Football: Sublime to the Meticulous ; Henrik Larsson Will Not Rest until He Wins Golden Boot

Article excerpt

TOO MUCH of a good thing is supposed to jade the palate. For Henrik Larsson, it has merely increased his hunger. The Celtic striker's insatiable appetite for goals ensures he simply does not consider this a day of rest. Today, Larsson could inscribe himself into the Scottish Premier League record books and, at the same time, take another step towards securing his title as Europe's most accomplished marksman.

If Larsson scores against Dundee at Parkhead, he will surpass Brian McClair's SPL record of 35 goals. The Swede drew level with the 1986-87 landmark last week with a sublime strike in Sunday's 5- 2 rout of Hibernian, but then everything has been sublime about Larsson all season. He has found the net an astonishing 51 times, leaving the 48-goal haul of Charlie Nicholas (whose 1982-83 total was a postwar record) in his slipstream.

Larsson is also poised to claim the European Golden Boot (for which only league goals count) from Sunderland's Kevin Phillips as the continent's top scorer. A fortnight ago, the Celtic forward was voted Player of the Year by his peers in the Scottish PFA, and tonight he will accept the same award from Scotland's football writers, the game's more traditional benchmark.

There is also the small matter of a title and the League Cup, which will become a fabled treble if Celtic can defeat Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final on 26 May. Fatigue would be understandable after such a campaign, but Celtic's manager, Martin O'Neill, insists: "Henrik does not want a rest and his case is different. He is going for a record, and he's leading the Golden Boot, so I have to play him in the final two league games."

Larsson merely has to remind himself that a year ago he was forced to sit on the sidelines. Recovery from the badly broken leg which almost wrecked his career meant Larsson was glad just to get a substitute's appearance in the final match of Celtic's season simply to aid his battle to play in Euro 2000 for Sweden.

"I felt a bit tired just after this season started, because of the time out, but once the results start coming, you forget about it," he smiles. …