Kilmarnock

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Graeme Murty takes advice from Neil Lennon on being an Old Firm caretaker

An Old Firm manager gets the bullet  after a string of bad results and a novice is thrust into the maelstrom with no notice. Sounds familiar? Yes, it was in March 2010 that Tony Mowbray was sacked by Celtic after 10 months in charge and Neil Lennon asked to take care on an interim basis, a tenure that was almost stillborn when Celtic crashed to a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County. He remained in place for the rest of the season before being given the job full-time. He guided Celtic to three titles, two Scottish Cups and the last 16 of the Champions League. The Northern Irishman quit Celtic Park in 2014 and, after a spell at Bolton, was lured back to Scotland by Hibs in the summer of 2016, steering them to a return to the Premiership in his season. In the current campaign, his side have drawn with Celtic home and away in the league and beaten Rangers at Ibrox. On Wednesday, Rangers made up for the setback by beating Hibs at Easter Road, under the supervision of Graeme Murty, now in his second spell as caretaker manager in the aftermath of Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, having already performed the function in the wake of Mark Warburton’s departure in February. Murty did not expect to still be in charge; the Ibrox board were chasing Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes but their job offer was rebuffed. “I’m not sure there are many people who have been on the type of journey I’ve been on,” Murty said last night. “I actually talked to one on Wednesday in the shape of Neil Lennon and he spoke of his experience of being a caretaker at a massive, massive club. “The lessons he talked about are the things that I am going through now. It’s been an eye-opening year, a year of fantastic growth and development for me personally and professionally. It’s given me an insight into what I have to say is a magnificent club. “It’s opened my eyes to the wider world of football. Sometimes when you are in football, you get caught up in a bubble of the here and now, you forget how transient everything is but, coming to a club like Rangers, you get that feeling of history. “I realise I have a different status currently but I’m still the same person who goes home every night and is only third in charge of my own house.” Murty described his discussions with Lennon as “open and candid”, with his main piece of advice to enjoy the wins. “Coming from someone who must have been hurting quite a bit, that was very big of him. I really appreciated that,” says Murty. “I always have the feeling that it’s going to come crashing to a halt at any moment. That is why I’m enjoying it so much.” Graeme Murty directs his players Credit: GETTY IMAGES That sense of transience has underlined the importance of taking lessons from every day. “I’m trying to take as much learning and depth out of everything to help me to keep growing and developing as you don’t know when it’s going to stop,” he added. “I’m embracing it, but I’m thankful to the players for being on this journey with me. They haven’t come into this with any agenda whatsoever. They have just been very good pros and worked so hard. They get a lot of stick but I’ll be the one to stand up for them as they have been great for me.” Murty and Lennon experienced severe reverses on Saturday. Hibs lost away for the first time since March against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where Graeme Shinnie opened the scoring and Gary Mackay-Steven got a hat-trick in a 4-1 win, with Anthony Stokes netting a last-minute consolation goal. Rangers – bidding for five successive top-flight league wins for the first time since 2011 – took the lead at home to St Johnstone through Alfredo Morelos, but goals from Blair Alston, Denny Johnstone and Graham Cummings gave Saints their first league win at Ibrox since 1971. Elsewhere, Dundee beat bottom side Partick Thistle 3-0, Hamilton were 3-2 winners over Ross County, and Kilmarnock pipped Motherwell 1-0.

Graeme Murty takes advice from Neil Lennon on being an Old Firm caretaker

An Old Firm manager gets the bullet  after a string of bad results and a novice is thrust into the maelstrom with no notice. Sounds familiar? Yes, it was in March 2010 that Tony Mowbray was sacked by Celtic after 10 months in charge and Neil Lennon asked to take care on an interim basis, a tenure that was almost stillborn when Celtic crashed to a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County. He remained in place for the rest of the season before being given the job full-time. He guided Celtic to three titles, two Scottish Cups and the last 16 of the Champions League. The Northern Irishman quit Celtic Park in 2014 and, after a spell at Bolton, was lured back to Scotland by Hibs in the summer of 2016, steering them to a return to the Premiership in his season. In the current campaign, his side have drawn with Celtic home and away in the league and beaten Rangers at Ibrox. On Wednesday, Rangers made up for the setback by beating Hibs at Easter Road, under the supervision of Graeme Murty, now in his second spell as caretaker manager in the aftermath of Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, having already performed the function in the wake of Mark Warburton’s departure in February. Murty did not expect to still be in charge; the Ibrox board were chasing Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes but their job offer was rebuffed. “I’m not sure there are many people who have been on the type of journey I’ve been on,” Murty said last night. “I actually talked to one on Wednesday in the shape of Neil Lennon and he spoke of his experience of being a caretaker at a massive, massive club. “The lessons he talked about are the things that I am going through now. It’s been an eye-opening year, a year of fantastic growth and development for me personally and professionally. It’s given me an insight into what I have to say is a magnificent club. “It’s opened my eyes to the wider world of football. Sometimes when you are in football, you get caught up in a bubble of the here and now, you forget how transient everything is but, coming to a club like Rangers, you get that feeling of history. “I realise I have a different status currently but I’m still the same person who goes home every night and is only third in charge of my own house.” Murty described his discussions with Lennon as “open and candid”, with his main piece of advice to enjoy the wins. “Coming from someone who must have been hurting quite a bit, that was very big of him. I really appreciated that,” says Murty. “I always have the feeling that it’s going to come crashing to a halt at any moment. That is why I’m enjoying it so much.” Graeme Murty directs his players Credit: GETTY IMAGES That sense of transience has underlined the importance of taking lessons from every day. “I’m trying to take as much learning and depth out of everything to help me to keep growing and developing as you don’t know when it’s going to stop,” he added. “I’m embracing it, but I’m thankful to the players for being on this journey with me. They haven’t come into this with any agenda whatsoever. They have just been very good pros and worked so hard. They get a lot of stick but I’ll be the one to stand up for them as they have been great for me.” Murty and Lennon experienced severe reverses on Saturday. Hibs lost away for the first time since March against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where Graeme Shinnie opened the scoring and Gary Mackay-Steven got a hat-trick in a 4-1 win, with Anthony Stokes netting a last-minute consolation goal. Rangers – bidding for five successive top-flight league wins for the first time since 2011 – took the lead at home to St Johnstone through Alfredo Morelos, but goals from Blair Alston, Denny Johnstone and Graham Cummings gave Saints their first league win at Ibrox since 1971. Elsewhere, Dundee beat bottom side Partick Thistle 3-0, Hamilton were 3-2 winners over Ross County, and Kilmarnock pipped Motherwell 1-0.

Danny Wilson says Rangers must improve at home to stand a chance of winning trophies

It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer.  “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you.  It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”

Danny Wilson says Rangers must improve at home to stand a chance of winning trophies

It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer.  “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you.  It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”

Danny Wilson says Rangers must improve at home to stand a chance of winning trophies

It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer.  “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you.  It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”

Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended

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

Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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