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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

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

Despite being linked with the vacant jobs at Rangers and West Brom, Derek McInnes has reaffirmed his commitment to Aberdeen.

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

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

Cadden clan descend on Hampden Park as Chris aims to upset Celtic

As befits a footballing dynasty, the extended Cadden family will board their personal team coach for the journey to Hampden Park and Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final between Motherwell and Celtic.  Chris Cadden, the Motherwell winger, is the twin brother of Nicky, who plays for Livingston, and they are the sons of Steve Cadden, who won a divisional title with Albion Rovers. “I think the family are running a bus to the game and they can’t wait for it,” said Chris Cadden. “My dad has been talking about it all week. My brother Nicky will be there too because he doesn’t have a game on Sunday. “My mum and dad have been massive, the two of them. You don’t understand until you get a wee bit older. Just going to training on Tuesday nights and they are watching you in the rain and cold – you don’t appreciate that until you get older. My dad could be pretty harsh after games but it’s good to get a bit of criticism – the two of them have been brilliant for me.” It goes without saying that Motherwell are underdogs for the first final of the season, against a Celtic side whose run of successive unbeaten domestic games reached 64 with their weekend 1-0 win over Ross County in Dingwall. Motherwell have, however, beaten Aberdeen and Rangers – respectively second and third in the Premiership – to get to Hampden, allowing their players and supporters to dream of the possibilities. “We are looking at them and thinking – someone has to beat them,” Cadden said. “They are not going to go through their full history without getting beaten. Why not us? We can go full of confidence. “We just took the draws as they came and I think that in every round we have been brilliant – in the Aberdeen and Rangers games we were fantastic. If we go out and play the way we did against them there is no reason why we can’t go out and win.” Cadden will line up against a Celtic team including his schoolmate, Kieran Tierney – currently the wunderkind of the Scottish game and now also a neighbour. “I was a year ahead of him at school and through football you get to know each other,” Cadden said. “He lives around the corner from me. I dropped him a text the other day but I won’t be speaking to him before the final that’s for sure. “I played against him when we played in the youth teams, but he didn’t get to play for the school team. I always knew he played for Celtic but didn’t know much else about him. “I was a decent player but I will tell you now, there were a lot of better players than me when I was 15. I worked hard, to be fair. If you are not as technical as someone else, I made sure I could run faster than them, I could run more than them, I could jump higher than them and make sure I could do “the free stuff”, as the gaffer likes to call it. “I made sure I could do them well. It’s worked well for me.” The Cadden boys witnessed Motherwell’s 3-0 defeat by Celtic in the 2011 Scottish Cup final. “It was gutting so we know it will be very disappointing for the fans if we get beaten again but if we win it will be unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t remember the last time Motherwell beat Aberdeen, Rangers and then beat Celtic in the final.”

Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton takes step back into defence ahead of ultimate test against PSG in Champions League

Nir Bitton was not called upon to endure the painful experience of facing Paris St-Germain when they inflicted a 5-0 home defeat on Celtic in the Champions League group stage tie in September but on Wednesday he could be called upon to stand against the fearsome trio of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé when the teams meet again in the French capital. That prospect is not lightened by the fact that Bitton has been operating as a makeshift centre-back, a role that has seen him draw fire from critics who regard the Israel international midfielder as a risk at the heart of the back line. He was allotted the task because of injuries to Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko, both of whom are now back in training. The Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers, however, praised Bitton after his side's 1-0 win against Ross County in Dingwall on Saturday, when he said: “This guy gets slated for not being a centre-half, but I haven’t seen one better outside of Celtic [in the SPFL].” When Rodgers’ comment was subsequently relayed to Bitton, the 26-year-old grinned. “I told you a few weeks ago I’m a £50 million player,” he said. “No, I am trying to do my best and still trying to learn the position. “I don’t know if you see it but Dedryck Boyata is talking to me all through the game. I don’t know if he has lost his voice by now. He is trying to help and guide me. “I haven’t played centre midfield for a long time now. If the gaffer thinks I deserve to play centre back, that’s what I will do. If he thinks I should play as goalkeeper, that’s what I will do. I am enjoying it, I am enjoying my football and winning and I am just trying to keep that going.” Beating Spurs is Arsenal's Cup final 39:00 Recent performances have revealed a more assertive streak to Bitton in his newly-acquired incarnation. “I don’t know if it’s more aggression but as a centre-back you need to jump, you need to be strong, you need to press the strikers,” he said. “For football players it’s all about confidence. When you get confidence from the manager and from the players around you, you can do things you didn’t do before, but it’s still an early stage for me as a centre-back and I’m still trying to learn the position. I’m trying to be better and there are a lot of things to do.” Should Bitton be called upon to go in against the might of the PSG front three, he will have no illusions about the magnitude of the task. “In every respect Wednesday is going to be different conditions from the game at Ross County – very different players and maybe the best front three in the world right now. “You just need to face it and you just need to enjoy it as much as you can. Everybody knows that PSG are better than Celtic but we need to compete and show that we deserve to play at this level and hopefully we will do that. “When you play against Neymar, Mbappé, Cavani – it doesn’t matter who plays there – you need to make no mistakes and compete and, if we do that, hopefully Wednesday will be another kind of game. With Aberdeen held to a home draw by Motherwell and Rangers and Hibernian losing at home to Hamilton Academical and St Johnstone respectively, Celtic are now six points clear at the top of the SPFL Premiership ahead of next Sunday’s meeting with Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park.

Brendan Rodgers looks to January transfer window in preparation for busy summer

The World Cup and Champions League will combine to give Brendan Rodgers a headache next summer when the Celtic manager must address the overlap of two competitions involving his players. Tom Rogic, Cristian Gamboa and Mikael Lustig are set to be at the World Cup finals with Australia, Costa Rica and Sweden respectively, while Erik Sviatchenko could also be in Russia with Denmark if he regains a place in the squad after his injury lay-off. The finals get under way on June 14 and end on July 15, but changes to the Champions League qualifying process mean that Celtic are likely to be involved in that tournament’s first round on July 10 or 11, and Rodgers has to ensure he has resources at right-back, where both Lustig and Gamboa play. “It is the way it is,” he said. “We have to prepare for that in the next window to ensure we’re covered. Gambo and Lustig are both right-sided defensive players, so that’s going to be a key area because we don’t want to be short. “We will manage our schedule accordingly. We do have Tony Ralston who is here and so I think we cover, but it is an area we need to consider going through the summer. “We have been short in certain areas over the last two summers, so January is a bid window for us if we feel we need to do something. “It [the Champions League schedule] is punishing to say the least, with eight games in as many weeks. Normally, you get a wee breather in there. There are the other games you need to play to get fit, and the league might be up and running, so it’s certainly not made any easier for the team which is trying to qualify.” Lustiq is expected to be in the Sweden squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia Credit: Getty Images In the meantime, World Cup qualification for the lucky trio has had a positive knock-on effect, according to Rodgers. “I think there is a real good-feel factor there. Everyone is happy for them,” he said. “You would have seen Mikael’s celebrations in the week, and he’s come back full of enthusiasm. That’s contagious, and it goes around the group. “Tom Rogic? God, if anybody deserves to be at the World Cup it’s him, given how far he’s had to travel – constantly all around tKhe world. Cristian Gamboa will be there as well, and if Erik Sviatchenko gets into Danish squad the second part of the season, then there’s a chance for him as well.” Celtic, of course, have immediate business in this season’s Champions League when they meet Paris Saint-Germain in Paris on Wednesday. The Scottish champions cannot make the knockout stage but remain favourites to claim the Europa League spot ahead of Anderlecht and, although they lost 2-1 at home to Bayern Munich in their previous outing, Rodgers saw improvement in his players’ performance. “We performed very well in that game but didn’t get the result, so we can learn from that,” he said. “There were lots of great moments in that game, but our frustration was that from when we scored, there were three minutes till they went ahead again and what’s so important in the 10 minutes after you score is you keep the ball as much as you can. That was our only downfall. We gave everything in the game. We defended well, we came from being behind and got level and with 15 minutes to go, we have a great chance of getting a result. But after we scored, we gave the ball away three times and didn’t press as hard as we normally would. “Then all of a sudden, you are 2-1 behind, so that’s typical of the lessons that we are finding out all the time. At this level, it’s not so much about the possession you have, it’s about dangerous possession. “Can you show the personality and confidence to show you belong on that stage? These teams, PSG and Bayern Munich, are expected to go all the way in the competition. “So realistically, it is tough for us. The question on Wednesday is can we play our game and improve?” Celtic were in Dingwall for yesterday’s lunchtime meeting with Ross County, seeking a 64th successive domestic fixture unbeaten. Although they were dominant from first to last, the Scottish Premiership leaders had to wait until the 75th minute to secure their victory when Leigh Griffiths, a late substitute, struck one of his trademark free kicks from 25 yards to beat Aaron McCarey, on the occasion of left-back Kieran Tierney’s 100th appearance for Celtic. A good afternoon for Celtic got even better as the chasing pack were all defeated in the 3pm kick-offs. League Cup finalists Motherwell –who will contest the first silverware of the season against Celtic at Hampden a week today – secured an excellent 2-0 win in Aberdeen with a Louis Moult double. Hibernian were beaten 2-1 at home when Steven MacLean scored for St Johnstone with the last kick of the game. Most surprisingly, Rangers lost at home to Hamilton for the first time in the league for 91 years as goals by David Templeton and Darren Taylor made history at Ibrox. Elsewhere, Dundee and Kilmarnock saw out a 0-0 draw at Dens Park.

Brendan Rodgers looks to January transfer window in preparation for busy summer

The World Cup and Champions League will combine to give Brendan Rodgers a headache next summer when the Celtic manager must address the overlap of two competitions involving his players. Tom Rogic, Cristian Gamboa and Mikael Lustig are set to be at the World Cup finals with Australia, Costa Rica and Sweden respectively, while Erik Sviatchenko could also be in Russia with Denmark if he regains a place in the squad after his injury lay-off. The finals get under way on June 14 and end on July 15, but changes to the Champions League qualifying process mean that Celtic are likely to be involved in that tournament’s first round on July 10 or 11, and Rodgers has to ensure he has resources at right-back, where both Lustig and Gamboa play. “It is the way it is,” he said. “We have to prepare for that in the next window to ensure we’re covered. Gambo and Lustig are both right-sided defensive players, so that’s going to be a key area because we don’t want to be short. “We will manage our schedule accordingly. We do have Tony Ralston who is here and so I think we cover, but it is an area we need to consider going through the summer. “We have been short in certain areas over the last two summers, so January is a bid window for us if we feel we need to do something. “It [the Champions League schedule] is punishing to say the least, with eight games in as many weeks. Normally, you get a wee breather in there. There are the other games you need to play to get fit, and the league might be up and running, so it’s certainly not made any easier for the team which is trying to qualify.” Lustiq is expected to be in the Sweden squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia Credit: Getty Images In the meantime, World Cup qualification for the lucky trio has had a positive knock-on effect, according to Rodgers. “I think there is a real good-feel factor there. Everyone is happy for them,” he said. “You would have seen Mikael’s celebrations in the week, and he’s come back full of enthusiasm. That’s contagious, and it goes around the group. “Tom Rogic? God, if anybody deserves to be at the World Cup it’s him, given how far he’s had to travel – constantly all around tKhe world. Cristian Gamboa will be there as well, and if Erik Sviatchenko gets into Danish squad the second part of the season, then there’s a chance for him as well.” Celtic, of course, have immediate business in this season’s Champions League when they meet Paris Saint-Germain in Paris on Wednesday. The Scottish champions cannot make the knockout stage but remain favourites to claim the Europa League spot ahead of Anderlecht and, although they lost 2-1 at home to Bayern Munich in their previous outing, Rodgers saw improvement in his players’ performance. “We performed very well in that game but didn’t get the result, so we can learn from that,” he said. “There were lots of great moments in that game, but our frustration was that from when we scored, there were three minutes till they went ahead again and what’s so important in the 10 minutes after you score is you keep the ball as much as you can. That was our only downfall. We gave everything in the game. We defended well, we came from being behind and got level and with 15 minutes to go, we have a great chance of getting a result. But after we scored, we gave the ball away three times and didn’t press as hard as we normally would. “Then all of a sudden, you are 2-1 behind, so that’s typical of the lessons that we are finding out all the time. At this level, it’s not so much about the possession you have, it’s about dangerous possession. “Can you show the personality and confidence to show you belong on that stage? These teams, PSG and Bayern Munich, are expected to go all the way in the competition. “So realistically, it is tough for us. The question on Wednesday is can we play our game and improve?” Celtic were in Dingwall for yesterday’s lunchtime meeting with Ross County, seeking a 64th successive domestic fixture unbeaten. Although they were dominant from first to last, the Scottish Premiership leaders had to wait until the 75th minute to secure their victory when Leigh Griffiths, a late substitute, struck one of his trademark free kicks from 25 yards to beat Aaron McCarey, on the occasion of left-back Kieran Tierney’s 100th appearance for Celtic. A good afternoon for Celtic got even better as the chasing pack were all defeated in the 3pm kick-offs. League Cup finalists Motherwell –who will contest the first silverware of the season against Celtic at Hampden a week today – secured an excellent 2-0 win in Aberdeen with a Louis Moult double. Hibernian were beaten 2-1 at home when Steven MacLean scored for St Johnstone with the last kick of the game. Most surprisingly, Rangers lost at home to Hamilton for the first time in the league for 91 years as goals by David Templeton and Darren Taylor made history at Ibrox. Elsewhere, Dundee and Kilmarnock saw out a 0-0 draw at Dens Park.

Brendan Rodgers welcomes mutually beneficial possible alliance with Michael O'Neill 

If Michael O’Neill becomes Scotland manager, Brendan Rodgers will form an alliance with his Northern Irish compatriot for their mutual benefit, according to the Celtic manager. O’Neill will meet the Scottish Football Association next week to discuss the national team job, vacant since Gordon Strachan’s departure last month. Should he accept, he will inherit a group of Celtic players who formed the backbone of Strachan’s team. Asked if he expected to be speaking regularly with O’Neill under such circumstances, Rodgers said: “Absolutely, and I want to help. There is a real energy about the Celtic players when they go there, a real core of them that can help. “He has lived in Scotland for a number of years, played in Scotland and knows what you are all like. “He has spent six years or so at Northern Ireland and has done a European Championship and just missed out on a World Cup. Their top players over the next few years will move on. “If you look at Scotland, it is an exciting group and if he can pull them together and develop them, then he would maybe have a chance of getting them to their first Euros in 20-odd years and then maybe on to a World Cup after that. I am sure it is one he will think about.” Rodgers thinks St Johnstone's Tommy Wright would be a perfect replacement for Michael O'Neill at Northern Ireland Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Rodgers also backed another fellow countryman to take over the Northern Ireland job should O’Neill quit. Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, has surmounted the Perth club’s limited resources to post three successive fourth-place finishes and in 2014 guided them to their first major trophy success with a victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final. Surprisingly to some, Wright has not been in the frame for the managerial vacancy at Rangers, for which the favourite remains Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, but his feats have been noted by the Irish Football Association. “Tommy would be perfect for Northern Ireland if Michael moved on,” said Rodgers. “He has earned his stripes at St Johnstone. For me, for the Rangers job, Derek McInnes and him would be obvious stand-outs, but I really hope he gets the chance given the work he has done to do it on a bigger stage.” The resumption of domestic fixtures after the international break sees Celtic travel to Dingwall tomorrow where they will attempt to extend their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures to 64 against Ross County. “It’ll end at some point,” Rodgers said. “We only focus on the next game. The squad is coming back now. I see the competitiveness in the players – we have Patrick Roberts, Jozo Simunovic and Leigh Griffiths back training this week. Erik [Sviatchenko] played 45 minutes of a practice match last week. They are fit, if not football fit, but the availability is there.” That match will mark another milestone in the career path of Kieran Tierney, when the defender makes his 100th appearance for Celtic at the ripe old age of 20. He also earned the accolade of captain of Scotland in the recent friendly with The Netherlands. “He can be a great leader for Scotland and I think he will be a captain here at Celtic one day,” said Rodgers. “He is developing and maturing on and off the field. I heard him speak at the end of the season at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association dinner and thought he spoke so well. It is nice to see young players come on in all aspects.”

Brendan Rodgers welcomes mutually beneficial possible alliance with Michael O'Neill 

If Michael O’Neill becomes Scotland manager, Brendan Rodgers will form an alliance with his Northern Irish compatriot for their mutual benefit, according to the Celtic manager. O’Neill will meet the Scottish Football Association next week to discuss the national team job, vacant since Gordon Strachan’s departure last month. Should he accept, he will inherit a group of Celtic players who formed the backbone of Strachan’s team. Asked if he expected to be speaking regularly with O’Neill under such circumstances, Rodgers said: “Absolutely, and I want to help. There is a real energy about the Celtic players when they go there, a real core of them that can help. “He has lived in Scotland for a number of years, played in Scotland and knows what you are all like. “He has spent six years or so at Northern Ireland and has done a European Championship and just missed out on a World Cup. Their top players over the next few years will move on. “If you look at Scotland, it is an exciting group and if he can pull them together and develop them, then he would maybe have a chance of getting them to their first Euros in 20-odd years and then maybe on to a World Cup after that. I am sure it is one he will think about.” Rodgers thinks St Johnstone's Tommy Wright would be a perfect replacement for Michael O'Neill at Northern Ireland Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Rodgers also backed another fellow countryman to take over the Northern Ireland job should O’Neill quit. Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, has surmounted the Perth club’s limited resources to post three successive fourth-place finishes and in 2014 guided them to their first major trophy success with a victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final. Surprisingly to some, Wright has not been in the frame for the managerial vacancy at Rangers, for which the favourite remains Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, but his feats have been noted by the Irish Football Association. “Tommy would be perfect for Northern Ireland if Michael moved on,” said Rodgers. “He has earned his stripes at St Johnstone. For me, for the Rangers job, Derek McInnes and him would be obvious stand-outs, but I really hope he gets the chance given the work he has done to do it on a bigger stage.” The resumption of domestic fixtures after the international break sees Celtic travel to Dingwall tomorrow where they will attempt to extend their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures to 64 against Ross County. “It’ll end at some point,” Rodgers said. “We only focus on the next game. The squad is coming back now. I see the competitiveness in the players – we have Patrick Roberts, Jozo Simunovic and Leigh Griffiths back training this week. Erik [Sviatchenko] played 45 minutes of a practice match last week. They are fit, if not football fit, but the availability is there.” That match will mark another milestone in the career path of Kieran Tierney, when the defender makes his 100th appearance for Celtic at the ripe old age of 20. He also earned the accolade of captain of Scotland in the recent friendly with The Netherlands. “He can be a great leader for Scotland and I think he will be a captain here at Celtic one day,” said Rodgers. “He is developing and maturing on and off the field. I heard him speak at the end of the season at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association dinner and thought he spoke so well. It is nice to see young players come on in all aspects.”

Scottish clubs set national charity records, with SPFL now 'fourth most community-focused league in the world'

Scottish football has not been at the top table of international competition for 20 years – hence the SFA’s urgent desire to find a manager with the Midas touch – but the country’s clubs have never been more successful at providing aid to charities and worthy causes in their communities. Independent research commissioned by the Scottish Professional Football League has revealed that 770,000 local people – an annual increase of over 60,000 - have been engaged in community initiatives involving all 42 league clubs. The research also found that season ticket holders were well served by making a commitment to back their team throughout the campaign. Headline figures show that clubs engaged with approximately 772,000 people via community activity in season 2016/17, many supported by programmes run and organised by the SPFL Trust, the charitable arm of the league. Around 86 per cent of all clubs provide free tickets to matches for community groups, charities and other worthy causes, with an estimated total of 84,000 donated last season. The number of clubs offering free admission to children has risen to 62 per cent, up 5 per cent on last year’s figure.      The average maximum saving for supporters across all four divisions buying a 2017/18 season ticket is £96.20, when compared with paying at the gate. Attendance figures also told an encouraging story, with total crowds for the four Ladbrokes divisions exceeding four million in season 2016/17, a 12 per cent increase year on year, while almost a quarter of a million supporters attended the first two matches of the 2017/18 season to set a new record for the SPFL. Nicky Reid, chief executive of the SPFL Trust, said: “The recent Responsiball annual report now places the SPFL as the fourth most community-focused league in the world, based on their analysis of the 25 biggest national competitions. “A rise of three places year on year, shows that this is an area of significant strength and opportunity for Scottish football.  In the past year, the SPFL Trust and our clubs have been trusted to work on projects funded by the Scottish Government, Big Lottery Fund, Erasmus, Scottish Water, Kinder+Sport, and the SPFL itself amongst others.  “Our Trusted Trophy Tour also visited more than 20 clubs and demonstrated the power that football has for good across a wide range of projects. Trust is hard-earned and we all accept the responsibilities that come with that, but the direction of travel is extremely positive.” The SFA, meanwhile, announced that its Elite club football academies are Aberdeen, Celtic, Hamilton, Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Rangers. The second-tier Progressive grade consists of Ayr United, Dundee United, Forth Valley, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Partick Thistle, Ross County,St Mirren and St Johnstone. The third-tier Progressive level academies are Dundee, Fife, Greenock Morton and Queen’s Park. Scottish FA Performance Director Malky Mackay said: “What I would like to stress is that the bandings are not fixed and they will be reassessed in June 2018. No door is closed to clubs outside of the Elite bracket with aspirations to move up.”

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat before the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Rangers interested in Scotland target Michael O'Neill for vacant manager role

Michael O’Neill returned to his Edinburgh home late on Monday afternoon to find that the bookmakers had not only installed him as favourite for the vacant Scotland manager’s job but had made him third favourite for the similarly unfilled position at Rangers. Sensibly, the Northern Ireland manager will take a couple of days to reflect on the outcome of the World Cup play-off which saw Switzerland progress to the finals in Russia next summer thanks to the award of a nonsensical penalty kick in the first leg in Belfast. O’Neill’s position, as stated after Sunday’s goalless draw in Basel, is that he is under contract to the Irish Football Association and that it would be improper to speak about other positions. That said, at the age of 48 and after six years with the Northern Ireland team, it would be remarkable if O’Neill were not contemplating a fresh start and there must also be an allure in the prospect of a switch to day-to-day involvement at club level rather than the spasmodic challenge of the international game. The utterances of Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, have been scrutinised for clues to what might transpire at Hampden Park. With no interest in the World Cup finals, following failure to clear the group stage qualifying hurdles under Gordon Strachan the Scots have a friendly in Morocco in March and another in early summer before they resume competitive action in the Uefa Nations League next September. “We might have a new manager in place for those friendlies, but if we haven’t, it’s not the end of the world,” Regan said last month when announcing that Malky Mackay would act as interim manager for the friendly meeting with Holland at Pittodrie, which Scotland lost 1-0 last Thursday. One immediate assumption was that the SFA had identified O’Neill as its principal target and were prepared to wait, if Northern Ireland were to reach the finals. Sam Wallace's Power Rankings 42:04 Regan also revealed on the day of the Dutch friendly that Mackay would not be considered as a long-term candidate, prompting speculation that the SFA was clearing the way for a speedy approach to the IFA if circumstances changed quickly, as they have done. Certainly, O’Neill is as familiar with the Scottish scene as any candidate could be. He played for Dundee United, Hibernian, St Johnstone, Clydebank and Ayr United and his first management job was at Brechin City between 2006 and 2008. Moreover, O’Neill has conscripted a core of players who either play or have played for Scottish clubs, to the extent that recent squad have featured no fewer than 17 with that experience, the newest recruit being Jordan Jones of Kilmarnock, who made his debut appearance in the play-off second leg against Switzerland on Sunday. Telegraph Sport can confirm, however, that although the SFA is considering O’Neill as a candidate, its still trimming its initial roster of possible targets and has not yet reached the stage of a short-list. O’Neill’s glowing credential is that he steered Northern Ireland to their first tournament finals in 30 years and their first ever European championship when they reached Euro 2016. He also got the team beyond the group stage, an accomplishment that has never been matched by any Scotland manager. One curiosity that will surely interest the SFA, though, is that O’Neill’s win rate with Northern Ireland stands at 34.35%, compared to Gordon Strachan’s return of 44.35%. Michael O'Neill has a worse win percentage than Gordon Strachan but almost took Northern Ireland to the World Cup Credit: GETTY IMAGES As for conjecture about Rangers, an appointment to the Ibrox job would be a fascinating cultural development, given that O’Neill is a Roman Catholic from Northern Ireland, whose education included a spell at Presentation Covent Primary School in Portadown and All Saints in Ballymana and who would certainly be the first manager of the Light Blues who played Gaelic football as a boy. It would be doubly intriguing were he ever to take over at Ibrox with his fellow countryman, Jimmy Nicholl, a former Rangers favourite, as his assistant. Nicholl, indeed, recently declared that O’Neill would not remain in international football in the event of Northern Ireland failing to make the World Cup finals. “He’s young enough – if he gets a good opportunity and a good challenge at a big club on a day-to-day basis, then he’ll go,” Nicholl told BBC Scotland last month. One other consideration which might yet materialise is a club job in Scotland, but not at Ibrox. Should Rangers make a successful move for Derek McInnes, the bookies’ favourite for their vacant position, then Aberdeen would be in the market for a new manager. In those circumstances an obvious candidate – very likely the favourite – would be a man who played six games for the Dons during a loan spell in 1998. Fellow by name of O’Neill, in case you hadn’t guessed.

Rangers interested in Scotland target Michael O'Neill for vacant manager role

Michael O’Neill returned to his Edinburgh home late on Monday afternoon to find that the bookmakers had not only installed him as favourite for the vacant Scotland manager’s job but had made him third favourite for the similarly unfilled position at Rangers. Sensibly, the Northern Ireland manager will take a couple of days to reflect on the outcome of the World Cup play-off which saw Switzerland progress to the finals in Russia next summer thanks to the award of a nonsensical penalty kick in the first leg in Belfast. O’Neill’s position, as stated after Sunday’s goalless draw in Basel, is that he is under contract to the Irish Football Association and that it would be improper to speak about other positions. That said, at the age of 48 and after six years with the Northern Ireland team, it would be remarkable if O’Neill were not contemplating a fresh start and there must also be an allure in the prospect of a switch to day-to-day involvement at club level rather than the spasmodic challenge of the international game. The utterances of Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, have been scrutinised for clues to what might transpire at Hampden Park. With no interest in the World Cup finals, following failure to clear the group stage qualifying hurdles under Gordon Strachan the Scots have a friendly in Morocco in March and another in early summer before they resume competitive action in the Uefa Nations League next September. “We might have a new manager in place for those friendlies, but if we haven’t, it’s not the end of the world,” Regan said last month when announcing that Malky Mackay would act as interim manager for the friendly meeting with Holland at Pittodrie, which Scotland lost 1-0 last Thursday. One immediate assumption was that the SFA had identified O’Neill as its principal target and were prepared to wait, if Northern Ireland were to reach the finals. Sam Wallace's Power Rankings 42:04 Regan also revealed on the day of the Dutch friendly that Mackay would not be considered as a long-term candidate, prompting speculation that the SFA was clearing the way for a speedy approach to the IFA if circumstances changed quickly, as they have done. Certainly, O’Neill is as familiar with the Scottish scene as any candidate could be. He played for Dundee United, Hibernian, St Johnstone, Clydebank and Ayr United and his first management job was at Brechin City between 2006 and 2008. Moreover, O’Neill has conscripted a core of players who either play or have played for Scottish clubs, to the extent that recent squad have featured no fewer than 17 with that experience, the newest recruit being Jordan Jones of Kilmarnock, who made his debut appearance in the play-off second leg against Switzerland on Sunday. Telegraph Sport can confirm, however, that although the SFA is considering O’Neill as a candidate, its still trimming its initial roster of possible targets and has not yet reached the stage of a short-list. O’Neill’s glowing credential is that he steered Northern Ireland to their first tournament finals in 30 years and their first ever European championship when they reached Euro 2016. He also got the team beyond the group stage, an accomplishment that has never been matched by any Scotland manager. One curiosity that will surely interest the SFA, though, is that O’Neill’s win rate with Northern Ireland stands at 34.35%, compared to Gordon Strachan’s return of 44.35%. Michael O'Neill has a worse win percentage than Gordon Strachan but almost took Northern Ireland to the World Cup Credit: GETTY IMAGES As for conjecture about Rangers, an appointment to the Ibrox job would be a fascinating cultural development, given that O’Neill is a Roman Catholic from Northern Ireland, whose education included a spell at Presentation Covent Primary School in Portadown and All Saints in Ballymana and who would certainly be the first manager of the Light Blues who played Gaelic football as a boy. It would be doubly intriguing were he ever to take over at Ibrox with his fellow countryman, Jimmy Nicholl, a former Rangers favourite, as his assistant. Nicholl, indeed, recently declared that O’Neill would not remain in international football in the event of Northern Ireland failing to make the World Cup finals. “He’s young enough – if he gets a good opportunity and a good challenge at a big club on a day-to-day basis, then he’ll go,” Nicholl told BBC Scotland last month. One other consideration which might yet materialise is a club job in Scotland, but not at Ibrox. Should Rangers make a successful move for Derek McInnes, the bookies’ favourite for their vacant position, then Aberdeen would be in the market for a new manager. In those circumstances an obvious candidate – very likely the favourite – would be a man who played six games for the Dons during a loan spell in 1998. Fellow by name of O’Neill, in case you hadn’t guessed.

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Jasper Cillessen REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland caretaker manager Malky Mackay and players react Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Timothy Fosu-Mensah in action with Scotland's Ryan Christie REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Nathan Ake Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland's Matthew Phillips in action as Netherlands' Nathan Ake looks on REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Memphis Depay reacts Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland's Kieran Tierney looks dejected after the match REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Daley Blind in action with Scotland's John McGinn (L) and Ryan Christie REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Timothy Fosu-Mensah in action with Scotland's Andrew Robertson REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland caretaker manager Malky Mackay applauds fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Scotland 0 Holland 1: Memphis Depay strikes winner as hosts suffer only defeat of year

Scotland suffered their only defeat of 2017 in this desultory friendly, where the only goal of the game was scored shortly before half-time by Memphis Depay. There was no mother lode of new Scottish talent but the consolations were decent performances by Hibs’ John McGinn and Callum McGregor, on the occasion of the Celtic midfielder’s first cap. The impressive momentum of Kieran Tierney’s career was extended by his elevation to the captaincy at the age of 20. The Isle of Man-born defender had been shifted to centre-back to permit Ryan Jack and Andrew Robertson to occupy the full-back berths, behind a sitting pair of John McGinn and Kenny McLean, who renewed an acquaintanceship that dated from their spell together at St Mirren between 2012 and 2015. The injuries to Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong which kept them out of the side also deprived the Scots of punch and penetration in the middle of the park, but Mackay’s players started positively and quickly forced three successive corner kicks. There were also promising efforts from Matt Phillips, in his makeshift role as lone striker, and James Forrest, all of which were blocked or deflected. The early stages featured oddities, a couple of which were embarrassing, such as the prolonged stoppage while a replacement was found for the match ball, which the French referee decreed to be too soft. Another blemish was the boos directed at Ryan Jack by a few Aberdeen supporters who decided that their objection to a former Dons player who had moved to Rangers should be directed at him when he was wearing the colours of his country. Depay's goal proved to be the winner Credit: Getty Images Virgil van Dijk was also the target of jeers from the main stand although, in the case of the Dutch defender, the cause appeared to be his previous employment at Celtic. More pertinently, Van Dijk was not as troubled as he should have been by Scotland’s strivings on the field. Given that he and his fellow centre-back, Karim Rekkik, were frequently left alone as their full-backs pressed upfield, they were rarely stretched to cover as they should have been. In fact, the Scots’ best effort in the first half came when Tierney ventured upfield for a 30-yard shot with the power and accuracy to trouble Jasper Cillessen, but the Barcelona goalkeeper dived full length to parry the drive. Cillessen looked much less adept when he made a hash of clearing a back pass and had the ball taken off his toe by Phillips, who found Ryan Christie, but the winger overhit his return cross and the chance was lost. By that stage, the Dutch were ahead, having caught Scotland shortly before the interval with a classic counterpunch which saw them break three against three in front of Craig Gordon. Caretaker manager Malky Mackay orders his instructions from the touchline Credit: Reuters The ball was worked to the right flank for Ryan Babel, whose dipping cross to the back post was met by Depay’s outstretched left boot for a simple steer into the Scottish net. McGinn had cheered the Tartan Army with a forceful shot that swirled narrowly wide and McGregor came closer with a 22-yard drive which Cillessen blocked just below the crossbar but the home supporters only found their full voice when Ryan Fraser came on for Forrest and, with his first touch, left Nathan Ake static as he cut into the Dutch box for a clipped attempt which skipped a few inches to the side of the post. Jason Cummings enlivened the closing moments with a substitute appearance which saw him shoot straight at the goalkeeper to complete a frustrating evening for Malky Mackay – acting as interim manager - who had learnt earlier from the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, that he was not being considered for the position in the longer term. 

Scotland 0 Holland 1: Memphis Depay strikes winner as hosts suffer only defeat of year

Scotland suffered their only defeat of 2017 in this desultory friendly, where the only goal of the game was scored shortly before half-time by Memphis Depay. There was no mother lode of new Scottish talent but the consolations were decent performances by Hibs’ John McGinn and Callum McGregor, on the occasion of the Celtic midfielder’s first cap. The impressive momentum of Kieran Tierney’s career was extended by his elevation to the captaincy at the age of 20. The Isle of Man-born defender had been shifted to centre-back to permit Ryan Jack and Andrew Robertson to occupy the full-back berths, behind a sitting pair of John McGinn and Kenny McLean, who renewed an acquaintanceship that dated from their spell together at St Mirren between 2012 and 2015. The injuries to Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong which kept them out of the side also deprived the Scots of punch and penetration in the middle of the park, but Mackay’s players started positively and quickly forced three successive corner kicks. There were also promising efforts from Matt Phillips, in his makeshift role as lone striker, and James Forrest, all of which were blocked or deflected. The early stages featured oddities, a couple of which were embarrassing, such as the prolonged stoppage while a replacement was found for the match ball, which the French referee decreed to be too soft. Another blemish was the boos directed at Ryan Jack by a few Aberdeen supporters who decided that their objection to a former Dons player who had moved to Rangers should be directed at him when he was wearing the colours of his country. Depay's goal proved to be the winner Credit: Getty Images Virgil van Dijk was also the target of jeers from the main stand although, in the case of the Dutch defender, the cause appeared to be his previous employment at Celtic. More pertinently, Van Dijk was not as troubled as he should have been by Scotland’s strivings on the field. Given that he and his fellow centre-back, Karim Rekkik, were frequently left alone as their full-backs pressed upfield, they were rarely stretched to cover as they should have been. In fact, the Scots’ best effort in the first half came when Tierney ventured upfield for a 30-yard shot with the power and accuracy to trouble Jasper Cillessen, but the Barcelona goalkeeper dived full length to parry the drive. Cillessen looked much less adept when he made a hash of clearing a back pass and had the ball taken off his toe by Phillips, who found Ryan Christie, but the winger overhit his return cross and the chance was lost. By that stage, the Dutch were ahead, having caught Scotland shortly before the interval with a classic counterpunch which saw them break three against three in front of Craig Gordon. Caretaker manager Malky Mackay orders his instructions from the touchline Credit: Reuters The ball was worked to the right flank for Ryan Babel, whose dipping cross to the back post was met by Depay’s outstretched left boot for a simple steer into the Scottish net. McGinn had cheered the Tartan Army with a forceful shot that swirled narrowly wide and McGregor came closer with a 22-yard drive which Cillessen blocked just below the crossbar but the home supporters only found their full voice when Ryan Fraser came on for Forrest and, with his first touch, left Nathan Ake static as he cut into the Dutch box for a clipped attempt which skipped a few inches to the side of the post. Jason Cummings enlivened the closing moments with a substitute appearance which saw him shoot straight at the goalkeeper to complete a frustrating evening for Malky Mackay – acting as interim manager - who had learnt earlier from the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, that he was not being considered for the position in the longer term. 

Scotland 0 Holland 1: Memphis Depay strikes winner as hosts suffer only defeat of year

Scotland suffered their only defeat of 2017 in this desultory friendly, where the only goal of the game was scored shortly before half-time by Memphis Depay. There was no mother lode of new Scottish talent but the consolations were decent performances by Hibs’ John McGinn and Callum McGregor, on the occasion of the Celtic midfielder’s first cap. The impressive momentum of Kieran Tierney’s career was extended by his elevation to the captaincy at the age of 20. The Isle of Man-born defender had been shifted to centre-back to permit Ryan Jack and Andrew Robertson to occupy the full-back berths, behind a sitting pair of John McGinn and Kenny McLean, who renewed an acquaintanceship that dated from their spell together at St Mirren between 2012 and 2015. The injuries to Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong which kept them out of the side also deprived the Scots of punch and penetration in the middle of the park, but Mackay’s players started positively and quickly forced three successive corner kicks. There were also promising efforts from Matt Phillips, in his makeshift role as lone striker, and James Forrest, all of which were blocked or deflected. The early stages featured oddities, a couple of which were embarrassing, such as the prolonged stoppage while a replacement was found for the match ball, which the French referee decreed to be too soft. Another blemish was the boos directed at Ryan Jack by a few Aberdeen supporters who decided that their objection to a former Dons player who had moved to Rangers should be directed at him when he was wearing the colours of his country. Depay's goal proved to be the winner Credit: Getty Images Virgil van Dijk was also the target of jeers from the main stand although, in the case of the Dutch defender, the cause appeared to be his previous employment at Celtic. More pertinently, Van Dijk was not as troubled as he should have been by Scotland’s strivings on the field. Given that he and his fellow centre-back, Karim Rekkik, were frequently left alone as their full-backs pressed upfield, they were rarely stretched to cover as they should have been. In fact, the Scots’ best effort in the first half came when Tierney ventured upfield for a 30-yard shot with the power and accuracy to trouble Jasper Cillessen, but the Barcelona goalkeeper dived full length to parry the drive. Cillessen looked much less adept when he made a hash of clearing a back pass and had the ball taken off his toe by Phillips, who found Ryan Christie, but the winger overhit his return cross and the chance was lost. By that stage, the Dutch were ahead, having caught Scotland shortly before the interval with a classic counterpunch which saw them break three against three in front of Craig Gordon. Caretaker manager Malky Mackay orders his instructions from the touchline Credit: Reuters The ball was worked to the right flank for Ryan Babel, whose dipping cross to the back post was met by Depay’s outstretched left boot for a simple steer into the Scottish net. McGinn had cheered the Tartan Army with a forceful shot that swirled narrowly wide and McGregor came closer with a 22-yard drive which Cillessen blocked just below the crossbar but the home supporters only found their full voice when Ryan Fraser came on for Forrest and, with his first touch, left Nathan Ake static as he cut into the Dutch box for a clipped attempt which skipped a few inches to the side of the post. Jason Cummings enlivened the closing moments with a substitute appearance which saw him shoot straight at the goalkeeper to complete a frustrating evening for Malky Mackay – acting as interim manager - who had learnt earlier from the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, that he was not being considered for the position in the longer term. 

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland caretaker manager Malky Mackay after the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Jasper Cillessen REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland caretaker manager Malky Mackay and Matthew Phillips after the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland's Kieran Tierney applauds fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

Scotland 0 Netherlands 1: Memphis the difference in Aberdeen

Memphis Depay kicked-off Dick Advocaat's farewell tour in winning fashion as a clutch of debutants failed to inspire Scotland at Pittodrie.

Scotland 0 Netherlands 1: Memphis the difference in Aberdeen

Scotland 0 Netherlands 1: Memphis the difference in Aberdeen

Scotland 0 Netherlands 1: Memphis the difference in Aberdeen

Scotland 0 Netherlands 1: Memphis the difference in Aberdeen

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland's Matthew Phillips in action as Netherlands' Nathan Ake looks on REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Scotland's Ryan Jack in action with Netherlands' Memphis Depay Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Scotland vs Netherlands - Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen, Britain - November 9, 2017 Netherlands' Nathan Ake REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

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