GORDON STRACHAN had better hope the Celtic money men were distracted. Otherwise, they might have had a close look at the bench for the game against Kilmarnock and tightened the purse strings.

Included among the back-up Bhoys were multi-million-pound signings Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Thomas Gravesen, along with Aiden McGeady, Kenny Miller, Evander Sno and David Marshall.

With Stephen McManus, Shaun Maloney, Stephen Pearson, Gary Caldwell, Mark Wilson, Bobo Balde, John Kennedy and Alan Thompson getting no closer to the action than the stand, it indicates a strength in depth unequalled in the SPL.

Perhaps not the message Strachan wants to send out as the January transfer window swings open.

But it only tells half the story. And the inclusion of Paul Lawson gives a better indication of why Strachan is scouring the market in search of the next bargain buy.

Lawson is a holding midfield player. But, in an emergency, he can be drafted in at full-back, as can Ryan Conroy, a young left midfielder who found himself on the bench at Fir Park on Saturday.

Even with the arrival of Steven Pressley to help plug the gaps at the heart of the back line, Lee Naylor and Paul Telfer are having to play on with what the manager describes as "bad, bad injuries".

Finding suitable back-up for the pair - along with a striker in their price range - remains the priority.

Names like Legia Warsaw's central defender Dickson Choto, Kilmarnock's midfield powerhouse James Fowler and Falkirk's attacking midfielder Alan Gow have all been linked. But none of them figure in Celtic's plans.

There are sure to be many more names added. Those which come with a prefix full-back should be given the most serious consideration.

As it is, Strachan is simply grateful the men he already has are good enough to move his side 17 points clear in the title race.

He fully appreciates he is more fortunate than most managers, having the wherewithal to rest a few players and freshen up his side, a tactic which gives multiple benefits as it allows injuries to heal, recharges batteries and increases the hunger in the fight for places.

So, when the likes of Vennegoor and McGeady do get the call to come on, they can make a telling contribution, as they did against Killie.

Strachan admitted: "We're lucky that we can refresh our side. Jim Jefferies does not have that luxury to bring on a change of pace and experience as we did."

The arrival of such crowd-pleasers also helps to lift an audience which Strachan concedes is struggling to keep itself involved these days.

Strachan said: "In the first half, it was an eerie atmosphere about the place. It surprised me. But we're not blaming that, I think it was us as well. We did not give them anything to cheer about."

Other than going further clear in the SPL.