Before moving back into the transfer market, former Celtic boss Gordon Strachan believes the club needs to develop a long-term strategy.
Celtic are still 19 points behind Rangers after last weekend’s loss at Ibrox. Even considering the three games left to play and the nine points they still have to make up, a bridgeable gap will be considered by few.
Celtic were vulnerable throughout the season defensively, while the loss of Fraser Forster at the end of last season created confusion in that role. This season, with no compelling excuse to keep them, Vasilis Barkas, Scott Bain and Conor Hazard all had a pass.
Strachan has warned that Celtic must determine whether or not to hold on to Neil Lennon before making their personnel decisions, with the window now open until the end of the month.
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Are you going to buy Celtic panic and spend a lot of money to fill that gap? I don’t think so,”Should Celtic panic buy and spend a lot of money to fill that gap? I don’t think so,”I don’t think so. They’re expected to look at what is going to happen six months from now and a year from now and buy players for it.
What device can we use? What are we about to use? What boss are we going to use? Should we stick with Neil? A bigger thing is going on.
“I don’t think it [recruitment]is that important right now, to be honest.”
Strachan, whose son Gavin is part of Parkhead’s backroom staff, also reported that Lennon was calling the shots on all of the club’s transfer issues.
“There will be targets going on,” he said. In recruiting, there is a big thing that goes on and gives [the coaching staff]expectations to them.
Everyone is evaluated at major parties, and more so in the last 10 years. People have the impression that they are saying,’ These are your players, Neil, get on with it,’ at Celtic. However, it doesn’t work like that.
“I know at Celtic the final decision is with the coaching staff, who select the player. So many people have a say in who gets them. Ultimately the manager and coaching staff decide who they want to work with.”
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Strachan also indicated that not because of the results against Celtic, but because the Parkhead side lost by individual errors, Rangers took the three points at the weekend – something that this season has become a common thread.
“It’s not so much the systems as such but the players winning games, individual brilliance or mistakes like on Saturday when the ball bounced off Callum McGregor’s shoulder and [Nir] Bitton was sent off,” “It wasn’t anything fantastic Rangers did, it was mistakes the players made. So the attitude has to be right.”
Strachan expects that Celtic will also feel the psychological effect of the deficit. That is why, over the next few months, he encouraged the players and coaching staff to make the job more palatable by taking it slowly.
The probability is that a Rangers side that has only conceded four points this season would not falter, but Strachan has encouraged Celtic to concentrate on closing the gap to test Rangers’ resolve.
“You can’t give up on the title, that’s for sure,” said Strachan. If I were the Celtic boss, I would say, ‘Come on, let’s try to scare them a little.’ It’s 19 points. Can we get it down to 9 by mid-March? Or maybe 7?
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“And that would have made them worry, just a little bit. That’s the only thing that you can do right now, is think about them. You can’t say, ‘Let’s get back 19 points, lads’ to the players.
But can we get back 11 points? Maybe they’re falling points because we have three games in hand…. there’s a chance. Then the Rangers camp will think, ‘Well, one second, will I be the manager/coaching staff/player that throws away that huge lead?’
“And that’s all Celtic can hold on to at the moment.”
With the additions of Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull, Lennon seemed to have Celtic back on track in recent weeks, but it is the hunt for a place for strikers Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths where Strachan believes the Parkhead side will press their advantage.