Sean Graham

After the disappointment of last season’s title loss, manager Gordon Strachan bid farewell to Celtic Park having guided the Hoops to three title successes. The door was left open for someone else to come in and take on the massive challenge that is managing Glasgow Celtic Football Club.

Strachan can walk away with his head held high, as he indeed did after delivering an emotional speech at the Tommy Burns tribute match. The former Hoops boss knows that he will be remembered fondly by most Celtic supporters, having won six trophies in four years and given the club back to back appearances in the last 16 of the Champions League.

But some of the players, who helped bring success to the club, also let the manager down in the final matches in the league, letting rivals Rangers in to take the title and leave Celtic looking for a new manager.

After many days and rumours, one man came out of the shadows or, to be more precise, out of the Hawthorns to fill the manager’s seat in the dugout. That man was Tony Mowbray.

Once Celtic had made their approach, Mowbray was on his way back to a personal paradise to link up with a club and a fan-base that already had a special place in his heart.

Mowbray is a born leader and he was given the Middlesbrough captain’s armband at the age of just 22. As he assumed the captaincy, Boro were not in their strongest position, indeed they had gone into liquidation, but Mowbray being the man and the leader he is helped drag the team back from the brink to the top flight of English football.

Former Boro manager Bruce Rioch once said of the big centre-back,” If I had to fly to the moon I’d take Tony Mowbray, my captain, with me, he’s a magnificent man”. From that quote a Boro fanzine was born: Fly Me To The Moon.

Mowbray had spent most of his playing days with Middlesbrough and would most probably have spent even more time there had Celtic not come calling. He moved north and was faced with hard times both on and off the pitch.

On a personal level, Mowbray lost his wife Bernadette to breast cancer but dealt with this tragedy with such dignity that it won him many admirers on both sides of the Old Firm and throughout Scottish football in general. He released a heart warming book, Kissed by an Angel, which was a touching account of his time with Bernadette.

During this trying time Mowbray knew that the Celtic players, supporters and indeed everyone at the club had him in their thoughts. Although he eventually moved on, the defender always had Celtic in his heart.

During his time at Parkhead, Mowbray gave the players a pre-match routine called “The Huddle”, a ritual that is still used to this day to bring the Celtic team together before games.

He left Celtic to go back down south with Ipswich Town where he spent five years, becoming team captain and leading by example by scoring in the playoff final 4-2 win over Barnsley which helped secure promotion to the Premier League. This proved to be the last match of his career.

Mowbray eased into his first coaching role with Ipswich Town and soon went from strength to strength. Moving to Easter Road with Hibernian in 2004, he earned the Scottish Football Writers’ Manager of the Year Award in his first season. The club finished in the top four in his only two full seasons in charge of the Hibees and his style of play earned much respect.

As often happens, the vultures started to circle Easter Road, and many talents soon left the club. However, the most unwanted attention from a Hibernian point of view was directed at the manager himself.

West Brom came calling and tempted Mowbray back down south. Soon he was working his magic again as the West Midlands side were turned into playoff challengers, even if they did eventually lose 1-0 to Derby County at Wembley.

Mowbray re-grouped and re-built his side for the new season where yet again his style of play earned accolades. The Championship title was eventually won and Premier League football secured. An FA Cup semi-final appearance against Arsenal was an unexpected bonus too. The plaudits flowed at the end of a successful season as Mowbray picked up Manager of the Month gongs for September and April, combined with the ultimate, League Managers Association Manager of the Year Award.

The strain of Premier League football took their toll on West Brom, and Mowbray could not save them as they slipped out of the Premier League at the end of last season. What West Brom fans soon became concerned with was whether their manger would stay and plot the course back to the promised land.

Ultimately an approach from Celtic proved too strong and compensation was agreed for Mowbray and his backroom team to move to Parkhead. He was back amongst old friends, and enemies, too.

Tony Mowbray had hard times in his last spell as a player with Celtic but the fans helped him through it. Now will be a perfect time to repay the Hoops faithful as he aims to bring the title back to Parkhead.

Related Articles: