Former Celtic boss names Tottenham Hotspur legend and Japanese icon as the best signings he ever made

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Gordon Strachan enjoyed a trophy laden four-year stint as Celtic boss

Former Celtic boss Gordon Strachan has reflected on his time at Parkhead and named some of the best signings of his managerial career.

Strachan enjoyed a hugely successful four-year stint at Celtic Park from 2005 to 2009. During his time as manager he led the Hoops to three consecutive league titles, one Scottish Cup and two League Cups. 

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He is also credited with leading the team into the knockout stages of the Champions League in both the 2006/07 and 2007/08 seasons, whilst recording famous victories over both Manchester United and AC Milan at Celtic Park.

Strachan missed out on the title in his final season at Celtic and his later career saw him take charge of Championship side Middlesbrough and the Scotland national team.

The 66-year-old has been out of football since 2017, but reflected fondly on some of his best experiences in the game. Speaking to sales CRM software, Strachan revealed some of the greatest signings of his career.

He said: "I've had some really good players over the years, but I always look back at my reliable signings fondly. Paul Telfer, who I had at three clubs with me, is a prime example.

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"He set a standard at training and brought the levels up every time he came with me to a new club. He showed what it meant to be a top pro with his dedication off the pitch as well.

"Roland Nilsson was the same and I would have taken him everywhere if I could. If he was Scottish, I probably would have given him a cap there as well! He was invaluable for me in setting standards and showing even the fitness coaches what it meant to be super fit as well.”

Strachan went on to talk about some of the most technically gifted players he had coached and named two Celtic heroes among them in Japanese international Shunsuke Nakamura, along with Republic of Ireland’s leading goalscorer Robbie Keane.

Strachan explained: “In terms of pure skill, there are two who really stick out; Robbie Keane and Shunsuke Nakamura. Robbie was a complete one-off and he had natural intelligence and an ability to take things in at the first time of asking. We worked with him on a few things at Coventry, but it became evident he didn't need to be told things twice before they sunk in. 

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"Nakamura was £1.6million and an absolute genius. He stopped playing at 44 if I'm not mistaken, and after watching one tape of him myself and the coaching team knew we had to sign him. One tape went to me, one to Jim Blyth, one went to Garry Pendrey and one to Tommy Burns.

"It was a unanimous decision by all of us. I have signed and managed better players, I must admit, but just his skill and his bravery were absolutely incredible. He set standards in training as well. After every single game, regardless of who we were playing, he would change out of his match day kit, get into clean training kit and go and do 45 minutes of strength work on his upper and lower body.

"It didn't matter if we were playing Livingstone, Manchester United or AC Milan, he was the last off the training ground. Then he would come in at 8am and do weights in the gym with a fitness coach. Eventually, Aidan McGeady was in there, Shaun Maloney was in there, as was Gary Caldwell. He set a new standard in training which was phenomenal.

Strachan went on to explain the type of assets that he would look for in a signing. He explained that while data can play an important role it is important to be diligent and to analyse a player’s character as well.

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“That's something that data can't tell you, about the humility of the player and the environment they create as well. If your recruitment team doesn't recruit people like that, then you won't have a successful environment. 

“They need humility, they need a work ethic, they need to be good with people and have an intellect in order to learn and develop as a football. It's like in any business, you have to have the intellect to adapt and progress.

"Data is almost like the 'Emperor's New Clothes' in the sense that it is useful, but you have to literally decode it and check for traits such as their ability to deal with people. Data is the easy part, but you have to look beyond the numbers."

Robbie Keane proved to be the catalyst for Coventry’s survival in the Premier League in the 1999/2000 campaign and his 12 goals in 31 appearances caught the eyes of Inter Milan before further moves to Inter Milan, Leeds, Tottenham and Liverpool. He spent half a season at Celtic and fired in 12 goals in 16 appearances during a successful loan spell in 2009/10.

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Shunsuke Nakamura, who only retired in 2022, enjoyed a four year stint at Celtic which coincided with Strachan’s tenure. He scored 29 goals in 128 league appearances and was famous for his set piece ability - leading to many describing him as one of the best free kick takers in world football.

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