Strachan: Rotation is key

Gordon Strachan believes adaptability rather than predictability will help Celtic to their second successive Bank of Scotland Premier League title.

Gordon Strachan believes adaptability rather than predictability will help Celtic to their second successive Bank of Scotland Premier League title.

The champions take on Hibernian at Celtic Park today looking to go 22 points clear of second-placed Rangers, who play Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday.

Manager Strachan has recently had to cope with long-term injuries to defenders Bobo Balde, Gary Caldwell and Mark Wilson, while players such as Stephen McManus and Maciej Zurawski have had to sit out with niggling injuries.

And with striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink serving a one-match ban and wide-man Derek Riordan struggling with a leg injury, Strachan will have to reshuffle his squad again.

However, the former Coventry and Southampton boss is comfortable rather than concerned about the right way to utilise his resources.

He said: “People think, once you pick a side, that’s it for the next three years.

“But look at this team in the last 18 months, I have chopped and changed it.

“I can’t sit and think: ’This is my favourite 11’. I just know, the more good players I have about me, the better our chances of success.

“People talk about Derek Riordan versus Aiden McGeady for the same position but, when Derek comes in and scores five goals [in six games], it’s helpful.

“That might be the thing which clinches you titles and cups and it’s great to have that. Thomas Gravesen’s scored six goals and they were big goals at the time – two against Rangers and a match-winning hat-trick against St Mirren. It means it’s worth it.

“We might have to change styles now and then. It will always be a 4-4-2 but with a wee change here and there.”

New signing Paul Hartley, who made his Hoops debut against Livingston in the Tennent’s Scottish Cup last week, is set to come up against his former club, where he subsequently became a hate-figure after joining Edinburgh rivals Hearts.

Strachan is confident the Scotland international will brush off the inevitable barracking from Hibs supporters.

However, the Celtic boss is perplexed about the constant questioning of his players’ abilities and attributes.

He said: “I think Paul Hartley will handle it.

“It’s not given me a second thought. Once the game got going last week, his energy, enthusiasm and quality were fantastic.

“But we have to have a debate about everything in football. There was a debate about Gary Caldwell coming in, with people questioning if he was good enough.

“Then, after a week or so, it was: ’What a good player Caldwell is’. There was also a debate about whether Lee Naylor was good enough after playing for Wolves and he’s having an outstanding season.

“Nakamura was a slim wee guy from Reggina and now we’re witnessing an incredible footballer.”

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox