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Let's all do the Mogga huddle!

Byline: Andy Turner Sky Blues Reporter andy.turner@coventrytelegraph.net

IT came as somewhat of a bolt out of the blue this week when it emerged that the one-time hard-nosed centre-back and current Coventry City boss Tony Mowbray introduced the prematch huddle to British football.

Fans north of the border are well versed in the tale of Mogga's playing spell at Celtic Park where he may not be remembered for his overwhelming success but is, to this very day, for galvanising the players and 60,000 fans before kick-off.

But for the weekly press corps at Ryton, it came as fascinating leftfield revelation when the BBC's Geoff 'Knows His History' Foster quizzed him about it, Mowbray revealing: "Yes, I invented the Celtic huddle in 1994.

"We faced a bit of adversity with the team when Rangers were very powerful and strong at the time with the remnants of Souness's revolution with some top players there and Celtic were finding it tough.

"I felt the players needed to show some unity with the fans who are hugely passionate people about their football. There were some English lads and a few foreign players and we needed to show some unity with the group and supporters.

"It was created on a training field in Germany in 1994 preseason and has survived to this day. The first time we did it was against a second division German side on a practise pitch in the middle of Germany. It was conceived on the back of a bus as a way to create a bit of unity in that group.

"Whether it was the first in English football I am not sure. There must have been huddles elsewhere, in basketball for instance where they are always in huddles. But on the playing fields of England and Scotland, I suppose it was a first."

Surprised by the local media's sudden interest in the trivia that's more likely to crop up in a pup quiz than a press conference, Mowbray, who later had a brief spell as Celtic manager, added: "I have had 21 years of it rammed down my throat so it's something that's there and I'm proud of it because it's a legacy from my time at that football club, and amazing to see it still continues today.

"It's continued at the Bernabeu and Nou Camp in some of the great European games Celtic have played, and it just goes through time now, regardless of who is playing for the club.

"They have huge 60ft banners with my name and then the huddle. If I had patented the huddle I'd have been a billionnaire by now with all the flags and scarves that go with it."

It didn't go unnoticed that City skipper Sam Ricketts led a Sky Blue huddle prior to kick-off against Wigan last Saturday, but Mowbray insists he had nothing to do with that one.

"Sam does a huddle with the group now here at Coventry and, for me, it was never about me being inspirational in the huddle, it was whoever in the moment felt they wanted to do something, to say something to inspire the team.

"You won't be a footballer if you're not motivated. You have got to have the stomach to want to compete and be better than the player you are playing against.

"But you have to give them a cause to fight for and to inspire and talk about a reason why they have to win today, and that's really what the huddle was about, to inspire people to be bigger than the 11 footballers on the pitch.

"The 60,000 in the stadium at Celtic who were desperate for us to win and were sick to death of us getting beat - they needed to know that we were fighting for them and the club, which is world wide.

"I have taken Celtic to Australia and had 37,000 come to watch training. It was unbelievable so it's more than a football club, it's an amazing institution of people around the world."

CAPTION(S):

The team-|bonding tradition that Tony Mowbray

inaugurated at Celtic is still going strong. Above, a youthful Mogga is welcomed to Parkhead by the Bhoys boss Liam Brady.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Aug 15, 2015
Words:705
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