Exclusive: Jackie McNamara on coaching strikers in the modern age as Celtic look for clinical edge

By Euan Davidson

April 16, 2021

Ahead of the Glasgow Derby, Celtic legend Jackie McNamara told 67 Hail Hail how a manager needs to treat his strikers.

Scoring goals has been a concern all season. While Edouard comfortably leads the scoring charts, the likes of Leigh Griffiths, Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala have all struggled.

In Glasgow Derbies, specifically, the Bhoys have struggled to take their chances. Whether that’s from a lack of confidence or not being able to get into good positions, we’ve found it difficult to make headway. There are answers to beating Rangers, as we’ve seen, but a chronic lack of self-belief has hampered Celtic all season.

Especially up front, in the big moments.

67 Hail Hail asked Jackie McNamara about coaching strikers in the modern age. His insights were fascinating, as he told us:

“I think now, they try to put it across in the right manner so they don’t lose them mentally. Trying to keep doing the same things and it’ll change, keep asking the questions. Whereas when I started, it’d be the complete opposite, [managers would be shouting] the paint off the walls.

“It’s different times now. You have to be careful what you say in case you lose them. You’re like a social worker at times. But obviously you want to keep them confident. The last thing you want is that you speak to them and they don’t want to take chances. They don’t put themselves out there, keep asking questions. That’s the concern, that they don’t throw their bodies out there and take responsibility, pass instead of taking the shot.”

Celtic score another against Livingston / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Confidence in front of goal has been a problem for Celtic

Earlier today, we took a tactical look at how Celtic have improved, incrementally, over recent weeks. Specifically, the number of long, wayward shots has decreased since John Kennedy took control of the dugout.

In a way, it’s a great shame that the Celtic coaching team couldn’t have figured this out sooner. Perhaps, as Jackie McNamara intimated, the strikers are low on confidence but weren’t dealt with the right way. For sure, Neil Lennon had an unfortunate habit of claiming players wanted away, and blamed them for not stepping up.

But that works both ways. And the day and night improvement under Kennedy speaks for itself. Last week, Celtic dismantled Livingston in a way which had become alien. In truth, we hadn’t seen a win like that since the opening day of the season.

Perhaps, then, Kennedy’s presence is improving the mood at Lennoxtown. For sure, our attacking players seem more confident, and they’ll only be buoyed by the presence of James Forrest. With the diminutive winger on the pitch, strikers are going to get more opportunities. Who knew that having natural wingers would help out?

So, McNamara’s insights here are particularly interesting. Maybe, just maybe, they hint at a culture change behind the scenes at Celtic Park.

Whether that’s the case or not, it certainly puts hope in the hearts of Bhoys supporters ahead of Sunday.

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