100 Greatest LUFC Players - No.5 Gordon Strachan

19 Jun 2019 07:42 am, by YorkshireSquare

5) Gordon Strachan (1989-1995)

Country: Scotland | DOB: 09/02/1957 | Position: Midfielder | Apps: 244 | Goals: 45

Strachan enjoyed a top-level career on both sides of the border both in playing and football management careers. He signed him as a schoolboy for Dundee in October 1971. The sixteen year-old was quickly becoming noticed and won the Scottish Reserve player of the Year in 1973, as Dundee won the League Cup by beating Celtic. Strachan was given his first game as a substitute in a home Drybrough Cup game with Raith Rovers on 29th July 1973, which Dundee needed extra-time to win 1-0. There was another substitute appearance two weeks later in the League Cup in a 1-0 home win over St Johnstone, but it was not easy for the young Strachan to break into the strong Dundee side which won the League Cup in 1973-74.

The 1975-76 season saw the start of a new ten-team Premier Division competition, but despite Strachan scoring six goals in seventeen League starts, and six more from the bench, he was unable to stop them being relegated to Division One. He was almost an ever-present in the 1976-77 season and scored seven goals from thirty-three starts and three more from the bench, but Dundee had to be content with third place. His influence was such that he was appointed club captain, although only just twenty, for the start of the 1977-78 season.

He was on the radar of several other clubs and after he had an outstanding game for Dundee in a 1-1 home draw with Hearts on 29th October 1977, the financially challenged Deesiders could not refuse an offer of £50,000 from Aberdeen and he left for Pittodrie in early November. He had scored thirteen goals in sixty-nine Scottish League games, of which thirteen had been from the bench. He also score once in seven Scottish Cup starts, once in thirteen Scottish League Cup ties, of which two were as substitute, and had started the friendly with Arsenal and come on as a substitute in the Drybrough Cup, without scoring.

At Pittodrie he became a vital part of the team that broke the dominance of the two Glasgow sides in the 1980s. He won two Scottish League Championship medals, in 1980 and 1984, a hat-trick of Scottish Cup winners medals, from 1982 to 1984, and a European Cup-Winners Cup medal in 1983 and the European Super Cup in the same year. He also played in the 1979 Scottish League Cup Final and was Scottish Player of the Year in 1979-80. Strachan also established himself as a Scotland regular, after returning from injury in October 1981 with Scotland already assured of a place in the World Cup Final.

His final game for Scotland as an Aberdeen player came at the Stade Velodrome, Marseille, when he started in a 0-2 loss to France on 1st June 1984 and he was replaced by Neil Simpson at half-time. On 13th August 1984 he signed for Manchester United in a £600,000 deal. In his career at Aberdeen he scored fifty-five goals in one hundred and seventy-five starts and eight games from the bench in the Scottish Premier League as well seven goals in twenty-nine starts in the Scottish Cup, twenty goals in forty-six Scottish League Cup ties, of which three were from the bench, eight goals in thirty starts and four games from the bench in European games, as well as twelve goals in twenty-two starts and two games from the bench in other games.

At Old Trafford he won an F.A. Cup-winners medal in his first season as Everton were beaten 1-0 at Wembley on 18th May 1985. After being a leading light initially at Manchester, he lost form and was out of favour towards the end of his time there. As an International he was a prominent figure in Scotland’s World Cup campaigns of 1982 and 1986. The Old Trafford team slid down to eleventh place, thirty points behind champions Everton as Strachan scored four goals in thirty-three starts and one game from the bench in the 1986-87 season.
Strachan was now thirty and still at the height of his powers and he still managed eight goals in the League in thirty -three starts and three more as a substitute in a forty game programme as his team trailed champions Liverpool by nine points. His international career however seemed to be nearing its end as he added just one to his tally on 9th September 1987 in a 2-0 win over Hungary at Hampden Park. The 1988-89 season saw him out of favour with manager Ferguson, who had arrived in November 1986 and had failed to inspire his new club and needed a scapegoat, as he had scored once in twenty-one League starts as his team would slumped once more to eleventh spot.

On 23rd 1989 March Howard Wilkinson paid £300,000 to take him to Elland Road to rejuvenate his career and allow him to lead them to the First Division Championship within three years. While at Old Trafford he scored thirty-three goals in the League from one hundred and fifty-five starts and five games from the bench together with two goals in twenty-two F.A. Cup games, one in thirteen League Cup games, which included one as a substitute and three goals in ten starts and two from the bench in UEFA Cup and other games.

He he was the inspirational captain of United’s Second Division title-winning team in 1989-90. Anyone who thought that Strachan would lack the pace to survive in the top flight were woefully wrong as he was named Footballer of the Year in 1991 as Leeds came a very creditable fourth, and he was also recalled to the national team at Ibrox Park on 6th February 1991 for a friendly with USSR. He was appointed captain of Scotland, a position he held for the rest of his international career, celebrating his appointment with a sixty-third minute penalty, for his fifth and final international goal, as he opened the scoring in a 2-0 win over San Marino at Stadio Olympico, Serravalle on 1st May 1991 in his forty-sixth international.

He then led Leeds to the Football League Championship in the following season of 1991-92 and was awarded the OBE in the New Year’s honours of 1993. Despite several other contenders for his place on the right of United’s midfield, Strachan outlasted them all with great skill and dedication. His much publicized diet of seaweed pills and bananas helped, but he was a model professional who was being strongly tipped to take over from Howard Wilkinson as the next man in charge at Elland Road. After retiring from International football, after attaining membership of the Scotland Football Hall of Fame, with fifty caps to his credit, Strachan started to play less games because of a back injury and, in October 1994, he announced that he was going to quit at the end of the season.

He actually decided to call it a day in the following January and concentrated on coaching matters at Leeds, but within two months his old boss at Old Trafford, Ron Atkinson, lured him to Coventry City in March 1995 with the promise that the copper-haired Scotsman would be his successor at Highfield Road. It was an offer that Strachan could not refuse and before the end of the season he had his boots on again, making his Coventry debut on 15th April 1995 in a 2-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday and playing until the final minute when he was replaced by Marcus Hall. He also played in the 1995-96 season as Coventry just avoided relegation. He played his final game for Coventry on 3rd May 1997 in a 1-2 home loss to Derby County.

When Ron Atkinson became Coventry City's Director of Football in November 1996, Gordon Strachan was promoted to the Manager's seat. He finally retired as a player at the end of the 1996-97 season after making his last appearance at the age of forty, at the time a record in the English Premiership. Strachan also helped the Sky Blues pull off perhaps the most unlikely relegation survival in Premiership history. After losing their penultimate Premiership game, it looked as though their thirty-year top flight tenancy had come to an end. But thanks to a victory on the final day, a draw for Middlesbrough (who had been deducted three points by the F.A) and a defeat for Sunderland, they pulled off a miracle survival.
Strachan kept Coventry safe from relegation until 2001, when they finally went down after thirty-four years of top division football. He was sacked shortly after the start of the 2001-02 Division One campaign. He returned to management within weeks, taking the Manager's job at Premiership strugglers Southampton, who had sacked Manager Stuart Gray after a terrible start to their first season at the new St Mary’s Stadium. Most pundits had already written them off prior to Strachan's appointment in October 2001, but he turned round their Premiership fortunes and they finished eleventh in the Premiership. The Saints progressed further in 2002-03 when they finished eighth and reached the FA Cup final, where they lost 1-0 to Arsenal. In March 2004, Gordon Strachan announced his resignation as Southampton manager.

Strachan finally returned to management on 1st June 2005, when he succeeded Martin O'Neill as manager of Celtic in the SPL. After some initial disappointments, Strachan's first season was ultimately successful as he coached Celtic to victory in the Scottish League Cup and, on 5th April 2006 his side clinched the SPL title in record time and with six matches remaining. Strachan was voted Scotland’s 'Manager of the Year'. The following year Strachan restructured the team and made a series of new signings, Celtic flourished, and by mid-January 2007 held a seventeen point lead in the SPL standings and reached the last sixteen in the ECL. But they were beaten by AC Milan and missed out in a place in the quarter finals.

On 22nd April 2007 Strachan guided Celtic to their forty-first League championship, and second in succession. A 2-1 victory against Kilmarnock left Celtic thirteen points clear of Rangers with four matches remaining. Later that day Strachan was recognised as the inaugural Scottish PFA Manager of the Year for 2007. Celtic also won the Scottish Cup in the same year. In the 2007-08 season, Strachan was able to lead Celtic into the second round of the Champions League again after beating AC Milan, SL Benfica and Shaktar Donetsk. However by April there was a lot of criticism from the press and the fans after a 1-0 loss to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup Quarter Finals and the 1-0 loss to ten man Motherwell.

But Strachan was to prove the critics wrong again and after beating Rangers twice at home, on 22nd May 2008, Strachan became only the third ever Celtic manager to guide the club to three consecutive Scottish league titles. After failing to lead Celtic to another League title in the 2008-09 season, he stepped down as Manager on 25th May 2009. He won the Scottish Premier League title in three of his four seasons in charge. He took over as Manager of Championship side Middlesbrough, when he succeeded Gareth Southgate on 26th October 2009 on a four year contract. When he arrived Middlesbrough had played fourteen games and were sat in fourth position just three points behind leaders Newcastle United. He had a bad run and it was not until 5th December that they registered their first win under his management.

At season end Boro finished 11th, forty points behind the champions Newcastle United. Things did not improve with a new season and by mid-October 2010, the club were in 20th place, only just above the drop zone. On 18th October 2010 Strachan and Boro agreed that his contract would be terminated and voluntarily rescinded any claim to compensation for the almost three years remaining on his contract. He turned to football punditry with BBC and ITV, which he still does, but on 15th January 2013 he was appointed manager of the Scottish national team in succession to Craig Levein. Early defeats meant that Scotland had scant chance of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup Finals, but a succession of victories saw them finish fourth in their qualifying group. After failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Strachan resigned from his position on 12 October 2017

For the full 100 players check out our 100 Greatest Ever Leeds Players...