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Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended

Graeme Murty’s sojourn as Rangers caretaker manager has invested the term with unexpected substance, as confirmed by the latest extension to his Ibrox duties. The Under-20s coach took charge of the first team for six games after Mark Warburton left in February and had  supervised another half dozen following Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, when he got the call on Thursday night to inform him that he would remain in place until New Year, by which point he will have been in charge for 18 matches. Given that Caixinha lasted all of 26 games, if Rangers should still have Celtic in sight come the start of January, Murty will be entitled to claim the lion’s share of credit, although, typically, he cited the contribution of others when the matter was raised. “Players might have something to do with it,” he said. “I’d contend that if we are in that sort of shape, our squad and our history would dictate that’s where we should be. “I couldn’t have imagined it. I couldn’t have seen myself in this position. I don’t like talking too much about  myself, but the reality is I have a big job ahead of me and so do the players and theirs doesn’t get any easier. “The speculation around the club could lead to them losing focus. “It’s our job to make sure the players don’t do that, that they concentrate and do their jobs on the pitch, and meet the standards they reached against Aberdeen [in the 2-1 win].” The Ibrox directors have been condemned and scorned for the absence of a fall-back plan when they were rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes on Thursday. That they were all but certain that McInnes would accept is not in doubt, although one can only speculate about the source of their confidence. One Ibrox insider told The Sunday Telegraph: “Something spooked him at the last minute”. The Rangers board’s belief that McInnes would be their 18th manager and their complete surprise at his decision was reflected in Dave King’s scarcely disguised sarcasm when he retorted that “moving to a massive club like Rangers is a big step with concomitant risk”. The club’s longer-term playing issues are, however, being addressed as best they can be in the absence of a manager and targets have been drawn up for the January transfer window, according to Murty. “Identifying players is down to the new scouting department that’s been put together expressly for that purpose,” he said. “Those things will be collated by Mark Allen [director of football]. As to who the personnel are I’m not sure yet, but my thoughts have been asked for and given freely. “That’s how we operate. The person who comes in as permanent manager will get the benefit of that, albeit he might want some input also. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been compiling databases for the incoming manager. They list physical load, physical capacity, even their body comps, to make sure the manager coming in has the clearest physical picture of the playing staff available. Derek McInnes rejected the Rangers job Credit: PA “We’ve looked at all the players and I’ve a very good idea of who is capable of doing what at what stage – and where they are in terms of their physical cycle. So, planning an advance schedule from that or a longer schedule from that is easier than it would be if we didn’t have a sensational staff behind the scenes.” On the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ inconsistency denied them the possibility of going top of the Premiership on Saturday night, a position which would have been attainable had they preceded their back-to-back league victories over Aberdeen with the same against Hamilton and Dundee, games which were lost. “We dropped two points against  Kilmarnock as well,” added Murty. “We’ve not managed to sustain our  intensity or our levels and it’s our job collectively as staff and as players to make sure we do that. If we do that it lifts the fans, and makes Ibrox an  intimidating place to come and play. “We need to do that we can push on from what’s been a challenging time.” The challenge, though, continued on Saturday at home to Ross County, who went ahead after 10 minutes when Craig Curran headed past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Rangers equalised on the hour through striker Alfredo Morelos before defender Danny Wilson headed home with seven minutes remaining to ensure a third successive victory for the first time in a year. At Rugby Park, doubles from Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy, plus Niall Keown’s own goal, saw Kilmarnock win 5-1 against Partick Thistle, for whom Chris Erskine netted. Motherwell’s tough spell was extended when, after two defeats and a draw against Celtic, they lost to a deflected Kyle Lafferty shot for Hearts at Tynecastle. Stefan Scougall’s strike gave St Johnstone all three points against Hamilton at New Douglas Park.

Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended

Graeme Murty’s sojourn as Rangers caretaker manager has invested the term with unexpected substance, as confirmed by the latest extension to his Ibrox duties. The Under-20s coach took charge of the first team for six games after Mark Warburton left in February and had  supervised another half dozen following Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, when he got the call on Thursday night to inform him that he would remain in place until New Year, by which point he will have been in charge for 18 matches. Given that Caixinha lasted all of 26 games, if Rangers should still have Celtic in sight come the start of January, Murty will be entitled to claim the lion’s share of credit, although, typically, he cited the contribution of others when the matter was raised. “Players might have something to do with it,” he said. “I’d contend that if we are in that sort of shape, our squad and our history would dictate that’s where we should be. “I couldn’t have imagined it. I couldn’t have seen myself in this position. I don’t like talking too much about  myself, but the reality is I have a big job ahead of me and so do the players and theirs doesn’t get any easier. “The speculation around the club could lead to them losing focus. “It’s our job to make sure the players don’t do that, that they concentrate and do their jobs on the pitch, and meet the standards they reached against Aberdeen [in the 2-1 win].” The Ibrox directors have been condemned and scorned for the absence of a fall-back plan when they were rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes on Thursday. That they were all but certain that McInnes would accept is not in doubt, although one can only speculate about the source of their confidence. One Ibrox insider told The Sunday Telegraph: “Something spooked him at the last minute”. The Rangers board’s belief that McInnes would be their 18th manager and their complete surprise at his decision was reflected in Dave King’s scarcely disguised sarcasm when he retorted that “moving to a massive club like Rangers is a big step with concomitant risk”. The club’s longer-term playing issues are, however, being addressed as best they can be in the absence of a manager and targets have been drawn up for the January transfer window, according to Murty. “Identifying players is down to the new scouting department that’s been put together expressly for that purpose,” he said. “Those things will be collated by Mark Allen [director of football]. As to who the personnel are I’m not sure yet, but my thoughts have been asked for and given freely. “That’s how we operate. The person who comes in as permanent manager will get the benefit of that, albeit he might want some input also. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been compiling databases for the incoming manager. They list physical load, physical capacity, even their body comps, to make sure the manager coming in has the clearest physical picture of the playing staff available. Derek McInnes rejected the Rangers job Credit: PA “We’ve looked at all the players and I’ve a very good idea of who is capable of doing what at what stage – and where they are in terms of their physical cycle. So, planning an advance schedule from that or a longer schedule from that is easier than it would be if we didn’t have a sensational staff behind the scenes.” On the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ inconsistency denied them the possibility of going top of the Premiership on Saturday night, a position which would have been attainable had they preceded their back-to-back league victories over Aberdeen with the same against Hamilton and Dundee, games which were lost. “We dropped two points against  Kilmarnock as well,” added Murty. “We’ve not managed to sustain our  intensity or our levels and it’s our job collectively as staff and as players to make sure we do that. If we do that it lifts the fans, and makes Ibrox an  intimidating place to come and play. “We need to do that we can push on from what’s been a challenging time.” The challenge, though, continued on Saturday at home to Ross County, who went ahead after 10 minutes when Craig Curran headed past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Rangers equalised on the hour through striker Alfredo Morelos before defender Danny Wilson headed home with seven minutes remaining to ensure a third successive victory for the first time in a year. At Rugby Park, doubles from Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy, plus Niall Keown’s own goal, saw Kilmarnock win 5-1 against Partick Thistle, for whom Chris Erskine netted. Motherwell’s tough spell was extended when, after two defeats and a draw against Celtic, they lost to a deflected Kyle Lafferty shot for Hearts at Tynecastle. Stefan Scougall’s strike gave St Johnstone all three points against Hamilton at New Douglas Park.

Bruno Alves could hand in Rangers transfer request with lack of game time mounting

Bruno Alves could table a transfer request to Rangers in January if a lack of game time threatens his chances of a World Cup campaign with Portugal. The 35-year-old defender was brought to Ibrox on a free contract last May and was the first signing of Pedro Caixinha, whose short-lived attempt to reconstruct the playing squad came to an end when he was sacked in October. With the failure of Rangers’ attempt to prise Derek McInnes from Aberdeen, the managerial hiatus at Ibrox will continue at least until New Year, a prospect which has alarmed Alves. Injury kept him out of Rangers’ 3-0 victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie last Sunday and he has only played in 13 of the club’s 19 fixtures this season. It was reported that Alves had refused to be on the bench when Rangers lost to Hamilton on November 18, an account that was vigorously denied by the club, with interim manager, Graeme Murty, stating that the player had suffered a fall in training. The fact remains, however, that Alves has not been a fixture in Murty’s sides and, while expressing regard for the caretaker boss, the player also revealed his concern for his place in the Portugal squad, ahead of a summer schedule in Russia which includes a group stage collision with Spain. Asked if he had any conversation with Murty about his position at Rangers, Alves said: “He just spoke with me before the first game I stayed on the bench, but I always respect decisions. I am a professional player. It is six weeks since Rangers sacked Pedro Caixinha Credit: Reuters “I also respect all the other players who are fighting for the position, but I have my own ambition. I am still playing for the national team and I need to play. We have a World Cup soon and I need to play and be fit. This is important for me, not just to help Rangers, but I also want to help myself to go to the World Cup. “I like to play. If I don’t have space here or if I don’t play, I need to think about my future or about what’s going to happen next. I am happy playing. “I respect everybody. I don’t want to be a problem to anybody, I want to be a solution. Have I been at a club without a manager for this long? No. “I don't have any regrets. Pedro was responsible for me coming to Rangers - but I already knew all about the club. “It was my personal choice to come here, to help the team be better and achieve the position the club had in the past. That's what we all want - to put Rangers in the right place.”

Bruno Alves could hand in Rangers transfer request with lack of game time mounting

Bruno Alves could table a transfer request to Rangers in January if a lack of game time threatens his chances of a World Cup campaign with Portugal. The 35-year-old defender was brought to Ibrox on a free contract last May and was the first signing of Pedro Caixinha, whose short-lived attempt to reconstruct the playing squad came to an end when he was sacked in October. With the failure of Rangers’ attempt to prise Derek McInnes from Aberdeen, the managerial hiatus at Ibrox will continue at least until New Year, a prospect which has alarmed Alves. Injury kept him out of Rangers’ 3-0 victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie last Sunday and he has only played in 13 of the club’s 19 fixtures this season. It was reported that Alves had refused to be on the bench when Rangers lost to Hamilton on November 18, an account that was vigorously denied by the club, with interim manager, Graeme Murty, stating that the player had suffered a fall in training. The fact remains, however, that Alves has not been a fixture in Murty’s sides and, while expressing regard for the caretaker boss, the player also revealed his concern for his place in the Portugal squad, ahead of a summer schedule in Russia which includes a group stage collision with Spain. Asked if he had any conversation with Murty about his position at Rangers, Alves said: “He just spoke with me before the first game I stayed on the bench, but I always respect decisions. I am a professional player. It is six weeks since Rangers sacked Pedro Caixinha Credit: Reuters “I also respect all the other players who are fighting for the position, but I have my own ambition. I am still playing for the national team and I need to play. We have a World Cup soon and I need to play and be fit. This is important for me, not just to help Rangers, but I also want to help myself to go to the World Cup. “I like to play. If I don’t have space here or if I don’t play, I need to think about my future or about what’s going to happen next. I am happy playing. “I respect everybody. I don’t want to be a problem to anybody, I want to be a solution. Have I been at a club without a manager for this long? No. “I don't have any regrets. Pedro was responsible for me coming to Rangers - but I already knew all about the club. “It was my personal choice to come here, to help the team be better and achieve the position the club had in the past. That's what we all want - to put Rangers in the right place.”

Derek McInnes turns down Rangers to remain Aberdeen manager

Derek McInnes turns down Rangers to remain Aberdeen manager

Last time an Aberdeen manager turned down the chance to take charge of Rangers, a fellow by name of Ferguson was the target for the Ibrox board. He at least had long-term prospects which bore fruit at both Pittodrie and Old Trafford. No such alluring vista presents itself to Derek McInnes – who, like Ferguson, is a former Rangers player – yet the 46-year-old could not be convinced that a move to Glasgow was in the best interests of his career, despite the fact that the Ibrox directors were prepared to meet the £800,000 compensation due to Aberdeen and back him with funds far greater than he could ever expect in the Granite City. Moreover, having steered the Dons to second place in all three domestic competitions last season, McInnes has just seen his team beaten 3-0 and 2-1 in back-to-back league meetings with Rangers, who were initially refused permission by the Aberdeen chairman, Stewart Milne, to let them speak to his manager. It was open to McInnes to resign and accept Rangers’ offer and, when he and his assistant, Tony Docherty, did not take Thursday’s training session, it looked as though the bookmakers’ odds of 25/1 against him remaining at Pittodrie had been justified. Milne, though, told a different tale in a statement posted on his club’s website. “As everyone is aware, Rangers made an approach on Tuesday evening and they were refused permission to speak with Derek,” Milne said. “I spoke with Derek who felt it was a major thing to be considered for the managerial position at a club such as Rangers and we agreed that he could have some time to think about the approach and talk it through with his family. McInnes used to play for Rangers. Here he is pictured with Paul Gascoigne in 1996 Credit: action images “Over the past 48 hours, I have been in constant dialogue with Derek and having weighed up the opportunity, he has taken the decision to remain as Aberdeen FC manager. Derek has also been maintaining close contact with Paul Sheerin ahead of tomorrow's game at Dundee. “Derek appreciates all that he has at this club and feels he wants to keep driving the club forward. This is where he wants to be and he feels he very much has unfinished business with Aberdeen FC. “I personally am delighted that Derek has decided to remain with the club and everyone looks forward to putting the speculation of the past few weeks behind us and concentrating on matters on the park, starting at Dens tomorrow evening.” It is now six weeks since Rangers sacked Pedro Caixinha, but at the club’s annual general meeting in Glasgow on November 30, the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, told shareholders that the process of identifying a replacement had been methodical. “After Pedro’s departure, our timescale for a new boss was not to name him as soon as possible, but to be thorough in the recruitment process,” he said. “If a manager had popped up quite quickly in terms of our evaluations, and we felt he was absolutely the right person, we would have sealed it as soon as possible. As a result, it focused us to look outside of what is available to managers who are currently under contract and as soon as you move into that area it’s a different type of negotiation. “You’ve got to talk to clubs, you’ve got to talk about compensation and so it has taken longer than we would have liked, but no longer than is necessary. It’s such a key appointment, whether we take another week or so should not be a factor in deciding on an appointment we’re going to make for the next three years.” It is six weeks since Rangers sacked Pedro Caixinha Credit: Reuters Telegraph Sport understands that Rangers had not been informed of McInnes’s decision before Milne’s statement appeared online, although they were aware of the likelihood that they would not get their man when suggestions to that effect appeared on social media shortly before the official announcement. Will McInnes remain at Pittodrie in the long-term? Probably not. He has been on the radar of English clubs and, indeed, turned down Sunderland in June, a development that prompted Aberdeen to offer him and Docherty new three-year contracts. Aberdeen supporters would likely wish him well for a move south of the border. His name, however, would have become anathema to Dons fans had he accepted the offer from the club they dislike more than any other. Instead, like the illustrious Ferguson 35 years previously, McInnes’s rebuff of Rangers has guaranteed that he can always count on a warm welcome at Pittodrie.

Derek McInnes turns down Rangers to remain Aberdeen manager

Derek McInnes turns down Rangers to remain Aberdeen manager

Last time an Aberdeen manager turned down the chance to take charge of Rangers, a fellow by name of Ferguson was the target for the Ibrox board. He at least had long-term prospects which bore fruit at both Pittodrie and Old Trafford. No such alluring vista presents itself to Derek McInnes – who, like Ferguson, is a former Rangers player – yet the 46-year-old could not be convinced that a move to Glasgow was in the best interests of his career, despite the fact that the Ibrox directors were prepared to meet the £800,000 compensation due to Aberdeen and back him with funds far greater than he could ever expect in the Granite City. Moreover, having steered the Dons to second place in all three domestic competitions last season, McInnes has just seen his team beaten 3-0 and 2-1 in back-to-back league meetings with Rangers, who were initially refused permission by the Aberdeen chairman, Stewart Milne, to let them speak to his manager. It was open to McInnes to resign and accept Rangers’ offer and, when he and his assistant, Tony Docherty, did not take Thursday’s training session, it looked as though the bookmakers’ odds of 25/1 against him remaining at Pittodrie had been justified. Milne, though, told a different tale in a statement posted on his club’s website. “As everyone is aware, Rangers made an approach on Tuesday evening and they were refused permission to speak with Derek,” Milne said. “I spoke with Derek who felt it was a major thing to be considered for the managerial position at a club such as Rangers and we agreed that he could have some time to think about the approach and talk it through with his family. McInnes used to play for Rangers. Here he is pictured with Paul Gascoigne in 1996 Credit: action images “Over the past 48 hours, I have been in constant dialogue with Derek and having weighed up the opportunity, he has taken the decision to remain as Aberdeen FC manager. Derek has also been maintaining close contact with Paul Sheerin ahead of tomorrow's game at Dundee. “Derek appreciates all that he has at this club and feels he wants to keep driving the club forward. This is where he wants to be and he feels he very much has unfinished business with Aberdeen FC. “I personally am delighted that Derek has decided to remain with the club and everyone looks forward to putting the speculation of the past few weeks behind us and concentrating on matters on the park, starting at Dens tomorrow evening.” It is now six weeks since Rangers sacked Pedro Caixinha, but at the club’s annual general meeting in Glasgow on November 30, the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, told shareholders that the process of identifying a replacement had been methodical. “After Pedro’s departure, our timescale for a new boss was not to name him as soon as possible, but to be thorough in the recruitment process,” he said. “If a manager had popped up quite quickly in terms of our evaluations, and we felt he was absolutely the right person, we would have sealed it as soon as possible. As a result, it focused us to look outside of what is available to managers who are currently under contract and as soon as you move into that area it’s a different type of negotiation. “You’ve got to talk to clubs, you’ve got to talk about compensation and so it has taken longer than we would have liked, but no longer than is necessary. It’s such a key appointment, whether we take another week or so should not be a factor in deciding on an appointment we’re going to make for the next three years.” It is six weeks since Rangers sacked Pedro Caixinha Credit: Reuters Telegraph Sport understands that Rangers had not been informed of McInnes’s decision before Milne’s statement appeared online, although they were aware of the likelihood that they would not get their man when suggestions to that effect appeared on social media shortly before the official announcement. Will McInnes remain at Pittodrie in the long-term? Probably not. He has been on the radar of English clubs and, indeed, turned down Sunderland in June, a development that prompted Aberdeen to offer him and Docherty new three-year contracts. Aberdeen supporters would likely wish him well for a move south of the border. His name, however, would have become anathema to Dons fans had he accepted the offer from the club they dislike more than any other. Instead, like the illustrious Ferguson 35 years previously, McInnes’s rebuff of Rangers has guaranteed that he can always count on a warm welcome at Pittodrie.

Celtic will look to maintain momentum against Anderlecht, says Brendan Rodgers

There current flow of Celtic’s fortunes is beginning to resemble a riptide and it will surge onwards on Tuesday evening if they do nothing more than avoid a 3-0 defeat by Anderlecht in the teams’ last Champions League group stage outing at Parkhead. Any outcome better than that will guarantee the Hoops European football after Christmas for the first time in five years. Such reward would complete a particularly satisfying few days for Brendan Rodgers & Co, who last week successfully defended the first leg of the previous season’s domestic treble by beating Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final and went on to win back-to-back league matches against the same opponents. At the same time, Celtic were done a good turn by Rangers’ wins over Aberdeen at Ibrox and Pittodrie, which left the league leaders with a seven-point advantage over both of these sides in the Scottish Premiership. Like Anderlecht, Celtic saw their chances of progressing in the Champions League universally discounted because of the presence of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in Group B. The difference between the two bottom sides, though, was established by Celtic’s impressive 3-0 win in Brussels. The feat did not impress Paul van Himst, the former Anderlecht player and coach, who expressed disdain for the Scottish champions when he said: “We should never have allowed ourselves to lose to a team of peasants like Celtic. They were a bunch of woodcutters.” The extraordinary outburst by Himst, who holds the joint scoring record of 30 goals for the Belgian national side, evoked memories of Celtic’s most recent progress to the later stages of European competition, under Neil Lennon in 2012 when a Russian journalist interrupted Scott Brown’s media briefing before a home match against Spartak Moscow to present the Parkhead captain with a copy of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and accuse Celtic of ‘crimes against football’ in respect of their earlier victory in Moscow. Odsonne Edouard came into the Celtic team and scored a hat-trick on the weekend Credit:  Getty Images The scribe’s specific grievance was that Celtic’s success contributed to the sacking of Unai Emery. If Emery bore any grievance on that score, he has remedied them in his current incarnation as manager of Paris Saint-Germain, having beaten Celtic 5-0 in Glasgow and even more emphatically in France, where they won 7-1. Brown, meanwhile, has remained in situ at Celtic and his appearance this evening will see him set a new Scottish record of 69 appearances in Europe's premier competition, surpassing the total achieved by Kenny Dalglish, with Celtic and Liverpool. “He's in great company with Kenny, who is obviously a real legend here and at Liverpool,” said Rodgers. “It's a mark of his consistency, to have played that number of games under various managers. It's a great accolade and hopefully he's got many more ahead of him.” Group B permutations Rodgers also seeks to reach a significant milestone. Celtic have not won a Champions League group stage game on their own turf in five attempts under his management. “We played very well in the first game over there and now we look to finish it off at home,” said the manager. “They will come to attack and look for a victory but that's also what we want. We want to give the supporters a Champions League win at home. That would take us to six points, which would show a great level of progress for us at this level. “For us it’s 0-0. We want to win the game. We’ll be tactically prepared and look to put on a performance. We know if we can do that then it will equate to a good result for us. Celtic beat Anderlecht 3-0 in September Credit: REUTERS “In my time playing here in the Champions League has been great. It would be nice to finish it with a win. You can never switch the engine off at this level. You can’t switch off for a second.” Rodgers had the squad capacity to field several non-regulars in the 5-1 home win over Motherwell on Saturday and one of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, took advantage of the opportunity to net a hat-trick, having scored only once previously for the team he joined on loan from PSG in the summer. “His confidence is really high and it gives us another option,” Rodgers said of the 19-year-old. “I’ve got three different types of strikers. Odsonne has settled in very well and his talent was there for all to see at the weekend. “Along with Leigh [Griffiths], who's shown he is a fantastic goalscorer, he and Moussa give us great striking options. "He's very young. He comes here with a great track record and he's come to develop his game. Myself and the other coaching staff, we see that development on and off the field. He has all the attributes, he's very quick. He's very strong and mentally he's maturing all the time.” Celtic (probable) (4-2-3-1):Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Anderlecht (probable) (3-4-3): Seis; Spajic, Deschacht, Kara; Appiah, Dendoncker, Kums, Trebel; Onyekuru, Hanni, Teodorczyk Referee: Matej Jug (Slovenia).

Celtic will look to maintain momentum against Anderlecht, says Brendan Rodgers

There current flow of Celtic’s fortunes is beginning to resemble a riptide and it will surge onwards on Tuesday evening if they do nothing more than avoid a 3-0 defeat by Anderlecht in the teams’ last Champions League group stage outing at Parkhead. Any outcome better than that will guarantee the Hoops European football after Christmas for the first time in five years. Such reward would complete a particularly satisfying few days for Brendan Rodgers & Co, who last week successfully defended the first leg of the previous season’s domestic treble by beating Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final and went on to win back-to-back league matches against the same opponents. At the same time, Celtic were done a good turn by Rangers’ wins over Aberdeen at Ibrox and Pittodrie, which left the league leaders with a seven-point advantage over both of these sides in the Scottish Premiership. Like Anderlecht, Celtic saw their chances of progressing in the Champions League universally discounted because of the presence of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in Group B. The difference between the two bottom sides, though, was established by Celtic’s impressive 3-0 win in Brussels. The feat did not impress Paul van Himst, the former Anderlecht player and coach, who expressed disdain for the Scottish champions when he said: “We should never have allowed ourselves to lose to a team of peasants like Celtic. They were a bunch of woodcutters.” The extraordinary outburst by Himst, who holds the joint scoring record of 30 goals for the Belgian national side, evoked memories of Celtic’s most recent progress to the later stages of European competition, under Neil Lennon in 2012 when a Russian journalist interrupted Scott Brown’s media briefing before a home match against Spartak Moscow to present the Parkhead captain with a copy of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and accuse Celtic of ‘crimes against football’ in respect of their earlier victory in Moscow. Odsonne Edouard came into the Celtic team and scored a hat-trick on the weekend Credit:  Getty Images The scribe’s specific grievance was that Celtic’s success contributed to the sacking of Unai Emery. If Emery bore any grievance on that score, he has remedied them in his current incarnation as manager of Paris Saint-Germain, having beaten Celtic 5-0 in Glasgow and even more emphatically in France, where they won 7-1. Brown, meanwhile, has remained in situ at Celtic and his appearance this evening will see him set a new Scottish record of 69 appearances in Europe's premier competition, surpassing the total achieved by Kenny Dalglish, with Celtic and Liverpool. “He's in great company with Kenny, who is obviously a real legend here and at Liverpool,” said Rodgers. “It's a mark of his consistency, to have played that number of games under various managers. It's a great accolade and hopefully he's got many more ahead of him.” Group B permutations Rodgers also seeks to reach a significant milestone. Celtic have not won a Champions League group stage game on their own turf in five attempts under his management. “We played very well in the first game over there and now we look to finish it off at home,” said the manager. “They will come to attack and look for a victory but that's also what we want. We want to give the supporters a Champions League win at home. That would take us to six points, which would show a great level of progress for us at this level. “For us it’s 0-0. We want to win the game. We’ll be tactically prepared and look to put on a performance. We know if we can do that then it will equate to a good result for us. Celtic beat Anderlecht 3-0 in September Credit: REUTERS “In my time playing here in the Champions League has been great. It would be nice to finish it with a win. You can never switch the engine off at this level. You can’t switch off for a second.” Rodgers had the squad capacity to field several non-regulars in the 5-1 home win over Motherwell on Saturday and one of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, took advantage of the opportunity to net a hat-trick, having scored only once previously for the team he joined on loan from PSG in the summer. “His confidence is really high and it gives us another option,” Rodgers said of the 19-year-old. “I’ve got three different types of strikers. Odsonne has settled in very well and his talent was there for all to see at the weekend. “Along with Leigh [Griffiths], who's shown he is a fantastic goalscorer, he and Moussa give us great striking options. "He's very young. He comes here with a great track record and he's come to develop his game. Myself and the other coaching staff, we see that development on and off the field. He has all the attributes, he's very quick. He's very strong and mentally he's maturing all the time.” Celtic (probable) (4-2-3-1):Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Anderlecht (probable) (3-4-3): Seis; Spajic, Deschacht, Kara; Appiah, Dendoncker, Kums, Trebel; Onyekuru, Hanni, Teodorczyk Referee: Matej Jug (Slovenia).

Celtic will look to maintain momentum against Anderlecht, says Brendan Rodgers

There current flow of Celtic’s fortunes is beginning to resemble a riptide and it will surge onwards on Tuesday evening if they do nothing more than avoid a 3-0 defeat by Anderlecht in the teams’ last Champions League group stage outing at Parkhead. Any outcome better than that will guarantee the Hoops European football after Christmas for the first time in five years. Such reward would complete a particularly satisfying few days for Brendan Rodgers & Co, who last week successfully defended the first leg of the previous season’s domestic treble by beating Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final and went on to win back-to-back league matches against the same opponents. At the same time, Celtic were done a good turn by Rangers’ wins over Aberdeen at Ibrox and Pittodrie, which left the league leaders with a seven-point advantage over both of these sides in the Scottish Premiership. Like Anderlecht, Celtic saw their chances of progressing in the Champions League universally discounted because of the presence of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in Group B. The difference between the two bottom sides, though, was established by Celtic’s impressive 3-0 win in Brussels. The feat did not impress Paul van Himst, the former Anderlecht player and coach, who expressed disdain for the Scottish champions when he said: “We should never have allowed ourselves to lose to a team of peasants like Celtic. They were a bunch of woodcutters.” The extraordinary outburst by Himst, who holds the joint scoring record of 30 goals for the Belgian national side, evoked memories of Celtic’s most recent progress to the later stages of European competition, under Neil Lennon in 2012 when a Russian journalist interrupted Scott Brown’s media briefing before a home match against Spartak Moscow to present the Parkhead captain with a copy of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and accuse Celtic of ‘crimes against football’ in respect of their earlier victory in Moscow. Odsonne Edouard came into the Celtic team and scored a hat-trick on the weekend Credit:  Getty Images The scribe’s specific grievance was that Celtic’s success contributed to the sacking of Unai Emery. If Emery bore any grievance on that score, he has remedied them in his current incarnation as manager of Paris Saint-Germain, having beaten Celtic 5-0 in Glasgow and even more emphatically in France, where they won 7-1. Brown, meanwhile, has remained in situ at Celtic and his appearance this evening will see him set a new Scottish record of 69 appearances in Europe's premier competition, surpassing the total achieved by Kenny Dalglish, with Celtic and Liverpool. “He's in great company with Kenny, who is obviously a real legend here and at Liverpool,” said Rodgers. “It's a mark of his consistency, to have played that number of games under various managers. It's a great accolade and hopefully he's got many more ahead of him.” Group B permutations Rodgers also seeks to reach a significant milestone. Celtic have not won a Champions League group stage game on their own turf in five attempts under his management. “We played very well in the first game over there and now we look to finish it off at home,” said the manager. “They will come to attack and look for a victory but that's also what we want. We want to give the supporters a Champions League win at home. That would take us to six points, which would show a great level of progress for us at this level. “For us it’s 0-0. We want to win the game. We’ll be tactically prepared and look to put on a performance. We know if we can do that then it will equate to a good result for us. Celtic beat Anderlecht 3-0 in September Credit: REUTERS “In my time playing here in the Champions League has been great. It would be nice to finish it with a win. You can never switch the engine off at this level. You can’t switch off for a second.” Rodgers had the squad capacity to field several non-regulars in the 5-1 home win over Motherwell on Saturday and one of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, took advantage of the opportunity to net a hat-trick, having scored only once previously for the team he joined on loan from PSG in the summer. “His confidence is really high and it gives us another option,” Rodgers said of the 19-year-old. “I’ve got three different types of strikers. Odsonne has settled in very well and his talent was there for all to see at the weekend. “Along with Leigh [Griffiths], who's shown he is a fantastic goalscorer, he and Moussa give us great striking options. "He's very young. He comes here with a great track record and he's come to develop his game. Myself and the other coaching staff, we see that development on and off the field. He has all the attributes, he's very quick. He's very strong and mentally he's maturing all the time.” Celtic (probable) (4-2-3-1):Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Anderlecht (probable) (3-4-3): Seis; Spajic, Deschacht, Kara; Appiah, Dendoncker, Kums, Trebel; Onyekuru, Hanni, Teodorczyk Referee: Matej Jug (Slovenia).

Rangers Fan View: Great win over Aberdeen but now is the time to really kick on

Rangers Fan View: Great win over Aberdeen but now is the time to really kick on

Aberdeen 1 Rangers 2: Derek McInnes remains favourite for Ibrox job despite losing dress rehearsal at Pittodrie

Aberdeen 1 Rangers 2: Derek McInnes remains favourite for Ibrox job despite losing dress rehearsal at Pittodrie

Rangers leapfrogged Aberdeen into second place in the Scottish Premiership on goal difference after a typically tumultuous contest at Pittodrie, where the overshadowing issue was whether or not Derek McInnes would be in charge of the home side for the last time, with Ibrox the touted destination.  On the field, the flashpoint was a Ryan Jack challenge which saw his studs go over the top and into Steve May’s shin, leaving the Aberdeen forward writhing on the turf as his assailant was shown a straight red card. By that stage, Rangers led from a Danny Wilson header and, despite their depleted numbers they doubled their advantage soon afterwards with a simple shot from close range by Josh Windass. Aberdeen, for whom Andrew Considine had headed against the crossbar, got themselves back into contention with a venomous free kick from the 19-year-old Frank Ross but, despite a late surge they, could not close the gap. Meetings of these sides have never been noted for an excess of mutual admiration but the customary antipathy was intensified on this occasion by the prospect of McInnes moving to Rangers, a scenario rated by one bookmaker at 25/1 on – in other words, a virtual certainty. Moreover, this was the second of back-to-back league meetings, Aberdeen having lost the first instalment 3-0 at Ibrox last Wednesday. When he emerged for the kick-off, McInnes applauded the Aberdeen fans in the man stand and was saluted in return, with the opprobrium from that quarter reserved for Jack, whose role as panto villain was guaranteed when he left the Granite City for Rangers during the summer. If the jeers had any effect, however, it was to focus Jack on the task in hand, to the point where he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. McInnes had made three changes to the Aberdeen line-up, with Ryan Christie, Greg Tansey and Kari Arnason replaced by Greg Stewart, Adam Rooney and Scott Wright, a combination that gave the home team an attacking look. In this case, appearances were deceptive because by the interval Rangers were well ahead in terms of possession and they led the corner kick count 4-1. Ryan Jack leaves the pitch following his dismissal on Sunday Credit: PA They were also in front thanks to Wilson’s contribution, which was the consequence of a foul by Graeme Shinnie on Jason Holt midway inside the Aberdeen half. The free kick was taken by Declan John and his whipped delivery found Wilson who, with the benefit of being unmarked, planted a looping header over the immobile Joe Lewis from 18 yards. Wilson did not emerge for the second half because of a head injury and Rangers were numerically depleted 11 minutes after the break when Jack was dismissed. The interim Ibrox manager, Graeme Murty, replaced Carlos Pena with Daniel Candeias, who made a decisive contribution in the 63rd minute with a precise low cross which Windass met with a sliding shot past Lewis. Two minutes later, Aberdeen were back in the game, thanks to Ross’s powerful free kick, which Wes Foderingham reached, but could not stop. Despite this encouragement, the home players could not muster the guile or accuracy to gain further reward. Questioned subsequently on the mooted move to Ibrox, McInnes said: “It’s certainly not been encouraged by anyone here. “I’ve not been happy with how things have played out. Whether the players are affected or not, I don’t know. We were fantastic last week against Kilmarnock [a 3-1 win] – a very Aberdeen performance – but during the week [defeat at Rangers] we didn’t play well. “I don’t think I set us up in the right way, but today we were far better set up and were really committed. It’s an easy thing to say and you can make that assumption but a lot of the players are still playing at a good level, some not so. It’s certainly not doing us any favours. “It’s been the elephant in the room for the last five or six weeks. "I’m not going to stand here and make any assumptions about what another club wants to do. You can see today how passionate we are about getting a result for Aberdeen.” Match details Aberdeen (4-2-3-1):Lewis; Logan, O’Connor, McKenna, Considine (Harvie 81); McLean, Shinnie; Stewart, May (Maynard 62), Wright (Ross 52); Rooney. Subs: Rogers (g), Reynolds, Arnason, Ball. Booked: Shinnie. Rangers (4-3-3): Foderingham; Tavernier, Bates, Wilson (Cardoso h-t), John; Jack, McCrorie, Holt; Miller, Pena (Candeias 58), Windass (Herrera 90). Subs: Alnwick (g), Hodson, Morelos, Barjonas. Booked: McCrorie, Windass, Herrera. Sent off: Jack. Referee: W Collum.

Aberdeen 1 Rangers 2: Derek McInnes remains favourite for Ibrox job despite losing dress rehearsal at Pittodrie

Rangers leapfrogged Aberdeen into second place in the Scottish Premiership on goal difference after a typically tumultuous contest at Pittodrie, where the overshadowing issue was whether or not Derek McInnes would be in charge of the home side for the last time, with Ibrox the touted destination.  On the field, the flashpoint was a Ryan Jack challenge which saw his studs go over the top and into Steve May’s shin, leaving the Aberdeen forward writhing on the turf as his assailant was shown a straight red card. By that stage, Rangers led from a Danny Wilson header and, despite their depleted numbers they doubled their advantage soon afterwards with a simple shot from close range by Josh Windass. Aberdeen, for whom Andrew Considine had headed against the crossbar, got themselves back into contention with a venomous free kick from the 19-year-old Frank Ross but, despite a late surge they, could not close the gap. Meetings of these sides have never been noted for an excess of mutual admiration but the customary antipathy was intensified on this occasion by the prospect of McInnes moving to Rangers, a scenario rated by one bookmaker at 25/1 on – in other words, a virtual certainty. Moreover, this was the second of back-to-back league meetings, Aberdeen having lost the first instalment 3-0 at Ibrox last Wednesday. When he emerged for the kick-off, McInnes applauded the Aberdeen fans in the man stand and was saluted in return, with the opprobrium from that quarter reserved for Jack, whose role as panto villain was guaranteed when he left the Granite City for Rangers during the summer. If the jeers had any effect, however, it was to focus Jack on the task in hand, to the point where he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. McInnes had made three changes to the Aberdeen line-up, with Ryan Christie, Greg Tansey and Kari Arnason replaced by Greg Stewart, Adam Rooney and Scott Wright, a combination that gave the home team an attacking look. In this case, appearances were deceptive because by the interval Rangers were well ahead in terms of possession and they led the corner kick count 4-1. Ryan Jack leaves the pitch following his dismissal on Sunday Credit: PA They were also in front thanks to Wilson’s contribution, which was the consequence of a foul by Graeme Shinnie on Jason Holt midway inside the Aberdeen half. The free kick was taken by Declan John and his whipped delivery found Wilson who, with the benefit of being unmarked, planted a looping header over the immobile Joe Lewis from 18 yards. Wilson did not emerge for the second half because of a head injury and Rangers were numerically depleted 11 minutes after the break when Jack was dismissed. The interim Ibrox manager, Graeme Murty, replaced Carlos Pena with Daniel Candeias, who made a decisive contribution in the 63rd minute with a precise low cross which Windass met with a sliding shot past Lewis. Two minutes later, Aberdeen were back in the game, thanks to Ross’s powerful free kick, which Wes Foderingham reached, but could not stop. Despite this encouragement, the home players could not muster the guile or accuracy to gain further reward. Questioned subsequently on the mooted move to Ibrox, McInnes said: “It’s certainly not been encouraged by anyone here. “I’ve not been happy with how things have played out. Whether the players are affected or not, I don’t know. We were fantastic last week against Kilmarnock [a 3-1 win] – a very Aberdeen performance – but during the week [defeat at Rangers] we didn’t play well. “I don’t think I set us up in the right way, but today we were far better set up and were really committed. It’s an easy thing to say and you can make that assumption but a lot of the players are still playing at a good level, some not so. It’s certainly not doing us any favours. “It’s been the elephant in the room for the last five or six weeks. "I’m not going to stand here and make any assumptions about what another club wants to do. You can see today how passionate we are about getting a result for Aberdeen.” Match details Aberdeen (4-2-3-1):Lewis; Logan, O’Connor, McKenna, Considine (Harvie 81); McLean, Shinnie; Stewart, May (Maynard 62), Wright (Ross 52); Rooney. Subs: Rogers (g), Reynolds, Arnason, Ball. Booked: Shinnie. Rangers (4-3-3): Foderingham; Tavernier, Bates, Wilson (Cardoso h-t), John; Jack, McCrorie, Holt; Miller, Pena (Candeias 58), Windass (Herrera 90). Subs: Alnwick (g), Hodson, Morelos, Barjonas. Booked: McCrorie, Windass, Herrera. Sent off: Jack. Referee: W Collum.

Aberdeen 1 Rangers 2: Derek McInnes remains favourite for Ibrox job despite losing dress rehearsal at Pittodrie

Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003

James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range.       Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.

Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003

James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range.       Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.

Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003

James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range.       Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.

Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003

James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range.       Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.

Celtic hoping to end Motherwell trilogy with victory following Fir Park scare

The number 67 – perpetually totemic for Celtic fans because of their European Cup win 50 years ago – will be doubly significant if the Scottish champions avoid defeat at home against Motherwell on Saturday. In that event, the Hoops will record their 67th successive unbeaten domestic game, an accomplishment Motherwell would dearly like to deny their hosts as the pair meet for the third time in a week. The teams are not alone in having to play the second instalment of a league double-header this weekend – Aberdeen host Rangers on Sunday, having lost 3-0 at Ibrox in midweek – but the fact that Motherwell and Celtic contested the Betfred Scottish Cup final last Sunday at Hampden Park guaranteed three collisions in succession and consequential friction. Motherwell came within two minutes of putting an end to Celtic’s extraordinary run at Fir Park on Wednesday only to inflict damage upon themselves when Andy Rose’s needless challenge on Callum McGregor was judged to merit a penalty kick by Willie Collum. Motherwell, already angered by what they believed was a dive by Scott Sinclair for what proved to be a decisive penalty kick in Sunday’s final, have asked the Scottish Football Association’s head of refereeing, John Fleming, for feedback on both decisions, but their manager, Stephen Robinson, said that he had not been involved in that exercise. “In truth, I’m expecting nothing,” he said. “It’s the people above me who have gone to John Fleming. For me, the decision was made and Celtic won the cup. They came back and got a point the other night. All the appealing and moaning in the world isn’t going to change that. “No-one’s talking about how good a game it was. We’re meant to be promoting Scottish football instead of talking about the negative aspects of it all the time. Celtic will be hoping to extend their unbeaten run Credit: Getty Images “You literally cannot touch players. That’s not just Celtic players, that’s every player. That’s just modern-day football. It’s very minimal contact now, but I can’t tell my players to stand off Scott Sinclair or Patrick Roberts, because if you stand off them they are going to score. “It’s a fine line and you are just hoping for strong decisions and the right decisions. Some will go for you, some won’t. That’s football.” Having twice failed to disrupt Celtic’s procession this week, Motherwell’s task is made even harder on Saturday by the fact that the champions are back on their home turf for the first time since October 31, having played five games on the road in November. In addition, the league leaders have scored in every one of their run of 66 unbeaten domestic contests although, as Brendan Rodgers pointed out, the incidence of penalty kicks in their favour has been exceptionally low. “We were at the bottom of the table for penalties given before Wednesday night,” the Celtic manager said. “I suspect, if there was analysis done, we’re probably in the box more than any team – and in the box with quality possession. I said after the League Cup final that I don’t think we get the penalties we should get. “There are three values in our team, which are respect, unity and excellence, all defined by the players and staff and I think how they’ve lived up to those values has been incredible, really. “So, we aim always to win but also, importantly for me, is to reinforce the values of the club, the team and always winning in a sporting way. The 100 greatest Champions League moments That’s what we always try to do and, if we draw a game or whatever, we have to be honest enough and move on. “People will always find a reason to be negative but that’s OK. We know how we are. We’ve demonstrated that often enough, so our headlines are for the game and always will be. You lose track of what people are trying to say and it doesn’t bother us. “Listen, we’re all human. We see it. How many times have you watched a game where the guy stays up and straight away people say, ‘If he goes down he gets a penalty’? “We can’t be contradictory here. You know that if you stay on your feet you don’t get it – let’s be clear – but at the same time, if a player does go down if he’s impeded, he shouldn’t be punished for it either. “I certainly haven’t seen it happen where a player is in the box, he’s impeded, stays on his feet and gets a penalty. Again, both referees were in perfect positions. Craig Thomson was right up with the game on Sunday. In fairness to Willie Collum on Wednesday night, he was right on the spot.” Which is what one can say about Kevin Clancy, who will be in charge on Saturday. Not that anybody intends to put him under pressure, of course.

Celtic hoping to end Motherwell trilogy with victory following Fir Park scare

The number 67 – perpetually totemic for Celtic fans because of their European Cup win 50 years ago – will be doubly significant if the Scottish champions avoid defeat at home against Motherwell on Saturday. In that event, the Hoops will record their 67th successive unbeaten domestic game, an accomplishment Motherwell would dearly like to deny their hosts as the pair meet for the third time in a week. The teams are not alone in having to play the second instalment of a league double-header this weekend – Aberdeen host Rangers on Sunday, having lost 3-0 at Ibrox in midweek – but the fact that Motherwell and Celtic contested the Betfred Scottish Cup final last Sunday at Hampden Park guaranteed three collisions in succession and consequential friction. Motherwell came within two minutes of putting an end to Celtic’s extraordinary run at Fir Park on Wednesday only to inflict damage upon themselves when Andy Rose’s needless challenge on Callum McGregor was judged to merit a penalty kick by Willie Collum. Motherwell, already angered by what they believed was a dive by Scott Sinclair for what proved to be a decisive penalty kick in Sunday’s final, have asked the Scottish Football Association’s head of refereeing, John Fleming, for feedback on both decisions, but their manager, Stephen Robinson, said that he had not been involved in that exercise. “In truth, I’m expecting nothing,” he said. “It’s the people above me who have gone to John Fleming. For me, the decision was made and Celtic won the cup. They came back and got a point the other night. All the appealing and moaning in the world isn’t going to change that. “No-one’s talking about how good a game it was. We’re meant to be promoting Scottish football instead of talking about the negative aspects of it all the time. Celtic will be hoping to extend their unbeaten run Credit: Getty Images “You literally cannot touch players. That’s not just Celtic players, that’s every player. That’s just modern-day football. It’s very minimal contact now, but I can’t tell my players to stand off Scott Sinclair or Patrick Roberts, because if you stand off them they are going to score. “It’s a fine line and you are just hoping for strong decisions and the right decisions. Some will go for you, some won’t. That’s football.” Having twice failed to disrupt Celtic’s procession this week, Motherwell’s task is made even harder on Saturday by the fact that the champions are back on their home turf for the first time since October 31, having played five games on the road in November. In addition, the league leaders have scored in every one of their run of 66 unbeaten domestic contests although, as Brendan Rodgers pointed out, the incidence of penalty kicks in their favour has been exceptionally low. “We were at the bottom of the table for penalties given before Wednesday night,” the Celtic manager said. “I suspect, if there was analysis done, we’re probably in the box more than any team – and in the box with quality possession. I said after the League Cup final that I don’t think we get the penalties we should get. “There are three values in our team, which are respect, unity and excellence, all defined by the players and staff and I think how they’ve lived up to those values has been incredible, really. “So, we aim always to win but also, importantly for me, is to reinforce the values of the club, the team and always winning in a sporting way. The 100 greatest Champions League moments That’s what we always try to do and, if we draw a game or whatever, we have to be honest enough and move on. “People will always find a reason to be negative but that’s OK. We know how we are. We’ve demonstrated that often enough, so our headlines are for the game and always will be. You lose track of what people are trying to say and it doesn’t bother us. “Listen, we’re all human. We see it. How many times have you watched a game where the guy stays up and straight away people say, ‘If he goes down he gets a penalty’? “We can’t be contradictory here. You know that if you stay on your feet you don’t get it – let’s be clear – but at the same time, if a player does go down if he’s impeded, he shouldn’t be punished for it either. “I certainly haven’t seen it happen where a player is in the box, he’s impeded, stays on his feet and gets a penalty. Again, both referees were in perfect positions. Craig Thomson was right up with the game on Sunday. In fairness to Willie Collum on Wednesday night, he was right on the spot.” Which is what one can say about Kevin Clancy, who will be in charge on Saturday. Not that anybody intends to put him under pressure, of course.

Rangers Fan View: The victory over Aberdeen was good, but we need the same again on Sunday

Rangers Fan View: The victory over Aberdeen was good, but we need the same again on Sunday

Rangers Fan View: The victory over Aberdeen was good, but we need the same again on Sunday

Graeme Murty fears Celtic will stretch gap on Rangers further if they don't get appointment right

As the Rangers directors search for their third manager in 2017, they must get this appointment right or be compelled to watch Celtic go unchallenged for the foreseeable future. The warning was issued by Graeme Murty, who is acting as interim manager for the second time this year, first after Mark Warburton departed last February, then following Pedro Caixinha's dismissal last month. The Ibrox board have been criticised by fans and pundits for the time taken to identify the next manager and will be questioned about the process at the club’s annual general meeting in Glasgow tomorrow. Murty, however, proposed that the exercise had to be thorough, in view of the potential consequences. “The last thing we want is for the other guys across town to get further away from us. We want to close the gap,” he said. “We want to get in to European football regularly. If we get the next five years right, this club is a massive club, an epic name. Pedro Caixinha was sacked last month Credit: PA “We want to get it back to where it deserves to be. This is the key signing for the next three years at the football club. “If it takes a couple of weeks more than the fans would like, to make sure we move forward, then I would ask them for a bit of understanding. I know people want things sorted out and I know they want a resolution now, but the correct resolution would be better for the football club than a hasty one.” Murty’s immediate task, however, is to prevent defeats at home to Hamilton and away to Dundee being extended in the double-header against Aberdeen, tonight at Ibrox and on Sunday at Pittodrie. Rangers are already nine points behind Celtic, six adrift of Aberdeen and two points short of Hibernian. Another two losses would greatly shrink their chances of finishing midway between Celtic and Aberdeen – the target set out by the Rangers chairman, Dave King, when Caixinha was appointed in March. “I asked the players, ‘How do you want to be perceived? As winners?’,” Murty said. “Then they have to go out and do it and grasp that opportunity because that opportunity won’t stay there for very long.” Miller says Rangers' situation looks a bit of a mess Credit: PA Kenny Miller echoed Murty’s sentiments. “We’re not the only club in Britain that is taking a month to find a manager – there are others in the same boat,” the veteran striker said. “These things do take time but we haven’t won football matches, and there has been massive inconsistency in our performances and results, as well as the fact that we don’t have a manager. “When you throw it all into the one pot it looks a bit of a mess. There is not a better way to respond than winning a double-header against Aberdeen.” It is widely believed that the Rangers dressing room is split, with Caixinha’s summer signings struggling to meet expectations and now further adrift after the departure of the Portuguese coach. “This is a place where you can either sink or swim,” said Miller. “You find out a lot about yourself and your team-mates when you’re faced with that kind of adversity and scrutiny. “Over the course of the years we have had more players than not who are able to deal with it. “We’re four or five months into a season with a new group which has lots of different nationalities and cultures but there is no honeymoon period here. You need to hit the ground running.” Miller’s relationship with Caixinha was fraught and the striker was omitted from the squad in the weeks before the manager’s sacking, amid allegations that the player had leaked details of a dressing room row after Rangers’ defeat by Celtic in September. “I’ve not spoken about it publicly and I’m not going to go into any detail,” Miller said. “It was really frustrating around that time because of everything surrounding the issue – an absolute load of nonsense was going on. Whether there were other agendas going on behind the scenes, I don’t know, but only one man could have answered the question – and cleared things up – and that wasn’t me. “There were absolutely malicious things going about – nonsense and defamatory towards me and my character.”  Kenny Miller was speaking in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign, which also has the backing of the SPFL, to make sporting environments more inclusive for LGBT fans and players by raising awareness of anti-LGBT abuse. He said: “It’s great to see this initiative in football and I’m delighted that SPFL clubs are getting behind the campaign.  “I will be wearing the laces with pride at the match against Aberdeen tomorrow.  We want all fans to feel welcome and included at our games.” 

Graeme Murty fears Celtic will stretch gap on Rangers further if they don't get appointment right

As the Rangers directors search for their third manager in 2017, they must get this appointment right or be compelled to watch Celtic go unchallenged for the foreseeable future. The warning was issued by Graeme Murty, who is acting as interim manager for the second time this year, first after Mark Warburton departed last February, then following Pedro Caixinha's dismissal last month. The Ibrox board have been criticised by fans and pundits for the time taken to identify the next manager and will be questioned about the process at the club’s annual general meeting in Glasgow tomorrow. Murty, however, proposed that the exercise had to be thorough, in view of the potential consequences. “The last thing we want is for the other guys across town to get further away from us. We want to close the gap,” he said. “We want to get in to European football regularly. If we get the next five years right, this club is a massive club, an epic name. Pedro Caixinha was sacked last month Credit: PA “We want to get it back to where it deserves to be. This is the key signing for the next three years at the football club. “If it takes a couple of weeks more than the fans would like, to make sure we move forward, then I would ask them for a bit of understanding. I know people want things sorted out and I know they want a resolution now, but the correct resolution would be better for the football club than a hasty one.” Murty’s immediate task, however, is to prevent defeats at home to Hamilton and away to Dundee being extended in the double-header against Aberdeen, tonight at Ibrox and on Sunday at Pittodrie. Rangers are already nine points behind Celtic, six adrift of Aberdeen and two points short of Hibernian. Another two losses would greatly shrink their chances of finishing midway between Celtic and Aberdeen – the target set out by the Rangers chairman, Dave King, when Caixinha was appointed in March. “I asked the players, ‘How do you want to be perceived? As winners?’,” Murty said. “Then they have to go out and do it and grasp that opportunity because that opportunity won’t stay there for very long.” Miller says Rangers' situation looks a bit of a mess Credit: PA Kenny Miller echoed Murty’s sentiments. “We’re not the only club in Britain that is taking a month to find a manager – there are others in the same boat,” the veteran striker said. “These things do take time but we haven’t won football matches, and there has been massive inconsistency in our performances and results, as well as the fact that we don’t have a manager. “When you throw it all into the one pot it looks a bit of a mess. There is not a better way to respond than winning a double-header against Aberdeen.” It is widely believed that the Rangers dressing room is split, with Caixinha’s summer signings struggling to meet expectations and now further adrift after the departure of the Portuguese coach. “This is a place where you can either sink or swim,” said Miller. “You find out a lot about yourself and your team-mates when you’re faced with that kind of adversity and scrutiny. “Over the course of the years we have had more players than not who are able to deal with it. “We’re four or five months into a season with a new group which has lots of different nationalities and cultures but there is no honeymoon period here. You need to hit the ground running.” Miller’s relationship with Caixinha was fraught and the striker was omitted from the squad in the weeks before the manager’s sacking, amid allegations that the player had leaked details of a dressing room row after Rangers’ defeat by Celtic in September. “I’ve not spoken about it publicly and I’m not going to go into any detail,” Miller said. “It was really frustrating around that time because of everything surrounding the issue – an absolute load of nonsense was going on. Whether there were other agendas going on behind the scenes, I don’t know, but only one man could have answered the question – and cleared things up – and that wasn’t me. “There were absolutely malicious things going about – nonsense and defamatory towards me and my character.”  Kenny Miller was speaking in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign, which also has the backing of the SPFL, to make sporting environments more inclusive for LGBT fans and players by raising awareness of anti-LGBT abuse. He said: “It’s great to see this initiative in football and I’m delighted that SPFL clubs are getting behind the campaign.  “I will be wearing the laces with pride at the match against Aberdeen tomorrow.  We want all fans to feel welcome and included at our games.” 

Graeme Murty fears Celtic will stretch gap on Rangers further if they don't get appointment right

As the Rangers directors search for their third manager in 2017, they must get this appointment right or be compelled to watch Celtic go unchallenged for the foreseeable future. The warning was issued by Graeme Murty, who is acting as interim manager for the second time this year, first after Mark Warburton departed last February, then following Pedro Caixinha's dismissal last month. The Ibrox board have been criticised by fans and pundits for the time taken to identify the next manager and will be questioned about the process at the club’s annual general meeting in Glasgow tomorrow. Murty, however, proposed that the exercise had to be thorough, in view of the potential consequences. “The last thing we want is for the other guys across town to get further away from us. We want to close the gap,” he said. “We want to get in to European football regularly. If we get the next five years right, this club is a massive club, an epic name. Pedro Caixinha was sacked last month Credit: PA “We want to get it back to where it deserves to be. This is the key signing for the next three years at the football club. “If it takes a couple of weeks more than the fans would like, to make sure we move forward, then I would ask them for a bit of understanding. I know people want things sorted out and I know they want a resolution now, but the correct resolution would be better for the football club than a hasty one.” Murty’s immediate task, however, is to prevent defeats at home to Hamilton and away to Dundee being extended in the double-header against Aberdeen, tonight at Ibrox and on Sunday at Pittodrie. Rangers are already nine points behind Celtic, six adrift of Aberdeen and two points short of Hibernian. Another two losses would greatly shrink their chances of finishing midway between Celtic and Aberdeen – the target set out by the Rangers chairman, Dave King, when Caixinha was appointed in March. “I asked the players, ‘How do you want to be perceived? As winners?’,” Murty said. “Then they have to go out and do it and grasp that opportunity because that opportunity won’t stay there for very long.” Miller says Rangers' situation looks a bit of a mess Credit: PA Kenny Miller echoed Murty’s sentiments. “We’re not the only club in Britain that is taking a month to find a manager – there are others in the same boat,” the veteran striker said. “These things do take time but we haven’t won football matches, and there has been massive inconsistency in our performances and results, as well as the fact that we don’t have a manager. “When you throw it all into the one pot it looks a bit of a mess. There is not a better way to respond than winning a double-header against Aberdeen.” It is widely believed that the Rangers dressing room is split, with Caixinha’s summer signings struggling to meet expectations and now further adrift after the departure of the Portuguese coach. “This is a place where you can either sink or swim,” said Miller. “You find out a lot about yourself and your team-mates when you’re faced with that kind of adversity and scrutiny. “Over the course of the years we have had more players than not who are able to deal with it. “We’re four or five months into a season with a new group which has lots of different nationalities and cultures but there is no honeymoon period here. You need to hit the ground running.” Miller’s relationship with Caixinha was fraught and the striker was omitted from the squad in the weeks before the manager’s sacking, amid allegations that the player had leaked details of a dressing room row after Rangers’ defeat by Celtic in September. “I’ve not spoken about it publicly and I’m not going to go into any detail,” Miller said. “It was really frustrating around that time because of everything surrounding the issue – an absolute load of nonsense was going on. Whether there were other agendas going on behind the scenes, I don’t know, but only one man could have answered the question – and cleared things up – and that wasn’t me. “There were absolutely malicious things going about – nonsense and defamatory towards me and my character.”  Kenny Miller was speaking in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign, which also has the backing of the SPFL, to make sporting environments more inclusive for LGBT fans and players by raising awareness of anti-LGBT abuse. He said: “It’s great to see this initiative in football and I’m delighted that SPFL clubs are getting behind the campaign.  “I will be wearing the laces with pride at the match against Aberdeen tomorrow.  We want all fans to feel welcome and included at our games.” 

Motherwell 0 Celtic 2: James Forrest and Moussa Dembele seal 101st trophy in club's history

The chronicles of Scottish football are now inscribed in green ink, with no likely demand for another hue in the foreseeable future. Celtic’s total command of the game north of the border was restated with an ultimately comfortable win over Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park, despite a first half in which the Fir Park side acquitted themselves creditably to usher their ambitions intact into the dressing room at the interval. Only four minutes after the restart, however, that comfort was eroded when Celtic increased their tempo and James Forrest found the far corner of the net with a delightfully curled effort. Even then, Motherwell were not cowed and it needed a spectacular reflex save from Craig Gordon to block a bullet header from the tireless Louis Moult. The decisive moment arrived just before the hour mark and it left Motherwell with a sour taste, although Cedric Kipre’s error in positioning and his reaction to his mistake combined to influence Craig Thomson’s decision to award Celtic a penalty kick. Kipre’s lapse in attention allowed Scott Sinclair to get goalside of him and when the defender stuck out an arm, the Celtic winger went down. Thomson allowed play to continue momentarily but, seeing no advantage for Celtic, pointed to the spot, then showed Kipre the red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, to the Frenchman’s manifest disbelief, which could only have been aggravated by Moussa Dembele’s subsequent conversion from the spot. First sight of the incident had suggested that there was little untoward in Kipre’s challenge and TV replays from closer vantage points indicated little more than a vestigial touch. Brendan Rogers enjoys the moment Credit: Getty Images Sinclair is not known for going to ground easily but he came as close to an admission of sin when he said: “I felt a little tug on the arm and I went down. That’s it.” Stephen Robinson, the Motherwell manager, was emphatic afterwards. “I’ve seen it back - there's no contact,” he said. “Cedric hasn’t touched him and the kid's devastated. I can’t change that. “I can only affect things like giving the ball away and getting closer to them. When you go down to 10 men, there’s no chance after that. Against a team of Celtic’s quality, it's a containment issue.” Even rigid application of the Official Secrets Act could not have concealed Motherwell’s intentions in the run-up to this contest. “Our strengths are their weaknesses,” Robinson had said, indicating that his players would strive to get deep crosses into the heart of the Celtic box to test the Hoops’ central defence, the area most exposed by Paris Saint-Germain’s relentless assaults during their 7-1 thrashing of the Parkhead side in last week’s Champions League group stage encounter in Paris. Robinson, who had played a midfield diamond in the first half at Aberdeen a week previously before switching deployments to secure a notable league win in the Granite City, again demonstrated his tactical acuity by fielding Liam Grimshaw, Carl McHugh and Andy Rose as a tight trio in the middle of the park in order to deny Scott Brown the space from which the Celtic captain likes to dictate play. Dembele scores from the penalty spot Credit: Getty Images The ploy worked to the extent that Richard Tait was able to push up from his right-back beat to deliver intelligent and inviting crosses in hope of finding Louis Moult but, aware of the likely menace, Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata kept the Motherwell striker marked tightly and when the game reached its midway point scoreless, it was difficult to see what more the Steelmen could do, other than persevere with the game plan in hope of eventual reward. That possibility decreased sharply with Forrest’s opener and evaporated when Moussa Dembele put Celtic 2-0 ahead from the penalty award. Dembele, it should be said, had been entitled to satisfaction at the redress of a grievance, having been clattered by Kipre early in the proceedings and escape without sanction. In contrast, Dembele was cautioned a minute later for venting his frustration with a similar challenge on McHugh, which cost the Celtic striker a caution. After Dembele made way for Leigh Griffiths midway through the second half, his replacement hit the post with a predatory angled shot. The closest Motherwell came to consolation was then Moult also struck the upright with a free kick that turned out to be the last touch of the proceedings. By that stage, Celtic had been well within their comfort zone for half an hour and relished the celebration of their 101st trophy win when the cup was presented to Brown by the SPFL chairman and Telegraph Group vice-chairman, Murdoch MacLennan. The outcome also rep resented a fourth successive domestic honour for Rodgers, the first Celtic manager since Jock Stein to accomplish the feat. “This was our first final last year, which was important for us, but what we’ve done in the year since makes teams work even harder to stop you,” Rodgers said. “To win it this time is a very special feeling and the guys really deserved it. “The players ticked a lot of character boxes, it’s a special group of players and I've never been prouder to manage them than now. We’re here to add to the legacy of Celtic, our time here is limited and we have to win as much as we can.”

Motherwell 0 Celtic 2: James Forrest and Moussa Dembele seal 101st trophy in club's history

The chronicles of Scottish football are now inscribed in green ink, with no likely demand for another hue in the foreseeable future. Celtic’s total command of the game north of the border was restated with an ultimately comfortable win over Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park, despite a first half in which the Fir Park side acquitted themselves creditably to usher their ambitions intact into the dressing room at the interval. Only four minutes after the restart, however, that comfort was eroded when Celtic increased their tempo and James Forrest found the far corner of the net with a delightfully curled effort. Even then, Motherwell were not cowed and it needed a spectacular reflex save from Craig Gordon to block a bullet header from the tireless Louis Moult. The decisive moment arrived just before the hour mark and it left Motherwell with a sour taste, although Cedric Kipre’s error in positioning and his reaction to his mistake combined to influence Craig Thomson’s decision to award Celtic a penalty kick. Kipre’s lapse in attention allowed Scott Sinclair to get goalside of him and when the defender stuck out an arm, the Celtic winger went down. Thomson allowed play to continue momentarily but, seeing no advantage for Celtic, pointed to the spot, then showed Kipre the red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, to the Frenchman’s manifest disbelief, which could only have been aggravated by Moussa Dembele’s subsequent conversion from the spot. First sight of the incident had suggested that there was little untoward in Kipre’s challenge and TV replays from closer vantage points indicated little more than a vestigial touch. Brendan Rogers enjoys the moment Credit: Getty Images Sinclair is not known for going to ground easily but he came as close to an admission of sin when he said: “I felt a little tug on the arm and I went down. That’s it.” Stephen Robinson, the Motherwell manager, was emphatic afterwards. “I’ve seen it back - there's no contact,” he said. “Cedric hasn’t touched him and the kid's devastated. I can’t change that. “I can only affect things like giving the ball away and getting closer to them. When you go down to 10 men, there’s no chance after that. Against a team of Celtic’s quality, it's a containment issue.” Even rigid application of the Official Secrets Act could not have concealed Motherwell’s intentions in the run-up to this contest. “Our strengths are their weaknesses,” Robinson had said, indicating that his players would strive to get deep crosses into the heart of the Celtic box to test the Hoops’ central defence, the area most exposed by Paris Saint-Germain’s relentless assaults during their 7-1 thrashing of the Parkhead side in last week’s Champions League group stage encounter in Paris. Robinson, who had played a midfield diamond in the first half at Aberdeen a week previously before switching deployments to secure a notable league win in the Granite City, again demonstrated his tactical acuity by fielding Liam Grimshaw, Carl McHugh and Andy Rose as a tight trio in the middle of the park in order to deny Scott Brown the space from which the Celtic captain likes to dictate play. Dembele scores from the penalty spot Credit: Getty Images The ploy worked to the extent that Richard Tait was able to push up from his right-back beat to deliver intelligent and inviting crosses in hope of finding Louis Moult but, aware of the likely menace, Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata kept the Motherwell striker marked tightly and when the game reached its midway point scoreless, it was difficult to see what more the Steelmen could do, other than persevere with the game plan in hope of eventual reward. That possibility decreased sharply with Forrest’s opener and evaporated when Moussa Dembele put Celtic 2-0 ahead from the penalty award. Dembele, it should be said, had been entitled to satisfaction at the redress of a grievance, having been clattered by Kipre early in the proceedings and escape without sanction. In contrast, Dembele was cautioned a minute later for venting his frustration with a similar challenge on McHugh, which cost the Celtic striker a caution. After Dembele made way for Leigh Griffiths midway through the second half, his replacement hit the post with a predatory angled shot. The closest Motherwell came to consolation was then Moult also struck the upright with a free kick that turned out to be the last touch of the proceedings. By that stage, Celtic had been well within their comfort zone for half an hour and relished the celebration of their 101st trophy win when the cup was presented to Brown by the SPFL chairman and Telegraph Group vice-chairman, Murdoch MacLennan. The outcome also rep resented a fourth successive domestic honour for Rodgers, the first Celtic manager since Jock Stein to accomplish the feat. “This was our first final last year, which was important for us, but what we’ve done in the year since makes teams work even harder to stop you,” Rodgers said. “To win it this time is a very special feeling and the guys really deserved it. “The players ticked a lot of character boxes, it’s a special group of players and I've never been prouder to manage them than now. We’re here to add to the legacy of Celtic, our time here is limited and we have to win as much as we can.”

Motherwell 0 Celtic 2: James Forrest and Moussa Dembele seal 101st trophy in club's history

The chronicles of Scottish football are now inscribed in green ink, with no likely demand for another hue in the foreseeable future. Celtic’s total command of the game north of the border was restated with an ultimately comfortable win over Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park, despite a first half in which the Fir Park side acquitted themselves creditably to usher their ambitions intact into the dressing room at the interval. Only four minutes after the restart, however, that comfort was eroded when Celtic increased their tempo and James Forrest found the far corner of the net with a delightfully curled effort. Even then, Motherwell were not cowed and it needed a spectacular reflex save from Craig Gordon to block a bullet header from the tireless Louis Moult. The decisive moment arrived just before the hour mark and it left Motherwell with a sour taste, although Cedric Kipre’s error in positioning and his reaction to his mistake combined to influence Craig Thomson’s decision to award Celtic a penalty kick. Kipre’s lapse in attention allowed Scott Sinclair to get goalside of him and when the defender stuck out an arm, the Celtic winger went down. Thomson allowed play to continue momentarily but, seeing no advantage for Celtic, pointed to the spot, then showed Kipre the red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, to the Frenchman’s manifest disbelief, which could only have been aggravated by Moussa Dembele’s subsequent conversion from the spot. First sight of the incident had suggested that there was little untoward in Kipre’s challenge and TV replays from closer vantage points indicated little more than a vestigial touch. Brendan Rogers enjoys the moment Credit: Getty Images Sinclair is not known for going to ground easily but he came as close to an admission of sin when he said: “I felt a little tug on the arm and I went down. That’s it.” Stephen Robinson, the Motherwell manager, was emphatic afterwards. “I’ve seen it back - there's no contact,” he said. “Cedric hasn’t touched him and the kid's devastated. I can’t change that. “I can only affect things like giving the ball away and getting closer to them. When you go down to 10 men, there’s no chance after that. Against a team of Celtic’s quality, it's a containment issue.” Even rigid application of the Official Secrets Act could not have concealed Motherwell’s intentions in the run-up to this contest. “Our strengths are their weaknesses,” Robinson had said, indicating that his players would strive to get deep crosses into the heart of the Celtic box to test the Hoops’ central defence, the area most exposed by Paris Saint-Germain’s relentless assaults during their 7-1 thrashing of the Parkhead side in last week’s Champions League group stage encounter in Paris. Robinson, who had played a midfield diamond in the first half at Aberdeen a week previously before switching deployments to secure a notable league win in the Granite City, again demonstrated his tactical acuity by fielding Liam Grimshaw, Carl McHugh and Andy Rose as a tight trio in the middle of the park in order to deny Scott Brown the space from which the Celtic captain likes to dictate play. Dembele scores from the penalty spot Credit: Getty Images The ploy worked to the extent that Richard Tait was able to push up from his right-back beat to deliver intelligent and inviting crosses in hope of finding Louis Moult but, aware of the likely menace, Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata kept the Motherwell striker marked tightly and when the game reached its midway point scoreless, it was difficult to see what more the Steelmen could do, other than persevere with the game plan in hope of eventual reward. That possibility decreased sharply with Forrest’s opener and evaporated when Moussa Dembele put Celtic 2-0 ahead from the penalty award. Dembele, it should be said, had been entitled to satisfaction at the redress of a grievance, having been clattered by Kipre early in the proceedings and escape without sanction. In contrast, Dembele was cautioned a minute later for venting his frustration with a similar challenge on McHugh, which cost the Celtic striker a caution. After Dembele made way for Leigh Griffiths midway through the second half, his replacement hit the post with a predatory angled shot. The closest Motherwell came to consolation was then Moult also struck the upright with a free kick that turned out to be the last touch of the proceedings. By that stage, Celtic had been well within their comfort zone for half an hour and relished the celebration of their 101st trophy win when the cup was presented to Brown by the SPFL chairman and Telegraph Group vice-chairman, Murdoch MacLennan. The outcome also rep resented a fourth successive domestic honour for Rodgers, the first Celtic manager since Jock Stein to accomplish the feat. “This was our first final last year, which was important for us, but what we’ve done in the year since makes teams work even harder to stop you,” Rodgers said. “To win it this time is a very special feeling and the guys really deserved it. “The players ticked a lot of character boxes, it’s a special group of players and I've never been prouder to manage them than now. We’re here to add to the legacy of Celtic, our time here is limited and we have to win as much as we can.”

Celtic's Scott Sinclair ready to put critics to bed as he prepares for Scottish League Cup final 

Scott Sinclair has been learning on the double about the game north of the border this season, a surprising admission from the Celtic winger who was voted Scotland’s player of the year by his fellow professionals and also the Scottish Football Writers’ Association last time out. A widespread feeling that Sinclair’s form has shaded is, however, not shared by the 28-year-old from Bath. What has changed following his much-lauded performances in Celtic’s treble-winning season is that opposing clubs have attempted to insure themselves against his depredations from the left flank. “People can talk about me having lost my form but it’s not the case,” he said, ahead of Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final meeting with Motherwell at Hampden Park. “My form is there but I just feel like I have two players on me in every game. Defenders are doubling up on me. That wasn’t happening last season. I’m getting a player standing next to me for the whole game, doing nothing. “They are making it much harder for me to get on the ball. I’ve got to come up with different things to go forward, create and score goals. I’ve been doing so. The stats are still not too bad but it’s up to me to make more happen.” Brendan Rodgers' Celtic left France looking dejected after a thrashing from Paris Saint-Germain  Credit: Getty Images  The stats are indeed respectable, despite Sinclair’s changed circumstances. Last season he scored 25 goals in 50 club appearances and in the current campaign his return is only just below the 50 per cent mark, with 11 goals from 24 outings. Despite having constant company for 90 minutes at a time, Sinclair’s is a solitary role, though he admits to wishing that there was the possibility of an exchange of remarks, however desultory, with his markers. “No one talks to me! Sometimes I want to but I’m so focused when I go on the pitch that I don’t have time to have a laugh and a joke,” he said. “I come away from the game and talk to my friends and talk about how the defender literally goes everywhere with me. I could go right back and he’d follow me, even if I was in goal. “I’m always focused and there will always be one moment. He might man-mark me for 89 minutes and then I’ll get away from him and get the goal.” Sinclair was an unused substitute for the Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital on Wednesday night, prompting the notion that he and Stuart Armstrong – another who did not come off the bench – were being held back for Sunday’s occasion. Whatever the reason, there is a case for saying that Sinclair dodged a bullet – or rather, a hail of them – as the tournament favourites followed up their 5-0 win in Glasgow in September with a 7-1 battering  in midweek. Sinclair admits to needing more creativity this season after finding himself picked out by defenders  Credit: Getty Images  Sinclair, though, suggested that inclusion in the starting line-up would have been an educational experience. “Yeah, we were playing one of the best teams – they’ll be right up there to win the whole competition, so it’s for us to learn from the best as a team and as individuals. “I’d say they were better than Barcelona. The way they attack with so much pace, the finishing was so clinical – every time they shot it hit the back of the net. “The manager pulled me the day before the game in midweek and said 'Look, I’m going to keep you out of this one.’ Obviously, you want to play in the Champions League and in any game, for that matter.” Indeed, Sunday’s final offers Sinclair the chance to remedy one of his few disappointments last season because, although he played in every tie in the Betfred Scottish League Cup until the final against Aberdeen, he missed the showpiece occasion because of injury. “I went to the game but to miss a final, you’re devastated,” Sinclair said. “It would have been my first cup final with the club as well, but that’s behind me now and I’m just looking forward to this one. I managed to get a medal. When you play every game leading up to the final, you feel part of the victory and I think you deserve the medal, even if you miss the final. “The manager pulled me afterwards and gave me a medal. I’ll still feel like I earned one more this year if I play and we can win, though.” Elsewhere, there were only two games in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday. Hamilton continued their recent impressive form by holding Hibernian to a 1-1 draw, Antonio Rojano’s second-half strike equalising Simon Murray’s first-half opener, while Hearts and Ross County finished 0-0.

Celtic's Scott Sinclair ready to put critics to bed as he prepares for Scottish League Cup final 

Scott Sinclair has been learning on the double about the game north of the border this season, a surprising admission from the Celtic winger who was voted Scotland’s player of the year by his fellow professionals and also the Scottish Football Writers’ Association last time out. A widespread feeling that Sinclair’s form has shaded is, however, not shared by the 28-year-old from Bath. What has changed following his much-lauded performances in Celtic’s treble-winning season is that opposing clubs have attempted to insure themselves against his depredations from the left flank. “People can talk about me having lost my form but it’s not the case,” he said, ahead of Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final meeting with Motherwell at Hampden Park. “My form is there but I just feel like I have two players on me in every game. Defenders are doubling up on me. That wasn’t happening last season. I’m getting a player standing next to me for the whole game, doing nothing. “They are making it much harder for me to get on the ball. I’ve got to come up with different things to go forward, create and score goals. I’ve been doing so. The stats are still not too bad but it’s up to me to make more happen.” Brendan Rodgers' Celtic left France looking dejected after a thrashing from Paris Saint-Germain  Credit: Getty Images  The stats are indeed respectable, despite Sinclair’s changed circumstances. Last season he scored 25 goals in 50 club appearances and in the current campaign his return is only just below the 50 per cent mark, with 11 goals from 24 outings. Despite having constant company for 90 minutes at a time, Sinclair’s is a solitary role, though he admits to wishing that there was the possibility of an exchange of remarks, however desultory, with his markers. “No one talks to me! Sometimes I want to but I’m so focused when I go on the pitch that I don’t have time to have a laugh and a joke,” he said. “I come away from the game and talk to my friends and talk about how the defender literally goes everywhere with me. I could go right back and he’d follow me, even if I was in goal. “I’m always focused and there will always be one moment. He might man-mark me for 89 minutes and then I’ll get away from him and get the goal.” Sinclair was an unused substitute for the Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital on Wednesday night, prompting the notion that he and Stuart Armstrong – another who did not come off the bench – were being held back for Sunday’s occasion. Whatever the reason, there is a case for saying that Sinclair dodged a bullet – or rather, a hail of them – as the tournament favourites followed up their 5-0 win in Glasgow in September with a 7-1 battering  in midweek. Sinclair admits to needing more creativity this season after finding himself picked out by defenders  Credit: Getty Images  Sinclair, though, suggested that inclusion in the starting line-up would have been an educational experience. “Yeah, we were playing one of the best teams – they’ll be right up there to win the whole competition, so it’s for us to learn from the best as a team and as individuals. “I’d say they were better than Barcelona. The way they attack with so much pace, the finishing was so clinical – every time they shot it hit the back of the net. “The manager pulled me the day before the game in midweek and said 'Look, I’m going to keep you out of this one.’ Obviously, you want to play in the Champions League and in any game, for that matter.” Indeed, Sunday’s final offers Sinclair the chance to remedy one of his few disappointments last season because, although he played in every tie in the Betfred Scottish League Cup until the final against Aberdeen, he missed the showpiece occasion because of injury. “I went to the game but to miss a final, you’re devastated,” Sinclair said. “It would have been my first cup final with the club as well, but that’s behind me now and I’m just looking forward to this one. I managed to get a medal. When you play every game leading up to the final, you feel part of the victory and I think you deserve the medal, even if you miss the final. “The manager pulled me afterwards and gave me a medal. I’ll still feel like I earned one more this year if I play and we can win, though.” Elsewhere, there were only two games in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday. Hamilton continued their recent impressive form by holding Hibernian to a 1-1 draw, Antonio Rojano’s second-half strike equalising Simon Murray’s first-half opener, while Hearts and Ross County finished 0-0.

Celtic's Scott Sinclair ready to put critics to bed as he prepares for Scottish League Cup final 

Scott Sinclair has been learning on the double about the game north of the border this season, a surprising admission from the Celtic winger who was voted Scotland’s player of the year by his fellow professionals and also the Scottish Football Writers’ Association last time out. A widespread feeling that Sinclair’s form has shaded is, however, not shared by the 28-year-old from Bath. What has changed following his much-lauded performances in Celtic’s treble-winning season is that opposing clubs have attempted to insure themselves against his depredations from the left flank. “People can talk about me having lost my form but it’s not the case,” he said, ahead of Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final meeting with Motherwell at Hampden Park. “My form is there but I just feel like I have two players on me in every game. Defenders are doubling up on me. That wasn’t happening last season. I’m getting a player standing next to me for the whole game, doing nothing. “They are making it much harder for me to get on the ball. I’ve got to come up with different things to go forward, create and score goals. I’ve been doing so. The stats are still not too bad but it’s up to me to make more happen.” Brendan Rodgers' Celtic left France looking dejected after a thrashing from Paris Saint-Germain  Credit: Getty Images  The stats are indeed respectable, despite Sinclair’s changed circumstances. Last season he scored 25 goals in 50 club appearances and in the current campaign his return is only just below the 50 per cent mark, with 11 goals from 24 outings. Despite having constant company for 90 minutes at a time, Sinclair’s is a solitary role, though he admits to wishing that there was the possibility of an exchange of remarks, however desultory, with his markers. “No one talks to me! Sometimes I want to but I’m so focused when I go on the pitch that I don’t have time to have a laugh and a joke,” he said. “I come away from the game and talk to my friends and talk about how the defender literally goes everywhere with me. I could go right back and he’d follow me, even if I was in goal. “I’m always focused and there will always be one moment. He might man-mark me for 89 minutes and then I’ll get away from him and get the goal.” Sinclair was an unused substitute for the Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital on Wednesday night, prompting the notion that he and Stuart Armstrong – another who did not come off the bench – were being held back for Sunday’s occasion. Whatever the reason, there is a case for saying that Sinclair dodged a bullet – or rather, a hail of them – as the tournament favourites followed up their 5-0 win in Glasgow in September with a 7-1 battering  in midweek. Sinclair admits to needing more creativity this season after finding himself picked out by defenders  Credit: Getty Images  Sinclair, though, suggested that inclusion in the starting line-up would have been an educational experience. “Yeah, we were playing one of the best teams – they’ll be right up there to win the whole competition, so it’s for us to learn from the best as a team and as individuals. “I’d say they were better than Barcelona. The way they attack with so much pace, the finishing was so clinical – every time they shot it hit the back of the net. “The manager pulled me the day before the game in midweek and said 'Look, I’m going to keep you out of this one.’ Obviously, you want to play in the Champions League and in any game, for that matter.” Indeed, Sunday’s final offers Sinclair the chance to remedy one of his few disappointments last season because, although he played in every tie in the Betfred Scottish League Cup until the final against Aberdeen, he missed the showpiece occasion because of injury. “I went to the game but to miss a final, you’re devastated,” Sinclair said. “It would have been my first cup final with the club as well, but that’s behind me now and I’m just looking forward to this one. I managed to get a medal. When you play every game leading up to the final, you feel part of the victory and I think you deserve the medal, even if you miss the final. “The manager pulled me afterwards and gave me a medal. I’ll still feel like I earned one more this year if I play and we can win, though.” Elsewhere, there were only two games in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday. Hamilton continued their recent impressive form by holding Hibernian to a 1-1 draw, Antonio Rojano’s second-half strike equalising Simon Murray’s first-half opener, while Hearts and Ross County finished 0-0.

Stephen Robinson bullish about Motherwell beating Celtic in Scottish League Cup final

This time last year, Stephen Robinson’s brief managerial career was disintegrating before his eyes at Oldham. Now, such are the mercurial twists of football fortune, Robinson has spent this week attempting to devise a way for Motherwell to end Celtic’s record-breaking run of successive domestic matches unbeaten – currently standing at 64 – and win the Betfred Scottish League Cup on Sunday, a twin feat that would guarantee the 42-year-old from Lisburn an enduring place in Scotland’s football chronicles. Some idea of the challenge facing him can be gleaned from the bookmakers’ odds of Motherwell as 11/1 against to defeat a Celtic side coming off the back of a 7-1 Champions League thrashing by Paris St-Germain. For Robinson, though, the prospect is one of sunlit uplands compared with the gloom he endured at Boundary Park. Six months into a job that he had been advised not to take, life at Oldham reached its nadir when a fan posted an online threat to Robinson's sons, Harry (now 17) and Charlie (now 13). The menace came in the form of a Tweet which read “#oafc tell Stephen Robinson I’m gunna murder his children.”  Having accepted the Oldham job on a high after being assistant to Michael O’Neill as Northern Ireland defied expectations at Euro 2016, Robinson admits that the adrenaline rush overwhelmed his judgment. “I’d come back from the Euros and had a big part to play in it and, you know, you think you’re invincible,” he said. “I was advised by certain people whom I’d worked with not to take it, but you do think, ‘It’s a chance in League One – go and manage’. To sign 23 players in a three-week period and play Millwall away in the first game of the season was a pretty impossible task. Motherwells' Louis Moult celebrates after putting his side a goal ahead in their semi-final against Rangers  Credit: Getty Images  “When I left Oldham (in January this year), we were bottom of the league but we were one point off safety because it was so tight. The remit was to get to Christmas, have four transfer windows and rebuild the whole football club. “Given the timelines it was impossible to be successful – and Oldham can be a very good club and the chairman has said since that there are no hard feelings – and football’s football. “My lad plays there now and people have been very good to him. I probably shouldn’t have taken the job without doing a lot of homework on it. “I just wasn’t in control of what was coming in and out. In the end, if you fail, you should die on your own sword as opposed to other people’s opinions and decisions. “Last Boxing Day my sons were getting death threats and there were tears on the team bus. We were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday away. At the time you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel with it but it has totally transformed me. “I had my reservations about going into management again but when you’ve got good people at this football club – which we have – that really want you to be successful, that was the deciding factor for me.” Brendan Rogers' Celtic side return to Scotland dejected following a thrashing against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League  Credit: Getty Images   Yet it was wholly serendipitous that Robinson should have found himself once more in charge of a football team. In February he was asked by Mark McGhee to become his assistant at Fir Park, but McGhee was sacked within two weeks and Robinson retained as interim replacement. “I was still raw from the situation at Oldham but Mark encouraged me to take it if it offered,” he said. In March, Robinson was appointed manager and supervised a summer transformation of the squad. The outcome has been extraordinary by the standards of a fan-owned club on a constricted budget. Motherwell are fifth in the Scottish Premiership and defeated Rangers at Hampden to reach Sunday’s final, having beaten Aberdeen in the quarter-finals and disposed of the Dons again with a 2-0 league win at Pittodrie last weekend. “We outplayed them and outperformed them,” Robinson said. “So why not? "Why can’t we surprise Celtic? In 64 games people have tried. We know that and I’m not going to give them any motivation but we’re going to concentrate on our strengths and I genuinely believe that our strengths are their weaknesses. “There is a real honesty about Scottish football. People in England don’t realise how big it is up here - the demands, the pressure and the fan bases. It’s a brilliant environment to play football in and I would encourage any young footballer to play football in Scotland because you get opportunities. “We topped our League Cup group by winning all four games. To then beat Aberdeen and Rangers - we have done it the hard way. Now we get a crack at the best team in Scotland. I’m proud to be at the front of it.”

Stephen Robinson bullish about Motherwell beating Celtic in Scottish League Cup final

This time last year, Stephen Robinson’s brief managerial career was disintegrating before his eyes at Oldham. Now, such are the mercurial twists of football fortune, Robinson has spent this week attempting to devise a way for Motherwell to end Celtic’s record-breaking run of successive domestic matches unbeaten – currently standing at 64 – and win the Betfred Scottish League Cup on Sunday, a twin feat that would guarantee the 42-year-old from Lisburn an enduring place in Scotland’s football chronicles. Some idea of the challenge facing him can be gleaned from the bookmakers’ odds of Motherwell as 11/1 against to defeat a Celtic side coming off the back of a 7-1 Champions League thrashing by Paris St-Germain. For Robinson, though, the prospect is one of sunlit uplands compared with the gloom he endured at Boundary Park. Six months into a job that he had been advised not to take, life at Oldham reached its nadir when a fan posted an online threat to Robinson's sons, Harry (now 17) and Charlie (now 13). The menace came in the form of a Tweet which read “#oafc tell Stephen Robinson I’m gunna murder his children.”  Having accepted the Oldham job on a high after being assistant to Michael O’Neill as Northern Ireland defied expectations at Euro 2016, Robinson admits that the adrenaline rush overwhelmed his judgment. “I’d come back from the Euros and had a big part to play in it and, you know, you think you’re invincible,” he said. “I was advised by certain people whom I’d worked with not to take it, but you do think, ‘It’s a chance in League One – go and manage’. To sign 23 players in a three-week period and play Millwall away in the first game of the season was a pretty impossible task. Motherwells' Louis Moult celebrates after putting his side a goal ahead in their semi-final against Rangers  Credit: Getty Images  “When I left Oldham (in January this year), we were bottom of the league but we were one point off safety because it was so tight. The remit was to get to Christmas, have four transfer windows and rebuild the whole football club. “Given the timelines it was impossible to be successful – and Oldham can be a very good club and the chairman has said since that there are no hard feelings – and football’s football. “My lad plays there now and people have been very good to him. I probably shouldn’t have taken the job without doing a lot of homework on it. “I just wasn’t in control of what was coming in and out. In the end, if you fail, you should die on your own sword as opposed to other people’s opinions and decisions. “Last Boxing Day my sons were getting death threats and there were tears on the team bus. We were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday away. At the time you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel with it but it has totally transformed me. “I had my reservations about going into management again but when you’ve got good people at this football club – which we have – that really want you to be successful, that was the deciding factor for me.” Brendan Rogers' Celtic side return to Scotland dejected following a thrashing against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League  Credit: Getty Images   Yet it was wholly serendipitous that Robinson should have found himself once more in charge of a football team. In February he was asked by Mark McGhee to become his assistant at Fir Park, but McGhee was sacked within two weeks and Robinson retained as interim replacement. “I was still raw from the situation at Oldham but Mark encouraged me to take it if it offered,” he said. In March, Robinson was appointed manager and supervised a summer transformation of the squad. The outcome has been extraordinary by the standards of a fan-owned club on a constricted budget. Motherwell are fifth in the Scottish Premiership and defeated Rangers at Hampden to reach Sunday’s final, having beaten Aberdeen in the quarter-finals and disposed of the Dons again with a 2-0 league win at Pittodrie last weekend. “We outplayed them and outperformed them,” Robinson said. “So why not? "Why can’t we surprise Celtic? In 64 games people have tried. We know that and I’m not going to give them any motivation but we’re going to concentrate on our strengths and I genuinely believe that our strengths are their weaknesses. “There is a real honesty about Scottish football. People in England don’t realise how big it is up here - the demands, the pressure and the fan bases. It’s a brilliant environment to play football in and I would encourage any young footballer to play football in Scotland because you get opportunities. “We topped our League Cup group by winning all four games. To then beat Aberdeen and Rangers - we have done it the hard way. Now we get a crack at the best team in Scotland. I’m proud to be at the front of it.”

Stephen Robinson bullish about Motherwell beating Celtic in Scottish League Cup final

This time last year, Stephen Robinson’s brief managerial career was disintegrating before his eyes at Oldham. Now, such are the mercurial twists of football fortune, Robinson has spent this week attempting to devise a way for Motherwell to end Celtic’s record-breaking run of successive domestic matches unbeaten – currently standing at 64 – and win the Betfred Scottish League Cup on Sunday, a twin feat that would guarantee the 42-year-old from Lisburn an enduring place in Scotland’s football chronicles. Some idea of the challenge facing him can be gleaned from the bookmakers’ odds of Motherwell as 11/1 against to defeat a Celtic side coming off the back of a 7-1 Champions League thrashing by Paris St-Germain. For Robinson, though, the prospect is one of sunlit uplands compared with the gloom he endured at Boundary Park. Six months into a job that he had been advised not to take, life at Oldham reached its nadir when a fan posted an online threat to Robinson's sons, Harry (now 17) and Charlie (now 13). The menace came in the form of a Tweet which read “#oafc tell Stephen Robinson I’m gunna murder his children.”  Having accepted the Oldham job on a high after being assistant to Michael O’Neill as Northern Ireland defied expectations at Euro 2016, Robinson admits that the adrenaline rush overwhelmed his judgment. “I’d come back from the Euros and had a big part to play in it and, you know, you think you’re invincible,” he said. “I was advised by certain people whom I’d worked with not to take it, but you do think, ‘It’s a chance in League One – go and manage’. To sign 23 players in a three-week period and play Millwall away in the first game of the season was a pretty impossible task. Motherwells' Louis Moult celebrates after putting his side a goal ahead in their semi-final against Rangers  Credit: Getty Images  “When I left Oldham (in January this year), we were bottom of the league but we were one point off safety because it was so tight. The remit was to get to Christmas, have four transfer windows and rebuild the whole football club. “Given the timelines it was impossible to be successful – and Oldham can be a very good club and the chairman has said since that there are no hard feelings – and football’s football. “My lad plays there now and people have been very good to him. I probably shouldn’t have taken the job without doing a lot of homework on it. “I just wasn’t in control of what was coming in and out. In the end, if you fail, you should die on your own sword as opposed to other people’s opinions and decisions. “Last Boxing Day my sons were getting death threats and there were tears on the team bus. We were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday away. At the time you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel with it but it has totally transformed me. “I had my reservations about going into management again but when you’ve got good people at this football club – which we have – that really want you to be successful, that was the deciding factor for me.” Brendan Rogers' Celtic side return to Scotland dejected following a thrashing against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League  Credit: Getty Images   Yet it was wholly serendipitous that Robinson should have found himself once more in charge of a football team. In February he was asked by Mark McGhee to become his assistant at Fir Park, but McGhee was sacked within two weeks and Robinson retained as interim replacement. “I was still raw from the situation at Oldham but Mark encouraged me to take it if it offered,” he said. In March, Robinson was appointed manager and supervised a summer transformation of the squad. The outcome has been extraordinary by the standards of a fan-owned club on a constricted budget. Motherwell are fifth in the Scottish Premiership and defeated Rangers at Hampden to reach Sunday’s final, having beaten Aberdeen in the quarter-finals and disposed of the Dons again with a 2-0 league win at Pittodrie last weekend. “We outplayed them and outperformed them,” Robinson said. “So why not? "Why can’t we surprise Celtic? In 64 games people have tried. We know that and I’m not going to give them any motivation but we’re going to concentrate on our strengths and I genuinely believe that our strengths are their weaknesses. “There is a real honesty about Scottish football. People in England don’t realise how big it is up here - the demands, the pressure and the fan bases. It’s a brilliant environment to play football in and I would encourage any young footballer to play football in Scotland because you get opportunities. “We topped our League Cup group by winning all four games. To then beat Aberdeen and Rangers - we have done it the hard way. Now we get a crack at the best team in Scotland. I’m proud to be at the front of it.”

Motherwell Cup win would represent gain through pain for Carl McHugh

Against Kilmarnock, on the opening day of his first season in Scotland, McHugh suffered a two-inch deep gash in his skull. “I had the cut on my head but I felt I was fine,” said the 24-year-old from Donegal, who is now club captain. “We played Celtic a few days later in the League Cup – we lost 5-0 – and it was just before that game that I started to feel bad and started to develop the symptoms. It just nosedived from there and got worse and worse. “The scary thing is that if my head had not been cut in the Kilmarnock game then I would probably have stayed on. You can put yourself in danger if you play when you are concussed, so the scar actually helped me, strange as it sounds. “I just started getting nausea, headaches, sensitivity to light. It  affected my sleeping, I couldn’t watch television or even read.  Everything triggered the headaches and dizziness. I don’t know what the consequences would have been if I had played on with it  because you hear stories about how dangerous it can be.” It took four months for McHugh to return to competitive football. “It was worrying and I feared I might not be able to play again. There were times when I felt a million miles away from it, but thankfully I got there with the help of the staff,” he said. “The club were brilliant  because they didn’t put me under any pressure, so this would be a good weekend to pay them back.” A triumph against heavy odds at Hampden Park would also soothe the aching recollection of a 5-0 thrashing administered to Bradford by Swansea in the 2013 Football League Cup final and defeat by Wimbledon in the 2016 League Two Play-off Final. “Bradford were probably even bigger outsiders for that one than we are this weekend,” he admitted. “We were a League Two club and, even though we’d knocked out three Premier League sides, we’d no right to be there [at Wembley] in most people’s eyes. “As it happened, Swansea were just too good for us on the day. “I can look back on those experiences and see what I did well and what I could have done better. However, you can only enjoy finals if you win them and we won’t be  going to Hampden just to make up the numbers. “We approach games without fear. We won at Aberdeen last Saturday and beat Rangers at Hampden [in the semi-final] because we weren’t frightened of them. “We have given the fans a team they can relate to. We might not win every week but we work really hard and leave everything out there. We are an honest group of players and winning on Sunday would be incredible for our careers, our families and for the club.”

McInnes to remain at Aberdeen despite links to Rangers, West Brom

McInnes to remain at Aberdeen despite links to Rangers, West Brom

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