Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has compared himself and Ireland boss Martin O’Neill to late comedic double-act Morecambe and Wise ahead of Friday’s pivotal Euro 2016 qualifier.
Both former Celtic managers, it was only when they worked together for an extended period in Brazil for ITV during the summer World Cup that their characters clicked.
Despite them being aware at that stage of the battles ahead in the qualifying campaign, it didn’t prevent them from becoming friendlier.
“I wouldn’t call Martin a close friend but once we meet we get on great together,” confessed Strachan.
“It’s not so much football we talk about; it’s films, music and TV programmes. We spent half an hour in the back of mini-vans going about Rio de Janeiro [after broadcasts]. We would drop the young ones (pundits) off at nightclubs and we went home and listened to music on YouTube.
“We did stupid things like having our meal on the bed, me and him watching football.
“It was like Morecambe and Wise. He starts a conversation then goes somewhere else and you think ‘where’s he going now?’ He’s a good storyteller is Martin, really good company.”
Strachan has also praised O’Neill’s assistant, Roy Keane, describing him as “great fun”.
Although Keane finished out his playing career under the Scot at Celtic, the Corkman recently revealed in his book of Strachan’s initial indifference to signing him.
Now, the former Celtic boss has clarified the first conversation they had in the residence of the club’s majority shareholder, Dermot Desmond.
“That’s exactly what I said,” confirmed Strachan. “I said to Roy it would be great if you would come along (to Celtic) but you’re not going to walk into the team. My midfielders — Neil Lennon, Stilliyan Petrov and Shunsuke Nakamura — are playing great. I think he said “I’m coming” just to spite me. It was fantastic.
“I’ve enjoyed Roy’s company. He is good fun but don’t want to get on the wrong side of him.”
Meanwhile, Strachan has warned his defenders to be watchful of Ireland striker Robbie Keane, whom he managed as a teenager at Coventry City.
“Our players cannot at any time fall asleep round about Robbie,” he cautioned. “He can lull you into feeling everything is all right here and then suddenly, whoosh, he’s away. Robbie has had to deal with being a top player since he was 19. That’s hard to keep going.
“He’s not changed since I managed him, honestly. He has more intelligence, but in his actual game he’s still thinking quickly.”
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