Gordon Strachan: This is the greatest show on earth
By: Mark Henderson on 19 Sep, 2012 14:38
GORDON Strachan cherished UEFA Champions League nights more than any other occasion during his time in charge at Paradise.
For pure excitement, the calibre of players on show and the memorable atmosphere, the former Celtic manager felt it reigned supreme. It was something special, something to savour.
And in order to soak up the incredible din as the kick-off approached, he would alter his pre-match routine.
"Normally for a game at Celtic Park, I would time it so that I would get down there just about 30 seconds before the referee blew his whistle," he revealed in an exclusive interview with the official matchday programme.
"But on these nights I made sure I was a couple of minutes earlier so I could take in the atmosphere.
"I have to say that when I heard that music for the UEFA Champions League as I walked down the tunnel, it was most excited I ever was as Celtic manager.
"It´s a game that´s different. It´s a tournament that´s better than the World Cup finals as all the top players in the world play in the UEFA Champions League, while many of the top players miss out in the World Cup since their countries can´t qualify.
"It has the best players, the best stadiums in the world and the best supporters. So you put all that together and you have a night that can´t be matched anywhere else."
And in an interesting twist of fate, the three teams the Hoops will go head-to-head with this year – Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow – were all sides the 55-year-old faced in European competition while in charge at Celtic.
That makes him well-placed to comment on the threat on the Portuguese giants who visit Paradise tonight for the group opener.
"They will be a patient team, that´s for sure," he explained. "All Portuguese teams are patient. At home they seem to come alive and flourish but away from home – even the Portuguese national side – they have the four at the back, two sitting midfield players, three attacking midfield players and a striker.
"That´s the way they always seem to go, and never change it. When they get in trouble they seem to come out of that security zone and start to play. So Celtic can expect a patient side, probably a side that will pass the ball and have it more than Celtic.
"But if you are passing the ball and going nowhere, then it´s not a problem. And I think the fans need to understand and see what´s happening. If a team is passing it and going nowhere, then that´s fine. If they are passing it and getting shots and crosses then you can worry."
The full and exclusive interview with Gordon Strachan is featured in the special A4 souvenir match programme produced for tonight´s game.
Along with Gordon Strachan, it features exclusive interviews with captain Scott Brown, ex-Celt and current youth coach, John Kennedy and Dutch striker, Pierre van Hooijdonk, who played for both Celtic and Benfica.
The match programme be on sale at Celtic retail outlets ahead of the game on Wednesday, while it will be also available to buy outside the stadium in the lead-up to the match.