Kilmarnock

Kilmarnock slideshow

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.”

Youssouf Mulumbu joins Kilmarnock till end of season

The DR Congo international has joined the Rugby Park outfit for the remainder of the season to reunite with his former boss in the Scottish topflight

Youssouf Mulumbu joins Kilmarnock till end of season

The DR Congo international has joined the Rugby Park outfit for the remainder of the season to reunite with his former boss in the Scottish topflight

Youssouf Mulumbu joins Kilmarnock till end of season

Youssouf Mulumbu joins Kilmarnock till end of season

Youssouf Mulumbu joins Kilmarnock till end of season

Youssouf Mulumbu joins Kilmarnock till end of season

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.

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.”

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.

Malky Mackay: 'This is a chance for Scotland to move on'

The east coast of Scotland stages two vividly contrasting international contests over the next couple of days, both of which feature coaches in charge of their national sides for the first time. At Murrayfield, a capacity crowd of 68,000 will assemble on Saturday to watch Gregor Townsend’s team take on Samoa in the first of three autumn challenge matches. In Aberdeen, meanwhile, just over 15,500 have bought tickets for the meeting of Scotland’s footballers, under their interim manager, Malky Mackay, and their Dutch counterparts at Pittodrie on Thursday. On Saturday, the Murrayfield stadium management will make another pitch to Scottish football journalists, as part of a campaign to have Scotland’s international matches switched to the Edinburgh ground when the SFA’s lease on Hampden Park expires in 2020. In that regard, it is worth noting that, were the Scotland vs Netherlands fixture being played at Murrayfield, the venue would not even be a quarter full. There are, of course, other factors to consider, the most significant being that Scotland’s footballers and the Tartan Army have recently seen a promising year of World Cup qualifiers hit the buffers in Ljubljana, despite the fact that the Scots were the only team in their group to score away to Slovenia. Still, the fixture list abhors a vacuum and Scotland must now begin to address the build-up to their next competitive campaign, for the Uefa Nations League, just as Dick Advocaat’s Dutch squad must do in the wake of their own World Cup disappointment. Given that the SFA have yet to decide upon Strachan’s successor, this occasion has the feel of a casting session, which will feature a scattering of fresh hopefuls, rather than a rehearsal for forthcoming drama. Unlike Townsend, who must address a Six Nations championship which begins in January, Mackay – who is currently in charge of the SFA’s development programme - does not know if he will continue to supervise the senior team, but has to to generate the beginning of momentum in a season that now features no competitive encounters. Mackay has named a young squad Credit: Getty images “I think the freshness in the squad helps us move on,” he said. “It’s full of young players, full of players who haven’t played for their country before. “When they are playing against Holland they are going to make sure they’re giving the best they can to themselves. There will be a good atmosphere here, a good crowd, and really what I’m trying to frame with the guys is that it’s a start of, not friendlies, but the start of four games before next September for the Euro 2020s. “It’s a chance for them to stake their claim, grab the jersey and go on and win 50 caps. I think that’s a fairly easy sell as far as the players are concerned. There is a possible future for them as Scotland players going into a new campaign.” Mackay denied that he had included an Aberdeen contingent with a view to boosting the Pittodrie crowd, although there are good reasons to do so and he would have laid himself open to contrary criticism had no Dons players been on view. Aberdeen fans will, in fact, see familiar figures – probably Ryan Christie and Kenny McLean as starters - but Mackay bridled at comments by Kris Boyd, the former Scotland striker who is now captain at Kilmarnock, to the effect that he was awarding meaningless caps for non-tactical reasons. “Anyone who knows me are aware I’m never going to put a team out on the pitch to sell tickets, so, the actual players going out there desperately want to play for their country and they desperately want to win the game,” Mackay said. Mackay takes training earlier this week Credit: Reuters “They are all playing at a good level, they are all professional footballers, they deserve that respect. They are playing at the top of Scottish football for their clubs on a regular basis. “Players get criticised every week by the media, social media, whatever it may be. If someone says something there’s always someone else wanting to go the opposite way. “The person they concentrate on is their club manager, then themselves, their family and currently, in this case, me and my staff. The players who trained this week have been terrific, with some guys coming back to their home city. How good is that?” Ryan Jack will start at right-back, although his summer move from Aberdeen to Rangers is liable to generate a negative response from some local fans. “He is not the first player to go back to his hometown,” Mackay said. “What I would say is that there will be a lot of Aberdeen fans in the crowd, but it is Scotland that’s here - and I would love Scotland fans to cheer Scotland players tomorrow night.”

Malky Mackay: 'This is a chance for Scotland to move on'

The east coast of Scotland stages two vividly contrasting international contests over the next couple of days, both of which feature coaches in charge of their national sides for the first time. At Murrayfield, a capacity crowd of 68,000 will assemble on Saturday to watch Gregor Townsend’s team take on Samoa in the first of three autumn challenge matches. In Aberdeen, meanwhile, just over 15,500 have bought tickets for the meeting of Scotland’s footballers, under their interim manager, Malky Mackay, and their Dutch counterparts at Pittodrie on Thursday. On Saturday, the Murrayfield stadium management will make another pitch to Scottish football journalists, as part of a campaign to have Scotland’s international matches switched to the Edinburgh ground when the SFA’s lease on Hampden Park expires in 2020. In that regard, it is worth noting that, were the Scotland vs Netherlands fixture being played at Murrayfield, the venue would not even be a quarter full. There are, of course, other factors to consider, the most significant being that Scotland’s footballers and the Tartan Army have recently seen a promising year of World Cup qualifiers hit the buffers in Ljubljana, despite the fact that the Scots were the only team in their group to score away to Slovenia. Still, the fixture list abhors a vacuum and Scotland must now begin to address the build-up to their next competitive campaign, for the Uefa Nations League, just as Dick Advocaat’s Dutch squad must do in the wake of their own World Cup disappointment. Given that the SFA have yet to decide upon Strachan’s successor, this occasion has the feel of a casting session, which will feature a scattering of fresh hopefuls, rather than a rehearsal for forthcoming drama. Unlike Townsend, who must address a Six Nations championship which begins in January, Mackay – who is currently in charge of the SFA’s development programme - does not know if he will continue to supervise the senior team, but has to to generate the beginning of momentum in a season that now features no competitive encounters. Mackay has named a young squad Credit: Getty images “I think the freshness in the squad helps us move on,” he said. “It’s full of young players, full of players who haven’t played for their country before. “When they are playing against Holland they are going to make sure they’re giving the best they can to themselves. There will be a good atmosphere here, a good crowd, and really what I’m trying to frame with the guys is that it’s a start of, not friendlies, but the start of four games before next September for the Euro 2020s. “It’s a chance for them to stake their claim, grab the jersey and go on and win 50 caps. I think that’s a fairly easy sell as far as the players are concerned. There is a possible future for them as Scotland players going into a new campaign.” Mackay denied that he had included an Aberdeen contingent with a view to boosting the Pittodrie crowd, although there are good reasons to do so and he would have laid himself open to contrary criticism had no Dons players been on view. Aberdeen fans will, in fact, see familiar figures – probably Ryan Christie and Kenny McLean as starters - but Mackay bridled at comments by Kris Boyd, the former Scotland striker who is now captain at Kilmarnock, to the effect that he was awarding meaningless caps for non-tactical reasons. “Anyone who knows me are aware I’m never going to put a team out on the pitch to sell tickets, so, the actual players going out there desperately want to play for their country and they desperately want to win the game,” Mackay said. Mackay takes training earlier this week Credit: Reuters “They are all playing at a good level, they are all professional footballers, they deserve that respect. They are playing at the top of Scottish football for their clubs on a regular basis. “Players get criticised every week by the media, social media, whatever it may be. If someone says something there’s always someone else wanting to go the opposite way. “The person they concentrate on is their club manager, then themselves, their family and currently, in this case, me and my staff. The players who trained this week have been terrific, with some guys coming back to their home city. How good is that?” Ryan Jack will start at right-back, although his summer move from Aberdeen to Rangers is liable to generate a negative response from some local fans. “He is not the first player to go back to his hometown,” Mackay said. “What I would say is that there will be a lot of Aberdeen fans in the crowd, but it is Scotland that’s here - and I would love Scotland fans to cheer Scotland players tomorrow night.”

Malky Mackay: 'This is a chance for Scotland to move on'

The east coast of Scotland stages two vividly contrasting international contests over the next couple of days, both of which feature coaches in charge of their national sides for the first time. At Murrayfield, a capacity crowd of 68,000 will assemble on Saturday to watch Gregor Townsend’s team take on Samoa in the first of three autumn challenge matches. In Aberdeen, meanwhile, just over 15,500 have bought tickets for the meeting of Scotland’s footballers, under their interim manager, Malky Mackay, and their Dutch counterparts at Pittodrie on Thursday. On Saturday, the Murrayfield stadium management will make another pitch to Scottish football journalists, as part of a campaign to have Scotland’s international matches switched to the Edinburgh ground when the SFA’s lease on Hampden Park expires in 2020. In that regard, it is worth noting that, were the Scotland vs Netherlands fixture being played at Murrayfield, the venue would not even be a quarter full. There are, of course, other factors to consider, the most significant being that Scotland’s footballers and the Tartan Army have recently seen a promising year of World Cup qualifiers hit the buffers in Ljubljana, despite the fact that the Scots were the only team in their group to score away to Slovenia. Still, the fixture list abhors a vacuum and Scotland must now begin to address the build-up to their next competitive campaign, for the Uefa Nations League, just as Dick Advocaat’s Dutch squad must do in the wake of their own World Cup disappointment. Given that the SFA have yet to decide upon Strachan’s successor, this occasion has the feel of a casting session, which will feature a scattering of fresh hopefuls, rather than a rehearsal for forthcoming drama. Unlike Townsend, who must address a Six Nations championship which begins in January, Mackay – who is currently in charge of the SFA’s development programme - does not know if he will continue to supervise the senior team, but has to to generate the beginning of momentum in a season that now features no competitive encounters. Mackay has named a young squad Credit: Getty images “I think the freshness in the squad helps us move on,” he said. “It’s full of young players, full of players who haven’t played for their country before. “When they are playing against Holland they are going to make sure they’re giving the best they can to themselves. There will be a good atmosphere here, a good crowd, and really what I’m trying to frame with the guys is that it’s a start of, not friendlies, but the start of four games before next September for the Euro 2020s. “It’s a chance for them to stake their claim, grab the jersey and go on and win 50 caps. I think that’s a fairly easy sell as far as the players are concerned. There is a possible future for them as Scotland players going into a new campaign.” Mackay denied that he had included an Aberdeen contingent with a view to boosting the Pittodrie crowd, although there are good reasons to do so and he would have laid himself open to contrary criticism had no Dons players been on view. Aberdeen fans will, in fact, see familiar figures – probably Ryan Christie and Kenny McLean as starters - but Mackay bridled at comments by Kris Boyd, the former Scotland striker who is now captain at Kilmarnock, to the effect that he was awarding meaningless caps for non-tactical reasons. “Anyone who knows me are aware I’m never going to put a team out on the pitch to sell tickets, so, the actual players going out there desperately want to play for their country and they desperately want to win the game,” Mackay said. Mackay takes training earlier this week Credit: Reuters “They are all playing at a good level, they are all professional footballers, they deserve that respect. They are playing at the top of Scottish football for their clubs on a regular basis. “Players get criticised every week by the media, social media, whatever it may be. If someone says something there’s always someone else wanting to go the opposite way. “The person they concentrate on is their club manager, then themselves, their family and currently, in this case, me and my staff. The players who trained this week have been terrific, with some guys coming back to their home city. How good is that?” Ryan Jack will start at right-back, although his summer move from Aberdeen to Rangers is liable to generate a negative response from some local fans. “He is not the first player to go back to his hometown,” Mackay said. “What I would say is that there will be a lot of Aberdeen fans in the crowd, but it is Scotland that’s here - and I would love Scotland fans to cheer Scotland players tomorrow night.”

Matt Phillips ready to face Holland as makeshift striker for Scotland

Matt Phillips has declared himself ready to play as a makeshift striker to solve Malky Mackay’s dilemma in attack for Thursday night’s friendly against Holland at Pittodrie. Mackay is acting as interim manager for the fixture and replaces Gordon Strachan - who departed at the end of the Scots’ failed World Cup qualifying campaign - but has only one recognised centre-forward, the uncapped Jason Cummings. As reported by Telegraph Sport, Mackay is unwilling to throw Cummings straight into action at this level and has identified Phillips as the player to shoulder the burden, although it is not the role he plays for West Brom. “We had a brief chat. I’ve played there on a few occasions before but never regularly,” Phillips said. “I’ve always been a wide man but I’m delighted to play anywhere along the front line. It’s nice to be in the reckoning to start the game. That’s massive. Anywhere up front I’m happy and I’ll give my all. “I played a few games up front for QPR under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and also Neil Warnock. Playing up front would be another learning experience. If I can add it to my armoury it would be something extra and nice to have. “I’ve got the size and I like to run in behind – I do that from wide positions anyway. I’d just need to learn from the manager what he’d like me to do in that position but, as I say, I’m delighted to be in his thoughts. “I definitely didn’t want to be left out. This is a chance to start building for the new campaign. There will be more friendlies and whoever the manager is at the time we all want to be involved. I want to stake my claim for my qualifiers.” Mackay appeared in buoyant mood earlier this week despite his lack of a recognised centre-forward Credit: PA Mackay has been the target of barbed criticism by the former Scotland striker, Kris Boyd, who is now captain of Kilmarnock. The interim manager omitted some established players because they had asked for a break and he chose not to call up replacements whose likely fate would have been to sit in the stand. Boyd, however, condemned the inclusion of Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie and Ryan Jack of Rangers. Speaking on BBC Scotland, Boyd declared Shinnie, who plays in midfield for the Dons, to be “not good enough” and added: “He’s not going to play at left-back because even Barry Douglas, who’s at the top of the Championship [with Wolves] can’t get in. “He doesn’t even play at left-back for Aberdeen and Scotland’s best two players [Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson] are left-backs. As for central midfield; I watched Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor run all over the top of him last week.” As for Jack, Boyd said: “He’s had more red cards than good games for Rangers this season. It’s for the SFA and Malky to appease the fans and media who didn’t like Gordon [Strachan] and then there’s the key thing - to sell tickets. That’s why they’re all in the squad. It’s gone back to the days of Berti Vogts, giving players caps for nothing.” There was no solace for the Scottish Football Assoiciation from a survey carried out amongst 16,000 members of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, of whom 93 per cent said that they believe the Scottish game should be overseen by an independent watchdog, while 90 per cent wanted the Scottish government to put pressure on football authorities to improve. More than 90 per cent of the respondents wanted to see more supporter influence in the SPFL and SFA, while both governing bodies were rated poorly for “good governance and transparency”.

Matt Phillips ready to face Holland as makeshift striker for Scotland

Matt Phillips has declared himself ready to play as a makeshift striker to solve Malky Mackay’s dilemma in attack for Thursday night’s friendly against Holland at Pittodrie. Mackay is acting as interim manager for the fixture and replaces Gordon Strachan - who departed at the end of the Scots’ failed World Cup qualifying campaign - but has only one recognised centre-forward, the uncapped Jason Cummings. As reported by Telegraph Sport, Mackay is unwilling to throw Cummings straight into action at this level and has identified Phillips as the player to shoulder the burden, although it is not the role he plays for West Brom. “We had a brief chat. I’ve played there on a few occasions before but never regularly,” Phillips said. “I’ve always been a wide man but I’m delighted to play anywhere along the front line. It’s nice to be in the reckoning to start the game. That’s massive. Anywhere up front I’m happy and I’ll give my all. “I played a few games up front for QPR under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and also Neil Warnock. Playing up front would be another learning experience. If I can add it to my armoury it would be something extra and nice to have. “I’ve got the size and I like to run in behind – I do that from wide positions anyway. I’d just need to learn from the manager what he’d like me to do in that position but, as I say, I’m delighted to be in his thoughts. “I definitely didn’t want to be left out. This is a chance to start building for the new campaign. There will be more friendlies and whoever the manager is at the time we all want to be involved. I want to stake my claim for my qualifiers.” Mackay appeared in buoyant mood earlier this week despite his lack of a recognised centre-forward Credit: PA Mackay has been the target of barbed criticism by the former Scotland striker, Kris Boyd, who is now captain of Kilmarnock. The interim manager omitted some established players because they had asked for a break and he chose not to call up replacements whose likely fate would have been to sit in the stand. Boyd, however, condemned the inclusion of Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie and Ryan Jack of Rangers. Speaking on BBC Scotland, Boyd declared Shinnie, who plays in midfield for the Dons, to be “not good enough” and added: “He’s not going to play at left-back because even Barry Douglas, who’s at the top of the Championship [with Wolves] can’t get in. “He doesn’t even play at left-back for Aberdeen and Scotland’s best two players [Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson] are left-backs. As for central midfield; I watched Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor run all over the top of him last week.” As for Jack, Boyd said: “He’s had more red cards than good games for Rangers this season. It’s for the SFA and Malky to appease the fans and media who didn’t like Gordon [Strachan] and then there’s the key thing - to sell tickets. That’s why they’re all in the squad. It’s gone back to the days of Berti Vogts, giving players caps for nothing.” There was no solace for the Scottish Football Assoiciation from a survey carried out amongst 16,000 members of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, of whom 93 per cent said that they believe the Scottish game should be overseen by an independent watchdog, while 90 per cent wanted the Scottish government to put pressure on football authorities to improve. More than 90 per cent of the respondents wanted to see more supporter influence in the SPFL and SFA, while both governing bodies were rated poorly for “good governance and transparency”.

Josh Windass says Pedro Caixinha exit has improved Rangers atmosphere: 'It's a good dressing room'

They did not stage a fiesta to mark the departure of Pedro Caixinha but the Portuguese manager’s forced exit from Ibrox lanced the tension that had accumulated among a divided Rangers squad. “There were a lot of smiling faces, a lot of music being played and it seems good to me,” Josh Windass said of the visitors’ dressing room after the team’s 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield finished the week in a considerably more upbeat manner than it had begun. Windass had particular reason to enjoy the occasion. He has, at times, been a target for the catcallers in the Rangers support, but he savoured the salutes accorded to him when he sealed the victory with a stylish strike in the 72nd minute, which he marked by whipping off his jersey and bolting towards the 14,104 travelling fans behind Jon McLaughlin’s goal. The 23-year-old admitted, though, that he had experienced mixed emotions during his celebrations. “I was angry. I’ve missed a few chances in the last few games,” he said. “I think my performances have been reasonably good but it gets tarnished when you miss a few chances, important chances. I tried not to let it get to me and obviously the goal has done me the world of good.” The same could have been said by Kenny Miller, whose fine pass set Windass free to score. Excluded from the squad by Caixinha, who perceived the striker as the focus of resistance or resentment generated by his methods, Miller’s restoration as captain after a month spent watching from the stands saw him double his season’s tally with goals on either side of the break. Kenny Miller was straight back in the goals on his return to the team Credit: PA The first was the consequence of a shrew prompt by Alfredo Morelos, one of Caxinha’s Latin imports. Not all have impressed the Rangers support – or their fellow players – but Windass singled out Morelos for praise when he said: “Alfredo’s performance speaks volumes. “He didn’t get his goal but his hold-up play was the best I’ve seen from him. It’s a good dressing room.” Windass enjoyed his first experience of Murrayfield, despite the cavernous dimensions which meant that Saturday’s healthy crowd of 32,852 only half filled the stadium. “I think it’s a bigger problem for Hearts than the opposition because it’s a beautiful stadium to play in and with 14,000 Rangers fans it was a great place to come to. “I wouldn’t say it’s a weakness for Hearts but Tynecastle is quite hostile and a tough place to go. We came here and it’s a nice pitch and a big stadium. It was brilliant.” Hearts, understandably, pine for a speedy move back across the adjacent railway tracks to Tynecastle, although ongoing reconstruction work means that they will have to abide at least one more use of Murrayfield when they meet Kilmarnock next Sunday. Even so, Craig Levein’s players could reflect that the outcome might well have been different but for two breaks which went against them. 14,000 Rangers fans travelled to Murrayfield Credit: pa The first occurred immediately after Kyle Lafferty’s beautifully controlled free kick put Hearts ahead midway through the first half. With Rangers still absorbing that impact, Ismael Goncalves played a reverse pass to Ross Callachan dead in front of goal, but the midfielder had to take the chance with his weaker foot and Wes Foderingham made a crucial block. “I will not have sleepless nights about it, but you are always disappointed when you have a chance and you don’t score,” Callachan said. “I made the goalie work, but if I score and we go 2-0 up it’s a different game. If that had been on my right foot it is probably a goal.” Hearts’ other misfortune was the loss of Jamie Walker to injury with the score still 1-1. “When Jamie went off we had to change our shape,” said Callachan. “The gaffer didn’t have a choice but it didn’t really work. It is disappointing. There are good things we can take from that game against Rangers side who were lifted by Kenny Miller coming back in.” Off the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ search for a new manager is expected to bear fruit during the imminent international break, with Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes the candidate at the heart of most speculation.

Josh Windass says Pedro Caixinha exit has improved Rangers atmosphere: 'It's a good dressing room'

They did not stage a fiesta to mark the departure of Pedro Caixinha but the Portuguese manager’s forced exit from Ibrox lanced the tension that had accumulated among a divided Rangers squad. “There were a lot of smiling faces, a lot of music being played and it seems good to me,” Josh Windass said of the visitors’ dressing room after the team’s 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield finished the week in a considerably more upbeat manner than it had begun. Windass had particular reason to enjoy the occasion. He has, at times, been a target for the catcallers in the Rangers support, but he savoured the salutes accorded to him when he sealed the victory with a stylish strike in the 72nd minute, which he marked by whipping off his jersey and bolting towards the 14,104 travelling fans behind Jon McLaughlin’s goal. The 23-year-old admitted, though, that he had experienced mixed emotions during his celebrations. “I was angry. I’ve missed a few chances in the last few games,” he said. “I think my performances have been reasonably good but it gets tarnished when you miss a few chances, important chances. I tried not to let it get to me and obviously the goal has done me the world of good.” The same could have been said by Kenny Miller, whose fine pass set Windass free to score. Excluded from the squad by Caixinha, who perceived the striker as the focus of resistance or resentment generated by his methods, Miller’s restoration as captain after a month spent watching from the stands saw him double his season’s tally with goals on either side of the break. Kenny Miller was straight back in the goals on his return to the team Credit: PA The first was the consequence of a shrew prompt by Alfredo Morelos, one of Caxinha’s Latin imports. Not all have impressed the Rangers support – or their fellow players – but Windass singled out Morelos for praise when he said: “Alfredo’s performance speaks volumes. “He didn’t get his goal but his hold-up play was the best I’ve seen from him. It’s a good dressing room.” Windass enjoyed his first experience of Murrayfield, despite the cavernous dimensions which meant that Saturday’s healthy crowd of 32,852 only half filled the stadium. “I think it’s a bigger problem for Hearts than the opposition because it’s a beautiful stadium to play in and with 14,000 Rangers fans it was a great place to come to. “I wouldn’t say it’s a weakness for Hearts but Tynecastle is quite hostile and a tough place to go. We came here and it’s a nice pitch and a big stadium. It was brilliant.” Hearts, understandably, pine for a speedy move back across the adjacent railway tracks to Tynecastle, although ongoing reconstruction work means that they will have to abide at least one more use of Murrayfield when they meet Kilmarnock next Sunday. Even so, Craig Levein’s players could reflect that the outcome might well have been different but for two breaks which went against them. 14,000 Rangers fans travelled to Murrayfield Credit: pa The first occurred immediately after Kyle Lafferty’s beautifully controlled free kick put Hearts ahead midway through the first half. With Rangers still absorbing that impact, Ismael Goncalves played a reverse pass to Ross Callachan dead in front of goal, but the midfielder had to take the chance with his weaker foot and Wes Foderingham made a crucial block. “I will not have sleepless nights about it, but you are always disappointed when you have a chance and you don’t score,” Callachan said. “I made the goalie work, but if I score and we go 2-0 up it’s a different game. If that had been on my right foot it is probably a goal.” Hearts’ other misfortune was the loss of Jamie Walker to injury with the score still 1-1. “When Jamie went off we had to change our shape,” said Callachan. “The gaffer didn’t have a choice but it didn’t really work. It is disappointing. There are good things we can take from that game against Rangers side who were lifted by Kenny Miller coming back in.” Off the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ search for a new manager is expected to bear fruit during the imminent international break, with Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes the candidate at the heart of most speculation.

Josh Windass says Pedro Caixinha exit has improved Rangers atmosphere: 'It's a good dressing room'

They did not stage a fiesta to mark the departure of Pedro Caixinha but the Portuguese manager’s forced exit from Ibrox lanced the tension that had accumulated among a divided Rangers squad. “There were a lot of smiling faces, a lot of music being played and it seems good to me,” Josh Windass said of the visitors’ dressing room after the team’s 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield finished the week in a considerably more upbeat manner than it had begun. Windass had particular reason to enjoy the occasion. He has, at times, been a target for the catcallers in the Rangers support, but he savoured the salutes accorded to him when he sealed the victory with a stylish strike in the 72nd minute, which he marked by whipping off his jersey and bolting towards the 14,104 travelling fans behind Jon McLaughlin’s goal. The 23-year-old admitted, though, that he had experienced mixed emotions during his celebrations. “I was angry. I’ve missed a few chances in the last few games,” he said. “I think my performances have been reasonably good but it gets tarnished when you miss a few chances, important chances. I tried not to let it get to me and obviously the goal has done me the world of good.” The same could have been said by Kenny Miller, whose fine pass set Windass free to score. Excluded from the squad by Caixinha, who perceived the striker as the focus of resistance or resentment generated by his methods, Miller’s restoration as captain after a month spent watching from the stands saw him double his season’s tally with goals on either side of the break. Kenny Miller was straight back in the goals on his return to the team Credit: PA The first was the consequence of a shrew prompt by Alfredo Morelos, one of Caxinha’s Latin imports. Not all have impressed the Rangers support – or their fellow players – but Windass singled out Morelos for praise when he said: “Alfredo’s performance speaks volumes. “He didn’t get his goal but his hold-up play was the best I’ve seen from him. It’s a good dressing room.” Windass enjoyed his first experience of Murrayfield, despite the cavernous dimensions which meant that Saturday’s healthy crowd of 32,852 only half filled the stadium. “I think it’s a bigger problem for Hearts than the opposition because it’s a beautiful stadium to play in and with 14,000 Rangers fans it was a great place to come to. “I wouldn’t say it’s a weakness for Hearts but Tynecastle is quite hostile and a tough place to go. We came here and it’s a nice pitch and a big stadium. It was brilliant.” Hearts, understandably, pine for a speedy move back across the adjacent railway tracks to Tynecastle, although ongoing reconstruction work means that they will have to abide at least one more use of Murrayfield when they meet Kilmarnock next Sunday. Even so, Craig Levein’s players could reflect that the outcome might well have been different but for two breaks which went against them. 14,000 Rangers fans travelled to Murrayfield Credit: pa The first occurred immediately after Kyle Lafferty’s beautifully controlled free kick put Hearts ahead midway through the first half. With Rangers still absorbing that impact, Ismael Goncalves played a reverse pass to Ross Callachan dead in front of goal, but the midfielder had to take the chance with his weaker foot and Wes Foderingham made a crucial block. “I will not have sleepless nights about it, but you are always disappointed when you have a chance and you don’t score,” Callachan said. “I made the goalie work, but if I score and we go 2-0 up it’s a different game. If that had been on my right foot it is probably a goal.” Hearts’ other misfortune was the loss of Jamie Walker to injury with the score still 1-1. “When Jamie went off we had to change our shape,” said Callachan. “The gaffer didn’t have a choice but it didn’t really work. It is disappointing. There are good things we can take from that game against Rangers side who were lifted by Kenny Miller coming back in.” Off the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ search for a new manager is expected to bear fruit during the imminent international break, with Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes the candidate at the heart of most speculation.

Leigh Griffiths helps record-equalling Celtic go 62 games unbeaten

Leigh Griffiths scores the opening goal in Celtic’s 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock.

Scottish football round-up: Kenny Miller produces star turn as Rangers end difficult week with win

Kenny Miller directed a taunting retort at Pedro Caixinha by scoring twice and setting up the other goal for Josh Windass in Rangers’ 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield, a result which delivered a satisfactory end to a tumultuous week for the Ibrox club. It had begun with dismissal from the Betfred Scottish League Cup by Motherwell and continued with a farcical draw at home to Kilmarnock, the result which triggered Caixinha’s sacking.   The Kilmarnock game ended with an equaliser for the Ayrshire side scored by Chris Burke, a former Rangers player. The melancholy catalogue looked as though it would be extended in Edinburgh when another Ibrox employee of bygone days, Kyle Lafferty, put Hearts ahead, but Miller’s interventions scooped all three points for Graeme Murty in his second spell as Rangers’ interim manager. The occasion was replete with serendipity, as in the case of Douglas Ross, one of Craig Thomson’s assistant referees. The Honourable Member for Moray, as he is known in his day job, was criticised for missing the House of Commons vote on Universal Credit in order to run the line at the Champions League group stage tie between Barcelona and Olympiakos in the Nou Camp. It is a unique situation for a Scot to qualify for the finals of a World Cup and then be forced to quit because he is a Tory MP and, perhaps even more remarkable, for him to be the object of greater abuse for a political no-show than for decisions taken by the side of the pitch. Miller reels away after scoring for Rangers Credit: PA Prior to kick-off, the Scottish Rugby Union made a media presentation of their case for Murrayfield to replace Hampden Park as the venue for Scottish football’s showpiece games. Hampden, of course, is frequently derided because of the distance between the pitch and spectators, a stricture which applies even more to the gap between the Murrayfield main stand and the edge of the playing surface. The match programme, meanwhile, still had Caixinha as Rangers manager, a consequence of early print deadlines, but the team sheet listed one name that would have been missing had the Portuguese coach still been in charge. Miller was reinstated, not only to the team but also as captain, and his presence energised the visitors, who had three corner kicks to their credit before Hearts recorded their first. Craig Levein’s side, though, made the breakthrough with a splendid example of set play technique from Lafferty. The provenance was a foul by the teenager, Ross McCrorie – a replacement for the injured Bruno Alves in central defence – who toppled Ismael Goncalves 22 yards out. Lafferty stepped forward and addressed the ball with the focused demeanour usually associated with Greig Laidlaw at this stadium and his delivery would have gratified the Scotland scrum half, albeit that the ball dropped sweetly underneath the crossbar to leave Wes Foderingham stranded. Had Ross Callachan been as deadly when a cute Goncalves reverse pass put him clear inside the box, Hearts would have been 2-0 up within two minutes of their opener. Callachacould only drive against Foderingham. Hearts would rue the missed opportunity before the interval. With only four minutes of the half left to play, Alfredo Morelos’ tenacity created an opening for Miller, whose shot nicked John Souttar’s boot and looped over Jon McLaughlin into the net. The veteran striker put Rangers in front with a textbook header across McLaughlin from a pinpoint delivery from James Tavernier. Miller did not score Rangers’ third goal but it was his punitive pass, curled ahead of Windass from distance, that left the midfielder free to tuck his finish low beyond McLaughlin. Rangers’ victory saw them move into third place, ahead of Motherwell, who lost at home to Hibernian, with Martin Boyle scoring the only goal. At the top, Celtic extended their unbeaten sequence of domestic games to 62 with a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock, who recovered from Leigh Griffiths’ opener to level through Jordan Jones. Aberdeen, in second place, fell behind to Michael Gardyne’s opener for Ross County but won with goals from Ryan and Christie and Kenny McLean to narrow the gap with Celtic to a single point. Dundee slumped to the foot of the table after a 3-1 defeat by Hamilton while Partick moved up by beating St Johnstone 1-0 at Firhill.

Scottish football round-up: Kenny Miller produces star turn as Rangers end difficult week with win

Kenny Miller directed a taunting retort at Pedro Caixinha by scoring twice and setting up the other goal for Josh Windass in Rangers’ 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield, a result which delivered a satisfactory end to a tumultuous week for the Ibrox club. It had begun with dismissal from the Betfred Scottish League Cup by Motherwell and continued with a farcical draw at home to Kilmarnock, the result which triggered Caixinha’s sacking.   The Kilmarnock game ended with an equaliser for the Ayrshire side scored by Chris Burke, a former Rangers player. The melancholy catalogue looked as though it would be extended in Edinburgh when another Ibrox employee of bygone days, Kyle Lafferty, put Hearts ahead, but Miller’s interventions scooped all three points for Graeme Murty in his second spell as Rangers’ interim manager. The occasion was replete with serendipity, as in the case of Douglas Ross, one of Craig Thomson’s assistant referees. The Honourable Member for Moray, as he is known in his day job, was criticised for missing the House of Commons vote on Universal Credit in order to run the line at the Champions League group stage tie between Barcelona and Olympiakos in the Nou Camp. It is a unique situation for a Scot to qualify for the finals of a World Cup and then be forced to quit because he is a Tory MP and, perhaps even more remarkable, for him to be the object of greater abuse for a political no-show than for decisions taken by the side of the pitch. Miller reels away after scoring for Rangers Credit: PA Prior to kick-off, the Scottish Rugby Union made a media presentation of their case for Murrayfield to replace Hampden Park as the venue for Scottish football’s showpiece games. Hampden, of course, is frequently derided because of the distance between the pitch and spectators, a stricture which applies even more to the gap between the Murrayfield main stand and the edge of the playing surface. The match programme, meanwhile, still had Caixinha as Rangers manager, a consequence of early print deadlines, but the team sheet listed one name that would have been missing had the Portuguese coach still been in charge. Miller was reinstated, not only to the team but also as captain, and his presence energised the visitors, who had three corner kicks to their credit before Hearts recorded their first. Craig Levein’s side, though, made the breakthrough with a splendid example of set play technique from Lafferty. The provenance was a foul by the teenager, Ross McCrorie – a replacement for the injured Bruno Alves in central defence – who toppled Ismael Goncalves 22 yards out. Lafferty stepped forward and addressed the ball with the focused demeanour usually associated with Greig Laidlaw at this stadium and his delivery would have gratified the Scotland scrum half, albeit that the ball dropped sweetly underneath the crossbar to leave Wes Foderingham stranded. Had Ross Callachan been as deadly when a cute Goncalves reverse pass put him clear inside the box, Hearts would have been 2-0 up within two minutes of their opener. Callachacould only drive against Foderingham. Hearts would rue the missed opportunity before the interval. With only four minutes of the half left to play, Alfredo Morelos’ tenacity created an opening for Miller, whose shot nicked John Souttar’s boot and looped over Jon McLaughlin into the net. The veteran striker put Rangers in front with a textbook header across McLaughlin from a pinpoint delivery from James Tavernier. Miller did not score Rangers’ third goal but it was his punitive pass, curled ahead of Windass from distance, that left the midfielder free to tuck his finish low beyond McLaughlin. Rangers’ victory saw them move into third place, ahead of Motherwell, who lost at home to Hibernian, with Martin Boyle scoring the only goal. At the top, Celtic extended their unbeaten sequence of domestic games to 62 with a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock, who recovered from Leigh Griffiths’ opener to level through Jordan Jones. Aberdeen, in second place, fell behind to Michael Gardyne’s opener for Ross County but won with goals from Ryan and Christie and Kenny McLean to narrow the gap with Celtic to a single point. Dundee slumped to the foot of the table after a 3-1 defeat by Hamilton while Partick moved up by beating St Johnstone 1-0 at Firhill.

Graeme Murty wants his players' input as he resumes his role as go-to Rangers interim manager 

Graeme Murty has one outstanding credential as the Rangers board consider who they should appoint to succeed Pedro Caixinha as their next manager. The club’s Under-20 coach, who has become the go-to man when the directors need an interim boss, succeeded in a task which eluded both Caixinha and his predecessor, Mark Warburton. On March 12, he supervised the only Rangers team to deprive Celtic of league points since the Ibrox club returned to the top level of Scottish football in the summer of 2016. The former York City, Reading and Southampton defender, who will be in charge when Rangers meet Hearts at Murrayfield on Saturday, has only to close his eyes to prompt a torrent of impressions of that afternoon in the east end of Glasgow. Pedro Caixinha was sacked as Rangers manager on Thursday  Credit: PA “The colours, the sound, how vivid it is, still,” Murty said. “More than anything, the lessons I learned about myself and about this football club from that day. “I would be a Grade A fool not to draw on those. They have informed my practice and my development now. I will be using some of those things as I move forward in this role at the moment. “I learned that the players, when they walk onto that pitch, need to be together and to have a manner of playing, an identity and a togetherness. I need to be able to remove myself at times to give the players what they need. “That was difficult at Celtic Park, but it was something I’m really proud of that we did. It was a fantastic staff that I worked with and I am really grateful to them. That’s another good lesson - that I won’t be able to do this on my own.”  Asked if his second spell as caretake could promote his reputation with the Ibrox directors as they mull over their next move, Murty said: “I am in no position to comment because that is not my remit. To be honest, I am going to prepare a team for Saturday. The bigger questions will wait until later on or for people of a much-higher pay scale than myself. Ryan Jack (second left) is available for selection for Rangers after appealing his red card Credit: PA “If the players know anything from Friday’s training session, it’s that I want their input. Within the training session, within the dressing room, within the match-prep, they have to have a voice. I will reiterate it until people are bored of me – it’s about the players, not about me.”  In the aftermath of defeat by Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup semi-final and the shambolic 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock on Wednesday, Murty has selection difficulties to address, with Bruno Alves suspended and Graham Dorrans and Fabio Cardoso out because of injury. He will, however, be able to deploy Ryan Jack, who has appealed the red card shown to him against Kilmarnock, as well as Kenny Miller, who spent the final three weeks of Caixinha’s reign banished from the squad because he had fallen out of favour with the outgoing manager. “I wasn’t in, I didn’t see what was going on,” Murty said. “Kenny is fit, he is available.” Asked if Miller would regain the captain’s armband, Murty said: “I haven’t made that decision yet.”  Had he not been summoned to supervise the first team, Murty would have been with the under-20s against Liverpool - “I was, potentially, going to be standing on the side with Steven Gerrard,” he said – but will now have the distinction of being the first coach to be in charge of a Rangers side at Murrayfield. Out-of-favour captain Kenny Miller could be back playing under manager Murty  Credit: Getty Images  “I’ve never been there before,” he said. “I’ve seen some footage of it. The technical area looks like I’ll need to have a drinks station half way down it. “Other than that, the pitch is going to be the same so the players have to go and deal with the atmosphere. I’m in no doubt it’s going to be good as we’ve sold loads of tickets. The fans are travelling in their thousands so we need to make sure when the players walk onto the pitch they give them a right good performance.”  Hearts are smarting from defeat by Hibernian in the Edinburgh derby on Tuesday at Easter Road and are likely to be without midfielders, Don Cowie and Arnaud Djoum. Craig Levein’s side have won only one of their four most recent league fixtures but they beat St Johnstone at Murrayfield last weekend. Meanwhile, Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager who rejected an overture from Sunderland during the summer, was cool when asked about his status as one of the favourites to succeed Caixinha. “I’m very happy being here, as I’ve stated often enough,” he said. “I’ve been supposedly linked with clubs a couple of times and, in particular, with Rangers. I’m happy here and nothing changes.”

Graeme Murty wants his players' input as he resumes his role as go-to Rangers interim manager 

Graeme Murty has one outstanding credential as the Rangers board consider who they should appoint to succeed Pedro Caixinha as their next manager. The club’s Under-20 coach, who has become the go-to man when the directors need an interim boss, succeeded in a task which eluded both Caixinha and his predecessor, Mark Warburton. On March 12, he supervised the only Rangers team to deprive Celtic of league points since the Ibrox club returned to the top level of Scottish football in the summer of 2016. The former York City, Reading and Southampton defender, who will be in charge when Rangers meet Hearts at Murrayfield on Saturday, has only to close his eyes to prompt a torrent of impressions of that afternoon in the east end of Glasgow. Pedro Caixinha was sacked as Rangers manager on Thursday  Credit: PA “The colours, the sound, how vivid it is, still,” Murty said. “More than anything, the lessons I learned about myself and about this football club from that day. “I would be a Grade A fool not to draw on those. They have informed my practice and my development now. I will be using some of those things as I move forward in this role at the moment. “I learned that the players, when they walk onto that pitch, need to be together and to have a manner of playing, an identity and a togetherness. I need to be able to remove myself at times to give the players what they need. “That was difficult at Celtic Park, but it was something I’m really proud of that we did. It was a fantastic staff that I worked with and I am really grateful to them. That’s another good lesson - that I won’t be able to do this on my own.”  Asked if his second spell as caretake could promote his reputation with the Ibrox directors as they mull over their next move, Murty said: “I am in no position to comment because that is not my remit. To be honest, I am going to prepare a team for Saturday. The bigger questions will wait until later on or for people of a much-higher pay scale than myself. Ryan Jack (second left) is available for selection for Rangers after appealing his red card Credit: PA “If the players know anything from Friday’s training session, it’s that I want their input. Within the training session, within the dressing room, within the match-prep, they have to have a voice. I will reiterate it until people are bored of me – it’s about the players, not about me.”  In the aftermath of defeat by Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup semi-final and the shambolic 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock on Wednesday, Murty has selection difficulties to address, with Bruno Alves suspended and Graham Dorrans and Fabio Cardoso out because of injury. He will, however, be able to deploy Ryan Jack, who has appealed the red card shown to him against Kilmarnock, as well as Kenny Miller, who spent the final three weeks of Caixinha’s reign banished from the squad because he had fallen out of favour with the outgoing manager. “I wasn’t in, I didn’t see what was going on,” Murty said. “Kenny is fit, he is available.” Asked if Miller would regain the captain’s armband, Murty said: “I haven’t made that decision yet.”  Had he not been summoned to supervise the first team, Murty would have been with the under-20s against Liverpool - “I was, potentially, going to be standing on the side with Steven Gerrard,” he said – but will now have the distinction of being the first coach to be in charge of a Rangers side at Murrayfield. Out-of-favour captain Kenny Miller could be back playing under manager Murty  Credit: Getty Images  “I’ve never been there before,” he said. “I’ve seen some footage of it. The technical area looks like I’ll need to have a drinks station half way down it. “Other than that, the pitch is going to be the same so the players have to go and deal with the atmosphere. I’m in no doubt it’s going to be good as we’ve sold loads of tickets. The fans are travelling in their thousands so we need to make sure when the players walk onto the pitch they give them a right good performance.”  Hearts are smarting from defeat by Hibernian in the Edinburgh derby on Tuesday at Easter Road and are likely to be without midfielders, Don Cowie and Arnaud Djoum. Craig Levein’s side have won only one of their four most recent league fixtures but they beat St Johnstone at Murrayfield last weekend. Meanwhile, Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager who rejected an overture from Sunderland during the summer, was cool when asked about his status as one of the favourites to succeed Caixinha. “I’m very happy being here, as I’ve stated often enough,” he said. “I’ve been supposedly linked with clubs a couple of times and, in particular, with Rangers. I’m happy here and nothing changes.”

Graeme Murty wants his players' input as he resumes his role as go-to Rangers interim manager 

Graeme Murty has one outstanding credential as the Rangers board consider who they should appoint to succeed Pedro Caixinha as their next manager. The club’s Under-20 coach, who has become the go-to man when the directors need an interim boss, succeeded in a task which eluded both Caixinha and his predecessor, Mark Warburton. On March 12, he supervised the only Rangers team to deprive Celtic of league points since the Ibrox club returned to the top level of Scottish football in the summer of 2016. The former York City, Reading and Southampton defender, who will be in charge when Rangers meet Hearts at Murrayfield on Saturday, has only to close his eyes to prompt a torrent of impressions of that afternoon in the east end of Glasgow. Pedro Caixinha was sacked as Rangers manager on Thursday  Credit: PA “The colours, the sound, how vivid it is, still,” Murty said. “More than anything, the lessons I learned about myself and about this football club from that day. “I would be a Grade A fool not to draw on those. They have informed my practice and my development now. I will be using some of those things as I move forward in this role at the moment. “I learned that the players, when they walk onto that pitch, need to be together and to have a manner of playing, an identity and a togetherness. I need to be able to remove myself at times to give the players what they need. “That was difficult at Celtic Park, but it was something I’m really proud of that we did. It was a fantastic staff that I worked with and I am really grateful to them. That’s another good lesson - that I won’t be able to do this on my own.”  Asked if his second spell as caretake could promote his reputation with the Ibrox directors as they mull over their next move, Murty said: “I am in no position to comment because that is not my remit. To be honest, I am going to prepare a team for Saturday. The bigger questions will wait until later on or for people of a much-higher pay scale than myself. Ryan Jack (second left) is available for selection for Rangers after appealing his red card Credit: PA “If the players know anything from Friday’s training session, it’s that I want their input. Within the training session, within the dressing room, within the match-prep, they have to have a voice. I will reiterate it until people are bored of me – it’s about the players, not about me.”  In the aftermath of defeat by Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup semi-final and the shambolic 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock on Wednesday, Murty has selection difficulties to address, with Bruno Alves suspended and Graham Dorrans and Fabio Cardoso out because of injury. He will, however, be able to deploy Ryan Jack, who has appealed the red card shown to him against Kilmarnock, as well as Kenny Miller, who spent the final three weeks of Caixinha’s reign banished from the squad because he had fallen out of favour with the outgoing manager. “I wasn’t in, I didn’t see what was going on,” Murty said. “Kenny is fit, he is available.” Asked if Miller would regain the captain’s armband, Murty said: “I haven’t made that decision yet.”  Had he not been summoned to supervise the first team, Murty would have been with the under-20s against Liverpool - “I was, potentially, going to be standing on the side with Steven Gerrard,” he said – but will now have the distinction of being the first coach to be in charge of a Rangers side at Murrayfield. Out-of-favour captain Kenny Miller could be back playing under manager Murty  Credit: Getty Images  “I’ve never been there before,” he said. “I’ve seen some footage of it. The technical area looks like I’ll need to have a drinks station half way down it. “Other than that, the pitch is going to be the same so the players have to go and deal with the atmosphere. I’m in no doubt it’s going to be good as we’ve sold loads of tickets. The fans are travelling in their thousands so we need to make sure when the players walk onto the pitch they give them a right good performance.”  Hearts are smarting from defeat by Hibernian in the Edinburgh derby on Tuesday at Easter Road and are likely to be without midfielders, Don Cowie and Arnaud Djoum. Craig Levein’s side have won only one of their four most recent league fixtures but they beat St Johnstone at Murrayfield last weekend. Meanwhile, Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager who rejected an overture from Sunderland during the summer, was cool when asked about his status as one of the favourites to succeed Caixinha. “I’m very happy being here, as I’ve stated often enough,” he said. “I’ve been supposedly linked with clubs a couple of times and, in particular, with Rangers. I’m happy here and nothing changes.”

Graeme Murty wants his players' input as he resumes his role as go-to Rangers interim manager 

Graeme Murty has one outstanding credential as the Rangers board consider who they should appoint to succeed Pedro Caixinha as their next manager. The club’s Under-20 coach, who has become the go-to man when the directors need an interim boss, succeeded in a task which eluded both Caixinha and his predecessor, Mark Warburton. On March 12, he supervised the only Rangers team to deprive Celtic of league points since the Ibrox club returned to the top level of Scottish football in the summer of 2016. The former York City, Reading and Southampton defender, who will be in charge when Rangers meet Hearts at Murrayfield on Saturday, has only to close his eyes to prompt a torrent of impressions of that afternoon in the east end of Glasgow. Pedro Caixinha was sacked as Rangers manager on Thursday  Credit: PA “The colours, the sound, how vivid it is, still,” Murty said. “More than anything, the lessons I learned about myself and about this football club from that day. “I would be a Grade A fool not to draw on those. They have informed my practice and my development now. I will be using some of those things as I move forward in this role at the moment. “I learned that the players, when they walk onto that pitch, need to be together and to have a manner of playing, an identity and a togetherness. I need to be able to remove myself at times to give the players what they need. “That was difficult at Celtic Park, but it was something I’m really proud of that we did. It was a fantastic staff that I worked with and I am really grateful to them. That’s another good lesson - that I won’t be able to do this on my own.”  Asked if his second spell as caretake could promote his reputation with the Ibrox directors as they mull over their next move, Murty said: “I am in no position to comment because that is not my remit. To be honest, I am going to prepare a team for Saturday. The bigger questions will wait until later on or for people of a much-higher pay scale than myself. Ryan Jack (second left) is available for selection for Rangers after appealing his red card Credit: PA “If the players know anything from Friday’s training session, it’s that I want their input. Within the training session, within the dressing room, within the match-prep, they have to have a voice. I will reiterate it until people are bored of me – it’s about the players, not about me.”  In the aftermath of defeat by Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup semi-final and the shambolic 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock on Wednesday, Murty has selection difficulties to address, with Bruno Alves suspended and Graham Dorrans and Fabio Cardoso out because of injury. He will, however, be able to deploy Ryan Jack, who has appealed the red card shown to him against Kilmarnock, as well as Kenny Miller, who spent the final three weeks of Caixinha’s reign banished from the squad because he had fallen out of favour with the outgoing manager. “I wasn’t in, I didn’t see what was going on,” Murty said. “Kenny is fit, he is available.” Asked if Miller would regain the captain’s armband, Murty said: “I haven’t made that decision yet.”  Had he not been summoned to supervise the first team, Murty would have been with the under-20s against Liverpool - “I was, potentially, going to be standing on the side with Steven Gerrard,” he said – but will now have the distinction of being the first coach to be in charge of a Rangers side at Murrayfield. Out-of-favour captain Kenny Miller could be back playing under manager Murty  Credit: Getty Images  “I’ve never been there before,” he said. “I’ve seen some footage of it. The technical area looks like I’ll need to have a drinks station half way down it. “Other than that, the pitch is going to be the same so the players have to go and deal with the atmosphere. I’m in no doubt it’s going to be good as we’ve sold loads of tickets. The fans are travelling in their thousands so we need to make sure when the players walk onto the pitch they give them a right good performance.”  Hearts are smarting from defeat by Hibernian in the Edinburgh derby on Tuesday at Easter Road and are likely to be without midfielders, Don Cowie and Arnaud Djoum. Craig Levein’s side have won only one of their four most recent league fixtures but they beat St Johnstone at Murrayfield last weekend. Meanwhile, Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager who rejected an overture from Sunderland during the summer, was cool when asked about his status as one of the favourites to succeed Caixinha. “I’m very happy being here, as I’ve stated often enough,” he said. “I’ve been supposedly linked with clubs a couple of times and, in particular, with Rangers. I’m happy here and nothing changes.”

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants are riding the crest of a wave having booked their place in the League Cup final and they are closing in on a record

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants are riding the crest of a wave having booked their place in the League Cup final and they are closing in on a record

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants are riding the crest of a wave having booked their place in the League Cup final and they are closing in on a record

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants are riding the crest of a wave having booked their place in the League Cup final and they are closing in on a record

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants are riding the crest of a wave having booked their place in the League Cup final and they are closing in on a record

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

Celtic vs Kilmarnock: TV channel, stream, kick-off time, odds & match preview

The Glasgow giants are riding the crest of a wave having booked their place in the League Cup final and they are closing in on a record

Rangers sack manager Pedro Caixinha after just seven months at Ibrox

Pedro Caixinha was the Buster Keaton of Scottish football during his 229 days at Ibrox. The most enduring image from his ill-starred period in charge was the sight of the Portuguese coach up to his knees in shrubbery, engaging with incensed supporters after Rangers’ worst-ever European result, a defeat by Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg in the first qualifying round of the Europa League in July. Another farcical recollection was the moment during the most recent Old Firm match at Ibrox, when a sliding tackle by Josh Windass on Mikael Lustig also toppled the Rangers manager. That now seems entirely symbolic of the predicament of a character who had forfeited the loyalty of players whom he accused of embarrassing their club after Sunday’s defeat by Motherwell in the semi-finals of the Betfred Scottish League Cup. Caixinha’s appointment defied logic from the moment he was introduced as Mark Warburton’s successor in March. His managerial CV consisted of stints at Uniao Leiria and Nacional in his homeland, before he moved to Santos Laguna in Mexico and then, for two years from 2015, a spell at Al-Gharafa in Qatar. When he was paraded before the media on arrival at Ibrox it was disclosed that Caixinha had been hired to succeed Mark Warburton because his job interview had been the most impressive of any of the candidates. Alarm bells clanged, however, on his first day in charge, when he was asked what he would consider a plausible ambition for Rangers under his leadership. Caixinha replied: “We are talking about European trophies.” Soon the warnings were being sounded by klaxon, as he revealed his team selection for a league meeting with Kilmarnock in April, 30 hours before kick-off. The fixture ended in a goalless draw, one of the disfiguring results of Caixinha’s 26 games in charge, of which he won only 14. This was the same manager who, two weeks ago, complained bitterly that, ahead of a trip to St Johnstone on the final day of last season, a dressing room mole had leaked the Rangers line-up to the Perth side, an allegation rebutted by the Saints manager, Tommy Wright, with the rejoinder that Caixinha was ‘just someone who was paranoid.’ Graeme Murty will step up on an interim basis following Caixinha's departure Credit: PA The calibration of any Rangers manager’s performance which matters most to the Light Blue faithful is his record against Celtic. Caixinha’s first sight of his players in action was in an Old Firm derby at Parkhead when Graeme Murty, coach of the club’s under-20s, supervised a 1-1 draw against the odds. By contrast, Caixinha’s Old Firm blooding, a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park ended in a defeat that was more comprehensive than the 2-0 outcome suggested. With a league meeting with Celtic due at Ibrox six days later, it was expected that the Rangers manager would attempt to remedy his side’s manifest defensive frailties. Instead, Caixinha deployed a midfield diamond, through which Celtic romped to secure a record derby victory at the home of their greatest rivals. Another unpalatable result was posted on May 17, when Rangers lost at home to Aberdeen for the first time in 26 years. The Rangers chairman, Dave King, subsequently declared that the setbacks had been part of a planned learning process for Caixinha, with the intended consequence of ensuring progress during Rangers’ return to European football for the first time since 2011, the year before the club was plunged into financial turmoil under Craig Whyte. King also declared that he and his fellow directors were content with Caixhina’s transfer dealings. That contention was made to look naive when Rangers’ competitive season opened with the humiliation by Progres Niedkorn, minuscule opponents who had never won a European tie. The domestic title campaign also began to go awry with a 3-2 home defeat by Hibernian followed by a goalless draw with Hearts at Ibrox. By the start of the recent international break, Caixinha had been branded as a manager who could not supervise three successive wins and his threadbare record worsened with Sunday’s loss to Motherwell in the semi-final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup. The single greatest indictment of Caixinha’s signing policy and motivational powers was the case of Carlos Pena, acquired from Mexican club, Leon, for a fee reportedly as high as £3.5 million. Pena looked a sorry figure in the 2-0 defeat by Celtic at Ibrox last month, by which time Caixinha had discounted any title ambitions Rangers might have nurtured. Pena continued to be selected while Kenny Miller was banished from the squad, the veteran striker having been blamed by Caixinha for leaking details of dressing room exchanges after the Old Firm defeat. Caixinha’s exit was the consequent of a slapstick finale when Rangers, leading 1-0 at home to Kilmarnock on Wednesday and having been awarded an injury time penalty kick, were reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of Ryan Jack for a scuffle off the ball, missed the spot kick and conceded an equaliser to Chris Burke – a former Ibrox player. The Rangers board’s brief statement lamented that results were “not commensurate with the level of investment that was made available.” Now they must remedy the consequence of their own misjudgement, a task made doubly difficult because Caixinha was allowed to empty their piggy bank. Buster Keaton’s most famous stunt saw him emerge unscathed as a house collapsed around him. Rangers’ fans must pray that Caixinha is not remembered for the same feat.

Rangers sack manager Pedro Caixinha after just seven months at Ibrox

Pedro Caixinha was the Buster Keaton of Scottish football during his 229 days at Ibrox. The most enduring image from his ill-starred period in charge was the sight of the Portuguese coach up to his knees in shrubbery, engaging with incensed supporters after Rangers’ worst-ever European result, a defeat by Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg in the first qualifying round of the Europa League in July. Another farcical recollection was the moment during the most recent Old Firm match at Ibrox, when a sliding tackle by Josh Windass on Mikael Lustig also toppled the Rangers manager. That now seems entirely symbolic of the predicament of a character who had forfeited the loyalty of players whom he accused of embarrassing their club after Sunday’s defeat by Motherwell in the semi-finals of the Betfred Scottish League Cup. Caixinha’s appointment defied logic from the moment he was introduced as Mark Warburton’s successor in March. His managerial CV consisted of stints at Uniao Leiria and Nacional in his homeland, before he moved to Santos Laguna in Mexico and then, for two years from 2015, a spell at Al-Gharafa in Qatar. When he was paraded before the media on arrival at Ibrox it was disclosed that Caixinha had been hired to succeed Mark Warburton because his job interview had been the most impressive of any of the candidates. Alarm bells clanged, however, on his first day in charge, when he was asked what he would consider a plausible ambition for Rangers under his leadership. Caixinha replied: “We are talking about European trophies.” Soon the warnings were being sounded by klaxon, as he revealed his team selection for a league meeting with Kilmarnock in April, 30 hours before kick-off. The fixture ended in a goalless draw, one of the disfiguring results of Caixinha’s 26 games in charge, of which he won only 14. This was the same manager who, two weeks ago, complained bitterly that, ahead of a trip to St Johnstone on the final day of last season, a dressing room mole had leaked the Rangers line-up to the Perth side, an allegation rebutted by the Saints manager, Tommy Wright, with the rejoinder that Caixinha was ‘just someone who was paranoid.’ Graeme Murty will step up on an interim basis following Caixinha's departure Credit: PA The calibration of any Rangers manager’s performance which matters most to the Light Blue faithful is his record against Celtic. Caixinha’s first sight of his players in action was in an Old Firm derby at Parkhead when Graeme Murty, coach of the club’s under-20s, supervised a 1-1 draw against the odds. By contrast, Caixinha’s Old Firm blooding, a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park ended in a defeat that was more comprehensive than the 2-0 outcome suggested. With a league meeting with Celtic due at Ibrox six days later, it was expected that the Rangers manager would attempt to remedy his side’s manifest defensive frailties. Instead, Caixinha deployed a midfield diamond, through which Celtic romped to secure a record derby victory at the home of their greatest rivals. Another unpalatable result was posted on May 17, when Rangers lost at home to Aberdeen for the first time in 26 years. The Rangers chairman, Dave King, subsequently declared that the setbacks had been part of a planned learning process for Caixinha, with the intended consequence of ensuring progress during Rangers’ return to European football for the first time since 2011, the year before the club was plunged into financial turmoil under Craig Whyte. King also declared that he and his fellow directors were content with Caixhina’s transfer dealings. That contention was made to look naive when Rangers’ competitive season opened with the humiliation by Progres Niedkorn, minuscule opponents who had never won a European tie. The domestic title campaign also began to go awry with a 3-2 home defeat by Hibernian followed by a goalless draw with Hearts at Ibrox. By the start of the recent international break, Caixinha had been branded as a manager who could not supervise three successive wins and his threadbare record worsened with Sunday’s loss to Motherwell in the semi-final of the Betfred Scottish League Cup. The single greatest indictment of Caixinha’s signing policy and motivational powers was the case of Carlos Pena, acquired from Mexican club, Leon, for a fee reportedly as high as £3.5 million. Pena looked a sorry figure in the 2-0 defeat by Celtic at Ibrox last month, by which time Caixinha had discounted any title ambitions Rangers might have nurtured. Pena continued to be selected while Kenny Miller was banished from the squad, the veteran striker having been blamed by Caixinha for leaking details of dressing room exchanges after the Old Firm defeat. Caixinha’s exit was the consequent of a slapstick finale when Rangers, leading 1-0 at home to Kilmarnock on Wednesday and having been awarded an injury time penalty kick, were reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of Ryan Jack for a scuffle off the ball, missed the spot kick and conceded an equaliser to Chris Burke – a former Ibrox player. The Rangers board’s brief statement lamented that results were “not commensurate with the level of investment that was made available.” Now they must remedy the consequence of their own misjudgement, a task made doubly difficult because Caixinha was allowed to empty their piggy bank. Buster Keaton’s most famous stunt saw him emerge unscathed as a house collapsed around him. Rangers’ fans must pray that Caixinha is not remembered for the same feat.

Rangers sack Pedro Caixinha as manager after seven months in charge

Pedro Caixinha was sacked as Rangers manager following their 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock on Wednesday having failed to bridge the gap with Celtic during his time at Ibrox.

Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha on the brink after claiming players embarrassed him

The main flightpath to Glasgow Airport runs directly over Rangers’ training ground, which means that media briefings often take place against a background of incoming or departing aircraft. Even while Pedro Caixinha was delivering his latest meditations – in this case about Sunday’s defeat by Motherwell in the semi-finals of the Betfred Scottish League Cup it was impossible not to wonder how much longer it would be before the Rangers manager was leaving on a jet plane. Since he succeeded Mark Warburton in March, Caixinha has been in charge for 25 matches, of which 14 have been won, seven lost and four drawn. He could not have been held responsible for Rangers’ loss against Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final in April but he was culpable in the 5-1 battering in the following weekend’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox. Since then, Rangers have been dumped from the Europa League qualifiers at the first time of asking by the microscopic Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg, are six points adrift of Celtic and Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership and have now been dismissed from the first domestic tournament of the season by a team with significantly inferior resources. Most alarming of all is that, under their Portuguese manager, Rangers have yet to assemble three consecutive victories. “The pattern is that when the third game comes along – and normally it is a key game or a very important game like the Old Firm or a cup semi-final – the team doesn’t give you a strong response,” he said. “Motherwell performed exactly as we knew they were going to. We didn’t. We chose exactly the right contents to place on the training sessions so that the players knew what they were facing, although we had already played Motherwell in the first game of the season. “We worked more than usual on defending set-pieces, so we feel we prepared in the right way to show the players what we wanted from the game but, from having our team meeting at the training ground and then getting to Hampden and going out on the pitch, there was a huge difference from what we had been working on to the way the team played.” It comes down to this, then. Rangers players are supplied with the information they need but just do not get the message. Louis Moult scored Motherwell's first goal in their 2-0 win over Rangers at the weekend Credit: Getty images “I can make them better tactically, I can make them more aware of the game and I can make them better physically in terms of the way we want to play the game,” Caixinha said. “But they are not reaching that last level, the final stage of being a Rangers player. I discussed it with the players. We cannot be afraid of winning. “However, in the last part of the analysis, I said to the players ‘I believe in you’ because I am the one who has brought many of them here and extended the contracts of existing players.” Caixinha, indeed, revealed that he would have named the 11 who started against Motherwell for Wednesday’s visit of Kilmarnock, but for injuries to Jak Alnwick and Fabio Cardoso. “I’ve told the players, ‘You are embarrassing me, you are embarrassing our club, you are embarrassing our fans’,” Caixinha said. “Now it is time for you to react and I’m glad we’re playing on Wednesday.” Whether one views that strategy as admirable, pig-headed or simply a late play by a habitual gambler, Caixinha is teetering on the edge of a precipice. Kilmarnock are second bottom of the Scottish Premiership but they have a new and high-profile manager in Steve Clarke and will be energised at Ibrox. In current circumstances, a slip at home would surely be ruinous for Caixinha. Even if Rangers prevail, he then has to negotiate an awkward hazard when he and his players meet Hearts at Murrayfield on Saturday. Caixinha spent much of his media session on Monday on a discourse about the state of the Scottish game, which basically came down to a complaint that Motherwell’s strong-arm tactics had paid off. Yet he had already undermined his own argument by claiming that the Rangers players had simply not absorbed his warning of what to expect from Stephen Robinson’s team. “What you need inside – and the board, chairman and players are working towards this – is to get the right structure with everyone sharing the same vision so that you can link with your history and the loyal fans,” he continued. “Can I ask you – how many transfer windows have we had so far? How many months have we been in the club?” The question, as everybody else seems to grasp, is rather – how much longer will Caixinha be at Rangers unless there is a prompt and convincing run of decent form?

Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha on the brink after claiming players embarrassed him

The main flightpath to Glasgow Airport runs directly over Rangers’ training ground, which means that media briefings often take place against a background of incoming or departing aircraft. Even while Pedro Caixinha was delivering his latest meditations – in this case about Sunday’s defeat by Motherwell in the semi-finals of the Betfred Scottish League Cup it was impossible not to wonder how much longer it would be before the Rangers manager was leaving on a jet plane. Since he succeeded Mark Warburton in March, Caixinha has been in charge for 25 matches, of which 14 have been won, seven lost and four drawn. He could not have been held responsible for Rangers’ loss against Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final in April but he was culpable in the 5-1 battering in the following weekend’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox. Since then, Rangers have been dumped from the Europa League qualifiers at the first time of asking by the microscopic Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg, are six points adrift of Celtic and Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership and have now been dismissed from the first domestic tournament of the season by a team with significantly inferior resources. Most alarming of all is that, under their Portuguese manager, Rangers have yet to assemble three consecutive victories. “The pattern is that when the third game comes along – and normally it is a key game or a very important game like the Old Firm or a cup semi-final – the team doesn’t give you a strong response,” he said. “Motherwell performed exactly as we knew they were going to. We didn’t. We chose exactly the right contents to place on the training sessions so that the players knew what they were facing, although we had already played Motherwell in the first game of the season. “We worked more than usual on defending set-pieces, so we feel we prepared in the right way to show the players what we wanted from the game but, from having our team meeting at the training ground and then getting to Hampden and going out on the pitch, there was a huge difference from what we had been working on to the way the team played.” It comes down to this, then. Rangers players are supplied with the information they need but just do not get the message. Louis Moult scored Motherwell's first goal in their 2-0 win over Rangers at the weekend Credit: Getty images “I can make them better tactically, I can make them more aware of the game and I can make them better physically in terms of the way we want to play the game,” Caixinha said. “But they are not reaching that last level, the final stage of being a Rangers player. I discussed it with the players. We cannot be afraid of winning. “However, in the last part of the analysis, I said to the players ‘I believe in you’ because I am the one who has brought many of them here and extended the contracts of existing players.” Caixinha, indeed, revealed that he would have named the 11 who started against Motherwell for Wednesday’s visit of Kilmarnock, but for injuries to Jak Alnwick and Fabio Cardoso. “I’ve told the players, ‘You are embarrassing me, you are embarrassing our club, you are embarrassing our fans’,” Caixinha said. “Now it is time for you to react and I’m glad we’re playing on Wednesday.” Whether one views that strategy as admirable, pig-headed or simply a late play by a habitual gambler, Caixinha is teetering on the edge of a precipice. Kilmarnock are second bottom of the Scottish Premiership but they have a new and high-profile manager in Steve Clarke and will be energised at Ibrox. In current circumstances, a slip at home would surely be ruinous for Caixinha. Even if Rangers prevail, he then has to negotiate an awkward hazard when he and his players meet Hearts at Murrayfield on Saturday. Caixinha spent much of his media session on Monday on a discourse about the state of the Scottish game, which basically came down to a complaint that Motherwell’s strong-arm tactics had paid off. Yet he had already undermined his own argument by claiming that the Rangers players had simply not absorbed his warning of what to expect from Stephen Robinson’s team. “What you need inside – and the board, chairman and players are working towards this – is to get the right structure with everyone sharing the same vision so that you can link with your history and the loyal fans,” he continued. “Can I ask you – how many transfer windows have we had so far? How many months have we been in the club?” The question, as everybody else seems to grasp, is rather – how much longer will Caixinha be at Rangers unless there is a prompt and convincing run of decent form?

Celtic head to Munich buoyed and rested after 1-0 defeat of Dundee

A weekend shuffle almost became a stumble for Celtic, but they have not forsaken the prospect of taking a significant stride this week towards European football involvement beyond Christmas. In the league game that preceded the recent international break, the Scottish Premiership leaders were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Hibernian, whose manager, Neil Lennon, felt that his former team tended to be leggy after a Champions League trip. On Saturday, Celtic’s performance against Dundee at Parkhead was again notably short of their best but in this instance, it was the consequence of advance planning for a Champions League expedition. Mindful of the meeting with Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers riffled through his playing pack to make seven changes from the Hibs game but had enough in his hand to come away with a 1-0 win, thanks to an alert strike from Olivier Ntcham on the hour mark. If Ntcham was the man whose low drive from beyond the edge of the box beat Scott Bain for the winner, it was Dorus de Vries who secured Celtic’s 59th successive unbeaten domestic fixture with a trio of crucial saves in the second half. The Dutch goalkeeper had not made a first team appearance since Celtic’s 6-1 rout of Kilmarnock on Sept 24 last year. Although he kept his place despite having to pick the ball from his net seven times during a Champions League battering by Barcelona in the Nou Camp, De Vries was beaten by a strike from more than 40 yards by Souleymane Coulibaye in the Kilmarnock game and was replaced by Craig Gordon, who retained the No 1 position until rested on Saturday. The Dutch keeper had to deal with threats much closer to his line against Dundee, but his spectacular saves from Paul McGowan, Roarie Deacon and Faissal El-Bakhtaoui preserved Celtic’s long undefeated sequence and drew gratifying applause from the crowd, plus enforced appreciation from Dundee's Paul McGowan. Dorus De Vries impressed on his return to the Celtic starting line-up  Credit:  PA “I couldn’t believe the save De Vries made from me,” said McGowan, “I didn’t catch it great but I put it where I wanted it to go and he just clawed it out. He’s not even been playing, so fair play to him. “It was definitely a chance missed. I can’t remember the last team going there and having such chances with the run Celtic are on. “The gaffer wants us to play and I love it. It’s the way to play. Yes, we are going to get caught in possession now and again and you can say it’s a bit iffy at times, but it worked for us at Celtic. They might not have been at full strength, but we gave them a game and they can count themselves lucky to win.” As for Ntcham, his winner added to the confidence gained from his contribution to Celtic’s 3-0 win over Anderlecht in Brussels, when he started poorly but recovered to set up two of his team’s goals. The French midfielder praised his colleague, Scott Brown, for cajoling him into improvement. “There have been times when things have not been so good, maybe when I have not felt so comfortable, and he encourages me to keep going,” Ntcham said. That was what it was like against Anderlecht. Does he say it nicely? Well, you know what it’s like on the pitch.”. Who will win the Champions League? As Celtic draw breath before heading for Germany on Tuesday, Scotland will embark upon their search for a successor to Gordon Strachan, whose tenure as international manager came to an end on Thursday after four years. Already, however, Sam Allardyce has ruled himself out despite being amongst the early runners in the bookies’ odds. The former England manager told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme that, despite having Scottish family connections, it was not a position which appealed to him. “At this moment in time I would be very picky and choosy about any potential managerial jobs if I was to go back in, so that makes it very difficult,” the former England manager said. “You never know what might come up, but if it is something where I could bring a lot of success then I could be interested. It's very tempting but not at this moment in time. “My parents and sister were all born in Scotland, I have heritage from there. I'm enjoying not being involved at the front end of football at the moment. David Moyes would probably be my choice for the Scotland job.” Moyes, though, has also distanced himself from the vacant position, saying that his preference would be a return to club management. Malky Mackay, meanwhile, will take charge of Scotland on an interim basis for the visit of the Netherlands to Pittodrie for a friendly on Nov 9.

Celtic head to Munich buoyed and rested after 1-0 defeat of Dundee

A weekend shuffle almost became a stumble for Celtic, but they have not forsaken the prospect of taking a significant stride this week towards European football involvement beyond Christmas. In the league game that preceded the recent international break, the Scottish Premiership leaders were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Hibernian, whose manager, Neil Lennon, felt that his former team tended to be leggy after a Champions League trip. On Saturday, Celtic’s performance against Dundee at Parkhead was again notably short of their best but in this instance, it was the consequence of advance planning for a Champions League expedition. Mindful of the meeting with Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers riffled through his playing pack to make seven changes from the Hibs game but had enough in his hand to come away with a 1-0 win, thanks to an alert strike from Olivier Ntcham on the hour mark. If Ntcham was the man whose low drive from beyond the edge of the box beat Scott Bain for the winner, it was Dorus de Vries who secured Celtic’s 59th successive unbeaten domestic fixture with a trio of crucial saves in the second half. The Dutch goalkeeper had not made a first team appearance since Celtic’s 6-1 rout of Kilmarnock on Sept 24 last year. Although he kept his place despite having to pick the ball from his net seven times during a Champions League battering by Barcelona in the Nou Camp, De Vries was beaten by a strike from more than 40 yards by Souleymane Coulibaye in the Kilmarnock game and was replaced by Craig Gordon, who retained the No 1 position until rested on Saturday. The Dutch keeper had to deal with threats much closer to his line against Dundee, but his spectacular saves from Paul McGowan, Roarie Deacon and Faissal El-Bakhtaoui preserved Celtic’s long undefeated sequence and drew gratifying applause from the crowd, plus enforced appreciation from Dundee's Paul McGowan. Dorus De Vries impressed on his return to the Celtic starting line-up  Credit:  PA “I couldn’t believe the save De Vries made from me,” said McGowan, “I didn’t catch it great but I put it where I wanted it to go and he just clawed it out. He’s not even been playing, so fair play to him. “It was definitely a chance missed. I can’t remember the last team going there and having such chances with the run Celtic are on. “The gaffer wants us to play and I love it. It’s the way to play. Yes, we are going to get caught in possession now and again and you can say it’s a bit iffy at times, but it worked for us at Celtic. They might not have been at full strength, but we gave them a game and they can count themselves lucky to win.” As for Ntcham, his winner added to the confidence gained from his contribution to Celtic’s 3-0 win over Anderlecht in Brussels, when he started poorly but recovered to set up two of his team’s goals. The French midfielder praised his colleague, Scott Brown, for cajoling him into improvement. “There have been times when things have not been so good, maybe when I have not felt so comfortable, and he encourages me to keep going,” Ntcham said. That was what it was like against Anderlecht. Does he say it nicely? Well, you know what it’s like on the pitch.”. Who will win the Champions League? As Celtic draw breath before heading for Germany on Tuesday, Scotland will embark upon their search for a successor to Gordon Strachan, whose tenure as international manager came to an end on Thursday after four years. Already, however, Sam Allardyce has ruled himself out despite being amongst the early runners in the bookies’ odds. The former England manager told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme that, despite having Scottish family connections, it was not a position which appealed to him. “At this moment in time I would be very picky and choosy about any potential managerial jobs if I was to go back in, so that makes it very difficult,” the former England manager said. “You never know what might come up, but if it is something where I could bring a lot of success then I could be interested. It's very tempting but not at this moment in time. “My parents and sister were all born in Scotland, I have heritage from there. I'm enjoying not being involved at the front end of football at the moment. David Moyes would probably be my choice for the Scotland job.” Moyes, though, has also distanced himself from the vacant position, saying that his preference would be a return to club management. Malky Mackay, meanwhile, will take charge of Scotland on an interim basis for the visit of the Netherlands to Pittodrie for a friendly on Nov 9.

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