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Senegal through but lose pair to suspension


Bhoys left with Mowbray mess

When Tony Mowbray arrived at Celtic Park last summer, he declared that he lived by a code of "honesty, integrity, humility and respect" and that these were the attributes which he hoped to instil in his new charges.

• Mowbray leaves Celtic

Sadly, though, while all these qualities may be admirable in their own right, they count for nothing without the hard currency of victories on the pitch and, regardless of Mowbray's innate decency as a human being, the stark reality is that he was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It hardly helped that he wasn't even the first choice of the Celtic board, whose attentions were rebuffed by Owen Coyle, and yet, considering the sheer scale of the financial problems which are currently afflicting Rangers, it is a damning indictment of Mowbray's tenure that his Old Firm rivals are cruising to the SPL title with a squad which achieved absolutely nothing in the Champions League this season.

Too often, the former Middlesbrough, Celtic and Ipswich player gave the impression of having power, but not being in charge of events around him.

Even when Robbie Keane walked in through the Parkhead revolving door in January, there was a sense of a sticking plaster being applied to a gaping wound, along with a feeling that it was crazy to dispense with so many defenders at the same time - a deficiency which was painfully exposed when St Mirren exorcised their Cup final disappointment with a 4-0 thrashing of the Hoops, which hastened Mowbray's demise, just nine months after being appointed.

In Europe, he may have been unfortunate to find his side pitted against a slick Arsenal ensemble, as the prelude to toppling into the Europa League. But, in the end, the club's travails, both at home and further afield, testified to the manager's failure to add solidity and efficiency to the entertainment value traditionally demanded by Celtic aficionados.

It was bad enough that, even as Rangers were being crushed by Unirea, their Glasgow counterparts were failing to progress from a group comprising Hamburg, Rapid Vienna and Hapoel Tel-Aviv. But worse still was the unconvincing nature of so many of their SPL displays, whether in struggling to a brace of draws with bottom club Falkirk, being pegged back from leading 4-2 after 75 minutes by a misfiring Aberdeen side, or proving unable to register a single victory over Rangers, no matter how many of the meetings between the sides were dominated by refereeing controversies.

Even when Keane made his debut, in a blaze of publicity and the popping of a thousand flash bulbs at Rugby Park at the start of February, it was perhaps typical of Mowbray's reign that the night should end in anti-climax with a home win, against the odds, for struggling Kilmarnock. You didn't have to be a prophet to recognise that these are the sort of evenings which gradually, inexorably sap the resolve from even the most committed supporter.

The problem, though, is that Celtic have been left between Scylla and Charybdis with the news of his abrupt departure. It is less than two months since Mowbray shipped on one load of players, most of them to Middlesbrough and Burnley, whilst signing up a small orchestra of replacements, the majority of whom have not fared conspicuously better than their predecessors.

Keane has already confirmed he won't be overstaying his welcome. Rumours continue to swirl about the future of Aiden McGeady, although his form of late had hardly indicated he is ready to take the English Premier League by storm, and serious questions marks hang over the likes of Scott Brown, Georgios Samaras and Marc-Antoine Fortune, whose only consistent feature has been their inconsistency.

In this light, Celtic would be well advised not to rush the search for a successor. They got it badly wrong last time and another snafu could have ruinous fiscal implications, especially with Scottish representation in the Champions League being reduced.

No doubt Coyle's name will be mentioned again, though Mark McGhee's stock has fallen throughout the winter, and much as the fans would probably relish the appointment of a David Moyes, or even the return of Martin O'Neill, they have to accept that anybody involved in the Premier League is going to waste their time in Scotland.

That leaves room for a wild card or two. What about Henrik Larsson as technical director, with Neil Lennon and, for instance, David Hay or even Craig Brown taking charge of the day-to-day running of the club? Doubtless, the die-hards will proclaim that they wish things to continue in the time-honoured fashion of the last 100 years.

But that was the kind of addled thinking which led to the installation of Mowbray.


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