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Football: GORDON'S TACTICAL SWITCH; OLD FIRM LATEST Bored Celts boss turns to viewing TV match re-runs.

Byline: By Hugh Keevins

GORDON STRACHAN is in the SFA's Hall of Fame for having played 50 times in a Scotland shirt.

But international football is now the bane of his life as Celtic boss. It has turned him into a telly addict as he searches for profitable ways to spend his time while having so few players for company.

This week, Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus have been with Walter Smith's squad for their training camp in St Andrews.

No fewer than eight others, including Mark Wilson and backup keeper David Marshall, were with the Under-21 squad for their game against Slovenia.

Aiden McGeady was doing his bit for the Republic of Ireland against Holland while Maciej Zurawski and Stilian Petrov were with Poland and Bulgaria respectively.

But time spent on international duty is quality time denied a coach such as Strachan when his priority is club matters.

He said: "So far we haven't had as many coaching days with the players as we did this time last year because of the intensity of our pre-season work.

"This would have been a good week to get everybody together to work on one or two things. But what I can do is watch videos of the last few games and pinpoint details I want to show the players when they come back.

"I've got no option but to get in front of the video and do stuff like that because so many players are away from the ground.

"But I'm in the same boat as every other manager - even Jose Mourinho was talking about it last week."

One of the few players Strachan has for company has at least brightened up, otherwise the manager might have gone into his video room and locked the door behind him for fear of getting on his wrong side.

He's glad to see the devil back in Craig Beattie's eyes because he was fed up watching his striker roam Celtic Park like the Grim Reaper.

Injury-dogged Beattie was given part of the game against St Mirren last weekend and is in line to be involved again when Celtic head for Inverness on Sunday.

Strachan said: "It's excellent to see Craig back in the plans. It's good to see a smile on his face for a change.

"He can be a miserable sod when he's not playing. He's like the Grim Reaper walking about the ground, so it's nice to see him back playing."

Strachan's critics say he should be an expert on greetin' faces because it takes one to know one. And he's honest enough to take that jocular reference in the spirit in which it's intended. What he won't accept is having his nose put out of joint by suggestions he's railroaded anyone out of Celtic Park who was displeased him.

The manager's hands were tied regarding Beattie's enforced absence from the side due to a hamstring injury. But Strachan denied that he was personally responsible for others, like Mo Camara and Adam Virgo leaving.

He admits to sanctioning the moves to Derby and Coventry for those players but flatly denies any part in forcing them to leave. He said: "I never tell anybody they are leaving.

"They leave because they can't get a game, or else they feel the size of the club is too much for them and they want to go elsewhere.

"Sometimes others want to move on because they have been here too long. There are all sorts of reasons why people get out. But one reason that will never come up is because Mr Strachan said, 'Listen, it's time for you to go.'

"Adam left to get a regular game in Coventry's first team and then, unfortunately, suffered a serious injury in his first match.

"Mo wanted to leave because I couldn't give him a 100 per cent guarantee he was going to play every week."

Now Strachan's most pressing piece of business is to gather his far-travelled players together and focus their minds on the longest journey the SPL can offer.

The Highland capital was a punishing exercise for Celtic last season, forcing them to leave two points behind after a bruising contest that saw Strachan become involved in a confrontation with the Inverness bench at one stage.

He said: "It's always tough up there. They never seem to roll over and die.

"We went behind after a long throw-in last season and that's something we have to work on.

"One team can be better than others at set-plays because they have one player who can jump higher than everybody else.

"There's nothing much you can do about that but you can prepare yourself for the second ball. We need to work on those things."

'So many are away I can't do much coaching'

CAPTION(S):

CLUB V COUNTRY: Gordon Strachan, right, has lost the likes of Gary Caldwell this week to international duty
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 17, 2006
Words:817
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