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Football: Gord's not up there with Martin just yet but Benfica win has got him really close; SPL LATEST... SAYS LISBON LION JOHN CLARK.


LISBON LION John Clark believes Gordon Strachan won over the last of the Parkhead doubters after the Euro blitz of Benfica.

Now he wants the Hoops boss to be mentioned in the same breath as Martin O'Neill and achieve legendary status by filling up Celtic's trophy cabinet.

And if anyone is in a position to judge the merits of a man who is endearing himself to the club's fans with each passing game then it's someone who has been at his side every day.

The Celtic kitman rates Tuesday's Champions League win over the Portuguese as the most memorable night in the East End of Glasgow since the Jungle was knocked down.

But any comparisons with his Irish predecessor are premature. Clark reckons that while Strachan has won over fans, he has still to rubber-stamp his place in the club's history.

He said: "It has taken Gordon a wee while to win people over and get himself established and Tuesday was a pivotal moment for him.

"But before he can be listed beside someone like Martin he'll need to be judged on his success and how many trophies he puts into the cabinet.

"He is the same as any manager in that it's all down to results. But the win over Benfica was a major moment for him as a manager.

"First of all, he changed the players around even from last year and now has a squad that he feels is what he wants.

"There are always one or two things here and there which he can improve on but he's got a pool of players he's getting the best out of.

"The evidence of that was clear to see on Tuesday.

"Gordon isn't anything like Martin - he's certainly not as hyperactive for a start.

"Martin was a bit more demanding as a boss and they go about their jobs in a completely different way.

"Martin didn't suffer fools gladly and was a 'point the finger and go straight through you' kind of guy.

"That's not Gordon's way as he uses a different approach to get the best out of his players. He uses psychology, which works, and it can be seen in the way he's managed to gel the team.

"He leaves nobody in any doubt that he is the boss and that is the way it should be because there is a massive responsibility on his shoulders being in charge of a club the size of Celtic.

"The first thing you need to manage here is ability and Gordon and Martin have it in abundance."

Clark, who is a revered figure within the confines of Parkhead after being part of the famous side that lifted the European Cup, does see one major similarity between the pair. He said: "If you don't have the enthusiasm for the game then you'll never be a manager of a big club and Martin had that in abundance.

"You need to express that to players and staff which makes both Martin and Gordon similar.

"I have seen both deliver their team talks in the dressing room and their styles are different - but what happens inside the club stays inside the club.

"The key to their success stems from them being powerful characters.

"Gordon may not jump about as much as Martin but he shows his energy and enthusiasm in different ways and emits an aura which spreads to the stands.

"You could see the response from the fans to the team's performance against Benfica. It was a tremendous atmosphere and the support responded to an excellent display and made it a wonderful night.

"They should be applauded for what they did to help the team and I believe they carried the players to a performance they probably didn't think they were capable of.

"Gordon has been the person who has taken the mantle over from the last manager and deserves immense credit for what he has achieved in the short time he's been here."

The 3-0 midweek win has opened the door for Champions League last-16 progress and Clark is convinced Celtic can grab a qualification place.

He said: "It's a result that has given us a great chance and everyone has been lifted by it. You could feel how much it meant to everyone at Parkhead.

"That atmosphere must be an absolute joy for any footballer to perform in and they should appreciate what they get from the fans. It was something else, especially after the second goal went in.

"In my opinion the atmosphere at the Benfica game was the best there has been in the new stadium.

"We're a good side and although we may never be the best, we have the No.1 support in world football.

"There's nothing to match them. I was at both last season's Champions League quarter-finals and the atmosphere wasn't a patch on Tuesday's.

"I'm in a fortunate position of being at such a great club and a lot of people tell me I have the best job in the world. And you know what? They're absolutely right."

'Strachan deserves immense credit for what he has achieved in the short time he's been here'


HALFWAY TO PARADISE: John Clark reckons Gordon Strachan will be rated alongside Martin O'Neill only when he fills the club's trophy cabinet' MAD ABOUT THE BHOYS: Lisbon Lion Clark has seen and done it all at Celtic and is backing Strachan to become as legendary a figure at the club as predecessor O'Neill
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 21, 2006
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