Steve Clarke to Celtic talk hots up, but don't count on it

By Euan Davidson

February 12, 2021

Steve Clarke to Celtic? According to the Glasgow Times, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

According to the outlet, bookmakers are slashing their odds on the Scotland boss taking the reins at Celtic Park. However, they did this with Frank Lampard and Rafa Benitez; they’ll also do it for the next name linked to Celtic.

The Scotland manager, who took the country’s mens team to their first major tournament since 1998, is somewhat of a national hero. In November, Scotland beat Serbia on penalties to qualify for the delayed Euro 2020, leading the whole nation into a chorus of “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie“.

The former St Mirren player and Jose Mourinho protégé has real pedigree in management. So far in his career, he’s taken in spells at West Brom, Reading and Kilmarnock. At Killie, he revitalised an ailing club, taking them to a third place finish in the Scottish Premiership [BBC].

Reportedly a boyhood Celtic supporter, the former Chelsea player and assistant manager is tactically versatile and has incredible knowledge of the game. His ability to get Scotland into a major tournament after decades of disappointment points to his mental toughness and strategic ability.

Steve Clarke: Celtic bound? / (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Is Steve Clarke what Celtic need?

It’d be unfair to not consider Steve Clarke’s attributes. Yes, the bookies and their odds don’t mean anything in actuality. However, there’s no smoke without fire.

Steve Clarke builds excellent defences. His Kilmarnock side were tough to beat, and Scotland have followed suit. He’s helped to improve players like Scott McKenna and Stephen O’Donnell, and has built a young, exciting Scotland team.

His knowledge and contacts would be incredibly valuable to Celtic. He has links to Liverpool and Chelsea, while also boasting a network of contacts around the English leagues. His reputation is also excellent in footballing circles in Europe. Long story short: he is respected in the game.

On the other hand, it’d be hard to argue his brand of football is exciting. Certainly, he would have more agile tools at his disposal if he joined Celtic, and defending has been a massive problem. He’d fix our immediate need, there’s little doubt.

However, his sides have hardly been the most exciting in attacking scenarios. Historically, clubs he’s managed have averaged just over 1 goal per game [Transfermarkt]. They’ve also conceded the same amount.

Certainly, managers can change. And Steve Clarke will be aware of the expectations of Celtic supporters, being one himself. He’s certainly an accomplished man-manager, and will have picked up many tricks from Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish.

So, consider us undecided.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke / (Photo by Nikolay Doychinov – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Would Steve Clarke risk Scotland legacy by managing Celtic?

There’s another issue at play here.

Steve Clarke is still the toast of Scotland, after his triumph with the national team. His life would probably be a lot easier if he didn’t take the Celtic job, because he’d be dividing his support base by around one half.

He has the goodwill of the country, and is a household name. His achievement will be remembered for a long time. That goodwill wouldn’t last if he took the Celtic job, regardless of how well he does in Euro 2020 (provided it eventually goes ahead).

Scotland doesn’t really do hero worship all that often. The last men’s National Team hero was probably James McFadden, who you’ll notice, didn’t risk his reputation with the Tartan Army by signing for Celtic or Rangers.

Ultimately, Steve Clarke might feel the same way.

What do you think? Would Steve Clarke take the gamble and sign for Celtic? Is he right or wrong for the top job? Debate it on the 67 Hail Hail forum!