Hoops History: Gordon Strachan

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) /

In this week’s Hoops History, we take a look at Gordon Strachan, the successor to Martin O’Neill at Celtic FC in 2005 and

Hailing from Edinburgh, Strachan played as a midfielder for a lengthy career throughout clubs in England and Scotland. As a child, he was a Hibernian supporter, but when Hibs offered him a contract his father rejected it due to financial differences, and he signed with Dundee at 14.

When the decision was made to sign with Dundee, he rejected Manchester United, with the thought that he’d be in a better position with the Scottish side.

His talent was apparent from the start, as he would go on to win Scottish Reserve Player of the Year twice, earning some first-team starts in the 1975 campaign. In the inaugural Scottish Premier Division season the following year, he would come to make 23 appearances that year with six goals to his name in league play.

While the side saw relegation that year, he would go on to make 36 appearances in Division One the following season with seven goals on the campaign. He was handed the captaincy for that season, the youngest ever to do so for Dundee at just 19-years-old.

However, due to some off the pitch issues, he lost his first-team placing during the 1978 season, and with the club seeming less and less likely to regain its footing, he departed for Aberdeen, under later Celtic manager Billy McNeill.

After Billy McNeill departed Aberdeen for Parkhead in the summer of 1978, Strachan would flourish under his successor Sir Alex Ferguson, with 88 goals in 276 appearances under the skipper. This included an incredible 1980 campaign which saw Aberdeen win the league over the Hoops after closing a ten-point deficit, including two wins at Celtic Park. Strachan would win the SFWA Footballer of the Year Award for his part in their success.

1983 would see arguably the best campaign in the Dons’ history, as they would win the Scottish Cup in a 1-0 victory over Rangers in the Final, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Real Madrid in Gothenburg.

Strachan would have 20 goals in this campaign in all play for the side, garnering honours such as IOC European Footballer of the Year and a 4th-place finish in the Ballon d’Or race behind the likes of Michael Platini and Kenny Dalglish.

The following season would see the side repeat their recent success, winning the league title, the Scottish Cup, and the European Super Cup, quite a unique treble for the side.

In August 1984, Strachan would make the jump to English-side Manchester United. In five seasons there he would see his playing fluctuate due to injuries, managing 38 goals, 24 of which he scored in his first season at Old Trafford in 1985. The side struggled domestically in league play during his stint there but did manage to win the FA Cup in that first season. He would also see his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson join the side in 1986.

1989 would see Strachan depart Old Trafford for Leeds United after much disagreement with skipper Alex Ferguson, where he would somewhat revitalize his playing career. While at Leeds, he would score 44 goals in 235 appearances over seven campaigns.

Captaining the side to an English Second Division title in 1990, he would lead the side to a fourth-place finish the following year in the First Division, winning the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year on the campaign, the first to win the award in both Scotland and England.

The 1992 campaign would see Strachan lead the side to a league title over his former squad, Manchester United. He would play with Leeds through the 1995 season, moving to Coventry City as Roy Atkinson’s assistant manager with an agreement to replace him there in 1997, retiring from playing at the age of 40 in 1997 to take up the managers’ spot after Atkinson’s retirement.

He had the club on a hot start, winning Manager of the Month in December of that season before a downturn in results saw them avoid relegation by one point. The side would struggle with mid-to-bottom table results the next few seasons, finally being relegated in 2001. Struggling in their promotion quest in 2002, he was sacked just five matches into the season.

Strachan would return to manage in the Premier League just weeks later, joining Southampton, who at the time were in a potential relegation placing, managing to guide them to an 11th-placed finish. The next season, the club would finish 8th in the Premier League and runners-up to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal squad in the FA Cup, earning a slot in the UEFA Cup for the following season.

He would, however, resign in February of 2004 from the south coast club, before returning to managing in June 2005 when he became the manager at Celtic FC after Martin O’Neill’s departure for Aston Villa.

His time at Celtic would begin with a rough stretch of losses and draws, but the club would find a reversal in fortune as time progressed, winning the League Cup and clinching the league title over Hearts with six matches remaining, winning Scottish FWA’s Manager of the Year for his efforts.

The following season would see Strachan make a slew of signing to revitalize the club, winning the league that year as well as the Scottish Cup. In European play, he would push the side through an incredible group stage with wins at home against Benfica, Copenhagen and Manchester United before being knocked out in the Round of 16 by Milan.

The club would get revenge the following season, beating Milan, Benfica, and Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League play before once again exiting in the Round of 16. The Hoops would also win the league title again this season, becoming just the third manager to guide the side to three straight league titles.

Celtic would see a slight slip in fortunes for the 2009 campaign, finishing second to Rangers by a four-point margin, but managing to win the League Cup once again. Strachan would resign in May, being replaced by Tony Mowbray, who would then be replaced by Neil Lennon as caretaker manager before his first stretch managing the club, which began the Hoops’ current streak of a potential tenth-straight league title.

Strachan would move on to Middlesborough in England for just one season, but with the side struggling in October 2010, he would resign, ending his long run as a club manager across England and Scotland. He would return to manage the Scotland national team from 2013 until 2017 with mixed results, resigning in October 2017.

While Strachan may have never donned the Hoops as a player, even beating the side with Aberdeen for a league title on occasion, he made quite the impact as a manager, bringing the side to three-straight league titles, two League Cups, and a Scottish Cup.

His managerial honours include SPFA Manager of the Year in 2006, two SFWA Manager of the Year Awards in 2006 and 2007, and the PFA Scotland Manager of the Year Award in 2007 and 2009.

He would return to his original club Dundee in 2019 as technical director, helping oversee their 3rd place Championship finish in 2020, where his grandson Luke Strachan is currently a player.