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Hibernian 2 Celtic 4: Moussa Dembele double sends Hoops into Betfred Scottish League Cup final

An improbable double act saw Celtic into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup – against either Rangers or Motherwell, who meet at Hampden Park on Sunday – and to their 60th successive unbeaten domestic fixture. Against a Hibernian side whose late rally put the issue briefly in doubt, Mikael Lustig, who had not scored in 21 prior appearances for Celtic this season, found the net twice before the interval to set the Hoops. The victory was secured by two strikes from Moussa Dembele, whose previous contribution amounted to one goal from seven outings. Hibs produced their best spell in the second half, when their ambitions were resuscitated by a penalty kick converted by Anthony Stokes and a cleverly worked goal scored by Oliver Shaw, a product of the club’s youth academy. “We gave them a two-goal start and you can't do that and the manner we gave away the goals was disappointing,” said Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager. “We improved in the second half, but overall I was pleased with the way we played and there were some good performances out there. Dembele scores the fourth goal Credit:  REUTERS “It gave us a lot to do in the second half, but we had a real good go at it. It is just sloppiness of the goals that were the difference.” When the teams met previously in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Parkhead, Lennon observed that Celtic could be sluggish after a demanding European engagement in midweek. In the lead-up to this game, however, the Easter Road manager played a different card, declaring that he expected his former team to display a strong reaction to their 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. Certainly, Brendan Rodgers did not feel obliged to refresh his ranks other than to leave Cristian Gamboa and Olivier Ntcham on the bench, with Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor given a start. Hibs, too, showed two changes as Gray and Brandon Barker replaced Whittaker and Boyle, who played in the previous weekend’s 1-0 home league defeat by Aberdeen. What became evident immediately was that, even if they felt that they might suffer the effects of their trip to Germany, Celtic were not about to save themselves for later. They pressed from the start to such effect that they won their first corner kick within 90 seconds from a Stuart Armstrong shot which deflected wide, despite Laidlaw’s attempt to stop the ball going out of play. Mikael Lustig also scored a brace Credit:  Action Plus Hibs looked discomfited by Celtic’s passing game but Brandon Barker raised the spirits of the Easter Road faithful with a powerful run which took him beyond the Hoops’ back line, though he could not find a colleague with the final ball. The outlook seemed to have brightened for Hibs when Anthony Stokes surged clear on the right of the Celtic box to find Barker on the other side with a driven cross, but the on-loan Manchester City midfielder slashed a shot into the side netting when the better option would have been a return cross to the Irish striker. The optimism of the Edinburgh contingent was quashed swiftly by Lustig’s first intervention.   A chip from Stuart Armstrong was headed by Dedryck Boyata into the path of Lustig, whose shot found the mark beyond Ross Laidlaw, but the goalkeeper could have done better than get a frail hand to the ball. Laidlaw will feel even more uncomfortable if he watches replays of Lustig’s second, although his partner in dismay should be David Gray, who allowed the Swede to spin off him for a low drive which, again, was allowed by the keeper to spin off both his gloves into the roof of the net. Lennon replaced Gray and Bartley with Whittaker and Boyle at half time and Hibs looked a more competitive unit. That said, they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty for a challenge on Boyle by Boyata, who appeared to have taken the ball off the Hibs man’s toe, not that the niceties were of concern to Stokes, who sent Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot. Rodgers, too, made decisive changes, one of which was to send on Dembele for Leigh Griffiths. The French striker put Celtic 3-1 ahead midway through the half when a miskick by Scott Sinclair fell perfectly for him to shoot home from a dozen yards out. The deficit was reduced again by Shaw, with a deft finish from Whittaker’s shrewd prompt, but Dembele put the issue beyond dispute when Boyle was ambushed at a Hibs corner kick and Celtic swept downfield for an unopposed clinching fourth goal. “To play in the Champions League, then to score four goals here against difficult opponents was very pleasing and to get to 60 games without a domestic defeat is really incredible,” said Rodgers. “The players’ mentality is excellent.”

Hibernian 2 Celtic 4: Moussa Dembele double sends Hoops into Betfred Scottish League Cup final

An improbable double act saw Celtic into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup – against either Rangers or Motherwell, who meet at Hampden Park on Sunday – and to their 60th successive unbeaten domestic fixture. Against a Hibernian side whose late rally put the issue briefly in doubt, Mikael Lustig, who had not scored in 21 prior appearances for Celtic this season, found the net twice before the interval to set the Hoops. The victory was secured by two strikes from Moussa Dembele, whose previous contribution amounted to one goal from seven outings. Hibs produced their best spell in the second half, when their ambitions were resuscitated by a penalty kick converted by Anthony Stokes and a cleverly worked goal scored by Oliver Shaw, a product of the club’s youth academy. “We gave them a two-goal start and you can't do that and the manner we gave away the goals was disappointing,” said Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager. “We improved in the second half, but overall I was pleased with the way we played and there were some good performances out there. Dembele scores the fourth goal Credit:  REUTERS “It gave us a lot to do in the second half, but we had a real good go at it. It is just sloppiness of the goals that were the difference.” When the teams met previously in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Parkhead, Lennon observed that Celtic could be sluggish after a demanding European engagement in midweek. In the lead-up to this game, however, the Easter Road manager played a different card, declaring that he expected his former team to display a strong reaction to their 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. Certainly, Brendan Rodgers did not feel obliged to refresh his ranks other than to leave Cristian Gamboa and Olivier Ntcham on the bench, with Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor given a start. Hibs, too, showed two changes as Gray and Brandon Barker replaced Whittaker and Boyle, who played in the previous weekend’s 1-0 home league defeat by Aberdeen. What became evident immediately was that, even if they felt that they might suffer the effects of their trip to Germany, Celtic were not about to save themselves for later. They pressed from the start to such effect that they won their first corner kick within 90 seconds from a Stuart Armstrong shot which deflected wide, despite Laidlaw’s attempt to stop the ball going out of play. Mikael Lustig also scored a brace Credit:  Action Plus Hibs looked discomfited by Celtic’s passing game but Brandon Barker raised the spirits of the Easter Road faithful with a powerful run which took him beyond the Hoops’ back line, though he could not find a colleague with the final ball. The outlook seemed to have brightened for Hibs when Anthony Stokes surged clear on the right of the Celtic box to find Barker on the other side with a driven cross, but the on-loan Manchester City midfielder slashed a shot into the side netting when the better option would have been a return cross to the Irish striker. The optimism of the Edinburgh contingent was quashed swiftly by Lustig’s first intervention.   A chip from Stuart Armstrong was headed by Dedryck Boyata into the path of Lustig, whose shot found the mark beyond Ross Laidlaw, but the goalkeeper could have done better than get a frail hand to the ball. Laidlaw will feel even more uncomfortable if he watches replays of Lustig’s second, although his partner in dismay should be David Gray, who allowed the Swede to spin off him for a low drive which, again, was allowed by the keeper to spin off both his gloves into the roof of the net. Lennon replaced Gray and Bartley with Whittaker and Boyle at half time and Hibs looked a more competitive unit. That said, they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty for a challenge on Boyle by Boyata, who appeared to have taken the ball off the Hibs man’s toe, not that the niceties were of concern to Stokes, who sent Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot. Rodgers, too, made decisive changes, one of which was to send on Dembele for Leigh Griffiths. The French striker put Celtic 3-1 ahead midway through the half when a miskick by Scott Sinclair fell perfectly for him to shoot home from a dozen yards out. The deficit was reduced again by Shaw, with a deft finish from Whittaker’s shrewd prompt, but Dembele put the issue beyond dispute when Boyle was ambushed at a Hibs corner kick and Celtic swept downfield for an unopposed clinching fourth goal. “To play in the Champions League, then to score four goals here against difficult opponents was very pleasing and to get to 60 games without a domestic defeat is really incredible,” said Rodgers. “The players’ mentality is excellent.”

Hibernian 2 Celtic 4: Moussa Dembele double sends Hoops into Betfred Scottish League Cup final

An improbable double act saw Celtic into the final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup – against either Rangers or Motherwell, who meet at Hampden Park on Sunday – and to their 60th successive unbeaten domestic fixture. Against a Hibernian side whose late rally put the issue briefly in doubt, Mikael Lustig, who had not scored in 21 prior appearances for Celtic this season, found the net twice before the interval to set the Hoops. The victory was secured by two strikes from Moussa Dembele, whose previous contribution amounted to one goal from seven outings. Hibs produced their best spell in the second half, when their ambitions were resuscitated by a penalty kick converted by Anthony Stokes and a cleverly worked goal scored by Oliver Shaw, a product of the club’s youth academy. “We gave them a two-goal start and you can't do that and the manner we gave away the goals was disappointing,” said Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager. “We improved in the second half, but overall I was pleased with the way we played and there were some good performances out there. Dembele scores the fourth goal Credit:  REUTERS “It gave us a lot to do in the second half, but we had a real good go at it. It is just sloppiness of the goals that were the difference.” When the teams met previously in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Parkhead, Lennon observed that Celtic could be sluggish after a demanding European engagement in midweek. In the lead-up to this game, however, the Easter Road manager played a different card, declaring that he expected his former team to display a strong reaction to their 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. Certainly, Brendan Rodgers did not feel obliged to refresh his ranks other than to leave Cristian Gamboa and Olivier Ntcham on the bench, with Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor given a start. Hibs, too, showed two changes as Gray and Brandon Barker replaced Whittaker and Boyle, who played in the previous weekend’s 1-0 home league defeat by Aberdeen. What became evident immediately was that, even if they felt that they might suffer the effects of their trip to Germany, Celtic were not about to save themselves for later. They pressed from the start to such effect that they won their first corner kick within 90 seconds from a Stuart Armstrong shot which deflected wide, despite Laidlaw’s attempt to stop the ball going out of play. Mikael Lustig also scored a brace Credit:  Action Plus Hibs looked discomfited by Celtic’s passing game but Brandon Barker raised the spirits of the Easter Road faithful with a powerful run which took him beyond the Hoops’ back line, though he could not find a colleague with the final ball. The outlook seemed to have brightened for Hibs when Anthony Stokes surged clear on the right of the Celtic box to find Barker on the other side with a driven cross, but the on-loan Manchester City midfielder slashed a shot into the side netting when the better option would have been a return cross to the Irish striker. The optimism of the Edinburgh contingent was quashed swiftly by Lustig’s first intervention.   A chip from Stuart Armstrong was headed by Dedryck Boyata into the path of Lustig, whose shot found the mark beyond Ross Laidlaw, but the goalkeeper could have done better than get a frail hand to the ball. Laidlaw will feel even more uncomfortable if he watches replays of Lustig’s second, although his partner in dismay should be David Gray, who allowed the Swede to spin off him for a low drive which, again, was allowed by the keeper to spin off both his gloves into the roof of the net. Lennon replaced Gray and Bartley with Whittaker and Boyle at half time and Hibs looked a more competitive unit. That said, they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty for a challenge on Boyle by Boyata, who appeared to have taken the ball off the Hibs man’s toe, not that the niceties were of concern to Stokes, who sent Craig Gordon the wrong way from the spot. Rodgers, too, made decisive changes, one of which was to send on Dembele for Leigh Griffiths. The French striker put Celtic 3-1 ahead midway through the half when a miskick by Scott Sinclair fell perfectly for him to shoot home from a dozen yards out. The deficit was reduced again by Shaw, with a deft finish from Whittaker’s shrewd prompt, but Dembele put the issue beyond dispute when Boyle was ambushed at a Hibs corner kick and Celtic swept downfield for an unopposed clinching fourth goal. “To play in the Champions League, then to score four goals here against difficult opponents was very pleasing and to get to 60 games without a domestic defeat is really incredible,” said Rodgers. “The players’ mentality is excellent.”

RANGERS' STRIKER TORE ANDRE FLO CELEBRATES AFTER SCORING AGAINST ABERDEEN.

FILE PICTURE: Rangers' Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo (R) celebrates after scoring against Aberdeen in a Scottish Premier division match at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow November 4, 2001. Rangers won the match 2-0. REUTERS/Jeff J Mitchell

New Scotland manager must prioritise making headway in inaugural Uefa Nations League

Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament.  “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.

New Scotland manager must prioritise making headway in inaugural Uefa Nations League

Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament.  “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.

New Scotland manager must prioritise making headway in inaugural Uefa Nations League

Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament.  “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.

Scotland could be without a manager until next summer as Michael O'Neill emerges as potential successor

Scotland could be without a full-time manager until next summer, if the preferred candidate is not available until then, according to Stewart Regan. The Scottish Football Association chief executive revealed the possibility of an extended timescale for the appointment of a successor to Gordon Strachan, while announcing that the association’s performance director, Malky Mackay will act as interim manager for the Scots’ next game, a friendly against the Netherlands in Aberdeen on November 9. “We will take our time as a board to plan the next phase of recruitment and get somebody in before we start thinking about the competitive matches which don’t happen until September 2018, starting with the new Nations League,” Regan said. “We may have a couple of friendlies in March and June of 2018, which we are thinking about at the moment. We might have a new manager in place for those friendlies, but if we haven’t, it’s not the end of the world.” Although the recruitment process will begin next week, Regan’s admission that a new man might not be in position for another eight months would seem, on the face of it, to be discouraging news for the likes of David Moyes, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert and former England manager, Sam Allardyce, all of whom are currently out of work. On the other hand, a willingness to wait until the end of the season will focus attention on Michael O’Neill, who has been priced at 12/1 by the bookmakers. O’Neill, whose home is in Edinburgh, steered Northern Ireland to the last 16 of the Euro 2016 finals and the team has reached the World Cup play-offs, where they will meet one from the quartet of Croatia, Denmark, Italy or Switzerland. Michael O'Neill lives in Edinburgh and has been linked with the Scotland job in the past Credit: PA If Northern Ireland succeed in reaching the tournament finals in Russia and were to emulate their feat in the Euros, they would play their final match between June 30 and July 3. O’Neill has backers in Scotland, including Craig Brown, who took the Scots to the finals of Euro 96 in England and the France 98 World Cup finals. O’Neill was linked with the position a year ago, when successive 3-0 defeats away to Slovakia and England put Strachan’s position in jeopardy. At the time, O’Neill distanced himself from the speculation and said: “The fact I live in Scotland is probably a bigger driving factor of that than anything else. “I haven't given a second thought to that at all. I'd rather not comment on that situation.” In fact, Strachan survived the Scots’ poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign because he promised the SFA board that he would steer the team to the play-offs. “We never came out publicly as a board and said that - it would have put too much pressure in play,” Regan said. “If you look back and see what Gordon said at the time, his quote was ‘I genuinely believe we can reach the play-offs and I’m the man to turn this round.’ That quote was a result of us discussing with Gordon during the board meeting what his feeling was after two defeats. Malky MacKay will take charge of Scotland's next match Credit: PA “And he genuinely believed - and we believed him at the time - that he could turn things around. To be fair, we were 45 minutes from beating Slovenia and reaching the play-offs. “Gordon and his management team deserve a great deal of credit for the way they went about their business in the second half of the campaign. They really did turn things around and came very close, but we didn’t get to a major tournament and we have taken the chance not to sack Gordon Strachan, because he had come to the end of his contract and campaign, but not to renew that contract. “We backed him to get us to the play-offs. We came up short against that, notwithstanding that we got 14 points from a possible 18. We did discuss that as part of a board review of the campaign, but felt that we hadn’t qualified and ultimately football is a results business. Quick fire questions with Jamie Carragher 01:15 “We are still waiting for a major championship and felt we needed to have a new impetus and a new coach to try and get us to Euro 2020. That’s a key date for us because Hampden will be the host for the 60th anniversary of the European Championships and we would like to think that Scotland will qualify and play two of the four games that we have here as one of the 24 participants. “Clearly that will be right at the top of the priorities and any coach coming in will be left in no uncertain terms that that’s our ambition, absolutely. We want to play in that tournament here at Hampden.”

Scotland could be without a manager until next summer as Michael O'Neill emerges as potential successor

Scotland could be without a full-time manager until next summer, if the preferred candidate is not available until then, according to Stewart Regan. The Scottish Football Association chief executive revealed the possibility of an extended timescale for the appointment of a successor to Gordon Strachan, while announcing that the association’s performance director, Malky Mackay will act as interim manager for the Scots’ next game, a friendly against the Netherlands in Aberdeen on November 9. “We will take our time as a board to plan the next phase of recruitment and get somebody in before we start thinking about the competitive matches which don’t happen until September 2018, starting with the new Nations League,” Regan said. “We may have a couple of friendlies in March and June of 2018, which we are thinking about at the moment. We might have a new manager in place for those friendlies, but if we haven’t, it’s not the end of the world.” Although the recruitment process will begin next week, Regan’s admission that a new man might not be in position for another eight months would seem, on the face of it, to be discouraging news for the likes of David Moyes, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert and former England manager, Sam Allardyce, all of whom are currently out of work. On the other hand, a willingness to wait until the end of the season will focus attention on Michael O’Neill, who has been priced at 12/1 by the bookmakers. O’Neill, whose home is in Edinburgh, steered Northern Ireland to the last 16 of the Euro 2016 finals and the team has reached the World Cup play-offs, where they will meet one from the quartet of Croatia, Denmark, Italy or Switzerland. Michael O'Neill lives in Edinburgh and has been linked with the Scotland job in the past Credit: PA If Northern Ireland succeed in reaching the tournament finals in Russia and were to emulate their feat in the Euros, they would play their final match between June 30 and July 3. O’Neill has backers in Scotland, including Craig Brown, who took the Scots to the finals of Euro 96 in England and the France 98 World Cup finals. O’Neill was linked with the position a year ago, when successive 3-0 defeats away to Slovakia and England put Strachan’s position in jeopardy. At the time, O’Neill distanced himself from the speculation and said: “The fact I live in Scotland is probably a bigger driving factor of that than anything else. “I haven't given a second thought to that at all. I'd rather not comment on that situation.” In fact, Strachan survived the Scots’ poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign because he promised the SFA board that he would steer the team to the play-offs. “We never came out publicly as a board and said that - it would have put too much pressure in play,” Regan said. “If you look back and see what Gordon said at the time, his quote was ‘I genuinely believe we can reach the play-offs and I’m the man to turn this round.’ That quote was a result of us discussing with Gordon during the board meeting what his feeling was after two defeats. Malky MacKay will take charge of Scotland's next match Credit: PA “And he genuinely believed - and we believed him at the time - that he could turn things around. To be fair, we were 45 minutes from beating Slovenia and reaching the play-offs. “Gordon and his management team deserve a great deal of credit for the way they went about their business in the second half of the campaign. They really did turn things around and came very close, but we didn’t get to a major tournament and we have taken the chance not to sack Gordon Strachan, because he had come to the end of his contract and campaign, but not to renew that contract. “We backed him to get us to the play-offs. We came up short against that, notwithstanding that we got 14 points from a possible 18. We did discuss that as part of a board review of the campaign, but felt that we hadn’t qualified and ultimately football is a results business. Quick fire questions with Jamie Carragher 01:15 “We are still waiting for a major championship and felt we needed to have a new impetus and a new coach to try and get us to Euro 2020. That’s a key date for us because Hampden will be the host for the 60th anniversary of the European Championships and we would like to think that Scotland will qualify and play two of the four games that we have here as one of the 24 participants. “Clearly that will be right at the top of the priorities and any coach coming in will be left in no uncertain terms that that’s our ambition, absolutely. We want to play in that tournament here at Hampden.”

Scotland could be without a manager until next summer as Michael O'Neill emerges as potential successor

Scotland could be without a full-time manager until next summer, if the preferred candidate is not available until then, according to Stewart Regan. The Scottish Football Association chief executive revealed the possibility of an extended timescale for the appointment of a successor to Gordon Strachan, while announcing that the association’s performance director, Malky Mackay will act as interim manager for the Scots’ next game, a friendly against the Netherlands in Aberdeen on November 9. “We will take our time as a board to plan the next phase of recruitment and get somebody in before we start thinking about the competitive matches which don’t happen until September 2018, starting with the new Nations League,” Regan said. “We may have a couple of friendlies in March and June of 2018, which we are thinking about at the moment. We might have a new manager in place for those friendlies, but if we haven’t, it’s not the end of the world.” Although the recruitment process will begin next week, Regan’s admission that a new man might not be in position for another eight months would seem, on the face of it, to be discouraging news for the likes of David Moyes, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert and former England manager, Sam Allardyce, all of whom are currently out of work. On the other hand, a willingness to wait until the end of the season will focus attention on Michael O’Neill, who has been priced at 12/1 by the bookmakers. O’Neill, whose home is in Edinburgh, steered Northern Ireland to the last 16 of the Euro 2016 finals and the team has reached the World Cup play-offs, where they will meet one from the quartet of Croatia, Denmark, Italy or Switzerland. Michael O'Neill lives in Edinburgh and has been linked with the Scotland job in the past Credit: PA If Northern Ireland succeed in reaching the tournament finals in Russia and were to emulate their feat in the Euros, they would play their final match between June 30 and July 3. O’Neill has backers in Scotland, including Craig Brown, who took the Scots to the finals of Euro 96 in England and the France 98 World Cup finals. O’Neill was linked with the position a year ago, when successive 3-0 defeats away to Slovakia and England put Strachan’s position in jeopardy. At the time, O’Neill distanced himself from the speculation and said: “The fact I live in Scotland is probably a bigger driving factor of that than anything else. “I haven't given a second thought to that at all. I'd rather not comment on that situation.” In fact, Strachan survived the Scots’ poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign because he promised the SFA board that he would steer the team to the play-offs. “We never came out publicly as a board and said that - it would have put too much pressure in play,” Regan said. “If you look back and see what Gordon said at the time, his quote was ‘I genuinely believe we can reach the play-offs and I’m the man to turn this round.’ That quote was a result of us discussing with Gordon during the board meeting what his feeling was after two defeats. Malky MacKay will take charge of Scotland's next match Credit: PA “And he genuinely believed - and we believed him at the time - that he could turn things around. To be fair, we were 45 minutes from beating Slovenia and reaching the play-offs. “Gordon and his management team deserve a great deal of credit for the way they went about their business in the second half of the campaign. They really did turn things around and came very close, but we didn’t get to a major tournament and we have taken the chance not to sack Gordon Strachan, because he had come to the end of his contract and campaign, but not to renew that contract. “We backed him to get us to the play-offs. We came up short against that, notwithstanding that we got 14 points from a possible 18. We did discuss that as part of a board review of the campaign, but felt that we hadn’t qualified and ultimately football is a results business. Quick fire questions with Jamie Carragher 01:15 “We are still waiting for a major championship and felt we needed to have a new impetus and a new coach to try and get us to Euro 2020. That’s a key date for us because Hampden will be the host for the 60th anniversary of the European Championships and we would like to think that Scotland will qualify and play two of the four games that we have here as one of the 24 participants. “Clearly that will be right at the top of the priorities and any coach coming in will be left in no uncertain terms that that’s our ambition, absolutely. We want to play in that tournament here at Hampden.”

Sam Allardyce and David Moyes in frame as hunt for Gordon Strachan's Scotland successor begins

Sam Allardyce for Scotland manager? David Moyes, the bookies’ favourite, or Malky McKay, already in-house at Hampden Park? So began the inevitable speculation, following the announcement from the Scottish Football Association that Gordon Strachan’s tenure was over after a second tournament qualification failure. The statement said that the 60-year-old’s spell in charge had come to an end ‘by mutual consent’ but the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, added: “After almost five years the board felt it was time for a new direction to prepare for the Uefa Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and also the forthcoming Uefa Nations League.” Allardyce’s name became prominent this week because, although he declined to declare an interest in the Scotland job, out of respect for Strachan – ‘somebody is already in that position,’ – the former England manager did not rule himself out. Moyes, meanwhile, has been looking for work since resigning as Sunderland boss on May 22, while McKay is already employed by the SFA as performance director. Strachan might, in fact, have survived as he did when the Scots fell short of qualification for Euro 2016 but were cheered by the Tartan Army after the final group match against Gibraltar in Faro. His win rate of 46.3% from 40 games was bettered by only one of his 10 most recent predecessors as Scotland manager – his former Aberdeen team-mate, Alex McLeish (70% from 10 games) – and Strachan’s record this year was estimable. Strachan left his role on Thursday Credit: Reuters Four wins and two draws from six fixtures, representing a 75% success rate, with four clean sheets and the only goals scored by any of the Group F contenders against Slovenia in Ljubljana, took the Scots to the brink of a play-off place. Strachan’s team selection against the Slovenes, however, was the subject of criticism because he switched to a 4-4-2 deployment which left the Scottish midfield outgunned in the second half, when they fell behind after leading at the interval. The manager’s use of substitutions was also condemned and he stepped into a morass of his own making when, in trying to explain that his options had been restricted because of a lack of height in his squad, Strachan cited the genetics of the Scots as a disadvantage and suggested that taller Scottish women should apply themselves to producing better proportioned players for the future. Northern Ireland have had huge success under Michael O'Neill, who lives in Edinburgh Credit: PA The consequent ridicule and satire, in newspapers, TV and radio, was matched by scorn on social media. As one SFA source told Telegraph Sport: “It was not Gordon’s finest hour.” The longer view also yields unflattering comparisons with the achievement of Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in qualifying for Euro 2016 while the Scots, alone of the home nations, stayed at home. Northern Ireland, have again reached the play-offs under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh, and whose resources are comparable with those available to Strachan. What Scotland do have is a core of six Celtic players, two of whom – Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong – were notable performers, whose absence through injury did not help Strachan’s cause in Slovenia. Potential Scotland replacements Their club manager, Brendan Rodgers, expressed dismay at the outcome on Thursday when he said: “It was a missed opportunity. There’s no doubt about that. It was clear the improvement the squad had made in, first, performance and, second, results.” “The frustrating thing about it is that it was a good result, in terms of going to Slovenia, a team that hadn’t conceded any goals at home. And you go there and muster a point on the back of five other good results. “That second part of the competition was actually very, very good and that’s why it’s so frustrating, because you’ve had 20 years of it. There is a genuine chance there because there is a group of young, vibrant, exciting players who have shown in an energetic way that they can do the things you want at that level. Marco Verratti doesn't struggle given his size Asked for his view on Strachan’s comments about genetics, Rodgers said: “Who are the best players in the world? Messi, Suarez, Hazard, Iniesta, Neymar, Verrati. “Verrati is 5ft 6ins but he’s not in conflict with the ball. He keeps it. Scotland can find a systematic approach to work in, to play in, so that if there are players missing, the next ones can come in, if you have a profile and a clear identity – because that’s what it’s going to take, a collective effort. “Northern Ireland lost against Norway but you could clearly see good organisation and an identity in the team. They have created a spirit these last few years and that is what also makes the difference.” And that is why the SFA might wait to see how Northern Ireland fare in the play-offs before ruling O’Neill out as a potential successor to Strachan.

Sam Allardyce and David Moyes in frame as hunt for Gordon Strachan's Scotland successor begins

Sam Allardyce for Scotland manager? David Moyes, the bookies’ favourite, or Malky McKay, already in-house at Hampden Park? So began the inevitable speculation, following the announcement from the Scottish Football Association that Gordon Strachan’s tenure was over after a second tournament qualification failure. The statement said that the 60-year-old’s spell in charge had come to an end ‘by mutual consent’ but the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, added: “After almost five years the board felt it was time for a new direction to prepare for the Uefa Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and also the forthcoming Uefa Nations League.” Allardyce’s name became prominent this week because, although he declined to declare an interest in the Scotland job, out of respect for Strachan – ‘somebody is already in that position,’ – the former England manager did not rule himself out. Moyes, meanwhile, has been looking for work since resigning as Sunderland boss on May 22, while McKay is already employed by the SFA as performance director. Strachan might, in fact, have survived as he did when the Scots fell short of qualification for Euro 2016 but were cheered by the Tartan Army after the final group match against Gibraltar in Faro. His win rate of 46.3% from 40 games was bettered by only one of his 10 most recent predecessors as Scotland manager – his former Aberdeen team-mate, Alex McLeish (70% from 10 games) – and Strachan’s record this year was estimable. Strachan left his role on Thursday Credit: Reuters Four wins and two draws from six fixtures, representing a 75% success rate, with four clean sheets and the only goals scored by any of the Group F contenders against Slovenia in Ljubljana, took the Scots to the brink of a play-off place. Strachan’s team selection against the Slovenes, however, was the subject of criticism because he switched to a 4-4-2 deployment which left the Scottish midfield outgunned in the second half, when they fell behind after leading at the interval. The manager’s use of substitutions was also condemned and he stepped into a morass of his own making when, in trying to explain that his options had been restricted because of a lack of height in his squad, Strachan cited the genetics of the Scots as a disadvantage and suggested that taller Scottish women should apply themselves to producing better proportioned players for the future. Northern Ireland have had huge success under Michael O'Neill, who lives in Edinburgh Credit: PA The consequent ridicule and satire, in newspapers, TV and radio, was matched by scorn on social media. As one SFA source told Telegraph Sport: “It was not Gordon’s finest hour.” The longer view also yields unflattering comparisons with the achievement of Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in qualifying for Euro 2016 while the Scots, alone of the home nations, stayed at home. Northern Ireland, have again reached the play-offs under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh, and whose resources are comparable with those available to Strachan. What Scotland do have is a core of six Celtic players, two of whom – Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong – were notable performers, whose absence through injury did not help Strachan’s cause in Slovenia. Potential Scotland replacements Their club manager, Brendan Rodgers, expressed dismay at the outcome on Thursday when he said: “It was a missed opportunity. There’s no doubt about that. It was clear the improvement the squad had made in, first, performance and, second, results.” “The frustrating thing about it is that it was a good result, in terms of going to Slovenia, a team that hadn’t conceded any goals at home. And you go there and muster a point on the back of five other good results. “That second part of the competition was actually very, very good and that’s why it’s so frustrating, because you’ve had 20 years of it. There is a genuine chance there because there is a group of young, vibrant, exciting players who have shown in an energetic way that they can do the things you want at that level. Marco Verratti doesn't struggle given his size Asked for his view on Strachan’s comments about genetics, Rodgers said: “Who are the best players in the world? Messi, Suarez, Hazard, Iniesta, Neymar, Verrati. “Verrati is 5ft 6ins but he’s not in conflict with the ball. He keeps it. Scotland can find a systematic approach to work in, to play in, so that if there are players missing, the next ones can come in, if you have a profile and a clear identity – because that’s what it’s going to take, a collective effort. “Northern Ireland lost against Norway but you could clearly see good organisation and an identity in the team. They have created a spirit these last few years and that is what also makes the difference.” And that is why the SFA might wait to see how Northern Ireland fare in the play-offs before ruling O’Neill out as a potential successor to Strachan.

Sam Allardyce and David Moyes in frame as hunt for Gordon Strachan's Scotland successor begins

Sam Allardyce for Scotland manager? David Moyes, the bookies’ favourite, or Malky McKay, already in-house at Hampden Park? So began the inevitable speculation, following the announcement from the Scottish Football Association that Gordon Strachan’s tenure was over after a second tournament qualification failure. The statement said that the 60-year-old’s spell in charge had come to an end ‘by mutual consent’ but the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, added: “After almost five years the board felt it was time for a new direction to prepare for the Uefa Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and also the forthcoming Uefa Nations League.” Allardyce’s name became prominent this week because, although he declined to declare an interest in the Scotland job, out of respect for Strachan – ‘somebody is already in that position,’ – the former England manager did not rule himself out. Moyes, meanwhile, has been looking for work since resigning as Sunderland boss on May 22, while McKay is already employed by the SFA as performance director. Strachan might, in fact, have survived as he did when the Scots fell short of qualification for Euro 2016 but were cheered by the Tartan Army after the final group match against Gibraltar in Faro. His win rate of 46.3% from 40 games was bettered by only one of his 10 most recent predecessors as Scotland manager – his former Aberdeen team-mate, Alex McLeish (70% from 10 games) – and Strachan’s record this year was estimable. Strachan left his role on Thursday Credit: Reuters Four wins and two draws from six fixtures, representing a 75% success rate, with four clean sheets and the only goals scored by any of the Group F contenders against Slovenia in Ljubljana, took the Scots to the brink of a play-off place. Strachan’s team selection against the Slovenes, however, was the subject of criticism because he switched to a 4-4-2 deployment which left the Scottish midfield outgunned in the second half, when they fell behind after leading at the interval. The manager’s use of substitutions was also condemned and he stepped into a morass of his own making when, in trying to explain that his options had been restricted because of a lack of height in his squad, Strachan cited the genetics of the Scots as a disadvantage and suggested that taller Scottish women should apply themselves to producing better proportioned players for the future. Northern Ireland have had huge success under Michael O'Neill, who lives in Edinburgh Credit: PA The consequent ridicule and satire, in newspapers, TV and radio, was matched by scorn on social media. As one SFA source told Telegraph Sport: “It was not Gordon’s finest hour.” The longer view also yields unflattering comparisons with the achievement of Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in qualifying for Euro 2016 while the Scots, alone of the home nations, stayed at home. Northern Ireland, have again reached the play-offs under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh, and whose resources are comparable with those available to Strachan. What Scotland do have is a core of six Celtic players, two of whom – Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong – were notable performers, whose absence through injury did not help Strachan’s cause in Slovenia. Potential Scotland replacements Their club manager, Brendan Rodgers, expressed dismay at the outcome on Thursday when he said: “It was a missed opportunity. There’s no doubt about that. It was clear the improvement the squad had made in, first, performance and, second, results.” “The frustrating thing about it is that it was a good result, in terms of going to Slovenia, a team that hadn’t conceded any goals at home. And you go there and muster a point on the back of five other good results. “That second part of the competition was actually very, very good and that’s why it’s so frustrating, because you’ve had 20 years of it. There is a genuine chance there because there is a group of young, vibrant, exciting players who have shown in an energetic way that they can do the things you want at that level. Marco Verratti doesn't struggle given his size Asked for his view on Strachan’s comments about genetics, Rodgers said: “Who are the best players in the world? Messi, Suarez, Hazard, Iniesta, Neymar, Verrati. “Verrati is 5ft 6ins but he’s not in conflict with the ball. He keeps it. Scotland can find a systematic approach to work in, to play in, so that if there are players missing, the next ones can come in, if you have a profile and a clear identity – because that’s what it’s going to take, a collective effort. “Northern Ireland lost against Norway but you could clearly see good organisation and an identity in the team. They have created a spirit these last few years and that is what also makes the difference.” And that is why the SFA might wait to see how Northern Ireland fare in the play-offs before ruling O’Neill out as a potential successor to Strachan.

Sam Allardyce and David Moyes in frame as hunt for Gordon Strachan's Scotland successor begins

Sam Allardyce for Scotland manager? David Moyes, the bookies’ favourite, or Malky McKay, already in-house at Hampden Park? So began the inevitable speculation, following the announcement from the Scottish Football Association that Gordon Strachan’s tenure was over after a second tournament qualification failure. The statement said that the 60-year-old’s spell in charge had come to an end ‘by mutual consent’ but the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, added: “After almost five years the board felt it was time for a new direction to prepare for the Uefa Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and also the forthcoming Uefa Nations League.” Allardyce’s name became prominent this week because, although he declined to declare an interest in the Scotland job, out of respect for Strachan – ‘somebody is already in that position,’ – the former England manager did not rule himself out. Moyes, meanwhile, has been looking for work since resigning as Sunderland boss on May 22, while McKay is already employed by the SFA as performance director. Strachan might, in fact, have survived as he did when the Scots fell short of qualification for Euro 2016 but were cheered by the Tartan Army after the final group match against Gibraltar in Faro. His win rate of 46.3% from 40 games was bettered by only one of his 10 most recent predecessors as Scotland manager – his former Aberdeen team-mate, Alex McLeish (70% from 10 games) – and Strachan’s record this year was estimable. Strachan left his role on Thursday Credit: Reuters Four wins and two draws from six fixtures, representing a 75% success rate, with four clean sheets and the only goals scored by any of the Group F contenders against Slovenia in Ljubljana, took the Scots to the brink of a play-off place. Strachan’s team selection against the Slovenes, however, was the subject of criticism because he switched to a 4-4-2 deployment which left the Scottish midfield outgunned in the second half, when they fell behind after leading at the interval. The manager’s use of substitutions was also condemned and he stepped into a morass of his own making when, in trying to explain that his options had been restricted because of a lack of height in his squad, Strachan cited the genetics of the Scots as a disadvantage and suggested that taller Scottish women should apply themselves to producing better proportioned players for the future. Northern Ireland have had huge success under Michael O'Neill, who lives in Edinburgh Credit: PA The consequent ridicule and satire, in newspapers, TV and radio, was matched by scorn on social media. As one SFA source told Telegraph Sport: “It was not Gordon’s finest hour.” The longer view also yields unflattering comparisons with the achievement of Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in qualifying for Euro 2016 while the Scots, alone of the home nations, stayed at home. Northern Ireland, have again reached the play-offs under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh, and whose resources are comparable with those available to Strachan. What Scotland do have is a core of six Celtic players, two of whom – Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong – were notable performers, whose absence through injury did not help Strachan’s cause in Slovenia. Potential Scotland replacements Their club manager, Brendan Rodgers, expressed dismay at the outcome on Thursday when he said: “It was a missed opportunity. There’s no doubt about that. It was clear the improvement the squad had made in, first, performance and, second, results.” “The frustrating thing about it is that it was a good result, in terms of going to Slovenia, a team that hadn’t conceded any goals at home. And you go there and muster a point on the back of five other good results. “That second part of the competition was actually very, very good and that’s why it’s so frustrating, because you’ve had 20 years of it. There is a genuine chance there because there is a group of young, vibrant, exciting players who have shown in an energetic way that they can do the things you want at that level. Marco Verratti doesn't struggle given his size Asked for his view on Strachan’s comments about genetics, Rodgers said: “Who are the best players in the world? Messi, Suarez, Hazard, Iniesta, Neymar, Verrati. “Verrati is 5ft 6ins but he’s not in conflict with the ball. He keeps it. Scotland can find a systematic approach to work in, to play in, so that if there are players missing, the next ones can come in, if you have a profile and a clear identity – because that’s what it’s going to take, a collective effort. “Northern Ireland lost against Norway but you could clearly see good organisation and an identity in the team. They have created a spirit these last few years and that is what also makes the difference.” And that is why the SFA might wait to see how Northern Ireland fare in the play-offs before ruling O’Neill out as a potential successor to Strachan.

Brendan Rodgers leads continued Northern Irish dominance in Scotland

Scottish football made history on Saturday, although not of a sort that reflects well on native talent. For the first time, only one of the top six clubs in the table is managed by a Scot – Derek McInnes, of Aberdeen. Rangers’ Pedro Caixinha is Portuguese, while the other four – Brendan Rodgers (Celtic), Tommy Wright (St Johnstone), Stephen Robinson (Motherwell) and Neil Lennon (Hibernian) are Northern Irish. The situation is in stark contrast to the annus mirabilis of 2011 when, aside from the native complement at home, no fewer than seven Scots were in charge of Premier League clubs in England. They were Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Paul Lambert (Norwich City), Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), David Moyes (Everton), Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers) and Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers) - Scottish born, of Irish parents. Since then, Northern Irish football has flourished at international level under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh. “Michael’s done an incredible job with the international team,” Rodgers said. "Stevie Robinson’s starting out and Hibs look very much improved with Neil at the helm. I see a hunger and a desire and a shape to how they’re playing. Tommy Wright is another experienced coach and good manager. “In all of those guys, there’s real love and passion for football and, when you have that, you have a willingness to learn and improve and not just settle on what you’ve achieved.” Derek McInnes is the only Scot in the top six Credit: Getty images Lennon recently remarked on the phenomenon when he said: “The Scottish clubs have picked good managers. Brendan has been a revelation, so has Tommy, I have had my bit and now Stephen is cutting his teeth at Motherwell. I think there will be a few more coming through as well. “The Northern Ireland boys are a little bit of a throwback to the way the Scottish boys have been over the last 20 or 30 years. There is that real work ethic about us.” Rodgers’ Celtic are, of course, the exemplars of that doctrine, the evidence of which is their run of 58 successive domestic games unbeaten, but at one stage at Parkhead on Saturday it seemed that the extraordinary sequence would be ended by Lennon’s Hibs, who fell behind to a neatly worked goal by Callum McGregor after 15 minutes, but who recovered to take the lead with second half strikes from John McGinn. At that stage, many among the home support had recognised the irony that their team’s record was threatened by goals scored by the grandson of a former Celtic chairman, for a side under the guidance of a former Celtic manager. The scenario might have been fulfilled but for a supernatural save by Craig Gordon. Anthony Stokes – a former Celtic striker, of course – had flicked a header towards the back post, where it was met a yard or so from goal by Steven Whittaker with a shot that seemed certain to find the net. Gordon, though, somehow got a glove to the ball and diverted it for a corner to gasps and exclamations from both supports. Anthony Stokes described one of Craig Gordon's saves as 'a worldie' Credit: Getty images “As a striker, you hit shots and you think, ‘Goal – 100%!’ but he pulled off a worldie,” said Stokes of Gordon’s intervention. “That was him again - one of those you just think he’s never going to get. “It was flicked on and I’m just waiting on Whitts to turn it in, but Craig’s on it and it was an unbelievable save. Top, top class goalkeeper.” Asked if the block had been on a par with Gordon’s fabled stop from Zat Knight of Bolton Wanderers in 2010 - which was voted that season’s best save in the Premier League – Stokes said: “I’d have to see it again. “I thought it was a 100% goal but he ends up getting some hand on it. Keepers go through bad spells, like strikers when you’re not scoring, but that’s the standard he’s set throughout his career.” Gordon, meanwhile, confessed that he had not even realised Whittaker had been the thwarted opponent. “I didn’t know until after the game who had hit the shot,” he said. “I threw myself across it and made myself as big as possible and got a strong enough contact on it to put it round the post. “It was a certain goal from that distance and I managed to prevent it, so it’s probably the same feeling as a striker gets when he scores a goal.” There was, though, another goal in the contest, a second from McGregor which settled the outcome at 2-2. The midfielder has now been called to replace his injured club captain, Scott Brown, for Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. The Scots must win both to reach the playoffs, unlike O’Neill’s Northern Ireland, who have almost guaranteed that status despite their marginal resources.

Brendan Rodgers leads continued Northern Irish dominance in Scotland

Scottish football made history on Saturday, although not of a sort that reflects well on native talent. For the first time, only one of the top six clubs in the table is managed by a Scot – Derek McInnes, of Aberdeen. Rangers’ Pedro Caixinha is Portuguese, while the other four – Brendan Rodgers (Celtic), Tommy Wright (St Johnstone), Stephen Robinson (Motherwell) and Neil Lennon (Hibernian) are Northern Irish. The situation is in stark contrast to the annus mirabilis of 2011 when, aside from the native complement at home, no fewer than seven Scots were in charge of Premier League clubs in England. They were Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Paul Lambert (Norwich City), Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), David Moyes (Everton), Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers) and Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers) - Scottish born, of Irish parents. Since then, Northern Irish football has flourished at international level under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh. “Michael’s done an incredible job with the international team,” Rodgers said. "Stevie Robinson’s starting out and Hibs look very much improved with Neil at the helm. I see a hunger and a desire and a shape to how they’re playing. Tommy Wright is another experienced coach and good manager. “In all of those guys, there’s real love and passion for football and, when you have that, you have a willingness to learn and improve and not just settle on what you’ve achieved.” Derek McInnes is the only Scot in the top six Credit: Getty images Lennon recently remarked on the phenomenon when he said: “The Scottish clubs have picked good managers. Brendan has been a revelation, so has Tommy, I have had my bit and now Stephen is cutting his teeth at Motherwell. I think there will be a few more coming through as well. “The Northern Ireland boys are a little bit of a throwback to the way the Scottish boys have been over the last 20 or 30 years. There is that real work ethic about us.” Rodgers’ Celtic are, of course, the exemplars of that doctrine, the evidence of which is their run of 58 successive domestic games unbeaten, but at one stage at Parkhead on Saturday it seemed that the extraordinary sequence would be ended by Lennon’s Hibs, who fell behind to a neatly worked goal by Callum McGregor after 15 minutes, but who recovered to take the lead with second half strikes from John McGinn. At that stage, many among the home support had recognised the irony that their team’s record was threatened by goals scored by the grandson of a former Celtic chairman, for a side under the guidance of a former Celtic manager. The scenario might have been fulfilled but for a supernatural save by Craig Gordon. Anthony Stokes – a former Celtic striker, of course – had flicked a header towards the back post, where it was met a yard or so from goal by Steven Whittaker with a shot that seemed certain to find the net. Gordon, though, somehow got a glove to the ball and diverted it for a corner to gasps and exclamations from both supports. Anthony Stokes described one of Craig Gordon's saves as 'a worldie' Credit: Getty images “As a striker, you hit shots and you think, ‘Goal – 100%!’ but he pulled off a worldie,” said Stokes of Gordon’s intervention. “That was him again - one of those you just think he’s never going to get. “It was flicked on and I’m just waiting on Whitts to turn it in, but Craig’s on it and it was an unbelievable save. Top, top class goalkeeper.” Asked if the block had been on a par with Gordon’s fabled stop from Zat Knight of Bolton Wanderers in 2010 - which was voted that season’s best save in the Premier League – Stokes said: “I’d have to see it again. “I thought it was a 100% goal but he ends up getting some hand on it. Keepers go through bad spells, like strikers when you’re not scoring, but that’s the standard he’s set throughout his career.” Gordon, meanwhile, confessed that he had not even realised Whittaker had been the thwarted opponent. “I didn’t know until after the game who had hit the shot,” he said. “I threw myself across it and made myself as big as possible and got a strong enough contact on it to put it round the post. “It was a certain goal from that distance and I managed to prevent it, so it’s probably the same feeling as a striker gets when he scores a goal.” There was, though, another goal in the contest, a second from McGregor which settled the outcome at 2-2. The midfielder has now been called to replace his injured club captain, Scott Brown, for Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. The Scots must win both to reach the playoffs, unlike O’Neill’s Northern Ireland, who have almost guaranteed that status despite their marginal resources.

Brendan Rodgers leads continued Northern Irish dominance in Scotland

Scottish football made history on Saturday, although not of a sort that reflects well on native talent. For the first time, only one of the top six clubs in the table is managed by a Scot – Derek McInnes, of Aberdeen. Rangers’ Pedro Caixinha is Portuguese, while the other four – Brendan Rodgers (Celtic), Tommy Wright (St Johnstone), Stephen Robinson (Motherwell) and Neil Lennon (Hibernian) are Northern Irish. The situation is in stark contrast to the annus mirabilis of 2011 when, aside from the native complement at home, no fewer than seven Scots were in charge of Premier League clubs in England. They were Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Paul Lambert (Norwich City), Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), David Moyes (Everton), Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers) and Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers) - Scottish born, of Irish parents. Since then, Northern Irish football has flourished at international level under Michael O’Neill, who lives in Edinburgh. “Michael’s done an incredible job with the international team,” Rodgers said. "Stevie Robinson’s starting out and Hibs look very much improved with Neil at the helm. I see a hunger and a desire and a shape to how they’re playing. Tommy Wright is another experienced coach and good manager. “In all of those guys, there’s real love and passion for football and, when you have that, you have a willingness to learn and improve and not just settle on what you’ve achieved.” Derek McInnes is the only Scot in the top six Credit: Getty images Lennon recently remarked on the phenomenon when he said: “The Scottish clubs have picked good managers. Brendan has been a revelation, so has Tommy, I have had my bit and now Stephen is cutting his teeth at Motherwell. I think there will be a few more coming through as well. “The Northern Ireland boys are a little bit of a throwback to the way the Scottish boys have been over the last 20 or 30 years. There is that real work ethic about us.” Rodgers’ Celtic are, of course, the exemplars of that doctrine, the evidence of which is their run of 58 successive domestic games unbeaten, but at one stage at Parkhead on Saturday it seemed that the extraordinary sequence would be ended by Lennon’s Hibs, who fell behind to a neatly worked goal by Callum McGregor after 15 minutes, but who recovered to take the lead with second half strikes from John McGinn. At that stage, many among the home support had recognised the irony that their team’s record was threatened by goals scored by the grandson of a former Celtic chairman, for a side under the guidance of a former Celtic manager. The scenario might have been fulfilled but for a supernatural save by Craig Gordon. Anthony Stokes – a former Celtic striker, of course – had flicked a header towards the back post, where it was met a yard or so from goal by Steven Whittaker with a shot that seemed certain to find the net. Gordon, though, somehow got a glove to the ball and diverted it for a corner to gasps and exclamations from both supports. Anthony Stokes described one of Craig Gordon's saves as 'a worldie' Credit: Getty images “As a striker, you hit shots and you think, ‘Goal – 100%!’ but he pulled off a worldie,” said Stokes of Gordon’s intervention. “That was him again - one of those you just think he’s never going to get. “It was flicked on and I’m just waiting on Whitts to turn it in, but Craig’s on it and it was an unbelievable save. Top, top class goalkeeper.” Asked if the block had been on a par with Gordon’s fabled stop from Zat Knight of Bolton Wanderers in 2010 - which was voted that season’s best save in the Premier League – Stokes said: “I’d have to see it again. “I thought it was a 100% goal but he ends up getting some hand on it. Keepers go through bad spells, like strikers when you’re not scoring, but that’s the standard he’s set throughout his career.” Gordon, meanwhile, confessed that he had not even realised Whittaker had been the thwarted opponent. “I didn’t know until after the game who had hit the shot,” he said. “I threw myself across it and made myself as big as possible and got a strong enough contact on it to put it round the post. “It was a certain goal from that distance and I managed to prevent it, so it’s probably the same feeling as a striker gets when he scores a goal.” There was, though, another goal in the contest, a second from McGregor which settled the outcome at 2-2. The midfielder has now been called to replace his injured club captain, Scott Brown, for Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia. The Scots must win both to reach the playoffs, unlike O’Neill’s Northern Ireland, who have almost guaranteed that status despite their marginal resources.

Brendan Rodgers welcomes Neil Lennon back to Celtic Park and sings his praises

Were the rate of managerial attrition in Celtic’s Champions League group to continue, Brendan Rodgers would soon be out of a job. Happily for Celtic fans, the Northern Irishman is under no threat, by contrast to Rene Weiler and Carlo Ancelotti, who began the season in charge of Anderlecht and Bayern Munich respectively but who have been numbered amongst the early casualties of disappointing form. In Weiler’s case, a poor start to the Belgian league season saw him gone before Anderlecht lost to Celtic in their Champions League group encounter on Wednesday while Bayern parted company with Ancelotti on Thursday after the Bundesliga club lost by the same score to Paris Saint-Germain in the other game in the section. “Carlo will probably go to Barcelona or somewhere, but my feelings this week were for Jim McIntyre and Peter Houston,” said Rodgers, of the men sacked by Ross County and Falkirk. “I didn't really see or understand the role Jim played at Ross County until I came to Celtic. “I then analysed what he'd done - winning the League Cup and keeping them up. Roy MacGregor [the Staggies’ chairman] is a lovely guy and has done brilliant work for Ross County and the area, but I have real empathy for Jim losing his job. “Look at the work he's done and the fixtures he's had. They’ve played ourselves, Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibs. I watched the full game last week and it wasn't a performance where you say the players aren't really playing for him. “I have real empathy for Jim and Peter Houston, who has been about for a long time. He's a very good coach, who did a great job for Dundee United and then Falkirk.” It has been a great honour to form part of Bayern’s history. I would like to thank the Club, the Players and it's amazing fans. #MiaSanMiapic.twitter.com/oZ7mLllers— Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) September 28, 2017 On Saturday, Rodgers comes up against one of his predecessors at Celtic, when Hibernian arrive in the east end of Glasgow, where their manager, Neil Lennon, was a favourite, both as a player and during his spell in charge between 2010 and 2014. “If I wasn’t here, if I was to say who’ll be Celtic manager I would say Neil Lennon,” said Rodgers of the man who won three titles for the Parkhead side. “He was very good in his time here and if it ever comes to him again he would do equally as well if not better.” When Lennon left, partly because of the absence of competition following Rangers’ financial meltdown and spell in the lower leagues, Rodgers imagined that he and his fellow countryman might engage in a Merseyside rivalry. “I was at Liverpool and there was talk then of David Moyes going to Manchester United and I thought that Everton would have been a perfect job for Neil. Neil Lennon returns to Celtic Park on Saturday to play the club he graced in midfield and the dugout Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire “There is no doubt he deserved a better offer. That's no disrespect to Bolton - if they'd been in the Premier League, it would have been a great job. I felt Neil was a Premier League manager in waiting.  “Maybe that's because I know the size of Celtic and what the demands and challenges are at a club like this. I could see how he'd managed that and looked at what could be his next step.      “Part of my admiration for him comes from his openness and the courage he showed to come out and speak openly about his depression. I read his book and it was a real admission of his life and where he was at and it takes a lot of courage to do that.   “He was a real pioneer. That was nearly a decade ago. Then there was everything else that surrounded his time here too which wasn’t nice and you don’t want anyone to go through. This is a job that is big enough itself without any additional pressures.” Celtic are bidding for a 58th successive domestic game unbeaten but they must achieve it without Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong, both of whom have hamstring injuries which will also keep them out of Scotland’s World Cup double header against Slovakia and Slovenia. “It’s just absolutely so unlucky for us and their unavailability for tomorrow but also for Scotland, which is a huge loss,” Rodgers said.  

Brendan Rodgers welcomes Neil Lennon back to Celtic Park and sings his praises

Were the rate of managerial attrition in Celtic’s Champions League group to continue, Brendan Rodgers would soon be out of a job. Happily for Celtic fans, the Northern Irishman is under no threat, by contrast to Rene Weiler and Carlo Ancelotti, who began the season in charge of Anderlecht and Bayern Munich respectively but who have been numbered amongst the early casualties of disappointing form. In Weiler’s case, a poor start to the Belgian league season saw him gone before Anderlecht lost to Celtic in their Champions League group encounter on Wednesday while Bayern parted company with Ancelotti on Thursday after the Bundesliga club lost by the same score to Paris Saint-Germain in the other game in the section. “Carlo will probably go to Barcelona or somewhere, but my feelings this week were for Jim McIntyre and Peter Houston,” said Rodgers, of the men sacked by Ross County and Falkirk. “I didn't really see or understand the role Jim played at Ross County until I came to Celtic. “I then analysed what he'd done - winning the League Cup and keeping them up. Roy MacGregor [the Staggies’ chairman] is a lovely guy and has done brilliant work for Ross County and the area, but I have real empathy for Jim losing his job. “Look at the work he's done and the fixtures he's had. They’ve played ourselves, Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibs. I watched the full game last week and it wasn't a performance where you say the players aren't really playing for him. “I have real empathy for Jim and Peter Houston, who has been about for a long time. He's a very good coach, who did a great job for Dundee United and then Falkirk.” It has been a great honour to form part of Bayern’s history. I would like to thank the Club, the Players and it's amazing fans. #MiaSanMiapic.twitter.com/oZ7mLllers— Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) September 28, 2017 On Saturday, Rodgers comes up against one of his predecessors at Celtic, when Hibernian arrive in the east end of Glasgow, where their manager, Neil Lennon, was a favourite, both as a player and during his spell in charge between 2010 and 2014. “If I wasn’t here, if I was to say who’ll be Celtic manager I would say Neil Lennon,” said Rodgers of the man who won three titles for the Parkhead side. “He was very good in his time here and if it ever comes to him again he would do equally as well if not better.” When Lennon left, partly because of the absence of competition following Rangers’ financial meltdown and spell in the lower leagues, Rodgers imagined that he and his fellow countryman might engage in a Merseyside rivalry. “I was at Liverpool and there was talk then of David Moyes going to Manchester United and I thought that Everton would have been a perfect job for Neil. Neil Lennon returns to Celtic Park on Saturday to play the club he graced in midfield and the dugout Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire “There is no doubt he deserved a better offer. That's no disrespect to Bolton - if they'd been in the Premier League, it would have been a great job. I felt Neil was a Premier League manager in waiting.  “Maybe that's because I know the size of Celtic and what the demands and challenges are at a club like this. I could see how he'd managed that and looked at what could be his next step.      “Part of my admiration for him comes from his openness and the courage he showed to come out and speak openly about his depression. I read his book and it was a real admission of his life and where he was at and it takes a lot of courage to do that.   “He was a real pioneer. That was nearly a decade ago. Then there was everything else that surrounded his time here too which wasn’t nice and you don’t want anyone to go through. This is a job that is big enough itself without any additional pressures.” Celtic are bidding for a 58th successive domestic game unbeaten but they must achieve it without Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong, both of whom have hamstring injuries which will also keep them out of Scotland’s World Cup double header against Slovakia and Slovenia. “It’s just absolutely so unlucky for us and their unavailability for tomorrow but also for Scotland, which is a huge loss,” Rodgers said.  

Losing has become contagious at Sunderland and Simon Grayson is struggling to find a cure

If Sunderland thought things could only get better after dropping out of the Premier League, they were wrong.  If relegation was the boat sinking, this is the moment the survivors realise they have jumped into shark-infested waters and nobody is coming to save them. They must swim, but do not look like making land. Panic is spreading, hope is dwindling. Sunderland are being picked off in the Championship, torn apart, shredded and mauled. It has turned into a bloodbath and there is genuine fear now that the worst is still to come. One relegation could swiftly turn into two, a season in the second tier could be followed by another in the third. On Tuesday night, Simon Grayson’s side were thrashed 5-2 at Ipswich Town. It was their sixth defeat in seven games and they have won just one league game all season. Sunderland have not won at home since December last year. Having occupied the relegation zone all last season, they are back in one again, already two points adrift of safety. When Grayson agreed to become Sunderland manager in July he said he did so without a moment’s hesitation, but on Saturday he takes his floundering Black Cats team to face his former employers, Preston North End, worrying he has made as terrible mistake. Preston are mounting the sort of promotion challenge without him that he was expected to muster on Wearside. “It is only a low point at this moment in time,” said Grayson, after losing to Cardiff City at the weekend. “We have lost another game. We want to make it better for everyone connected to this club. Simon Grayson described Sunderland's situation as 'a low point' Credit: Getty images “But no club is too big to go down. You’ve had Man City, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, big teams who have gone down into League One. We are not thinking about that. But we must be aware of where we are. We dust ourselves down, we are back at work in the morning….” The response to that was a shambolic, error-ridden capitulation at Ipswich which, according to one local journalist who has covered Sunderland, home and away, for the best part of 20 years, was worse than any they have had the misfortune to cover. “It’s summed up when you go into the dressing room,” added an exasperated Grayson at Portman Road. “And one of the younger lads says, ‘We’re soft as such and such’ and he’s right. We’re too easy to play against. “I’m not going to say the players don’t care because they do, but they're not doing enough…” It will not be long until people are saying the same about him. Grayson was Sunderland’s second choice to succeed David Moyes as manager after the Scot quit in the summer, dismayed by the lack of money available to rebuild the team. Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, turned them down. Sunderland sold goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to Everton for £30m in June, but have benefited neither from that huge sum of money or Premier League parachute payments because owner Ellis Short, having once again failed to sell up, needs it to service the club’s debt. There are rumours the American is considering putting the club into administration, although this has been vehemently denied by those he employs to the run things in his absence. He is keeping the club afloat, but he has few fans on Wearside as most believe he is the root cause of the problems that have left them in this dire state. Sunderland have been relegated before, but it has not turned into a disaster like this. The Black Cats have tended to enjoy the Championship, rebuilding and rejuvenating, pushing immediately for a return to the top flight. Never, in the Premier League era, have they finished outside of the top six in the second tier after relegation, but they are in real trouble this time. Adam Matthews reacts as another Ipswich goal goes in Credit: Getty images Grayson’s job is already under threat. It must be, even though managing director Martin Bains recognises the need for stability, which is why Moyes was not sacked last term. He will be given more time, but patience is wearing thin, even though he has not even been there four months. Grayson was employed because he knew the Championship and recruited players, to the best of his ability on a tight budget, with knowledge of that league. Crucially, in the main, they are not players who have been promoted. They know the division well because that is their level. None have impressed so far, but it is not just about individuals: the whole club is sick, losing has become contagious. It is a disease and Grayson must find a cure quickly. It took Sunderland nine years of relegation battles to finally lose their place in the Premier League, yet it might only be 12 months until they fall out of the Championship. As Grayson knows from his time at Leeds United, once you are in a downward spiral, it can take years to reverse. Sunderland are still sliding fast.

Losing has become contagious at Sunderland and Simon Grayson is struggling to find a cure

If Sunderland thought things could only get better after dropping out of the Premier League, they were wrong.  If relegation was the boat sinking, this is the moment the survivors realise they have jumped into shark-infested waters and nobody is coming to save them. They must swim, but do not look like making land. Panic is spreading, hope is dwindling. Sunderland are being picked off in the Championship, torn apart, shredded and mauled. It has turned into a bloodbath and there is genuine fear now that the worst is still to come. One relegation could swiftly turn into two, a season in the second tier could be followed by another in the third. On Tuesday night, Simon Grayson’s side were thrashed 5-2 at Ipswich Town. It was their sixth defeat in seven games and they have won just one league game all season. Sunderland have not won at home since December last year. Having occupied the relegation zone all last season, they are back in one again, already two points adrift of safety. When Grayson agreed to become Sunderland manager in July he said he did so without a moment’s hesitation, but on Saturday he takes his floundering Black Cats team to face his former employers, Preston North End, worrying he has made as terrible mistake. Preston are mounting the sort of promotion challenge without him that he was expected to muster on Wearside. “It is only a low point at this moment in time,” said Grayson, after losing to Cardiff City at the weekend. “We have lost another game. We want to make it better for everyone connected to this club. Simon Grayson described Sunderland's situation as 'a low point' Credit: Getty images “But no club is too big to go down. You’ve had Man City, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, big teams who have gone down into League One. We are not thinking about that. But we must be aware of where we are. We dust ourselves down, we are back at work in the morning….” The response to that was a shambolic, error-ridden capitulation at Ipswich which, according to one local journalist who has covered Sunderland, home and away, for the best part of 20 years, was worse than any they have had the misfortune to cover. “It’s summed up when you go into the dressing room,” added an exasperated Grayson at Portman Road. “And one of the younger lads says, ‘We’re soft as such and such’ and he’s right. We’re too easy to play against. “I’m not going to say the players don’t care because they do, but they're not doing enough…” It will not be long until people are saying the same about him. Grayson was Sunderland’s second choice to succeed David Moyes as manager after the Scot quit in the summer, dismayed by the lack of money available to rebuild the team. Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, turned them down. Sunderland sold goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to Everton for £30m in June, but have benefited neither from that huge sum of money or Premier League parachute payments because owner Ellis Short, having once again failed to sell up, needs it to service the club’s debt. There are rumours the American is considering putting the club into administration, although this has been vehemently denied by those he employs to the run things in his absence. He is keeping the club afloat, but he has few fans on Wearside as most believe he is the root cause of the problems that have left them in this dire state. Sunderland have been relegated before, but it has not turned into a disaster like this. The Black Cats have tended to enjoy the Championship, rebuilding and rejuvenating, pushing immediately for a return to the top flight. Never, in the Premier League era, have they finished outside of the top six in the second tier after relegation, but they are in real trouble this time. Adam Matthews reacts as another Ipswich goal goes in Credit: Getty images Grayson’s job is already under threat. It must be, even though managing director Martin Bains recognises the need for stability, which is why Moyes was not sacked last term. He will be given more time, but patience is wearing thin, even though he has not even been there four months. Grayson was employed because he knew the Championship and recruited players, to the best of his ability on a tight budget, with knowledge of that league. Crucially, in the main, they are not players who have been promoted. They know the division well because that is their level. None have impressed so far, but it is not just about individuals: the whole club is sick, losing has become contagious. It is a disease and Grayson must find a cure quickly. It took Sunderland nine years of relegation battles to finally lose their place in the Premier League, yet it might only be 12 months until they fall out of the Championship. As Grayson knows from his time at Leeds United, once you are in a downward spiral, it can take years to reverse. Sunderland are still sliding fast.

Losing has become contagious at Sunderland and Simon Grayson is struggling to find a cure

If Sunderland thought things could only get better after dropping out of the Premier League, they were wrong.  If relegation was the boat sinking, this is the moment the survivors realise they have jumped into shark-infested waters and nobody is coming to save them. They must swim, but do not look like making land. Panic is spreading, hope is dwindling. Sunderland are being picked off in the Championship, torn apart, shredded and mauled. It has turned into a bloodbath and there is genuine fear now that the worst is still to come. One relegation could swiftly turn into two, a season in the second tier could be followed by another in the third. On Tuesday night, Simon Grayson’s side were thrashed 5-2 at Ipswich Town. It was their sixth defeat in seven games and they have won just one league game all season. Sunderland have not won at home since December last year. Having occupied the relegation zone all last season, they are back in one again, already two points adrift of safety. When Grayson agreed to become Sunderland manager in July he said he did so without a moment’s hesitation, but on Saturday he takes his floundering Black Cats team to face his former employers, Preston North End, worrying he has made as terrible mistake. Preston are mounting the sort of promotion challenge without him that he was expected to muster on Wearside. “It is only a low point at this moment in time,” said Grayson, after losing to Cardiff City at the weekend. “We have lost another game. We want to make it better for everyone connected to this club. Simon Grayson described Sunderland's situation as 'a low point' Credit: Getty images “But no club is too big to go down. You’ve had Man City, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, big teams who have gone down into League One. We are not thinking about that. But we must be aware of where we are. We dust ourselves down, we are back at work in the morning….” The response to that was a shambolic, error-ridden capitulation at Ipswich which, according to one local journalist who has covered Sunderland, home and away, for the best part of 20 years, was worse than any they have had the misfortune to cover. “It’s summed up when you go into the dressing room,” added an exasperated Grayson at Portman Road. “And one of the younger lads says, ‘We’re soft as such and such’ and he’s right. We’re too easy to play against. “I’m not going to say the players don’t care because they do, but they're not doing enough…” It will not be long until people are saying the same about him. Grayson was Sunderland’s second choice to succeed David Moyes as manager after the Scot quit in the summer, dismayed by the lack of money available to rebuild the team. Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, turned them down. Sunderland sold goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to Everton for £30m in June, but have benefited neither from that huge sum of money or Premier League parachute payments because owner Ellis Short, having once again failed to sell up, needs it to service the club’s debt. There are rumours the American is considering putting the club into administration, although this has been vehemently denied by those he employs to the run things in his absence. He is keeping the club afloat, but he has few fans on Wearside as most believe he is the root cause of the problems that have left them in this dire state. Sunderland have been relegated before, but it has not turned into a disaster like this. The Black Cats have tended to enjoy the Championship, rebuilding and rejuvenating, pushing immediately for a return to the top flight. Never, in the Premier League era, have they finished outside of the top six in the second tier after relegation, but they are in real trouble this time. Adam Matthews reacts as another Ipswich goal goes in Credit: Getty images Grayson’s job is already under threat. It must be, even though managing director Martin Bains recognises the need for stability, which is why Moyes was not sacked last term. He will be given more time, but patience is wearing thin, even though he has not even been there four months. Grayson was employed because he knew the Championship and recruited players, to the best of his ability on a tight budget, with knowledge of that league. Crucially, in the main, they are not players who have been promoted. They know the division well because that is their level. None have impressed so far, but it is not just about individuals: the whole club is sick, losing has become contagious. It is a disease and Grayson must find a cure quickly. It took Sunderland nine years of relegation battles to finally lose their place in the Premier League, yet it might only be 12 months until they fall out of the Championship. As Grayson knows from his time at Leeds United, once you are in a downward spiral, it can take years to reverse. Sunderland are still sliding fast.

How the new Tiger is preparing to make his debut - aged 16... and he's British

He already has the same middle name as one golfing great and on Thursday Robin Tiger Williams will emulate another. At 16 years and one week old, the boy from Peterborough will be the same age as Rory McIlroy when he made his debut in professional tournament – and it will be in the same event as well. The British Masters has extended one of its invitations to Williams, the top-ranked junior in Europe. He does not quite command the same fame as McIlroy did at this age in 2005, but his story is set to be recounted to a wider audience because of the exposure at Close House this week. It is very worthy of the telling. Williams was three weeks old when his parents decided to take the less-travelled migration route from Stellenbosch, South Africa to Prestatyn, Wales. Morne, a fine batsman who was later to represent Aberdeenshire, had almost named his son after another of his sporting heroes. “Dad has told me I was very nearly ‘Robin Sachin’,” he said. “But I’m glad he settled on Tiger. I was born the year Woods completed the Tiger Slam, so I think that made up Dad’s mind. It’s a perfect fit the way things have turned out. The first time my dad put a club in my hand when I was 18 months, I was bitten by the golfing bug.” Morne, a dentist, remembers it all too well. “I had been a good golfer in my college days, getting down to scratch, but hadn’t played for a while,” he said. “So after watching him hit ball after ball, all day, at the range and him never wanting to go home, I took him on a short nine-holer in Rhyl. He shot a 47 and actually beat me. I thought: ‘That’s it, no more golf for me.' He’d walloped me straight out of his nappies.” Robin 'Tiger' Williams the young amateur, getting some tips from Shane Lowry at Close House Golf Club Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images By the age of eight, the bug had consumed the boy’s life. With the family now in Aberdeen, Morne enrolled Robin at Hazelhead Golf Club. “He’d practise there and, again, whack balls all day, every day and I noticed there was a mini tournament taking place,” he recalled. “They said: ‘No, he’s too young, it wouldn’t be fair on him.’ I replied, ‘Go on, he’ll enjoy it’. He won by 20 shots.” Morne reports that he still receives messages from that junior section leader whenever he happens upon tales of his exploits. It is fair to say, the junior leader has been in touch quite often. At the age of 11, Morne took Robin to America where he became the youngest-ever winner of a Future World Champions’ event. “Sky Sports heard about it and ran a promotional video on him which said, “I am Robin Tiger Williams” and from that he was offered a sponsorship to the famous Bishops Gate Academy in Florida,” Morne said. “You don’t want your kid to leave home when they’re only 11, but he was so keen and it was such a great chance. Even at that age, moving away from his family and friends, Robin told me: ‘You just have to make these sacrifices, Dad.’ We’d keep in touch three times a day and I developed a computer programme where I could check his progress.” Williams gets out his yardage book  Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images It made increasingly promising reading. Robin went on to win multiple America Junior Golf Association titles and very soon he came up on the radar of England Golf, who pointed out to the family the benefits of returning when he reached 15. The Williams' concern was taking him out the US education system but they overcame this obstacle by hiring a Peterborough teacher to school him at home in the American curriculum. “It has worked out well,” Morne said. “Robin’s a bright boy and will have a good education to fall back on if it doesn’t work out in golf.” To the boy wonder himself, however, that is simply not an option. “I will make it as professional,” he said. Sky Sports, which has done so much to resurrect the British Masters, certainly believes in him, having invited him into the tournament’s Pro-Am for the last two years. The pros were impressed and raved about him to the organisers. Williams is playing the first two rounds with proven Tour pros Lee Slattery and Jorge Campillo and Morne is fulfilling the caddie duties. As well as his own fantasy, of course. “Can you imagine?” Morne said. “We will be a few groups ahead of Rory, the crowds and the noise will be huge. I’ll definitely be more nervous than him, because, I’m telling you, he will not be intimated. It’s funny, because when he was eight I had a little Claret Jug made with his name engraved on it as ‘Open Champion, 2020’. Back then he would say he would win that particular Open over and over and it’s still there on the mantelpiece, acting as motivation. Just to play in that major would be amazing and I always tell him: ‘If you dream it, you can believe it.’ “You know, we are blessed to be in Britain and to have these opportunities and the help from Sky and England Golf and, of course, the academy has been fantastic. Believe me, there would not have been those chances for us ‘Cape coloureds’, which we are classed as back there. Robin doesn’t understand apartheid because he never went through it , but I tell him this is an incredible dream and you just to have run at it. Who knows where it will end, but I wouldn’t put anything beyond him. I notice he is 1,000-1 with one bookie ...”

How the new Tiger is preparing to make his debut - aged 16... and he's British

He already has the same middle name as one golfing great and, on Thursday, Robin Tiger Williams will emulate another. At 16 years and one week old, the boy from Peterborough will be the same age as Rory McIlroy when he made his debut in professional tournament – and it will be in the same event as well. The British Masters has extended one of its invitations to Williams, the top-ranked junior in Europe. He does not quite command the same fame as McIlroy did at this age in 2005, but his story is set to be recounted to a wider audience because of the exposure at Close House this week. It is very worthy of the telling. Williams was three weeks old when his parents decided to take the less-travelled migration route from Stellenbosch, South Africa to Prestatyn, Wales. Morne, a fine batsman who was later to represent Aberdeenshire, had almost named his son after another of his sporting heroes. “Dad has told me I was very nearly ‘Robin Sachin’,” he said. “But I’m glad he settled on Tiger. I was born the year Woods completed the Tiger Slam, so I think that made up Dad’s mind. It’s a perfect fit the way things have turned out. The first time my dad put a club in my hand when I was 18 months, I was bitten by the golfing bug.” Morne, a dentist, remembers it all too well. “I had been a good golfer in my college days, getting down to scratch, but hadn’t played for a while,” he said. “So after watching him hit ball after ball, all day, at the range and him never wanting to go home, I took him on a short nine-holer in Rhyl. He shot a 47 and actually beat me. I thought: ‘That’s it, no more golf for me.' He’d walloped me straight out of his nappies.” Robin 'Tiger' Williams, the young amateur, gets some tips from Shane Lowry at Close House Golf Club Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images By the age of eight, the bug had consumed the boy’s life. With the family now in Aberdeen, Morne enrolled Robin at Hazelhead Golf Club. “He’d practise there and, again, whack balls all day, every day and I noticed there was a mini tournament taking place,” he recalled. “They said: ‘No, he’s too young, it wouldn’t be fair on him.’ I replied, ‘Go on, he’ll enjoy it’. He won by 20 shots.” Morne reports that he still receives messages from that junior section leader whenever he happens upon tales of his exploits. It is fair to say, the junior leader has been in touch quite often. At the age of 11, Morne took Robin to America where he became the youngest-ever winner of a Future World Champions’ event. “Sky Sports heard about it and ran a promotional video on him which said, “I am Robin Tiger Williams” and from that he was offered a sponsorship to the famous Bishops Gate Academy in Florida,” Morne said. “You don’t want your kid to leave home when they’re only 11, but he was so keen and it was such a great chance. Even at that age, moving away from his family and friends, Robin told me: ‘You just have to make these sacrifices, Dad.’ We’d keep in touch three times a day and I developed a computer programme where I could check his progress.” Williams gets out his yardage book  Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images It made increasingly promising reading. Robin went on to win multiple America Junior Golf Association titles and very soon he came up on the radar of England Golf, who pointed out to the family the benefits of returning when he reached 15. The Williamses' concern was taking him out the US education system but they overcame this obstacle by hiring a Peterborough teacher to school him at home in the American curriculum. “It has worked out well,” Morne said. “Robin’s a bright boy and will have a good education to fall back on if it doesn’t work out in golf.” To the boy wonder himself, however, that is simply not an option. “I will make it as professional,” he said. Sky Sports, which has done so much to resurrect the British Masters, certainly believes in him, having invited him into the tournament’s Pro-Am for the last two years. The pros were impressed and raved about him to the organisers. Williams is playing the first two rounds with proven Tour pros Lee Slattery and Jorge Campillo and Morne is fulfilling the caddie duties. As well as his own fantasy, of course. “Can you imagine?” Morne said. “We will be a few groups ahead of Rory, the crowds and the noise will be huge. I’ll definitely be more nervous than him, because, I’m telling you, he will not be intimated. It’s funny, because when he was eight I had a little Claret Jug made with his name engraved on it as ‘Open Champion, 2020’. Back then he would say he would win that particular Open over and over and it’s still there on the mantelpiece, acting as motivation. Just to play in that major would be amazing and I always tell him: ‘If you dream it, you can believe it.’ “You know, we are blessed to be in Britain and to have these opportunities and the help from Sky and England Golf and, of course, the academy has been fantastic. Believe me, there would not have been those chances for us ‘Cape coloureds’, which we are classed as back there. Robin doesn’t understand apartheid because he never went through it , but I tell him this is an incredible dream and you just to have run at it. Who knows where it will end, but I wouldn’t put anything beyond him. I notice he is 1,000-1 with one bookie ...”

How the new Tiger is preparing to make his debut - aged 16... and he's British

He already has the same middle name as one golfing great and, on Thursday, Robin Tiger Williams will emulate another. At 16 years and one week old, the boy from Peterborough will be the same age as Rory McIlroy when he made his debut in professional tournament – and it will be in the same event as well. The British Masters has extended one of its invitations to Williams, the top-ranked junior in Europe. He does not quite command the same fame as McIlroy did at this age in 2005, but his story is set to be recounted to a wider audience because of the exposure at Close House this week. It is very worthy of the telling. Williams was three weeks old when his parents decided to take the less-travelled migration route from Stellenbosch, South Africa to Prestatyn, Wales. Morne, a fine batsman who was later to represent Aberdeenshire, had almost named his son after another of his sporting heroes. “Dad has told me I was very nearly ‘Robin Sachin’,” he said. “But I’m glad he settled on Tiger. I was born the year Woods completed the Tiger Slam, so I think that made up Dad’s mind. It’s a perfect fit the way things have turned out. The first time my dad put a club in my hand when I was 18 months, I was bitten by the golfing bug.” Morne, a dentist, remembers it all too well. “I had been a good golfer in my college days, getting down to scratch, but hadn’t played for a while,” he said. “So after watching him hit ball after ball, all day, at the range and him never wanting to go home, I took him on a short nine-holer in Rhyl. He shot a 47 and actually beat me. I thought: ‘That’s it, no more golf for me.' He’d walloped me straight out of his nappies.” Robin 'Tiger' Williams, the young amateur, gets some tips from Shane Lowry at Close House Golf Club Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images By the age of eight, the bug had consumed the boy’s life. With the family now in Aberdeen, Morne enrolled Robin at Hazelhead Golf Club. “He’d practise there and, again, whack balls all day, every day and I noticed there was a mini tournament taking place,” he recalled. “They said: ‘No, he’s too young, it wouldn’t be fair on him.’ I replied, ‘Go on, he’ll enjoy it’. He won by 20 shots.” Morne reports that he still receives messages from that junior section leader whenever he happens upon tales of his exploits. It is fair to say, the junior leader has been in touch quite often. At the age of 11, Morne took Robin to America where he became the youngest-ever winner of a Future World Champions’ event. “Sky Sports heard about it and ran a promotional video on him which said, “I am Robin Tiger Williams” and from that he was offered a sponsorship to the famous Bishops Gate Academy in Florida,” Morne said. “You don’t want your kid to leave home when they’re only 11, but he was so keen and it was such a great chance. Even at that age, moving away from his family and friends, Robin told me: ‘You just have to make these sacrifices, Dad.’ We’d keep in touch three times a day and I developed a computer programme where I could check his progress.” Williams gets out his yardage book  Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images It made increasingly promising reading. Robin went on to win multiple America Junior Golf Association titles and very soon he came up on the radar of England Golf, who pointed out to the family the benefits of returning when he reached 15. The Williamses' concern was taking him out the US education system but they overcame this obstacle by hiring a Peterborough teacher to school him at home in the American curriculum. “It has worked out well,” Morne said. “Robin’s a bright boy and will have a good education to fall back on if it doesn’t work out in golf.” To the boy wonder himself, however, that is simply not an option. “I will make it as professional,” he said. Sky Sports, which has done so much to resurrect the British Masters, certainly believes in him, having invited him into the tournament’s Pro-Am for the last two years. The pros were impressed and raved about him to the organisers. Williams is playing the first two rounds with proven Tour pros Lee Slattery and Jorge Campillo and Morne is fulfilling the caddie duties. As well as his own fantasy, of course. “Can you imagine?” Morne said. “We will be a few groups ahead of Rory, the crowds and the noise will be huge. I’ll definitely be more nervous than him, because, I’m telling you, he will not be intimated. It’s funny, because when he was eight I had a little Claret Jug made with his name engraved on it as ‘Open Champion, 2020’. Back then he would say he would win that particular Open over and over and it’s still there on the mantelpiece, acting as motivation. Just to play in that major would be amazing and I always tell him: ‘If you dream it, you can believe it.’ “You know, we are blessed to be in Britain and to have these opportunities and the help from Sky and England Golf and, of course, the academy has been fantastic. Believe me, there would not have been those chances for us ‘Cape coloureds’, which we are classed as back there. Robin doesn’t understand apartheid because he never went through it , but I tell him this is an incredible dream and you just to have run at it. Who knows where it will end, but I wouldn’t put anything beyond him. I notice he is 1,000-1 with one bookie ...”

How the new Tiger is preparing to make his debut - aged 16... and he's British

He already has the same middle name as one golfing great and, on Thursday, Robin Tiger Williams will emulate another. At 16 years and one week old, the boy from Peterborough will be the same age as Rory McIlroy when he made his debut in professional tournament – and it will be in the same event as well. The British Masters has extended one of its invitations to Williams, the top-ranked junior in Europe. He does not quite command the same fame as McIlroy did at this age in 2005, but his story is set to be recounted to a wider audience because of the exposure at Close House this week. It is very worthy of the telling. Williams was three weeks old when his parents decided to take the less-travelled migration route from Stellenbosch, South Africa to Prestatyn, Wales. Morne, a fine batsman who was later to represent Aberdeenshire, had almost named his son after another of his sporting heroes. “Dad has told me I was very nearly ‘Robin Sachin’,” he said. “But I’m glad he settled on Tiger. I was born the year Woods completed the Tiger Slam, so I think that made up Dad’s mind. It’s a perfect fit the way things have turned out. The first time my dad put a club in my hand when I was 18 months, I was bitten by the golfing bug.” Morne, a dentist, remembers it all too well. “I had been a good golfer in my college days, getting down to scratch, but hadn’t played for a while,” he said. “So after watching him hit ball after ball, all day, at the range and him never wanting to go home, I took him on a short nine-holer in Rhyl. He shot a 47 and actually beat me. I thought: ‘That’s it, no more golf for me.' He’d walloped me straight out of his nappies.” Robin 'Tiger' Williams, the young amateur, gets some tips from Shane Lowry at Close House Golf Club Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images By the age of eight, the bug had consumed the boy’s life. With the family now in Aberdeen, Morne enrolled Robin at Hazelhead Golf Club. “He’d practise there and, again, whack balls all day, every day and I noticed there was a mini tournament taking place,” he recalled. “They said: ‘No, he’s too young, it wouldn’t be fair on him.’ I replied, ‘Go on, he’ll enjoy it’. He won by 20 shots.” Morne reports that he still receives messages from that junior section leader whenever he happens upon tales of his exploits. It is fair to say, the junior leader has been in touch quite often. At the age of 11, Morne took Robin to America where he became the youngest-ever winner of a Future World Champions’ event. “Sky Sports heard about it and ran a promotional video on him which said, “I am Robin Tiger Williams” and from that he was offered a sponsorship to the famous Bishops Gate Academy in Florida,” Morne said. “You don’t want your kid to leave home when they’re only 11, but he was so keen and it was such a great chance. Even at that age, moving away from his family and friends, Robin told me: ‘You just have to make these sacrifices, Dad.’ We’d keep in touch three times a day and I developed a computer programme where I could check his progress.” Williams gets out his yardage book  Credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images It made increasingly promising reading. Robin went on to win multiple America Junior Golf Association titles and very soon he came up on the radar of England Golf, who pointed out to the family the benefits of returning when he reached 15. The Williamses' concern was taking him out the US education system but they overcame this obstacle by hiring a Peterborough teacher to school him at home in the American curriculum. “It has worked out well,” Morne said. “Robin’s a bright boy and will have a good education to fall back on if it doesn’t work out in golf.” To the boy wonder himself, however, that is simply not an option. “I will make it as professional,” he said. Sky Sports, which has done so much to resurrect the British Masters, certainly believes in him, having invited him into the tournament’s Pro-Am for the last two years. The pros were impressed and raved about him to the organisers. Williams is playing the first two rounds with proven Tour pros Lee Slattery and Jorge Campillo and Morne is fulfilling the caddie duties. As well as his own fantasy, of course. “Can you imagine?” Morne said. “We will be a few groups ahead of Rory, the crowds and the noise will be huge. I’ll definitely be more nervous than him, because, I’m telling you, he will not be intimated. It’s funny, because when he was eight I had a little Claret Jug made with his name engraved on it as ‘Open Champion, 2020’. Back then he would say he would win that particular Open over and over and it’s still there on the mantelpiece, acting as motivation. Just to play in that major would be amazing and I always tell him: ‘If you dream it, you can believe it.’ “You know, we are blessed to be in Britain and to have these opportunities and the help from Sky and England Golf and, of course, the academy has been fantastic. Believe me, there would not have been those chances for us ‘Cape coloureds’, which we are classed as back there. Robin doesn’t understand apartheid because he never went through it , but I tell him this is an incredible dream and you just to have run at it. Who knows where it will end, but I wouldn’t put anything beyond him. I notice he is 1,000-1 with one bookie ...”

Chris Sutton flattened by sliding tackle during live BT Sport coverage

Motherwell legend Stephen Craigan fulfilled a dream held by football fans across the country by flattening motor-mouth pundit Chris Sutton with a sliding tackle.  The former Chelsea and Celtic striker was discussing the weekend's Scottish football with BT Sport presenter Darrell Currie when Craignan ran in from out of shot and cleaned him out.  Sutton spent Saturday crowing over Celtic's 2-0 win the season's first Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and was on duty again on Sunday for live coverage of Motherwell's home game against Aberdeen.  Clearly, with the cameras rolling the incident was rather contrived but Sutton appeared to have felt the full force of the challenge as his notes went flying and he ended up prostrate on the turf.  Sutton's sardonic tone and Grumpy Old Man style of punditry has divided audiences, and it is not the first time he and Craigan have collided on camera.  ������@chris_sutton73 is wiped out by Stephen Craigan! Disgraceful challenge �� pic.twitter.com/P4wi1p2A6M— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) September 24, 2017 The pair argued last year about Hearts' appointment of Ian Cathro, who became the youngest manager in Scottish football. Cathro, sacked within months of getting the job, was often ridiculed for his background as an analyst.  Craigan and Sutton argued vociferously about his suitability for the role, with Sutton accusing the former Motherwell man of 'jealousy'. Sutton said: "Why is it brave? He's had four years of experience at Valencia and Newcastle." Craigan then intervened and Sutton told him, "He's better qualified than you Crags." Craigan -clearly angered by this jibe - hit back and said "He's hasn't got his pro licence and I have, so there."  

Dundee 0 Celtic 4: Holders cruise into semi-final with comfortable win

Despite the cloudburst which preceded this Betfred Cup tie, there were no slips by Celtic at Dens Park as they cruised past Dundee into the semi-final draw, to be made after Motherwell and Aberdeen meet in Lanarkshire this evening. The holders scarcely had to exert themselves after they established a secure advantage with a double from James Forrest and contributions from Scott Sinclair and Callum McGregor. The exercise was effectively a pleasant warm-up before the two high profile contests which appear next on Celtic’s schedule, when the short trip to Ibrox for the first Old Firm derby of the campaign is followed by a European expedition to face Anderlecht in Brussels. Juggling the demands of defending the three Scottish honours as well as attempting to gain a toehold in the Champions League group stage, Brendan Rodgers made six changes to the side who cruised to a 4-0 home league victory over Ross County at the weekend. Most notably, Dedryck Boyata made his first appearance of the season with a welcome return to central defence. Mikael Lustig, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair, Kieran Tierney and Patrick Roberts were also restored after being rested against County, with Anthony Ralston, Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogic, Jonny Hayes on the bench and Jozo Simunovic and Moussa Dembele granted a breather. Dundee, with no comparable resources, featured two personnel switches, with Roarie Deacon and Moussa Sofien replaced by Randy Wolters and Mark O'Hara. Sinclair opens the scoring from the spot Credit: Getty images Wolters featured in the referee’s notebook midway through the first half when he clattered Sinclair, who otherwise looked very difficult to stop as he made repeated assaults on the Dundee defence, another of which saw the winger toppled by Jack Hendry inside the box for a penalty kick that was disputed hotly by the centre-back. Sinclair stroked his conversion efficiently past Scott Bain to garnish Celtic’s 70% share of possession and he was joined on the scoresheet by his counterpart on the right flank shortly before the interval. In this instance, the graft was put in by Kieran Tierney with an overlapping sprint and cutback which was met by Forrest on the slide for a shot which beat Bain from eight yards. Neil McCann, the Dundee manager, had said beforehand that if his players went toe-to-toe with Celtic they would surely lose, yet by half time he could reflect that if they had taken their clear chances they would have been level at the break. The first arrived on the quarter-hour when a mistake by Boyata allowed A-Jay Leitch-Smith to surge clear inside the Celtic half with only Craig Gordon ahead of him but the striker did not have the acceleration to elude Scott Brown’s tracking run and he was forced wide by the Hoops skipper for a tame shot at the goalkeeper. James Forrest doubled Celtic's lead Credit: Getty images Faissal El-Bakhtaoui likewise should have found the Celtic net when he made a blindside run towards a Wolters cross aimed to dip just in front of the back post but, with only a simple contact required to score, the Moroccan forward got his timing wrong and merely knocked the ball into Gordon’s hands.  Dundee could not contrive any greater threat in what remained of the contest and Celtic were able to conserve their resources by replacing Boyata with Ralston, Roberts with McGregor and Griffiths with Odsonne Edouard as they coasted to a 56th successive unbeaten fixture in domestic competitions. The action continued to the end, however, as Dundee suffered the indignity of conceding another two goals in the closing moments, first from McGregor’s low angled effort and then when Forrest drove through a ruck of players for his second.

Dundee 0 Celtic 4: Holders cruise into semi-final with comfortable win

Despite the cloudburst which preceded this Betfred Cup tie, there were no slips by Celtic at Dens Park as they cruised past Dundee into the semi-final draw, to be made after Motherwell and Aberdeen meet in Lanarkshire this evening. The holders scarcely had to exert themselves after they established a secure advantage with a double from James Forrest and contributions from Scott Sinclair and Callum McGregor. The exercise was effectively a pleasant warm-up before the two high profile contests which appear next on Celtic’s schedule, when the short trip to Ibrox for the first Old Firm derby of the campaign is followed by a European expedition to face Anderlecht in Brussels. Juggling the demands of defending the three Scottish honours as well as attempting to gain a toehold in the Champions League group stage, Brendan Rodgers made six changes to the side who cruised to a 4-0 home league victory over Ross County at the weekend. Most notably, Dedryck Boyata made his first appearance of the season with a welcome return to central defence. Mikael Lustig, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair, Kieran Tierney and Patrick Roberts were also restored after being rested against County, with Anthony Ralston, Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogic, Jonny Hayes on the bench and Jozo Simunovic and Moussa Dembele granted a breather. Dundee, with no comparable resources, featured two personnel switches, with Roarie Deacon and Moussa Sofien replaced by Randy Wolters and Mark O'Hara. Sinclair opens the scoring from the spot Credit: Getty images Wolters featured in the referee’s notebook midway through the first half when he clattered Sinclair, who otherwise looked very difficult to stop as he made repeated assaults on the Dundee defence, another of which saw the winger toppled by Jack Hendry inside the box for a penalty kick that was disputed hotly by the centre-back. Sinclair stroked his conversion efficiently past Scott Bain to garnish Celtic’s 70% share of possession and he was joined on the scoresheet by his counterpart on the right flank shortly before the interval. In this instance, the graft was put in by Kieran Tierney with an overlapping sprint and cutback which was met by Forrest on the slide for a shot which beat Bain from eight yards. Neil McCann, the Dundee manager, had said beforehand that if his players went toe-to-toe with Celtic they would surely lose, yet by half time he could reflect that if they had taken their clear chances they would have been level at the break. The first arrived on the quarter-hour when a mistake by Boyata allowed A-Jay Leitch-Smith to surge clear inside the Celtic half with only Craig Gordon ahead of him but the striker did not have the acceleration to elude Scott Brown’s tracking run and he was forced wide by the Hoops skipper for a tame shot at the goalkeeper. James Forrest doubled Celtic's lead Credit: Getty images Faissal El-Bakhtaoui likewise should have found the Celtic net when he made a blindside run towards a Wolters cross aimed to dip just in front of the back post but, with only a simple contact required to score, the Moroccan forward got his timing wrong and merely knocked the ball into Gordon’s hands.  Dundee could not contrive any greater threat in what remained of the contest and Celtic were able to conserve their resources by replacing Boyata with Ralston, Roberts with McGregor and Griffiths with Odsonne Edouard as they coasted to a 56th successive unbeaten fixture in domestic competitions. The action continued to the end, however, as Dundee suffered the indignity of conceding another two goals in the closing moments, first from McGregor’s low angled effort and then when Forrest drove through a ruck of players for his second.

Dundee 0 Celtic 4: Holders cruise into semi-final with comfortable win

Despite the cloudburst which preceded this Betfred Cup tie, there were no slips by Celtic at Dens Park as they cruised past Dundee into the semi-final draw, to be made after Motherwell and Aberdeen meet in Lanarkshire this evening. The holders scarcely had to exert themselves after they established a secure advantage with a double from James Forrest and contributions from Scott Sinclair and Callum McGregor. The exercise was effectively a pleasant warm-up before the two high profile contests which appear next on Celtic’s schedule, when the short trip to Ibrox for the first Old Firm derby of the campaign is followed by a European expedition to face Anderlecht in Brussels. Juggling the demands of defending the three Scottish honours as well as attempting to gain a toehold in the Champions League group stage, Brendan Rodgers made six changes to the side who cruised to a 4-0 home league victory over Ross County at the weekend. Most notably, Dedryck Boyata made his first appearance of the season with a welcome return to central defence. Mikael Lustig, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair, Kieran Tierney and Patrick Roberts were also restored after being rested against County, with Anthony Ralston, Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogic, Jonny Hayes on the bench and Jozo Simunovic and Moussa Dembele granted a breather. Dundee, with no comparable resources, featured two personnel switches, with Roarie Deacon and Moussa Sofien replaced by Randy Wolters and Mark O'Hara. Sinclair opens the scoring from the spot Credit: Getty images Wolters featured in the referee’s notebook midway through the first half when he clattered Sinclair, who otherwise looked very difficult to stop as he made repeated assaults on the Dundee defence, another of which saw the winger toppled by Jack Hendry inside the box for a penalty kick that was disputed hotly by the centre-back. Sinclair stroked his conversion efficiently past Scott Bain to garnish Celtic’s 70% share of possession and he was joined on the scoresheet by his counterpart on the right flank shortly before the interval. In this instance, the graft was put in by Kieran Tierney with an overlapping sprint and cutback which was met by Forrest on the slide for a shot which beat Bain from eight yards. Neil McCann, the Dundee manager, had said beforehand that if his players went toe-to-toe with Celtic they would surely lose, yet by half time he could reflect that if they had taken their clear chances they would have been level at the break. The first arrived on the quarter-hour when a mistake by Boyata allowed A-Jay Leitch-Smith to surge clear inside the Celtic half with only Craig Gordon ahead of him but the striker did not have the acceleration to elude Scott Brown’s tracking run and he was forced wide by the Hoops skipper for a tame shot at the goalkeeper. James Forrest doubled Celtic's lead Credit: Getty images Faissal El-Bakhtaoui likewise should have found the Celtic net when he made a blindside run towards a Wolters cross aimed to dip just in front of the back post but, with only a simple contact required to score, the Moroccan forward got his timing wrong and merely knocked the ball into Gordon’s hands.  Dundee could not contrive any greater threat in what remained of the contest and Celtic were able to conserve their resources by replacing Boyata with Ralston, Roberts with McGregor and Griffiths with Odsonne Edouard as they coasted to a 56th successive unbeaten fixture in domestic competitions. The action continued to the end, however, as Dundee suffered the indignity of conceding another two goals in the closing moments, first from McGregor’s low angled effort and then when Forrest drove through a ruck of players for his second.

James Forrest insists Celtic can improve on Rangers rout and top 5-1 humiliation of bitter rivals

Rangers supporters have accumulated a weight of scar tissue in recent years but one wound that remains raw was inflicted by Celtic’s 5-1 win at Ibrox in the final Old Firm derby of last season, when Brendan Rodgers’s players achieved a record score for a derby on their arch-foes’ ground. Since then, Rangers have been ditched from the Europa League by minuscule Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg, which was a worse result, but had the virtue of not potentially being repeated four times a season. Celtic, of course, endured their own trauma in the form of a 5-0 thrashing by Paris  St-Germain at home in last week’s Champions League group stage opener but they face no comparable threat on native soil. Unbeaten in 55 successive domestic fixtures – the latest being their comfortable win 4-0 at home to Ross County on Saturday – and now two points clear of Aberdeen in the Premiership, Celtic can afford a degree of gamesmanship ahead of Saturday’s trip to Ibrox for this campaign’s first derby. Rodgers set the tone by popping a message in the post for Rangers (and also the Celtic board) to the effect that money had been spent on the other side of the city with the specific intention of winning the title this season. The manager made a notional comparison of summer shopping by the respective clubs, and calculated Celtic’s outlay was smaller. That, though, has not deterred James Forrest from declaring that Celtic are capable of inflicting even greater damage than last time they crossed the city. Asked if there was a prospect of improving on the 5-1 Ibrox rout, Forrest – who scored twice in the defeat of Ross County – said: “Yes. That is what it is all about. It is about getting better and doing even more. “The record we had against them last season gives us confidence. They have made some signings and we know it will be tough. We will be up against new faces so we need to make sure we are right at it. “It is still early days. We just need to keep focusing on ourselves. They dropped points on Friday [in a 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle] but we didn’t let that concern us. We just went out against Ross County and put on a performance for ourselves and got confidence that way.” Bruised morale did not look like a problem for Celtic on Saturday, but it was only in the later stages, when they hemmed County into a corral 20 yards or so from Aaron McCarey’s goal, that the Scottish champions looked virtually irresistible. Celtic’s cause was aided significantly by Moussa Dembele’s first appearance of the season and the striker marked the occasion with a well-fashioned goal five minutes before the interval, to add to a typically tidy finish by Tom Rogic inside the first quarter hour. After the break, another powerful Rogic effort was blocked by McCarey after the break but the rebound fell to Forrest, who beat the goalkeeper with a placed finish. Forrest’s second was set up by Odsonne Edouard and, for the second time in the week, many home fans made for the exits before the final whistle, the difference on this occasion being that they were content with their team’s display. “We showed last season we were capable of getting good results after European games,” Forrest said. “It was a really good performance and we are glad of that after Tuesday night. It was hard to take but PSG are a top team and we got a bit of a lesson but, as the manager said, hopefully we can take it on board and it will make us stronger in the long run. The most important thing was to put the PSG game behind us and we did that. Now we can look forward to Dundee in the League Cup on Wednesday and the Rangers game next weekend.” Although it will make it harder for him to keep his place, Forrest welcomed Dembele’s return to action. “Even though it was his first start for a few months Moussa was outstanding,” he said. “He showed he was top quality and it was great to have him back.” For County, as with Celtic against PSG, the consolation was that no alternative outcome had been contemplated seriously, according to midfielder, Michael Gardyne. “Nothing is expected from us coming here,” he said. That allowance, one may say with certainty, does not apply to Celtic’s cross-city expedition next weekend.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic's Brendan Rodgers declares Rangers 'title contenders' as the build-up to Old Firm derby begins

As Celtic moved five points ahead of Rangers prior to the first Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, Brendan Rodgers branded next Saturday’s game a contest between title contenders, despite the gap that has already opened between the pair in the table. Rangers had to come from behind to earn a point in the 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday and could not prevail despite playing against 10 men for the final quarter of the proceedings. Indeed, Pedro Caixinha’s players will go into their collision with the champions in third place after Saturday's results in the Scottish Premiership. Nevertheless, the Hoops manager cited the difference in summer transfer fees – Rangers’ outlay was an estimated £8 million, compared with Celtic’s £5.5 million, although the figures are arguable – as evidence that the Ibrox board were aiming to prise the Scottish title from the other side of Glasgow. "I’ve seen a little bit of Rangers,” Rodgers said. “Pedro obviously came in during the season and was able to assess and look at different methods in which they can try to work and play. Humbled: Neymar and company gave Celtic a harsh lesson midweek Credit: AFP “They have clearly spent money in the summer. They spent more money than us – and we are a Champions League club - so that tells you that their idea is to win the league. It’s not to finish third. Not to finish second above Aberdeen. It’s to win the league. “They have come into the season with that mentality. They have signed some good players and are playing a basic shape in terms of 4-4-2, nothing complicated, get the ball wide, crosses in the box. I’m sure they will be reasonably happy with how they have started.” Celtic’s 5-1 victory at Ibrox was widely viewed as a tactical blunder by Caixinha, who chose to deploy Rangers with a midfield diamond, through which the champions romped to establish a record victory on the ground of their arch-foes. Rodgers, though, declared that the Rangers line-up had not been novel in the circumstances, despite Caixinha’s adoption of 4-4-2 this season. Keep smiling: Pedro Caixinha arrives for the Scottish Premiership match at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill Credit: PA “A lot of the European coaches will have different ways. I’m not sure 4-4-2 is what Pedro would purely like to play,” he said. “I think he is looking at what he’s got and how he can maximise what he gets from the players. “They played with a diamond, looking to have numbers in midfield and two front players. It’s flatter now in terms of how they are playing it, but their intention, I’m sure, is to win the league and what they have spent is a mark of that.” The Celtic boss, however, acknowledged that – having beaten Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final a week previously, the 5-1 rout had capped a deeply satisfying passage. “It was great week,” he said. “We went into the semi-final and were outstanding – our performance level in every facet was very good. At Ibrox the feeling was that we would be under severe pressure from their play and the crowd and there was no way we could go and play like we did in the semi. “For the players to go out and handle that side of it and perform like they did and actually be disappointed we only scored five made the performance outstanding.” April, the cruellest month: Celtic won 5-1 on their last visit to Ibrox Credit: Reuters So dominant were Celtic last time out at Ibrox that the home support began to make for the exits midway through the second half. “For every manager and player, it is feeling that you are working well. You are doing your job if the game is over by 65, 70 minutes,” Rodgers said. “In a 90-minute game you can take huge credit for how you are playing at that stage. If you are going to Ibrox and doing that against one of the great rivals and performing at that level, which was key for me, it was pretty special.” Celtic, of course, conceded five goals in their midweek Champions League group stage opener at home to Paris Saint-Germain but normal service was resumed with the visit of Ross County, who found themselves behind to a Tom Rogic strike after 13 minutes. The Staggies fell further behind five minutes before the break when Moussa Dembele, on his first appearance this season, placed a low right foot drive into the far corner of the net. The restart brought no relief for County as Celtic hit them on the counter from a memorable double save by Craig Gordon from Craig Curran and Alex Schalk. James Forrest netted on the rebound from a Rogic effort and scored Celtic’s fourth and his second after Oddsone Edouard’s prompt. Elsewhere, Aberdeen were held 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock, Hearts’ first victory under Craig Levein was a 2-1 win at Hamilton, while Hibs drew 2-2 with Motherwell at Easter Road and Dundee were 3-2 winners against Tayside neighbours, St Johnstone.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Celtic demand independent review of Rangers tax avoidance scheme to 'learn lessons and move on' 

Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, finds himself squarely in the line of fire as Celtic upped the stakes in the ongoing fallout from Rangers’ use of a tax avoidance scheme – declared unlawful by the Supreme Court earlier this year – between 2001 and 2010. Celtic have accused the SFA of  “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership” after the governing body declined to conduct a review of Rangers’ use of EBTs (Employee Benefit Trusts). By mutual agreement, the correspondence between Regan and Peter Lawwell, his Celtic counterpart, has been released. Celtic, though, have also released a statement on the club website which said: “In the light of all information that has now become available, Celtic has been in correspondence with the Scottish Football Association in pursuit of the club’s belief that an independent review should be commissioned to consider the events that led to the liquidation of Rangers Oldco and the governance issues arising from those events. “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland's 42 professional clubs.  The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on. Celtic have demanded a review of Rangers' EBT saga Credit: GETTY IMAGES “The club considers, however, that failure to carry out a full review of these events and issues, which have been without precedent in Scottish football, would represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership.  “Celtic was, therefore, disappointed to note that the Scottish Football Association board has confirmed that it does not intend to commission such a review. Throughout these processes, Celtic's consistent objective has been to establish the full facts, which is surely the least that all stakeholders in Scottish football - including the supporters of all clubs - are entitled to, and to learn the appropriate lessons. That remains our position.” The Scottish Professional Football League had previously stated that it could not hold a review because it did not exist during Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme and had no jurisdiction over the rules of the Scottish Premier League, which was responsible for league governance at the time. The SPFL did, however, suggest that the SFA could institute a review. There have also been calls to strip Rangers of titles Credit: PA On Thursday, however, the SFA declined to pursue that course of action, citing QC’s advice, although they are investigating the granting of a licence to Rangers permitting them to take part in European football in 2011, after Craig Whyte had bought the Ibrox club for £1 from Sir David Murray, in the light of evidence presented in Whyte’s recent trial for fraud, a charge of which he was ultimately acquitted, Moves to have Rangers stripped of the honours they won during their use of EBTs have been proposed for several years, with Celtic supporters prominent amongst those demanding that their arch-foes be shorn of five league titles, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes. The Rangers fan shareholder group, Club 1872, previously said that it would mount a legal challenge to the SPFL if the league should support such a course. On the field of play, Rangers were productive for the first time in a home league match this season. Having lost to Hibernian and been held to a draw by Hearts, Pedro Caixinha’s players at last gratified their supporters with a comfortable victory over Dundee after Alfredo Morelos netted his sixth goal for the club with a low shot beyond Scott Bain just before the break. Josh Windass scored Rangers’ second when he headed home a Daniel Candeias cross then set up another for Carlos Pena before Morelos got his second, although there was still time for Faisal El-Bakhtoui to net a consolation for Dundee. Carlos Pena celebrates Rangers' third goal against Dundee Credit: PA In Dingwall, Partick Thistle’s luck seemed to have changed when Blair Spital shot them into a first half lead very much against the run of play against Ross County, but the Jags were held to a draw after Alex Schalk’s late penalty kick equaliser. In the collision of Northern Irish managers at McDiarmid Park, Tommy Wright drew first blood when Rangers’ reject, Michael O’Halloran turned a Liam Craig cross over the line just after the break to put St Johnstone ahead against Neil Lennon’s Hibs. Saints’ Paul Paton was next to score, but into his own net when trying to block Anthony Stokes. Ryan Bowman opened the scoring in Motherwell in the 2-0 home victory over Kilmarnock, then was taken down for a penalty kick converted by Louis Moult. The only goalless game in the Scottish Premiership was at Murrayfield, where Aberdeen keeper, Joe Lewis, defied Aberdeen with a string of outstanding saves, including two showstoppers to deny Isma Goncalves and Ross Callachan.

Orioles prospects 9/7: Playoff baseball, Aberdeen plays two

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