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Sunday, July 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Soccer
Notebook: Short-handed Celtic pressured to bolster roster

By Bob Sherwin
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Celtic returned to Seattle with virtually the same team that lost 4-0 to Manchester United last year. The Bhoys were without perhaps their best player, striker Henrik Larsson, who has signed with FC Barcelona. They were also without their manager, Martin O'Neill, who stayed behind in Glasgow, Scotland, to be with his ill wife.

There is pressure back home for Celtic to still sign a player or two to bolster the team.

"I've heard all these stories that we're signing this one and that one," first-team coach Steve Walford said. "They'll be someone else tomorrow. We don't have enough numbers for the (rumored) players we're going to sign."

Celtic fans, as well as players, hope that O'Neill is back home talking to some elite players to fill weak spots. Those same fans, as well as reporters who cover the team, hope that management turns toward some of the younger players to step in.

One player who has generated a following is Scottish midfielder Aidan McGeady. He is a skilled, quick player who can befuddle more experienced players. He's also just 18.

"He has come on extremely well," said assistant manager John Robertson. "I would expect him to challenge this season. I don't want to put too much pressure on the boy. But he's a very tricky customer."

McGeady has generated a lot of passion on both extremes with his decision to play for Ireland's national team instead of Scotland's. He is a Scottish citizen of Irish descent.

The mystery continues

Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's owner, attended the game yesterday, watching from a suite and visiting the team in the locker room afterward.

The Russian oil billionaire keeps an extremely low profile and shrouds himself in mystery, which only generates rumors about his lifestyle. Supposedly, one of his four luxury yachts sailed ahead to Seattle to anchor in Puget Sound so he could sleep on it at night. Also, there were reports that his armored Mercedes was flown ahead to the city to provide his transportation.
 
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Grace under fire

The game-time temperature was 88 degrees, but it soared into the mid-90s later in the afternoon. A TV thermometer on the field read 120 degrees at one point.

Four Celtic players played all 90 minutes: keeper Magnus Hedman, defender Bob Balde and strikers Chris Sutton and Craig Beattie. Playing the full game for Chelsea were defenders Glen Johnson and John Terry, midfielder Geremi and striker Alexei Smertin.

Note

• The European media is all knotted up over the English Premier League opener Aug. 15 between the world's most famous soccer team, Manchester United, and upstart Chelsea.

The managers of each team are part of the hype. No-nonsense Sir Alex Ferguson has led Man U to multiple trophies with a hard edge. In contrast, Chelsea manager Jose Mourniho is a new-generation manager, handsome, self-assured and unwilling to work under Ferguson's long shadow.

Ferguson also might harbor some hostility toward Mourniho dating to a victory by Mourniho's former team, FC Porto, over Manchester. Ferguson though Porto players were dirty and were diving at every opportunity. He refused to give Mourniho the customary handshake after the match.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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