no more endearing in the Championship than they are in the SPL.