Strach plays down Old Firm fire
By Tom Adams
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Gordon Strachan says Old Firm games against Rangers are no longer 'all out war'.
Celtic boss Gordon Strachan says Old Firm encounters are no longer 'all out war' as he prepares his side to face Rangers for the first time this season on Saturday.
It will be Gers manager Paul Le Guen's first taste of one of the most passionate derbies in world football, with the rivalry between the fans remaining as keen as ever.
However, Strachan has observed that the games no longer suffer from the frantic intensity and battle mentality on the pitch that he witnessed as a player with Aberdeen in the 1980s.
"It's going to be frantic but not as frantic as 20 years ago," said Strachan.
"It used to be all out war 20 or 30 years ago, it's not like that now, there's more to it now.
"I wouldn't like to have played in an Old Firm game 25 years ago when you could kick lumps out of each other - I was usually the target for the kickers.
"I had enough playing at Celtic Park against big Roy (Aitken) and all the rest of them, don't worry about that.
"The passion is still there but it's not as nasty as it was at that time because the rules, hopefully, have allowed good players to flourish and things like the surfaces have made it easier to play on.
"Years ago it was all down to power play and intimidation.
"There were still good footballers and you had to be brave, don't worry about that.
"You don't have to be so brave these days because you get so much protection."
Strachan also warned his new rival in the Rangers hot-seat that it is expedient for managers to steer clear of the pre-game hype and treat the highly-anticipated clash as any other in the SPL season.
"Every one of them is something different but the game is for the fans and the players," Strachan added.
"As a manager you have to get above that and stay calm and collected so it's not that mind-blowing because you try and take every game as seriously.
"It is exciting, there is no doubt about that but I can find something in every game to get me excited."
The Bhoys could hand Old Firm debuts to Gary Caldwell, Lee Naylor, Thomas Gravesen and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink at Celtic Park on Saturday, and team-mate Stephen McManus says the new arrivals are excited ahead of the crunch clash.
"We have spoke to a lot of the new guys and they are looking forward to it," said McManus.
"We are fortunate that a lot of the players have played in a lot of big games, Champions League games and international games.
"Obviously Thomas played in Barcelona versus Real Madrid games.
"I don't think the standard will be quite as good as those games but the atmosphere and the rivalry is certainly intense and they are very enjoyable."