Partick Thistle

Partick Thistle slideshow

Nobody knows who will sponsor Scotland when Alex McLeish’s players embark upon their Nations League qualifying campaign in September. Nobody knows where the Scots will play their home matches after 2020. The Scottish Cup broadcast deal has come to an end. Rangers are being investigated for a breach of Uefa licensing rules that, at worst, could see them fined up to £5 million and banned from the transfer market. And those are only the principal matters that must be dealt with over the first few weeks of Ian Maxwell’s new tenure as CEO of the Scottish Football Association, which had been vacant since Stewart Regan parted company with the organisation on Feb 1. The 43-year-old Maxwell has at least been immersed in football as a player, coach, assistant manager and, most recently, as managing director of Partick Thistle, who were relegated from the Scottish Premiership when they lost to Livingston in the play-off. It was not the most auspicious transition for the man who will now be the figurehead of Scottish football, but he was bullish about the club’s guidance during a campaign which began poorly and ended in failure. “We made decisions for the right reasons,” he said. “If I had to do it again, I would make them again. Ross County changed their manager twice and got relegated – so there is no right and wrong in that situation. You have to do what your gut tells you. “Thistle traditionally started slowly. Last season we finished sixth after being bottom of the table at Christmas, so Alan Archibald had earned the right to try and keep us in the division. I don’t have any regrets about the decisions that were made – unfortunately they didn’t work out. That’s the nature of it.” Not that there is time for him to indulge in introspection, given the task list on his desk. Of the need to find new commercial backers, Maxwell said: “Any time you get to the end of a sponsorship contract and you don’t have a renewal, then it’s urgent. It’s an opportunity as well. We have the Nations League. The commercial income is massively affected by performance on the pitch because that drives a lot of the football business, so there are opportunities there to tweak things and do things slightly differently and look at how we bring in, what we bring in, why we bring it in and ways we can supplement that.” At Thistle, Maxwell was critical of the SFA’s youth development scheme, Project Brave, so it was inevitable that he would be asked to clarify his thoughts on one of the governing body’s flagship policies. “Fundamentally, Project Brave is a good thing,” he said. “Improving young Scottish players all the way through the pathway is what we have to do. One of my things was that there was a disconnect between 17s and 21. They get to that age and kind of fall off a cliff a bit. The SPFL competitions working group, which I chaired, has been looking at that age group and if we can bring the two organisations together there is more chance of us getting a cohesive pathway from 11-year-old to first team. “Project Brave is here, clubs have hired staff, clubs have made changes and are down the road with that. There’s no way I am going to say ‘back to the start,’ but what we will do is look at how things work over the next few years and what tweaks we can make to enhance it, which is what I would expect to do with every part of the association. “As part of my interview, I was asked to look at the strategic direction of the SFA. Three words in the document were ‘Inspire A Nation’. That’s exactly why we are here – to inspire a nation to be involved in football, at whatever level it is, from as early as they can and for as long as they can. “Playing it, watching it, talking about it, dreaming about it – football is a massive part of Scottish culture. It is consumed at a huge rate on an hourly level now with social media. “Commercial director Chris Rawlings and financial director Andrew Charters are new. Malky Mackay is fairly new, Alex McLeish is new and I’m new. Combined with the experience and knowledge we have in the building, that’s a really good place to be. I’ve led teams from playing in them, coaching them and then leading a club. “I’m happy to be the guy who is directing. There are a lot of good staff here and I’m here to help them make sure we are going in the right direction.”
Scottish FA CEO Ian Maxwell positive about the future despite array of challenges
Nobody knows who will sponsor Scotland when Alex McLeish’s players embark upon their Nations League qualifying campaign in September. Nobody knows where the Scots will play their home matches after 2020. The Scottish Cup broadcast deal has come to an end. Rangers are being investigated for a breach of Uefa licensing rules that, at worst, could see them fined up to £5 million and banned from the transfer market. And those are only the principal matters that must be dealt with over the first few weeks of Ian Maxwell’s new tenure as CEO of the Scottish Football Association, which had been vacant since Stewart Regan parted company with the organisation on Feb 1. The 43-year-old Maxwell has at least been immersed in football as a player, coach, assistant manager and, most recently, as managing director of Partick Thistle, who were relegated from the Scottish Premiership when they lost to Livingston in the play-off. It was not the most auspicious transition for the man who will now be the figurehead of Scottish football, but he was bullish about the club’s guidance during a campaign which began poorly and ended in failure. “We made decisions for the right reasons,” he said. “If I had to do it again, I would make them again. Ross County changed their manager twice and got relegated – so there is no right and wrong in that situation. You have to do what your gut tells you. “Thistle traditionally started slowly. Last season we finished sixth after being bottom of the table at Christmas, so Alan Archibald had earned the right to try and keep us in the division. I don’t have any regrets about the decisions that were made – unfortunately they didn’t work out. That’s the nature of it.” Not that there is time for him to indulge in introspection, given the task list on his desk. Of the need to find new commercial backers, Maxwell said: “Any time you get to the end of a sponsorship contract and you don’t have a renewal, then it’s urgent. It’s an opportunity as well. We have the Nations League. The commercial income is massively affected by performance on the pitch because that drives a lot of the football business, so there are opportunities there to tweak things and do things slightly differently and look at how we bring in, what we bring in, why we bring it in and ways we can supplement that.” At Thistle, Maxwell was critical of the SFA’s youth development scheme, Project Brave, so it was inevitable that he would be asked to clarify his thoughts on one of the governing body’s flagship policies. “Fundamentally, Project Brave is a good thing,” he said. “Improving young Scottish players all the way through the pathway is what we have to do. One of my things was that there was a disconnect between 17s and 21. They get to that age and kind of fall off a cliff a bit. The SPFL competitions working group, which I chaired, has been looking at that age group and if we can bring the two organisations together there is more chance of us getting a cohesive pathway from 11-year-old to first team. “Project Brave is here, clubs have hired staff, clubs have made changes and are down the road with that. There’s no way I am going to say ‘back to the start,’ but what we will do is look at how things work over the next few years and what tweaks we can make to enhance it, which is what I would expect to do with every part of the association. “As part of my interview, I was asked to look at the strategic direction of the SFA. Three words in the document were ‘Inspire A Nation’. That’s exactly why we are here – to inspire a nation to be involved in football, at whatever level it is, from as early as they can and for as long as they can. “Playing it, watching it, talking about it, dreaming about it – football is a massive part of Scottish culture. It is consumed at a huge rate on an hourly level now with social media. “Commercial director Chris Rawlings and financial director Andrew Charters are new. Malky Mackay is fairly new, Alex McLeish is new and I’m new. Combined with the experience and knowledge we have in the building, that’s a really good place to be. I’ve led teams from playing in them, coaching them and then leading a club. “I’m happy to be the guy who is directing. There are a lot of good staff here and I’m here to help them make sure we are going in the right direction.”
One of John McGinn’s favourite tales about playing youth football as a teenager concerns an encounter with a team of 12-year-olds - who had supplies of lager at the side of the pitch. “It taught me how to avoid drunk tackles,” said the Hibs midfielder, now 23 years old and a key element in the side who won promotion last summer and is now challenging Rangers and Aberdeen for second place in the Premiership. McGinn had not only to overcome flailing challenges from pubescent drinkers on a public park, but also hold his own against older brothers, Stephen, who plays for St Mirren, and Paul, now with Partick Thistle. The habits acquired in those circumstances were on display on Saturday, when McGinn produced a superb performance in Hibs’ 2-1 defeat of Celtic. The game was played in front of yet another full house at Easter Road, where Neil Lennon’s team have attracted average crowds of 18,000 – 88 per cent of capacity at the ground. If Hibs are to sustain the surge in attendances, however, they must address vital contractual issues during the close season. The front pair of Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi are on loan from Darmstadt and Grasshoppers respectively, while McGinn has one year left on his contract and his midfield partner, Dylan McGeouch, will be free to move at the end of the season. McGinn is a fans’ favourite, but he measured his response carefully when asked what the future might hold. “Speculation is something that’s been there since my first season here,” he said. “I’ve always said the same thing – I’m learning, I’m getting better and I’m loving playing in front of sell-out crowds. “At the same time, though, I’m ambitious. I want to go and test myself at a higher level. However, it would have to be something better than Hibs. I don’t take it for granted being here, I love it. McGinn joins Jamie Maclaren to celebrate Hibs' first goal Credit: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne “It’s a club that should be getting crowds like this, watching players that are looking to express themselves and enjoy it. That’s what they’ve got here. “Saturday was probably the loudest I’ve heard, with the exception of derbies. We could see the appreciation the fans were giving us because they were enjoying what they were watching. That adds an extra two, three per cent to your game. “It brings the best out of you. You can see the real progression in the football club by how many people come through the gates and if it keeps going at this rate then they’re going to have to put more seats in.” Although he has spent six years playing for clubs with limited resources, McGinn has already savoured success. He was a League Cup winner with St Mirren in 2013 and a member of the Hibs side who ended the infamous 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo with victory over Rangers in 2016. He was also man of the match for Scotland when he made his debut in a 1-0 friendly win over Denmark in March 2016. This campaign has seen tangible progress in the league – Hibs have lost only one of their 15 most recent games – and has been based on an impressive work rate, which took its toll on McGinn late in the victory over Celtic. “Even if your game plan does work it doesn’t mean you’re going to beat Celtic, that’s how good they are. You’ve got to be focused for 90 minutes. I’ve never had cramp in my life and I got it on Saturday. That shows how hard we had to work to get the three points.” And what of comparisons – frequently made – between McGinn and Scott Brown, the combative Celtic captain? “It bugs me a wee bit,” McGinn said. “He has something different to me and I have something different to him. I just try to focus on my own game. “On Saturday I wasn’t directly against him. I was trying to stop Ntcham and Rogic playing.” It seems safe to say that, whether at Easter Road or elsewhere next season, nobody is about to stop John McGinn playing.
John McGinn: 'I love Hibs but want to test myself at a higher level'
One of John McGinn’s favourite tales about playing youth football as a teenager concerns an encounter with a team of 12-year-olds - who had supplies of lager at the side of the pitch. “It taught me how to avoid drunk tackles,” said the Hibs midfielder, now 23 years old and a key element in the side who won promotion last summer and is now challenging Rangers and Aberdeen for second place in the Premiership. McGinn had not only to overcome flailing challenges from pubescent drinkers on a public park, but also hold his own against older brothers, Stephen, who plays for St Mirren, and Paul, now with Partick Thistle. The habits acquired in those circumstances were on display on Saturday, when McGinn produced a superb performance in Hibs’ 2-1 defeat of Celtic. The game was played in front of yet another full house at Easter Road, where Neil Lennon’s team have attracted average crowds of 18,000 – 88 per cent of capacity at the ground. If Hibs are to sustain the surge in attendances, however, they must address vital contractual issues during the close season. The front pair of Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi are on loan from Darmstadt and Grasshoppers respectively, while McGinn has one year left on his contract and his midfield partner, Dylan McGeouch, will be free to move at the end of the season. McGinn is a fans’ favourite, but he measured his response carefully when asked what the future might hold. “Speculation is something that’s been there since my first season here,” he said. “I’ve always said the same thing – I’m learning, I’m getting better and I’m loving playing in front of sell-out crowds. “At the same time, though, I’m ambitious. I want to go and test myself at a higher level. However, it would have to be something better than Hibs. I don’t take it for granted being here, I love it. McGinn joins Jamie Maclaren to celebrate Hibs' first goal Credit: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne “It’s a club that should be getting crowds like this, watching players that are looking to express themselves and enjoy it. That’s what they’ve got here. “Saturday was probably the loudest I’ve heard, with the exception of derbies. We could see the appreciation the fans were giving us because they were enjoying what they were watching. That adds an extra two, three per cent to your game. “It brings the best out of you. You can see the real progression in the football club by how many people come through the gates and if it keeps going at this rate then they’re going to have to put more seats in.” Although he has spent six years playing for clubs with limited resources, McGinn has already savoured success. He was a League Cup winner with St Mirren in 2013 and a member of the Hibs side who ended the infamous 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo with victory over Rangers in 2016. He was also man of the match for Scotland when he made his debut in a 1-0 friendly win over Denmark in March 2016. This campaign has seen tangible progress in the league – Hibs have lost only one of their 15 most recent games – and has been based on an impressive work rate, which took its toll on McGinn late in the victory over Celtic. “Even if your game plan does work it doesn’t mean you’re going to beat Celtic, that’s how good they are. You’ve got to be focused for 90 minutes. I’ve never had cramp in my life and I got it on Saturday. That shows how hard we had to work to get the three points.” And what of comparisons – frequently made – between McGinn and Scott Brown, the combative Celtic captain? “It bugs me a wee bit,” McGinn said. “He has something different to me and I have something different to him. I just try to focus on my own game. “On Saturday I wasn’t directly against him. I was trying to stop Ntcham and Rogic playing.” It seems safe to say that, whether at Easter Road or elsewhere next season, nobody is about to stop John McGinn playing.
One of John McGinn’s favourite tales about playing youth football as a teenager concerns an encounter with a team of 12-year-olds - who had supplies of lager at the side of the pitch. “It taught me how to avoid drunk tackles,” said the Hibs midfielder, now 23 years old and a key element in the side who won promotion last summer and is now challenging Rangers and Aberdeen for second place in the Premiership. McGinn had not only to overcome flailing challenges from pubescent drinkers on a public park, but also hold his own against older brothers, Stephen, who plays for St Mirren, and Paul, now with Partick Thistle. The habits acquired in those circumstances were on display on Saturday, when McGinn produced a superb performance in Hibs’ 2-1 defeat of Celtic. The game was played in front of yet another full house at Easter Road, where Neil Lennon’s team have attracted average crowds of 18,000 – 88 per cent of capacity at the ground. If Hibs are to sustain the surge in attendances, however, they must address vital contractual issues during the close season. The front pair of Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi are on loan from Darmstadt and Grasshoppers respectively, while McGinn has one year left on his contract and his midfield partner, Dylan McGeouch, will be free to move at the end of the season. McGinn is a fans’ favourite, but he measured his response carefully when asked what the future might hold. “Speculation is something that’s been there since my first season here,” he said. “I’ve always said the same thing – I’m learning, I’m getting better and I’m loving playing in front of sell-out crowds. “At the same time, though, I’m ambitious. I want to go and test myself at a higher level. However, it would have to be something better than Hibs. I don’t take it for granted being here, I love it. McGinn joins Jamie Maclaren to celebrate Hibs' first goal Credit: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne “It’s a club that should be getting crowds like this, watching players that are looking to express themselves and enjoy it. That’s what they’ve got here. “Saturday was probably the loudest I’ve heard, with the exception of derbies. We could see the appreciation the fans were giving us because they were enjoying what they were watching. That adds an extra two, three per cent to your game. “It brings the best out of you. You can see the real progression in the football club by how many people come through the gates and if it keeps going at this rate then they’re going to have to put more seats in.” Although he has spent six years playing for clubs with limited resources, McGinn has already savoured success. He was a League Cup winner with St Mirren in 2013 and a member of the Hibs side who ended the infamous 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo with victory over Rangers in 2016. He was also man of the match for Scotland when he made his debut in a 1-0 friendly win over Denmark in March 2016. This campaign has seen tangible progress in the league – Hibs have lost only one of their 15 most recent games – and has been based on an impressive work rate, which took its toll on McGinn late in the victory over Celtic. “Even if your game plan does work it doesn’t mean you’re going to beat Celtic, that’s how good they are. You’ve got to be focused for 90 minutes. I’ve never had cramp in my life and I got it on Saturday. That shows how hard we had to work to get the three points.” And what of comparisons – frequently made – between McGinn and Scott Brown, the combative Celtic captain? “It bugs me a wee bit,” McGinn said. “He has something different to me and I have something different to him. I just try to focus on my own game. “On Saturday I wasn’t directly against him. I was trying to stop Ntcham and Rogic playing.” It seems safe to say that, whether at Easter Road or elsewhere next season, nobody is about to stop John McGinn playing.
John McGinn: 'I love Hibs but want to test myself at a higher level'
One of John McGinn’s favourite tales about playing youth football as a teenager concerns an encounter with a team of 12-year-olds - who had supplies of lager at the side of the pitch. “It taught me how to avoid drunk tackles,” said the Hibs midfielder, now 23 years old and a key element in the side who won promotion last summer and is now challenging Rangers and Aberdeen for second place in the Premiership. McGinn had not only to overcome flailing challenges from pubescent drinkers on a public park, but also hold his own against older brothers, Stephen, who plays for St Mirren, and Paul, now with Partick Thistle. The habits acquired in those circumstances were on display on Saturday, when McGinn produced a superb performance in Hibs’ 2-1 defeat of Celtic. The game was played in front of yet another full house at Easter Road, where Neil Lennon’s team have attracted average crowds of 18,000 – 88 per cent of capacity at the ground. If Hibs are to sustain the surge in attendances, however, they must address vital contractual issues during the close season. The front pair of Jamie Maclaren and Florian Kamberi are on loan from Darmstadt and Grasshoppers respectively, while McGinn has one year left on his contract and his midfield partner, Dylan McGeouch, will be free to move at the end of the season. McGinn is a fans’ favourite, but he measured his response carefully when asked what the future might hold. “Speculation is something that’s been there since my first season here,” he said. “I’ve always said the same thing – I’m learning, I’m getting better and I’m loving playing in front of sell-out crowds. “At the same time, though, I’m ambitious. I want to go and test myself at a higher level. However, it would have to be something better than Hibs. I don’t take it for granted being here, I love it. McGinn joins Jamie Maclaren to celebrate Hibs' first goal Credit: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne “It’s a club that should be getting crowds like this, watching players that are looking to express themselves and enjoy it. That’s what they’ve got here. “Saturday was probably the loudest I’ve heard, with the exception of derbies. We could see the appreciation the fans were giving us because they were enjoying what they were watching. That adds an extra two, three per cent to your game. “It brings the best out of you. You can see the real progression in the football club by how many people come through the gates and if it keeps going at this rate then they’re going to have to put more seats in.” Although he has spent six years playing for clubs with limited resources, McGinn has already savoured success. He was a League Cup winner with St Mirren in 2013 and a member of the Hibs side who ended the infamous 114-year Scottish Cup hoodoo with victory over Rangers in 2016. He was also man of the match for Scotland when he made his debut in a 1-0 friendly win over Denmark in March 2016. This campaign has seen tangible progress in the league – Hibs have lost only one of their 15 most recent games – and has been based on an impressive work rate, which took its toll on McGinn late in the victory over Celtic. “Even if your game plan does work it doesn’t mean you’re going to beat Celtic, that’s how good they are. You’ve got to be focused for 90 minutes. I’ve never had cramp in my life and I got it on Saturday. That shows how hard we had to work to get the three points.” And what of comparisons – frequently made – between McGinn and Scott Brown, the combative Celtic captain? “It bugs me a wee bit,” McGinn said. “He has something different to me and I have something different to him. I just try to focus on my own game. “On Saturday I wasn’t directly against him. I was trying to stop Ntcham and Rogic playing.” It seems safe to say that, whether at Easter Road or elsewhere next season, nobody is about to stop John McGinn playing.
Celtic are now within one victory of a seventh successive Scottish title, courtesy of their domination of a drab contest in Lanarkshire. The champions looked wholly untroubled throughout their outing, even when Kris Ajer was ambushed against the run of play by Rakish Bingham for Hamilton’s goal. Although the home team’s name is derived from a venerable educational institution, Martin Canning’s players were impervious to learning. Having survived an alarm within seconds of the start, Accies were still dozing when Callum McGregor put Celtic ahead after three minutes and they failed to take heed of that example at the beginning of the second half, when Leigh Griffiths netted Celtic’s second with his first touch of the ball as a substitute. Between times, Darren Lyon delivered a masterclass in heedlessness when he was cautioned for an agricultural challenge on Kieran Tierney and then fouled the same player a minute later to the same effect, thus depriving his colleagues of almost any chance to eke reward from the afternoon. Andrew Dallas might have exercised discretion and taken the view that the encounter between the pair was a case of six and half-a-dozen, but Lyon was foolish to have presented him with the option. Celtic will now have a break from league business, when they meet Rangers in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden Park next Sunday. It was with an eye on the Old Firm derby that Brendan Rodgers deployed his squad strength. Brendan Rodgers made five changes ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers Credit: PA Scott Bain, ineligible for the midweek match against Dundee, from whom he is on loan, was back in goal because Rodgers was unwilling to risk Craig Gordon, his first choice for the position, on the artificial surface at the SuperSeal Stadium. The manager made four other changes, with Tierney, Ajer, Patrick Roberts and Olivier Ntcham in for Tom Rogic, James Forrest, Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong. From Accies’ perspective, Saturday’s results were favourable, with Dundee and Partick Thistle losing and Ross County drawing at home with Hibernian to ease the pressure on Hamilton to take something from a fixture they had not won in 23 meetings since 1989. That, though, did not excuse the absence of defensive rigour which set the home team on to the back foot straight from kick-off with Shaun Want’s poor attempt at a pass back to his goalkeeper. Moussa Dembele fastened on to the stray pass but drove straight at Ryan Fulton when a touch of composure would likely have brought the opening goal. Not that Celtic were made to wait much longer to take the lead. Again, negligence opened the door, this time when Roberts was allowed to hold on to the ball on the edge of the home penalty area until he could feed McGregor, who had ambled forward unchecked into a position to shoot, equally unhindered, off Fulton’s left-hand post and into the net. McGregor fires home for Celtic Credit: PA Having been presented with such a gift, Celtic reacted by denying Hamilton use of the ball for long spells, but the ease with which they kept possession lulled the visitors into carelessness, punished by Bingham when he muscled Ajer off the ball and steered his finish wide of Bain for an unanticipated equaliser. The interval entertainment included a rendition of the theme from The Flintstones, a musical choice explained by the announcer as dedication to Neil Lennon, who had described Hamilton’s tackling as ‘caveman’ in style – all the way back in November. The PA man then muddled his substitution announcement but it was clarified within seconds of the restart when Scott Sinclair delivered a cross for Griffiths to head decisively beyond Fulton. Unlike their opponents, Celtic did not repeat their first-half drop in concentration and their almost machine-like relentlessness secured another stride towards the title and perhaps also a second successive clean sweep of the domestic honours.
Celtic move within one win of seventh successive Scottish title after easing past ten-man Hamilton
Celtic are now within one victory of a seventh successive Scottish title, courtesy of their domination of a drab contest in Lanarkshire. The champions looked wholly untroubled throughout their outing, even when Kris Ajer was ambushed against the run of play by Rakish Bingham for Hamilton’s goal. Although the home team’s name is derived from a venerable educational institution, Martin Canning’s players were impervious to learning. Having survived an alarm within seconds of the start, Accies were still dozing when Callum McGregor put Celtic ahead after three minutes and they failed to take heed of that example at the beginning of the second half, when Leigh Griffiths netted Celtic’s second with his first touch of the ball as a substitute. Between times, Darren Lyon delivered a masterclass in heedlessness when he was cautioned for an agricultural challenge on Kieran Tierney and then fouled the same player a minute later to the same effect, thus depriving his colleagues of almost any chance to eke reward from the afternoon. Andrew Dallas might have exercised discretion and taken the view that the encounter between the pair was a case of six and half-a-dozen, but Lyon was foolish to have presented him with the option. Celtic will now have a break from league business, when they meet Rangers in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden Park next Sunday. It was with an eye on the Old Firm derby that Brendan Rodgers deployed his squad strength. Brendan Rodgers made five changes ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers Credit: PA Scott Bain, ineligible for the midweek match against Dundee, from whom he is on loan, was back in goal because Rodgers was unwilling to risk Craig Gordon, his first choice for the position, on the artificial surface at the SuperSeal Stadium. The manager made four other changes, with Tierney, Ajer, Patrick Roberts and Olivier Ntcham in for Tom Rogic, James Forrest, Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong. From Accies’ perspective, Saturday’s results were favourable, with Dundee and Partick Thistle losing and Ross County drawing at home with Hibernian to ease the pressure on Hamilton to take something from a fixture they had not won in 23 meetings since 1989. That, though, did not excuse the absence of defensive rigour which set the home team on to the back foot straight from kick-off with Shaun Want’s poor attempt at a pass back to his goalkeeper. Moussa Dembele fastened on to the stray pass but drove straight at Ryan Fulton when a touch of composure would likely have brought the opening goal. Not that Celtic were made to wait much longer to take the lead. Again, negligence opened the door, this time when Roberts was allowed to hold on to the ball on the edge of the home penalty area until he could feed McGregor, who had ambled forward unchecked into a position to shoot, equally unhindered, off Fulton’s left-hand post and into the net. McGregor fires home for Celtic Credit: PA Having been presented with such a gift, Celtic reacted by denying Hamilton use of the ball for long spells, but the ease with which they kept possession lulled the visitors into carelessness, punished by Bingham when he muscled Ajer off the ball and steered his finish wide of Bain for an unanticipated equaliser. The interval entertainment included a rendition of the theme from The Flintstones, a musical choice explained by the announcer as dedication to Neil Lennon, who had described Hamilton’s tackling as ‘caveman’ in style – all the way back in November. The PA man then muddled his substitution announcement but it was clarified within seconds of the restart when Scott Sinclair delivered a cross for Griffiths to head decisively beyond Fulton. Unlike their opponents, Celtic did not repeat their first-half drop in concentration and their almost machine-like relentlessness secured another stride towards the title and perhaps also a second successive clean sweep of the domestic honours.
Celtic are now within one victory of a seventh successive Scottish title, courtesy of their domination of a drab contest in Lanarkshire. The champions looked wholly untroubled throughout their outing, even when Kris Ajer was ambushed against the run of play by Rakish Bingham for Hamilton’s goal. Although the home team’s name is derived from a venerable educational institution, Martin Canning’s players were impervious to learning. Having survived an alarm within seconds of the start, Accies were still dozing when Callum McGregor put Celtic ahead after three minutes and they failed to take heed of that example at the beginning of the second half, when Leigh Griffiths netted Celtic’s second with his first touch of the ball as a substitute. Between times, Darren Lyon delivered a masterclass in heedlessness when he was cautioned for an agricultural challenge on Kieran Tierney and then fouled the same player a minute later to the same effect, thus depriving his colleagues of almost any chance to eke reward from the afternoon. Andrew Dallas might have exercised discretion and taken the view that the encounter between the pair was a case of six and half-a-dozen, but Lyon was foolish to have presented him with the option. Celtic will now have a break from league business, when they meet Rangers in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden Park next Sunday. It was with an eye on the Old Firm derby that Brendan Rodgers deployed his squad strength. Brendan Rodgers made five changes ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers Credit: PA Scott Bain, ineligible for the midweek match against Dundee, from whom he is on loan, was back in goal because Rodgers was unwilling to risk Craig Gordon, his first choice for the position, on the artificial surface at the SuperSeal Stadium. The manager made four other changes, with Tierney, Ajer, Patrick Roberts and Olivier Ntcham in for Tom Rogic, James Forrest, Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong. From Accies’ perspective, Saturday’s results were favourable, with Dundee and Partick Thistle losing and Ross County drawing at home with Hibernian to ease the pressure on Hamilton to take something from a fixture they had not won in 23 meetings since 1989. That, though, did not excuse the absence of defensive rigour which set the home team on to the back foot straight from kick-off with Shaun Want’s poor attempt at a pass back to his goalkeeper. Moussa Dembele fastened on to the stray pass but drove straight at Ryan Fulton when a touch of composure would likely have brought the opening goal. Not that Celtic were made to wait much longer to take the lead. Again, negligence opened the door, this time when Roberts was allowed to hold on to the ball on the edge of the home penalty area until he could feed McGregor, who had ambled forward unchecked into a position to shoot, equally unhindered, off Fulton’s left-hand post and into the net. McGregor fires home for Celtic Credit: PA Having been presented with such a gift, Celtic reacted by denying Hamilton use of the ball for long spells, but the ease with which they kept possession lulled the visitors into carelessness, punished by Bingham when he muscled Ajer off the ball and steered his finish wide of Bain for an unanticipated equaliser. The interval entertainment included a rendition of the theme from The Flintstones, a musical choice explained by the announcer as dedication to Neil Lennon, who had described Hamilton’s tackling as ‘caveman’ in style – all the way back in November. The PA man then muddled his substitution announcement but it was clarified within seconds of the restart when Scott Sinclair delivered a cross for Griffiths to head decisively beyond Fulton. Unlike their opponents, Celtic did not repeat their first-half drop in concentration and their almost machine-like relentlessness secured another stride towards the title and perhaps also a second successive clean sweep of the domestic honours.
Celtic move within one win of seventh successive Scottish title after easing past ten-man Hamilton
Celtic are now within one victory of a seventh successive Scottish title, courtesy of their domination of a drab contest in Lanarkshire. The champions looked wholly untroubled throughout their outing, even when Kris Ajer was ambushed against the run of play by Rakish Bingham for Hamilton’s goal. Although the home team’s name is derived from a venerable educational institution, Martin Canning’s players were impervious to learning. Having survived an alarm within seconds of the start, Accies were still dozing when Callum McGregor put Celtic ahead after three minutes and they failed to take heed of that example at the beginning of the second half, when Leigh Griffiths netted Celtic’s second with his first touch of the ball as a substitute. Between times, Darren Lyon delivered a masterclass in heedlessness when he was cautioned for an agricultural challenge on Kieran Tierney and then fouled the same player a minute later to the same effect, thus depriving his colleagues of almost any chance to eke reward from the afternoon. Andrew Dallas might have exercised discretion and taken the view that the encounter between the pair was a case of six and half-a-dozen, but Lyon was foolish to have presented him with the option. Celtic will now have a break from league business, when they meet Rangers in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden Park next Sunday. It was with an eye on the Old Firm derby that Brendan Rodgers deployed his squad strength. Brendan Rodgers made five changes ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers Credit: PA Scott Bain, ineligible for the midweek match against Dundee, from whom he is on loan, was back in goal because Rodgers was unwilling to risk Craig Gordon, his first choice for the position, on the artificial surface at the SuperSeal Stadium. The manager made four other changes, with Tierney, Ajer, Patrick Roberts and Olivier Ntcham in for Tom Rogic, James Forrest, Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong. From Accies’ perspective, Saturday’s results were favourable, with Dundee and Partick Thistle losing and Ross County drawing at home with Hibernian to ease the pressure on Hamilton to take something from a fixture they had not won in 23 meetings since 1989. That, though, did not excuse the absence of defensive rigour which set the home team on to the back foot straight from kick-off with Shaun Want’s poor attempt at a pass back to his goalkeeper. Moussa Dembele fastened on to the stray pass but drove straight at Ryan Fulton when a touch of composure would likely have brought the opening goal. Not that Celtic were made to wait much longer to take the lead. Again, negligence opened the door, this time when Roberts was allowed to hold on to the ball on the edge of the home penalty area until he could feed McGregor, who had ambled forward unchecked into a position to shoot, equally unhindered, off Fulton’s left-hand post and into the net. McGregor fires home for Celtic Credit: PA Having been presented with such a gift, Celtic reacted by denying Hamilton use of the ball for long spells, but the ease with which they kept possession lulled the visitors into carelessness, punished by Bingham when he muscled Ajer off the ball and steered his finish wide of Bain for an unanticipated equaliser. The interval entertainment included a rendition of the theme from The Flintstones, a musical choice explained by the announcer as dedication to Neil Lennon, who had described Hamilton’s tackling as ‘caveman’ in style – all the way back in November. The PA man then muddled his substitution announcement but it was clarified within seconds of the restart when Scott Sinclair delivered a cross for Griffiths to head decisively beyond Fulton. Unlike their opponents, Celtic did not repeat their first-half drop in concentration and their almost machine-like relentlessness secured another stride towards the title and perhaps also a second successive clean sweep of the domestic honours.
Celtic are now within one victory of a seventh successive Scottish title, courtesy of their domination of a drab contest in Lanarkshire. The champions looked wholly untroubled throughout their outing, even when Kris Ajer was ambushed against the run of play by Rakish Bingham for Hamilton’s goal. Although the home team’s name is derived from a venerable educational institution, Martin Canning’s players were impervious to learning. Having survived an alarm within seconds of the start, Accies were still dozing when Callum McGregor put Celtic ahead after three minutes and they failed to take heed of that example at the beginning of the second half, when Leigh Griffiths netted Celtic’s second with his first touch of the ball as a substitute. Between times, Darren Lyon delivered a masterclass in heedlessness when he was cautioned for an agricultural challenge on Kieran Tierney and then fouled the same player a minute later to the same effect, thus depriving his colleagues of almost any chance to eke reward from the afternoon. Andrew Dallas might have exercised discretion and taken the view that the encounter between the pair was a case of six and half-a-dozen, but Lyon was foolish to have presented him with the option. Celtic will now have a break from league business, when they meet Rangers in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden Park next Sunday. It was with an eye on the Old Firm derby that Brendan Rodgers deployed his squad strength. Brendan Rodgers made five changes ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers Credit: PA Scott Bain, ineligible for the midweek match against Dundee, from whom he is on loan, was back in goal because Rodgers was unwilling to risk Craig Gordon, his first choice for the position, on the artificial surface at the SuperSeal Stadium. The manager made four other changes, with Tierney, Ajer, Patrick Roberts and Olivier Ntcham in for Tom Rogic, James Forrest, Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong. From Accies’ perspective, Saturday’s results were favourable, with Dundee and Partick Thistle losing and Ross County drawing at home with Hibernian to ease the pressure on Hamilton to take something from a fixture they had not won in 23 meetings since 1989. That, though, did not excuse the absence of defensive rigour which set the home team on to the back foot straight from kick-off with Shaun Want’s poor attempt at a pass back to his goalkeeper. Moussa Dembele fastened on to the stray pass but drove straight at Ryan Fulton when a touch of composure would likely have brought the opening goal. Not that Celtic were made to wait much longer to take the lead. Again, negligence opened the door, this time when Roberts was allowed to hold on to the ball on the edge of the home penalty area until he could feed McGregor, who had ambled forward unchecked into a position to shoot, equally unhindered, off Fulton’s left-hand post and into the net. McGregor fires home for Celtic Credit: PA Having been presented with such a gift, Celtic reacted by denying Hamilton use of the ball for long spells, but the ease with which they kept possession lulled the visitors into carelessness, punished by Bingham when he muscled Ajer off the ball and steered his finish wide of Bain for an unanticipated equaliser. The interval entertainment included a rendition of the theme from The Flintstones, a musical choice explained by the announcer as dedication to Neil Lennon, who had described Hamilton’s tackling as ‘caveman’ in style – all the way back in November. The PA man then muddled his substitution announcement but it was clarified within seconds of the restart when Scott Sinclair delivered a cross for Griffiths to head decisively beyond Fulton. Unlike their opponents, Celtic did not repeat their first-half drop in concentration and their almost machine-like relentlessness secured another stride towards the title and perhaps also a second successive clean sweep of the domestic honours.
Celtic move within one win of seventh successive Scottish title after easing past ten-man Hamilton
Celtic are now within one victory of a seventh successive Scottish title, courtesy of their domination of a drab contest in Lanarkshire. The champions looked wholly untroubled throughout their outing, even when Kris Ajer was ambushed against the run of play by Rakish Bingham for Hamilton’s goal. Although the home team’s name is derived from a venerable educational institution, Martin Canning’s players were impervious to learning. Having survived an alarm within seconds of the start, Accies were still dozing when Callum McGregor put Celtic ahead after three minutes and they failed to take heed of that example at the beginning of the second half, when Leigh Griffiths netted Celtic’s second with his first touch of the ball as a substitute. Between times, Darren Lyon delivered a masterclass in heedlessness when he was cautioned for an agricultural challenge on Kieran Tierney and then fouled the same player a minute later to the same effect, thus depriving his colleagues of almost any chance to eke reward from the afternoon. Andrew Dallas might have exercised discretion and taken the view that the encounter between the pair was a case of six and half-a-dozen, but Lyon was foolish to have presented him with the option. Celtic will now have a break from league business, when they meet Rangers in the semi-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden Park next Sunday. It was with an eye on the Old Firm derby that Brendan Rodgers deployed his squad strength. Brendan Rodgers made five changes ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers Credit: PA Scott Bain, ineligible for the midweek match against Dundee, from whom he is on loan, was back in goal because Rodgers was unwilling to risk Craig Gordon, his first choice for the position, on the artificial surface at the SuperSeal Stadium. The manager made four other changes, with Tierney, Ajer, Patrick Roberts and Olivier Ntcham in for Tom Rogic, James Forrest, Mikael Lustig and Stuart Armstrong. From Accies’ perspective, Saturday’s results were favourable, with Dundee and Partick Thistle losing and Ross County drawing at home with Hibernian to ease the pressure on Hamilton to take something from a fixture they had not won in 23 meetings since 1989. That, though, did not excuse the absence of defensive rigour which set the home team on to the back foot straight from kick-off with Shaun Want’s poor attempt at a pass back to his goalkeeper. Moussa Dembele fastened on to the stray pass but drove straight at Ryan Fulton when a touch of composure would likely have brought the opening goal. Not that Celtic were made to wait much longer to take the lead. Again, negligence opened the door, this time when Roberts was allowed to hold on to the ball on the edge of the home penalty area until he could feed McGregor, who had ambled forward unchecked into a position to shoot, equally unhindered, off Fulton’s left-hand post and into the net. McGregor fires home for Celtic Credit: PA Having been presented with such a gift, Celtic reacted by denying Hamilton use of the ball for long spells, but the ease with which they kept possession lulled the visitors into carelessness, punished by Bingham when he muscled Ajer off the ball and steered his finish wide of Bain for an unanticipated equaliser. The interval entertainment included a rendition of the theme from The Flintstones, a musical choice explained by the announcer as dedication to Neil Lennon, who had described Hamilton’s tackling as ‘caveman’ in style – all the way back in November. The PA man then muddled his substitution announcement but it was clarified within seconds of the restart when Scott Sinclair delivered a cross for Griffiths to head decisively beyond Fulton. Unlike their opponents, Celtic did not repeat their first-half drop in concentration and their almost machine-like relentlessness secured another stride towards the title and perhaps also a second successive clean sweep of the domestic honours.
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Dundee manager Neil McCann happy to let Rangers' Graeme Murty take the pressure ahead of Ibrox game
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Dundee manager Neil McCann happy to let Rangers' Graeme Murty take the pressure ahead of Ibrox game
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Dundee manager Neil McCann happy to let Rangers' Graeme Murty take the pressure ahead of Ibrox game
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Celtic began this fixture in need of nine points to secure their seventh successive Scottish title, perhaps even as early as Sunday. A dogged performance by Dundee, however, delayed the coronation until after the Scottish Premiership’s split, the schedule of which will be announced next week. Arguably, the point secured by the visitors was arguably more valuable, given Ross County’s emphatic victory over Partick Thistle on Tuesday, which threatened to suck Dundee into the relegation swamp. Having declared that Dundee had turned down a bid of £1.7 million from Rosenborg for Steven Caulker, despite his having made only six appearances since joining from Queen’s Park Rangers in February, Neil McCann could not leave the defender out, even though the Norwegian transfer deadline had not expired and another offer could theoretically be received. The Englishman qualifies to play for Scotland through a grandmother and McCann urged Alex McLeish to consider securing the 26-year-old for the Scots. “It was always in his mind to come up here and fall in love with the game again,” McCann said. “I would love him to pull on the dark blue for Scotland. I would like to think he's open to that.” Caulker was required for action from the start as Celtic pressed in a passage that climaxed when Moussa Dembele played a one-two with James Forrest to finish with a drive that was blocked by Elliot Parish. Parish’s predecessor as Dundee goalkeeper, Scott Bain, who is on loan to Celtic, was deprived of his place at the other end of the field by the terms of the deal, which neatly left the way open for Craig Gordon to make his comeback after a two-month absence because of a knee injury. Gordon’s match fitness was put to the test when Celtic’s initial surge subsided and Simon Murray was able to reach the edge of the home penalty area to deliver a stinging attempt which the keeper fingertipped over his crossbar. The pattern continued throughout the rest of the first half with Celtic controlling the bulk of possession and forcing a series of corner kicks, but Dundee showing willing to get forward through Murray and his attacking partner, Roarie Deacon, and it was the latter who came closest to opening the scoring in injury time. As he chased down a prompt inside the box he was met by Dedryck Boyata and from the challenge the ball ricocheted past Gordon and off the post before being cleared by Jack Hendry, another Celtic import from Dundee during the January transfer window. As the contest entered its final half hour, history favoured Celtic, who had scored most of their goals in the closing 30 minutes of games, while Dundee had conceded most during the same period. Brendan Rodgers attempted to tip the balance by deploying his full quota of substitutes at the same time, replacing Dembele, Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic with Leigh Griffiths, Odsonne Edouard and Olivier Ntcham. Celtic shifted to a back three and pushed Callum McGregor forward on the left from full-back, where he had deputised for the injured Kieran Tierney. Dundee’s response was to withdraw Deacon and send on Sofien Moussa, followed 10 minutes later by the replacement of Murray by A-J Leitch-Smith. The adjustment of personnel triggered another sweep of Celtic pressure which, at one stage, produced three corner kicks inside two minutes, but although the dark blue bent, it did not buckle and the Dens Park side created a beckoning chance on their own account when O’Hara eluded Ntcham to play a pass across the goalmouth which found no takers for the touch that would have brought a goal. Celtic immediately forced a free kick from which Hendry met Griffiths’ delivery with a flicked header which swirled only fractionally past the post and, in the three minutes of added time, the leaders could come no closer. At the other end of the field the final whistle signalled Gordon’s 100th clean sheet, on the occasion of his 200th Celtic appearance. Match details Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Hendry, Boyata, McGregor; Brown, Armstrong; Forrest, Rogic, Sinclair; Dembele. Subs: De Vries (g), Roberts, Griffiths, Ntcham, Edouard, Ajer, Musonda. Booked: Brown. Dundee (3-5-1-1): Parish; Caulker, Kusunga, Meekings; O’Hara, Kamara, McGowan, Spence, Holt; Deacon; Murray. Subs: Ferie (g), Leitch-Smith, Mussa, Aurtenetxe, Wolters, Wighton, Kerr. Booked: Kusunga, Moussa. Referee: Alan Muir.
Celtic frustrated as Dundee earn point in goalless draw
Celtic began this fixture in need of nine points to secure their seventh successive Scottish title, perhaps even as early as Sunday. A dogged performance by Dundee, however, delayed the coronation until after the Scottish Premiership’s split, the schedule of which will be announced next week. Arguably, the point secured by the visitors was arguably more valuable, given Ross County’s emphatic victory over Partick Thistle on Tuesday, which threatened to suck Dundee into the relegation swamp. Having declared that Dundee had turned down a bid of £1.7 million from Rosenborg for Steven Caulker, despite his having made only six appearances since joining from Queen’s Park Rangers in February, Neil McCann could not leave the defender out, even though the Norwegian transfer deadline had not expired and another offer could theoretically be received. The Englishman qualifies to play for Scotland through a grandmother and McCann urged Alex McLeish to consider securing the 26-year-old for the Scots. “It was always in his mind to come up here and fall in love with the game again,” McCann said. “I would love him to pull on the dark blue for Scotland. I would like to think he's open to that.” Caulker was required for action from the start as Celtic pressed in a passage that climaxed when Moussa Dembele played a one-two with James Forrest to finish with a drive that was blocked by Elliot Parish. Parish’s predecessor as Dundee goalkeeper, Scott Bain, who is on loan to Celtic, was deprived of his place at the other end of the field by the terms of the deal, which neatly left the way open for Craig Gordon to make his comeback after a two-month absence because of a knee injury. Gordon’s match fitness was put to the test when Celtic’s initial surge subsided and Simon Murray was able to reach the edge of the home penalty area to deliver a stinging attempt which the keeper fingertipped over his crossbar. The pattern continued throughout the rest of the first half with Celtic controlling the bulk of possession and forcing a series of corner kicks, but Dundee showing willing to get forward through Murray and his attacking partner, Roarie Deacon, and it was the latter who came closest to opening the scoring in injury time. As he chased down a prompt inside the box he was met by Dedryck Boyata and from the challenge the ball ricocheted past Gordon and off the post before being cleared by Jack Hendry, another Celtic import from Dundee during the January transfer window. As the contest entered its final half hour, history favoured Celtic, who had scored most of their goals in the closing 30 minutes of games, while Dundee had conceded most during the same period. Brendan Rodgers attempted to tip the balance by deploying his full quota of substitutes at the same time, replacing Dembele, Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic with Leigh Griffiths, Odsonne Edouard and Olivier Ntcham. Celtic shifted to a back three and pushed Callum McGregor forward on the left from full-back, where he had deputised for the injured Kieran Tierney. Dundee’s response was to withdraw Deacon and send on Sofien Moussa, followed 10 minutes later by the replacement of Murray by A-J Leitch-Smith. The adjustment of personnel triggered another sweep of Celtic pressure which, at one stage, produced three corner kicks inside two minutes, but although the dark blue bent, it did not buckle and the Dens Park side created a beckoning chance on their own account when O’Hara eluded Ntcham to play a pass across the goalmouth which found no takers for the touch that would have brought a goal. Celtic immediately forced a free kick from which Hendry met Griffiths’ delivery with a flicked header which swirled only fractionally past the post and, in the three minutes of added time, the leaders could come no closer. At the other end of the field the final whistle signalled Gordon’s 100th clean sheet, on the occasion of his 200th Celtic appearance. Match details Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Hendry, Boyata, McGregor; Brown, Armstrong; Forrest, Rogic, Sinclair; Dembele. Subs: De Vries (g), Roberts, Griffiths, Ntcham, Edouard, Ajer, Musonda. Booked: Brown. Dundee (3-5-1-1): Parish; Caulker, Kusunga, Meekings; O’Hara, Kamara, McGowan, Spence, Holt; Deacon; Murray. Subs: Ferie (g), Leitch-Smith, Mussa, Aurtenetxe, Wolters, Wighton, Kerr. Booked: Kusunga, Moussa. Referee: Alan Muir.
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor getting lift from Scotland call-ups, claims Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor getting lift from Scotland call-ups, claims Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos paid the price for his notorious miss against Celtic last week when he was relegated to the bench for the visit of Kilmarnock on Saturday. However, the 21-year-old Colombian, who was the subject of an £8 million bid by Beijing Renhe, which Rangers rejected during the January transfer window, will regain his confidence, according to the Ibrox assistant coach, Jonatan Johansson. The Finn was speaking both from the point of view of a former Rangers striker – he played for the club between 1997 and 2000 – and as the man whose assessment of Morelos was crucial in persuading ex-Ibrox manager Pedro Caixinha to bring him to Glasgow from HJK Helsinki last summer. “People forget sometimes how young Alfredo is because he plays such a physical game,” Johansson said. “In the last two or three years he has moved countries and had to learn new languages, so these have been big changes for him. Moving from Finland to Rangers is a huge step up. Missing chances will make him angry. “No one at this club doubts what Alfredo can do. The fans seem to love the way he plays. Every career has highs and lows, so that is something that will make him stronger. He is such an important player for us. “Alfredo is very strong in what he gives to the team. His movement is good, he is a goalscorer and he creates chances for others. “In every game he gets into three or four positions to score and that’s what you want from your striker. As long as he keeps making those chances his goals will keep coming.” One unavoidable assessment passed on all Rangers forwards is their effectiveness against Celtic. Last weekend, aside from missing an open goal from close range, Morelos failed to beat the stand-in Hoops goalkeeper, Scott Bain, with another gift chance. He also had three excellent chances in the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park in December, none of which he converted. “You want to score against your big rivals in any league,” Johansson said. “I think the way he has played in the two games and the way he has created chances in them and caused problems shows how good he is. “The goals unfortunately didn’t come but I’m sure they will. He has been on a long journey for such a young lad, but he is a tough boy. He has a great personality but he doesn’t speak English that well, so he is taking lessons. “Once he gets the language it will help him even more. He loves playing football and you see him coming alive in games and even in training. He is very happy with life right now.” When the bid for Morelos came from China there was speculation that the player was unsettled in Glasgow, especially after Caixinha was sacked in October, depriving the player of a Spanish-speaking mentor. Johansson, however, dismissed the notion. “With Alfredo it was never that he was desperate to move on because he didn’t like Rangers. It just so happened that a big offer came in for him. That is great in one way because it means he is doing well for Rangers and that we as a club are doing something right. “At that period of time the interest was back and forward and it didn’t help, but now he has committed himself to the club with a new contract and that shows just how happy he is to be here at Rangers. “I felt his good points would suit the Scottish game quite well. He is strong and likes to hold the ball up and battles with defenders, plus he scores goals. How quickly he has fitted in and the number of goals he has scored is brilliant. You never know with transfers how they will turn out but Alfredo has been great.” By half-time on Saturday, the Rangers v Kilmarnock fixture was the only Scottish Premiership fixture to remain goalless. When the deadlock was broken nine minutes after the break it was Kris Boyd – a former Rangers striker – who found the net for his 20th goal of the season after he was first to react to the rebound from a Youssouf Mulumbu effort that was blocked by Wes Foderingham. Boyd was replaced by Rory McKenzie shortly afterwards and Rangers sent on Morelos for Josh Windass at the same time but there was no further scoring, although Russell Martin came agonisingly close to an equaliser with a header that came off the underside of the Killie crossbar and then clipped the inside of a post. Elsewhere, it proved a tough afternoon for the bottom three clubs. Ross County, without a permanent manager, might have supposed that their luck had turned at home to Hamilton when Jamie Lindsay put them ahead midway through the first half. Accies, though, responded with Doug Imrie’s equaliser from the penalty spot four minutes after the break and the visitors went ahead with a shot from Marios Ogboe in the 52nd minute. Andrew Davies salvaged a point for the Staggies when he made it 2-2 with 13 minutes left to play. At Tynecastle, Partick Thistle were beaten 3-0 and the damage was done before the break. Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring for Hearts after 17 minutes and, within four minutes of that strike, the Jags were further behind when Joaquim Adao supplied Steven Naismith for Hearts’ second goal. John Souttar added another a few seconds before the interval. Dundee have endured turbulence lately and their situation deteriorated when a fumble by their goalkeeper, Elliot Parish, allowed Graeme Shinnie to put Aberdeen ahead at Pittodrie in the 35th minute, with what proved to be the only goal of the game.
Rangers' Alfredo Morelos backed to regain confidence after being dropped to bench after Celtic miss
Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos paid the price for his notorious miss against Celtic last week when he was relegated to the bench for the visit of Kilmarnock on Saturday. However, the 21-year-old Colombian, who was the subject of an £8 million bid by Beijing Renhe, which Rangers rejected during the January transfer window, will regain his confidence, according to the Ibrox assistant coach, Jonatan Johansson. The Finn was speaking both from the point of view of a former Rangers striker – he played for the club between 1997 and 2000 – and as the man whose assessment of Morelos was crucial in persuading ex-Ibrox manager Pedro Caixinha to bring him to Glasgow from HJK Helsinki last summer. “People forget sometimes how young Alfredo is because he plays such a physical game,” Johansson said. “In the last two or three years he has moved countries and had to learn new languages, so these have been big changes for him. Moving from Finland to Rangers is a huge step up. Missing chances will make him angry. “No one at this club doubts what Alfredo can do. The fans seem to love the way he plays. Every career has highs and lows, so that is something that will make him stronger. He is such an important player for us. “Alfredo is very strong in what he gives to the team. His movement is good, he is a goalscorer and he creates chances for others. “In every game he gets into three or four positions to score and that’s what you want from your striker. As long as he keeps making those chances his goals will keep coming.” One unavoidable assessment passed on all Rangers forwards is their effectiveness against Celtic. Last weekend, aside from missing an open goal from close range, Morelos failed to beat the stand-in Hoops goalkeeper, Scott Bain, with another gift chance. He also had three excellent chances in the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park in December, none of which he converted. “You want to score against your big rivals in any league,” Johansson said. “I think the way he has played in the two games and the way he has created chances in them and caused problems shows how good he is. “The goals unfortunately didn’t come but I’m sure they will. He has been on a long journey for such a young lad, but he is a tough boy. He has a great personality but he doesn’t speak English that well, so he is taking lessons. “Once he gets the language it will help him even more. He loves playing football and you see him coming alive in games and even in training. He is very happy with life right now.” When the bid for Morelos came from China there was speculation that the player was unsettled in Glasgow, especially after Caixinha was sacked in October, depriving the player of a Spanish-speaking mentor. Johansson, however, dismissed the notion. “With Alfredo it was never that he was desperate to move on because he didn’t like Rangers. It just so happened that a big offer came in for him. That is great in one way because it means he is doing well for Rangers and that we as a club are doing something right. “At that period of time the interest was back and forward and it didn’t help, but now he has committed himself to the club with a new contract and that shows just how happy he is to be here at Rangers. “I felt his good points would suit the Scottish game quite well. He is strong and likes to hold the ball up and battles with defenders, plus he scores goals. How quickly he has fitted in and the number of goals he has scored is brilliant. You never know with transfers how they will turn out but Alfredo has been great.” By half-time on Saturday, the Rangers v Kilmarnock fixture was the only Scottish Premiership fixture to remain goalless. When the deadlock was broken nine minutes after the break it was Kris Boyd – a former Rangers striker – who found the net for his 20th goal of the season after he was first to react to the rebound from a Youssouf Mulumbu effort that was blocked by Wes Foderingham. Boyd was replaced by Rory McKenzie shortly afterwards and Rangers sent on Morelos for Josh Windass at the same time but there was no further scoring, although Russell Martin came agonisingly close to an equaliser with a header that came off the underside of the Killie crossbar and then clipped the inside of a post. Elsewhere, it proved a tough afternoon for the bottom three clubs. Ross County, without a permanent manager, might have supposed that their luck had turned at home to Hamilton when Jamie Lindsay put them ahead midway through the first half. Accies, though, responded with Doug Imrie’s equaliser from the penalty spot four minutes after the break and the visitors went ahead with a shot from Marios Ogboe in the 52nd minute. Andrew Davies salvaged a point for the Staggies when he made it 2-2 with 13 minutes left to play. At Tynecastle, Partick Thistle were beaten 3-0 and the damage was done before the break. Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring for Hearts after 17 minutes and, within four minutes of that strike, the Jags were further behind when Joaquim Adao supplied Steven Naismith for Hearts’ second goal. John Souttar added another a few seconds before the interval. Dundee have endured turbulence lately and their situation deteriorated when a fumble by their goalkeeper, Elliot Parish, allowed Graeme Shinnie to put Aberdeen ahead at Pittodrie in the 35th minute, with what proved to be the only goal of the game.
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
Rangers manager Graeme Murty hopes to bounce back from Celtic defeat and admits disappointment was hard to take
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
Rangers manager Graeme Murty hopes to bounce back from Celtic defeat and admits disappointment was hard to take
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Despite Celtic’s advance on a second successive domestic treble, Scottish football is getting more competitive at its top level, according to Graeme Murty. The Rangers manager made his case after Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Heart of Midlothian, which saw his side move to within six points of Celtic ahead of the leaders’ meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday. Although Celtic have faltered during this campaign, those sides closest to them in the table have previously been unable to close the gap because of their own stumbles. Murty, though, cited the fact that the champions’ points advantage is significantly less than half of what it was a year ago. He said: “Their nearest rivals are closer than for a long time and getting closer to the league that we all want it to be. So, regardless of what Celtic do, our job is to push ourselves further and improve and make sure that, come the end of the season, we’re still talking about title races and challenges at the top of the table and in the Scottish Cup. “We want to be right at the top of the table and involved in every competition we compete in. I’m sure Derek McInnes is saying that at Aberdeen, Neil Lennon is saying that at Hibs and Craig Levein is saying that at Hearts. We want to be closer to what Celtic have done over the last period and, whilst being respectful to them, we want to make sure the season isn’t over by March. “We’re closer but we’re not where we need to be. We’re still improving, we’re still gelling and getting the group tighter and quicker with the ball and more cohesive in all departments.” Alfredo Morales, Rangers’ Colombian striker, stated last week that his aim was to move to an English club, a declaration which Murty declared laudable. “Yes. We want ambitious players here – players that are hungry to get to that next level,” he said. “We have just signed contracts with Josh Windass and James Tavernier, who are ambitious, still hungry to go and play at the highest level, but they understand that this place, this environment, gives them a fantastic platform. “We play in front of masses and masses of people at home. Our fans travel in their thousands away and we get fantastic coverage in the media, so there are not many places in Britain which get better coverage than we get and if Alfredo wants to go to England, he’s got things he has to do here that will bring that closer to being a reality for him. “He wants to be on the pitch scoring goals and I think that his last few performances have shown that he’s a real asset to the team. He’s shown good enthusiasm, good quality and that predatory instinct that we love. “At the moment, fatigue hasn’t become an issue. What we do have is a really, really good squad that means that, if we get the opportunity, or we need to, we can freshen things up. “As I keep on reiterating, though, this group has not finished growing yet. You’ve seen it just at the very, very start of its journey and we have to continue that growth. “There will be setbacks along the way. There will be knockbacks. We just have to understand what we are building. We are closer than we have been recently. But close doesn’t appease people. We want to be in front.” Rangers scored late in each half, taking the lead just before the break from Jamie Murphy and securing their three points two minutes before full- time when Russell Martin netted his first for the club with a tap-in. Elsewhere, Hibernian stunned Kilmarnock at Rugby Park with a first-minute strike by Florian Kamberi and a header by Ryan Porteous and by the interval the visitors could claim that they were unfortunate not to have doubled their advantage. Kilmarnock, though, responded with a swift double on their own account, first with a Jordan Jones shot and then with a penalty kick by Kris Boyd, in a match which finished 2-2. At the other end of the table, Ross County remained bottom when they lost 2-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where Murray Davidson netted a double and a poor day for the Staggies deteriorated when Craig Curran was sent off in the closing stages. Partick Thistle dropped into the relegation play-off place when their habit of conceding last-gasp goals materialised again with David Templeton’s injury time winner in a 2-1 defeat at Hamilton, who leapfrogged the Jags into 10th spot. Accies are now two points behind Dundee, whose fans were noisily unhappy at losing to Motherwell at Dens Park, where Craig Tanner scored the only goal.
Scottish football is getting more competitive at the top, insists Rangers manager Graeme Murty
Despite Celtic’s advance on a second successive domestic treble, Scottish football is getting more competitive at its top level, according to Graeme Murty. The Rangers manager made his case after Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Heart of Midlothian, which saw his side move to within six points of Celtic ahead of the leaders’ meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday. Although Celtic have faltered during this campaign, those sides closest to them in the table have previously been unable to close the gap because of their own stumbles. Murty, though, cited the fact that the champions’ points advantage is significantly less than half of what it was a year ago. He said: “Their nearest rivals are closer than for a long time and getting closer to the league that we all want it to be. So, regardless of what Celtic do, our job is to push ourselves further and improve and make sure that, come the end of the season, we’re still talking about title races and challenges at the top of the table and in the Scottish Cup. “We want to be right at the top of the table and involved in every competition we compete in. I’m sure Derek McInnes is saying that at Aberdeen, Neil Lennon is saying that at Hibs and Craig Levein is saying that at Hearts. We want to be closer to what Celtic have done over the last period and, whilst being respectful to them, we want to make sure the season isn’t over by March. “We’re closer but we’re not where we need to be. We’re still improving, we’re still gelling and getting the group tighter and quicker with the ball and more cohesive in all departments.” Alfredo Morales, Rangers’ Colombian striker, stated last week that his aim was to move to an English club, a declaration which Murty declared laudable. “Yes. We want ambitious players here – players that are hungry to get to that next level,” he said. “We have just signed contracts with Josh Windass and James Tavernier, who are ambitious, still hungry to go and play at the highest level, but they understand that this place, this environment, gives them a fantastic platform. “We play in front of masses and masses of people at home. Our fans travel in their thousands away and we get fantastic coverage in the media, so there are not many places in Britain which get better coverage than we get and if Alfredo wants to go to England, he’s got things he has to do here that will bring that closer to being a reality for him. “He wants to be on the pitch scoring goals and I think that his last few performances have shown that he’s a real asset to the team. He’s shown good enthusiasm, good quality and that predatory instinct that we love. “At the moment, fatigue hasn’t become an issue. What we do have is a really, really good squad that means that, if we get the opportunity, or we need to, we can freshen things up. “As I keep on reiterating, though, this group has not finished growing yet. You’ve seen it just at the very, very start of its journey and we have to continue that growth. “There will be setbacks along the way. There will be knockbacks. We just have to understand what we are building. We are closer than we have been recently. But close doesn’t appease people. We want to be in front.” Rangers scored late in each half, taking the lead just before the break from Jamie Murphy and securing their three points two minutes before full- time when Russell Martin netted his first for the club with a tap-in. Elsewhere, Hibernian stunned Kilmarnock at Rugby Park with a first-minute strike by Florian Kamberi and a header by Ryan Porteous and by the interval the visitors could claim that they were unfortunate not to have doubled their advantage. Kilmarnock, though, responded with a swift double on their own account, first with a Jordan Jones shot and then with a penalty kick by Kris Boyd, in a match which finished 2-2. At the other end of the table, Ross County remained bottom when they lost 2-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where Murray Davidson netted a double and a poor day for the Staggies deteriorated when Craig Curran was sent off in the closing stages. Partick Thistle dropped into the relegation play-off place when their habit of conceding last-gasp goals materialised again with David Templeton’s injury time winner in a 2-1 defeat at Hamilton, who leapfrogged the Jags into 10th spot. Accies are now two points behind Dundee, whose fans were noisily unhappy at losing to Motherwell at Dens Park, where Craig Tanner scored the only goal.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Celtic's injury list for Zenit St Petersburg tie grows with Nir Bitton ruled out for season
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Celtic's injury list for Zenit St Petersburg tie grows with Nir Bitton ruled out for season
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Celtic's injury list for Zenit St Petersburg tie grows with Nir Bitton ruled out for season
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Liam Miller’s untimely death was felt with particular poignancy on Saturday at Celtic Park, where he began his career as a youth player in 1997, before making his debut against Dundee United three years later in Kenny Dalglish’s last game in charge. Martin O’Neill, the next Celtic manager, was so impressed by the youngster’s skills that he offered Miller a four-year contract and proposed to refashion the team around him. Miller declined, moving to Old Trafford when his contract expired in July 2004 but, against expectations, he could not secure a first team place under Alex Ferguson and his career after Manchester United became peripatetic and he moved on to Sunderland, Queen’s Park Rangers and Hibernian before spells in Australia and the USA, where he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in November. Miller’s passing on Friday was commemorated by an immaculately observed minute’s silence before kick-off at Celtic’s home tie with Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. “You saw from the response that Liam was held in affection here and that reflected the fact that he came through the ranks,” said Tom Boyd, the former Celtic captain, who played alongside Miller. “It took him a little while to get into the team because the midfield was full of quality international players at the time, but when he did step up he made a massive impact. We always have a certain respect at Celtic for players who come up from youth level and it seems appropriate that our goals on Saturday were all scored by James Forrest, who progressed through the same route.” Forrest, in fact, joined Celtic’s academy while Miller was still with the club and, if his initial progress was less spectacular than that of the Republic of Ireland international, the winger is now enjoying his most productive season with his best ever goals total – now at 16 and likely to rise by several more, if current form is a reliable guide. His plunder was aided by woeful defending by Partick, who were behind within two minutes when Forrest converted the rebound from a Moussa Dembele shot which came off Danny Devine. Celtic's players join together before the game Credit: PA Forrest was granted the freedom of the entire Thistle half for a run and shot in the 10th minute and completed his first ever hat-trick eight minutes after the break when he finished a left-wing combination which linked Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair. The Jags, though had been given hope when Jozo Simunovic carelessly handed possession to Kris Doolan for a delightful chip over Dorus de Vries in the Celtic goal. Doolan, too, was etching himself into the record books. The goal crowned his 350th appearance for Thistle before he made way on the hour for Conor Sammon. The replacement kept the issue in doubt by netting Thistle’s second in the 83rd minute and the visitors almost forced a draw in injury time, when Tierney and De Vries between them just managed to thwart Ryan Edwards on the goal line. “It was a great cross from Chris Erskine and I looked up and thought I was going to score,” said Edwards. “Kieran Tierney blocked it – he did ever so well because I was in front of him. “It was one of those where you see the ball hit the net before you connect. It was coming right to my foot and Tierney did ever so well and then the keeper just picked it up. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a replay.” If Thistle were disappointed at being caught cold by Forrest’s first two goals – especially since they had discussed the need for a disciplined start – they can take consolation for the fight against relegation from their spirited finish, a notable contrast with early season form that saw them damaged repeatedly by late goals. Forrest (left) celebrates after completing his hat-trick Credit: PA Asked if increased stamina now played a part, Edwards said: “Maybe – the fitness thing could be mentality and with players coming back from injury there is greater competition for places. It’s a positive environment to be in.” The possibility of yet another Thistle revival in the second half of the season has been revived by recent form. “I hope so,” Edwards said. “This is my third season and it’s happening again. “We don’t seem to start great but then it comes January and we seem to turn it around. I don’t know why that is. We don’t want to be in that position and it’s not planned. We’ve had good league results and we want to keep progressing. We have three massive games coming up starting next week against Dundee.” Celtic, of course, are engaged on a greatly contrasting itinerary, with the defence of their domestic treble and the possibility of progress in the Europa League. Zenit, though, are equipped with much more potent firepower than Partick, a strength that will require concomitant concentration by the Hoops defenders, if they are to keep the Russian side at bay. It was a long game, hectic too,” said Kris Ajer, Celtic’s Norwegian central defender. “Thistle pressed us well throughout the whole game. Even when we went up 2-0 they did really well to come back and never gave us a second on the ball.” That, it need hardly be overstated, is a factor that cannot escape Zenit’s attention ahead of what promises to be another fascinating, but tense, European evening at Parkead.
Liam Miller appropriately commemorated by James Forrest in Celtic win
Liam Miller’s untimely death was felt with particular poignancy on Saturday at Celtic Park, where he began his career as a youth player in 1997, before making his debut against Dundee United three years later in Kenny Dalglish’s last game in charge. Martin O’Neill, the next Celtic manager, was so impressed by the youngster’s skills that he offered Miller a four-year contract and proposed to refashion the team around him. Miller declined, moving to Old Trafford when his contract expired in July 2004 but, against expectations, he could not secure a first team place under Alex Ferguson and his career after Manchester United became peripatetic and he moved on to Sunderland, Queen’s Park Rangers and Hibernian before spells in Australia and the USA, where he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in November. Miller’s passing on Friday was commemorated by an immaculately observed minute’s silence before kick-off at Celtic’s home tie with Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. “You saw from the response that Liam was held in affection here and that reflected the fact that he came through the ranks,” said Tom Boyd, the former Celtic captain, who played alongside Miller. “It took him a little while to get into the team because the midfield was full of quality international players at the time, but when he did step up he made a massive impact. We always have a certain respect at Celtic for players who come up from youth level and it seems appropriate that our goals on Saturday were all scored by James Forrest, who progressed through the same route.” Forrest, in fact, joined Celtic’s academy while Miller was still with the club and, if his initial progress was less spectacular than that of the Republic of Ireland international, the winger is now enjoying his most productive season with his best ever goals total – now at 16 and likely to rise by several more, if current form is a reliable guide. His plunder was aided by woeful defending by Partick, who were behind within two minutes when Forrest converted the rebound from a Moussa Dembele shot which came off Danny Devine. Celtic's players join together before the game Credit: PA Forrest was granted the freedom of the entire Thistle half for a run and shot in the 10th minute and completed his first ever hat-trick eight minutes after the break when he finished a left-wing combination which linked Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair. The Jags, though had been given hope when Jozo Simunovic carelessly handed possession to Kris Doolan for a delightful chip over Dorus de Vries in the Celtic goal. Doolan, too, was etching himself into the record books. The goal crowned his 350th appearance for Thistle before he made way on the hour for Conor Sammon. The replacement kept the issue in doubt by netting Thistle’s second in the 83rd minute and the visitors almost forced a draw in injury time, when Tierney and De Vries between them just managed to thwart Ryan Edwards on the goal line. “It was a great cross from Chris Erskine and I looked up and thought I was going to score,” said Edwards. “Kieran Tierney blocked it – he did ever so well because I was in front of him. “It was one of those where you see the ball hit the net before you connect. It was coming right to my foot and Tierney did ever so well and then the keeper just picked it up. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a replay.” If Thistle were disappointed at being caught cold by Forrest’s first two goals – especially since they had discussed the need for a disciplined start – they can take consolation for the fight against relegation from their spirited finish, a notable contrast with early season form that saw them damaged repeatedly by late goals. Forrest (left) celebrates after completing his hat-trick Credit: PA Asked if increased stamina now played a part, Edwards said: “Maybe – the fitness thing could be mentality and with players coming back from injury there is greater competition for places. It’s a positive environment to be in.” The possibility of yet another Thistle revival in the second half of the season has been revived by recent form. “I hope so,” Edwards said. “This is my third season and it’s happening again. “We don’t seem to start great but then it comes January and we seem to turn it around. I don’t know why that is. We don’t want to be in that position and it’s not planned. We’ve had good league results and we want to keep progressing. We have three massive games coming up starting next week against Dundee.” Celtic, of course, are engaged on a greatly contrasting itinerary, with the defence of their domestic treble and the possibility of progress in the Europa League. Zenit, though, are equipped with much more potent firepower than Partick, a strength that will require concomitant concentration by the Hoops defenders, if they are to keep the Russian side at bay. It was a long game, hectic too,” said Kris Ajer, Celtic’s Norwegian central defender. “Thistle pressed us well throughout the whole game. Even when we went up 2-0 they did really well to come back and never gave us a second on the ball.” That, it need hardly be overstated, is a factor that cannot escape Zenit’s attention ahead of what promises to be another fascinating, but tense, European evening at Parkead.
Liam Miller’s untimely death was felt with particular poignancy on Saturday at Celtic Park, where he began his career as a youth player in 1997, before making his debut against Dundee United three years later in Kenny Dalglish’s last game in charge. Martin O’Neill, the next Celtic manager, was so impressed by the youngster’s skills that he offered Miller a four-year contract and proposed to refashion the team around him. Miller declined, moving to Old Trafford when his contract expired in July 2004 but, against expectations, he could not secure a first team place under Alex Ferguson and his career after Manchester United became peripatetic and he moved on to Sunderland, Queen’s Park Rangers and Hibernian before spells in Australia and the USA, where he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in November. Miller’s passing on Friday was commemorated by an immaculately observed minute’s silence before kick-off at Celtic’s home tie with Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. “You saw from the response that Liam was held in affection here and that reflected the fact that he came through the ranks,” said Tom Boyd, the former Celtic captain, who played alongside Miller. “It took him a little while to get into the team because the midfield was full of quality international players at the time, but when he did step up he made a massive impact. We always have a certain respect at Celtic for players who come up from youth level and it seems appropriate that our goals on Saturday were all scored by James Forrest, who progressed through the same route.” Forrest, in fact, joined Celtic’s academy while Miller was still with the club and, if his initial progress was less spectacular than that of the Republic of Ireland international, the winger is now enjoying his most productive season with his best ever goals total – now at 16 and likely to rise by several more, if current form is a reliable guide. His plunder was aided by woeful defending by Partick, who were behind within two minutes when Forrest converted the rebound from a Moussa Dembele shot which came off Danny Devine. Celtic's players join together before the game Credit: PA Forrest was granted the freedom of the entire Thistle half for a run and shot in the 10th minute and completed his first ever hat-trick eight minutes after the break when he finished a left-wing combination which linked Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair. The Jags, though had been given hope when Jozo Simunovic carelessly handed possession to Kris Doolan for a delightful chip over Dorus de Vries in the Celtic goal. Doolan, too, was etching himself into the record books. The goal crowned his 350th appearance for Thistle before he made way on the hour for Conor Sammon. The replacement kept the issue in doubt by netting Thistle’s second in the 83rd minute and the visitors almost forced a draw in injury time, when Tierney and De Vries between them just managed to thwart Ryan Edwards on the goal line. “It was a great cross from Chris Erskine and I looked up and thought I was going to score,” said Edwards. “Kieran Tierney blocked it – he did ever so well because I was in front of him. “It was one of those where you see the ball hit the net before you connect. It was coming right to my foot and Tierney did ever so well and then the keeper just picked it up. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a replay.” If Thistle were disappointed at being caught cold by Forrest’s first two goals – especially since they had discussed the need for a disciplined start – they can take consolation for the fight against relegation from their spirited finish, a notable contrast with early season form that saw them damaged repeatedly by late goals. Forrest (left) celebrates after completing his hat-trick Credit: PA Asked if increased stamina now played a part, Edwards said: “Maybe – the fitness thing could be mentality and with players coming back from injury there is greater competition for places. It’s a positive environment to be in.” The possibility of yet another Thistle revival in the second half of the season has been revived by recent form. “I hope so,” Edwards said. “This is my third season and it’s happening again. “We don’t seem to start great but then it comes January and we seem to turn it around. I don’t know why that is. We don’t want to be in that position and it’s not planned. We’ve had good league results and we want to keep progressing. We have three massive games coming up starting next week against Dundee.” Celtic, of course, are engaged on a greatly contrasting itinerary, with the defence of their domestic treble and the possibility of progress in the Europa League. Zenit, though, are equipped with much more potent firepower than Partick, a strength that will require concomitant concentration by the Hoops defenders, if they are to keep the Russian side at bay. It was a long game, hectic too,” said Kris Ajer, Celtic’s Norwegian central defender. “Thistle pressed us well throughout the whole game. Even when we went up 2-0 they did really well to come back and never gave us a second on the ball.” That, it need hardly be overstated, is a factor that cannot escape Zenit’s attention ahead of what promises to be another fascinating, but tense, European evening at Parkead.
Liam Miller appropriately commemorated by James Forrest in Celtic win
Liam Miller’s untimely death was felt with particular poignancy on Saturday at Celtic Park, where he began his career as a youth player in 1997, before making his debut against Dundee United three years later in Kenny Dalglish’s last game in charge. Martin O’Neill, the next Celtic manager, was so impressed by the youngster’s skills that he offered Miller a four-year contract and proposed to refashion the team around him. Miller declined, moving to Old Trafford when his contract expired in July 2004 but, against expectations, he could not secure a first team place under Alex Ferguson and his career after Manchester United became peripatetic and he moved on to Sunderland, Queen’s Park Rangers and Hibernian before spells in Australia and the USA, where he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in November. Miller’s passing on Friday was commemorated by an immaculately observed minute’s silence before kick-off at Celtic’s home tie with Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. “You saw from the response that Liam was held in affection here and that reflected the fact that he came through the ranks,” said Tom Boyd, the former Celtic captain, who played alongside Miller. “It took him a little while to get into the team because the midfield was full of quality international players at the time, but when he did step up he made a massive impact. We always have a certain respect at Celtic for players who come up from youth level and it seems appropriate that our goals on Saturday were all scored by James Forrest, who progressed through the same route.” Forrest, in fact, joined Celtic’s academy while Miller was still with the club and, if his initial progress was less spectacular than that of the Republic of Ireland international, the winger is now enjoying his most productive season with his best ever goals total – now at 16 and likely to rise by several more, if current form is a reliable guide. His plunder was aided by woeful defending by Partick, who were behind within two minutes when Forrest converted the rebound from a Moussa Dembele shot which came off Danny Devine. Celtic's players join together before the game Credit: PA Forrest was granted the freedom of the entire Thistle half for a run and shot in the 10th minute and completed his first ever hat-trick eight minutes after the break when he finished a left-wing combination which linked Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair. The Jags, though had been given hope when Jozo Simunovic carelessly handed possession to Kris Doolan for a delightful chip over Dorus de Vries in the Celtic goal. Doolan, too, was etching himself into the record books. The goal crowned his 350th appearance for Thistle before he made way on the hour for Conor Sammon. The replacement kept the issue in doubt by netting Thistle’s second in the 83rd minute and the visitors almost forced a draw in injury time, when Tierney and De Vries between them just managed to thwart Ryan Edwards on the goal line. “It was a great cross from Chris Erskine and I looked up and thought I was going to score,” said Edwards. “Kieran Tierney blocked it – he did ever so well because I was in front of him. “It was one of those where you see the ball hit the net before you connect. It was coming right to my foot and Tierney did ever so well and then the keeper just picked it up. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a replay.” If Thistle were disappointed at being caught cold by Forrest’s first two goals – especially since they had discussed the need for a disciplined start – they can take consolation for the fight against relegation from their spirited finish, a notable contrast with early season form that saw them damaged repeatedly by late goals. Forrest (left) celebrates after completing his hat-trick Credit: PA Asked if increased stamina now played a part, Edwards said: “Maybe – the fitness thing could be mentality and with players coming back from injury there is greater competition for places. It’s a positive environment to be in.” The possibility of yet another Thistle revival in the second half of the season has been revived by recent form. “I hope so,” Edwards said. “This is my third season and it’s happening again. “We don’t seem to start great but then it comes January and we seem to turn it around. I don’t know why that is. We don’t want to be in that position and it’s not planned. We’ve had good league results and we want to keep progressing. We have three massive games coming up starting next week against Dundee.” Celtic, of course, are engaged on a greatly contrasting itinerary, with the defence of their domestic treble and the possibility of progress in the Europa League. Zenit, though, are equipped with much more potent firepower than Partick, a strength that will require concomitant concentration by the Hoops defenders, if they are to keep the Russian side at bay. It was a long game, hectic too,” said Kris Ajer, Celtic’s Norwegian central defender. “Thistle pressed us well throughout the whole game. Even when we went up 2-0 they did really well to come back and never gave us a second on the ball.” That, it need hardly be overstated, is a factor that cannot escape Zenit’s attention ahead of what promises to be another fascinating, but tense, European evening at Parkead.
Liam Miller’s untimely death was felt with particular poignancy on Saturday at Celtic Park, where he began his career as a youth player in 1997, before making his debut against Dundee United three years later in Kenny Dalglish’s last game in charge. Martin O’Neill, the next Celtic manager, was so impressed by the youngster’s skills that he offered Miller a four-year contract and proposed to refashion the team around him. Miller declined, moving to Old Trafford when his contract expired in July 2004 but, against expectations, he could not secure a first team place under Alex Ferguson and his career after Manchester United became peripatetic and he moved on to Sunderland, Queen’s Park Rangers and Hibernian before spells in Australia and the USA, where he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in November. Miller’s passing on Friday was commemorated by an immaculately observed minute’s silence before kick-off at Celtic’s home tie with Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. “You saw from the response that Liam was held in affection here and that reflected the fact that he came through the ranks,” said Tom Boyd, the former Celtic captain, who played alongside Miller. “It took him a little while to get into the team because the midfield was full of quality international players at the time, but when he did step up he made a massive impact. We always have a certain respect at Celtic for players who come up from youth level and it seems appropriate that our goals on Saturday were all scored by James Forrest, who progressed through the same route.” Forrest, in fact, joined Celtic’s academy while Miller was still with the club and, if his initial progress was less spectacular than that of the Republic of Ireland international, the winger is now enjoying his most productive season with his best ever goals total – now at 16 and likely to rise by several more, if current form is a reliable guide. His plunder was aided by woeful defending by Partick, who were behind within two minutes when Forrest converted the rebound from a Moussa Dembele shot which came off Danny Devine. Celtic's players join together before the game Credit: PA Forrest was granted the freedom of the entire Thistle half for a run and shot in the 10th minute and completed his first ever hat-trick eight minutes after the break when he finished a left-wing combination which linked Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair. The Jags, though had been given hope when Jozo Simunovic carelessly handed possession to Kris Doolan for a delightful chip over Dorus de Vries in the Celtic goal. Doolan, too, was etching himself into the record books. The goal crowned his 350th appearance for Thistle before he made way on the hour for Conor Sammon. The replacement kept the issue in doubt by netting Thistle’s second in the 83rd minute and the visitors almost forced a draw in injury time, when Tierney and De Vries between them just managed to thwart Ryan Edwards on the goal line. “It was a great cross from Chris Erskine and I looked up and thought I was going to score,” said Edwards. “Kieran Tierney blocked it – he did ever so well because I was in front of him. “It was one of those where you see the ball hit the net before you connect. It was coming right to my foot and Tierney did ever so well and then the keeper just picked it up. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a replay.” If Thistle were disappointed at being caught cold by Forrest’s first two goals – especially since they had discussed the need for a disciplined start – they can take consolation for the fight against relegation from their spirited finish, a notable contrast with early season form that saw them damaged repeatedly by late goals. Forrest (left) celebrates after completing his hat-trick Credit: PA Asked if increased stamina now played a part, Edwards said: “Maybe – the fitness thing could be mentality and with players coming back from injury there is greater competition for places. It’s a positive environment to be in.” The possibility of yet another Thistle revival in the second half of the season has been revived by recent form. “I hope so,” Edwards said. “This is my third season and it’s happening again. “We don’t seem to start great but then it comes January and we seem to turn it around. I don’t know why that is. We don’t want to be in that position and it’s not planned. We’ve had good league results and we want to keep progressing. We have three massive games coming up starting next week against Dundee.” Celtic, of course, are engaged on a greatly contrasting itinerary, with the defence of their domestic treble and the possibility of progress in the Europa League. Zenit, though, are equipped with much more potent firepower than Partick, a strength that will require concomitant concentration by the Hoops defenders, if they are to keep the Russian side at bay. It was a long game, hectic too,” said Kris Ajer, Celtic’s Norwegian central defender. “Thistle pressed us well throughout the whole game. Even when we went up 2-0 they did really well to come back and never gave us a second on the ball.” That, it need hardly be overstated, is a factor that cannot escape Zenit’s attention ahead of what promises to be another fascinating, but tense, European evening at Parkead.
Liam Miller appropriately commemorated by James Forrest in Celtic win
Liam Miller’s untimely death was felt with particular poignancy on Saturday at Celtic Park, where he began his career as a youth player in 1997, before making his debut against Dundee United three years later in Kenny Dalglish’s last game in charge. Martin O’Neill, the next Celtic manager, was so impressed by the youngster’s skills that he offered Miller a four-year contract and proposed to refashion the team around him. Miller declined, moving to Old Trafford when his contract expired in July 2004 but, against expectations, he could not secure a first team place under Alex Ferguson and his career after Manchester United became peripatetic and he moved on to Sunderland, Queen’s Park Rangers and Hibernian before spells in Australia and the USA, where he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in November. Miller’s passing on Friday was commemorated by an immaculately observed minute’s silence before kick-off at Celtic’s home tie with Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. “You saw from the response that Liam was held in affection here and that reflected the fact that he came through the ranks,” said Tom Boyd, the former Celtic captain, who played alongside Miller. “It took him a little while to get into the team because the midfield was full of quality international players at the time, but when he did step up he made a massive impact. We always have a certain respect at Celtic for players who come up from youth level and it seems appropriate that our goals on Saturday were all scored by James Forrest, who progressed through the same route.” Forrest, in fact, joined Celtic’s academy while Miller was still with the club and, if his initial progress was less spectacular than that of the Republic of Ireland international, the winger is now enjoying his most productive season with his best ever goals total – now at 16 and likely to rise by several more, if current form is a reliable guide. His plunder was aided by woeful defending by Partick, who were behind within two minutes when Forrest converted the rebound from a Moussa Dembele shot which came off Danny Devine. Celtic's players join together before the game Credit: PA Forrest was granted the freedom of the entire Thistle half for a run and shot in the 10th minute and completed his first ever hat-trick eight minutes after the break when he finished a left-wing combination which linked Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair. The Jags, though had been given hope when Jozo Simunovic carelessly handed possession to Kris Doolan for a delightful chip over Dorus de Vries in the Celtic goal. Doolan, too, was etching himself into the record books. The goal crowned his 350th appearance for Thistle before he made way on the hour for Conor Sammon. The replacement kept the issue in doubt by netting Thistle’s second in the 83rd minute and the visitors almost forced a draw in injury time, when Tierney and De Vries between them just managed to thwart Ryan Edwards on the goal line. “It was a great cross from Chris Erskine and I looked up and thought I was going to score,” said Edwards. “Kieran Tierney blocked it – he did ever so well because I was in front of him. “It was one of those where you see the ball hit the net before you connect. It was coming right to my foot and Tierney did ever so well and then the keeper just picked it up. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a replay.” If Thistle were disappointed at being caught cold by Forrest’s first two goals – especially since they had discussed the need for a disciplined start – they can take consolation for the fight against relegation from their spirited finish, a notable contrast with early season form that saw them damaged repeatedly by late goals. Forrest (left) celebrates after completing his hat-trick Credit: PA Asked if increased stamina now played a part, Edwards said: “Maybe – the fitness thing could be mentality and with players coming back from injury there is greater competition for places. It’s a positive environment to be in.” The possibility of yet another Thistle revival in the second half of the season has been revived by recent form. “I hope so,” Edwards said. “This is my third season and it’s happening again. “We don’t seem to start great but then it comes January and we seem to turn it around. I don’t know why that is. We don’t want to be in that position and it’s not planned. We’ve had good league results and we want to keep progressing. We have three massive games coming up starting next week against Dundee.” Celtic, of course, are engaged on a greatly contrasting itinerary, with the defence of their domestic treble and the possibility of progress in the Europa League. Zenit, though, are equipped with much more potent firepower than Partick, a strength that will require concomitant concentration by the Hoops defenders, if they are to keep the Russian side at bay. It was a long game, hectic too,” said Kris Ajer, Celtic’s Norwegian central defender. “Thistle pressed us well throughout the whole game. Even when we went up 2-0 they did really well to come back and never gave us a second on the ball.” That, it need hardly be overstated, is a factor that cannot escape Zenit’s attention ahead of what promises to be another fascinating, but tense, European evening at Parkead.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
The former Celtic, Manchester United and Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Miller has died at the age of 36 from pancreatic cancer. Miller's family and friends announced in November that he was suffering from the disease and he that he had had treatment in the United States before flying home to Ireland for chemotherapy. The father of three, who made 21 appearances for the national side, began his career with Celtic before Sir Alex Ferguson took the Republic of Ireland international to Manchester United in 2004. Miller spent two years at Old Trafford with six months on loan at Leeds before a three-year spell at Sunderland. After moves to QPR and Hibernian, Miller spent four years in the Australian A-League before signing for American third tier side Wilmington Hammerheads in 2015. His old friend Tam McManus broke the news and his former clubs and team-mates united to pay tribute: I’m afraid it is true that Liam Miller has sadly passed away today. Thoughts are with all his family and friends at this horrendous time. So sad.— Tam McManus (@The_Tman10) February 9, 2018 Everyone at #CelticFC is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time. RIP Liam, YNWA. pic.twitter.com/vMkT1CtJ2m— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) February 9, 2018 Everyone at Leeds United are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former #LUFC midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts are with his family and friends pic.twitter.com/4rtm5yOL1v— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 9, 2018 We are saddened to hear this evening that former #SAFC midfielder Liam Miller has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. pic.twitter.com/MQqL3x2acN— Sunderland AFC ��⚪ (@SunderlandAFC) February 9, 2018 We are incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of former Hibernian midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. pic.twitter.com/XWURtc72M3— Hibernian FC (@HibsOfficial) February 9, 2018 RIP Liam Miller. Devastating news. Great player but more importantly fantastic person. So sad. Thoughts with his family.— Danny Higginbotham (@Higginbotham05) February 9, 2018 RIP Liam Miller. Was lucky enough to room with Liam on a few international trips.. top player and a great person. Thoughts and prayers with his loved ones. ����— STEVEN REID (@stevenreid12) February 9, 2018 Celtic and Manchester United have also paid to their former midfielder. Celtic, whose players will wear black armbands in Miller's memory during their William Hill Scottish Cup match against Partick Thistle on Saturday, tweeted: "Everyone at £CelticFC is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time. RIP Liam, YNWA." In 2004 Miller joined United for a two-year spell and the Old Trafford club expressed their sympathy on Saturday morning. A tweet read: "Manchester United is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of our former midfielder Liam Miller. We extend our condolences to his loved ones at this extremely difficult time."
Liam Miller, former Celtic, Manchester United and Ireland midfielder, dies aged 36 after long battle with cancer
The former Celtic, Manchester United and Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Miller has died at the age of 36 from pancreatic cancer. Miller's family and friends announced in November that he was suffering from the disease and he that he had had treatment in the United States before flying home to Ireland for chemotherapy. The father of three, who made 21 appearances for the national side, began his career with Celtic before Sir Alex Ferguson took the Republic of Ireland international to Manchester United in 2004. Miller spent two years at Old Trafford with six months on loan at Leeds before a three-year spell at Sunderland. After moves to QPR and Hibernian, Miller spent four years in the Australian A-League before signing for American third tier side Wilmington Hammerheads in 2015. His old friend Tam McManus broke the news and his former clubs and team-mates united to pay tribute: I’m afraid it is true that Liam Miller has sadly passed away today. Thoughts are with all his family and friends at this horrendous time. So sad.— Tam McManus (@The_Tman10) February 9, 2018 Everyone at #CelticFC is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time. RIP Liam, YNWA. pic.twitter.com/vMkT1CtJ2m— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) February 9, 2018 Everyone at Leeds United are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former #LUFC midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts are with his family and friends pic.twitter.com/4rtm5yOL1v— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 9, 2018 We are saddened to hear this evening that former #SAFC midfielder Liam Miller has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. pic.twitter.com/MQqL3x2acN— Sunderland AFC ��⚪ (@SunderlandAFC) February 9, 2018 We are incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of former Hibernian midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. pic.twitter.com/XWURtc72M3— Hibernian FC (@HibsOfficial) February 9, 2018 RIP Liam Miller. Devastating news. Great player but more importantly fantastic person. So sad. Thoughts with his family.— Danny Higginbotham (@Higginbotham05) February 9, 2018 RIP Liam Miller. Was lucky enough to room with Liam on a few international trips.. top player and a great person. Thoughts and prayers with his loved ones. ����— STEVEN REID (@stevenreid12) February 9, 2018 Celtic and Manchester United have also paid to their former midfielder. Celtic, whose players will wear black armbands in Miller's memory during their William Hill Scottish Cup match against Partick Thistle on Saturday, tweeted: "Everyone at £CelticFC is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time. RIP Liam, YNWA." In 2004 Miller joined United for a two-year spell and the Old Trafford club expressed their sympathy on Saturday morning. A tweet read: "Manchester United is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of our former midfielder Liam Miller. We extend our condolences to his loved ones at this extremely difficult time."
The Jags have gone over a decade without getting one over on their city rivals and will be looking to spring a Scottish 'cupset'
Celtic vs Partick Thistle: TV channel, live stream, squad news & preview
The Jags have gone over a decade without getting one over on their city rivals and will be looking to spring a Scottish 'cupset'
The Jags have gone over a decade without getting one over on their city rivals and will be looking to spring a Scottish 'cupset'
Celtic vs Partick Thistle: TV channel, live stream, squad news & preview
The Jags have gone over a decade without getting one over on their city rivals and will be looking to spring a Scottish 'cupset'
The Jags have gone over a decade without getting one over on their city rivals and will be looking to spring a Scottish 'cupset'
Celtic vs Partick Thistle: TV channel, live stream, squad news & preview
The Jags have gone over a decade without getting one over on their city rivals and will be looking to spring a Scottish 'cupset'
Craig Levein was accused by Brendan Rodgers of having an obsession about Scott Brown, after the Hearts manager returned once again to the subject of Celtic’s captain and his combative style of play. Levein had previously voiced concern about a challenge by Brown on Harry Cochrane, which put the 16-year-old Hearts midfielder out of the game with a collarbone injury before half-time in Celtic’s 3-1 victory at Parkhead on January 30. Rodgers retorted that the decision to field the teenager in such a high-intensity game was questionable, although Cochrane had scored in Hearts’ 4-0 win over the champions at Tynecastle in December. Celtic lost their second domestic match under Rodgers on Saturday at Kilmarnock, with Brown booked in the 73rd minute, prompting him to say afterwards, in reference to Levein: “He has done his job, hasn’t he? I was booked with my first foul and that is exactly what Craig was looking to do.” Levein, however, postulated the theory that Brown had deliberately drawn a yellow card to manipulate the disciplinary process ahead of the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on March 11. “If Scott didn’t get booked against Kilmarnock and got booked against St Johnstone [on 18 February] then he’d miss the Rangers game,” Levein said. The former Scotland boss added: “I’m not trying to irritate anybody. I’m just pointing stuff out. Scott Brown mentioned last week that he got booked because of me bringing to attention his proclivity to foul people. I disagree with that. “I’m just pointing out things that are obvious. I think you’ll find that his intentions were always to get himself booked in that game so he didn’t miss the Rangers match. “That sort of things happens all the time. Anybody who is sensible would look at the situation if there is a particular game they want to play in and know they need to get booked to miss a game prior to that. I did it myself when I was playing, so it happens. I don’t know Scott’s intentions, but I’m just pointing out the fact. That’s all.” Levein’s comments evoked scorn from Rodgers, who said: “He is obviously fairly obsessed by our captain. It is a credit to Scott that you’ve got another manager, who is not even playing against him, talking about him. “If that is what has been said – and I haven’t seen it yet, so I have to see it – then he might have something to answer on that.” Whether or not that was a hint to the Scottish Football Association to consider a disrepute charge against Levein is a moot point, but the long-distance exchanges might not yet have run their course. In the meantime, Celtic will attempt to expunge the memory of last weekend’s anaemic display at Rugby Park by defending one of the three trophies in their possession when they meet Partick Thistle at home in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round on Saturday. Rodgers expressed gratitude for the rare absence of a midweek fixture. “It’s been brilliant. It was good, obviously, after the game to give the players two days off and then we were back in working,” he said. “We’ve had a great week’s training and been able to do some work which is very important. We’re now looking forward to the schedule ahead.” There was mixed news, meanwhile, about the lengthy casualty list at Parkhead. “It’s just unfortunate,” Rodgers said. “Kris Ajer should be fine, but he hurt his Achilles last week which was the same injury Nir Bitton had earlier on in the season on that surface [Rugby Park], where you can land awkwardly and it just disrupts you. “The squad is starting to piece itself back together even though we still have some injuries. We have players starting to return and hopefully that will make us really strong for the last part of the season. “We try to not cry about it or moan about it, but certainly it is a factor and it doesn’t help when there is constant change in certain areas of the field.”
Brendan Rodgers accuses Craig Levein of being 'fairly obsessed' about Scott Brown
Craig Levein was accused by Brendan Rodgers of having an obsession about Scott Brown, after the Hearts manager returned once again to the subject of Celtic’s captain and his combative style of play. Levein had previously voiced concern about a challenge by Brown on Harry Cochrane, which put the 16-year-old Hearts midfielder out of the game with a collarbone injury before half-time in Celtic’s 3-1 victory at Parkhead on January 30. Rodgers retorted that the decision to field the teenager in such a high-intensity game was questionable, although Cochrane had scored in Hearts’ 4-0 win over the champions at Tynecastle in December. Celtic lost their second domestic match under Rodgers on Saturday at Kilmarnock, with Brown booked in the 73rd minute, prompting him to say afterwards, in reference to Levein: “He has done his job, hasn’t he? I was booked with my first foul and that is exactly what Craig was looking to do.” Levein, however, postulated the theory that Brown had deliberately drawn a yellow card to manipulate the disciplinary process ahead of the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on March 11. “If Scott didn’t get booked against Kilmarnock and got booked against St Johnstone [on 18 February] then he’d miss the Rangers game,” Levein said. The former Scotland boss added: “I’m not trying to irritate anybody. I’m just pointing stuff out. Scott Brown mentioned last week that he got booked because of me bringing to attention his proclivity to foul people. I disagree with that. “I’m just pointing out things that are obvious. I think you’ll find that his intentions were always to get himself booked in that game so he didn’t miss the Rangers match. “That sort of things happens all the time. Anybody who is sensible would look at the situation if there is a particular game they want to play in and know they need to get booked to miss a game prior to that. I did it myself when I was playing, so it happens. I don’t know Scott’s intentions, but I’m just pointing out the fact. That’s all.” Levein’s comments evoked scorn from Rodgers, who said: “He is obviously fairly obsessed by our captain. It is a credit to Scott that you’ve got another manager, who is not even playing against him, talking about him. “If that is what has been said – and I haven’t seen it yet, so I have to see it – then he might have something to answer on that.” Whether or not that was a hint to the Scottish Football Association to consider a disrepute charge against Levein is a moot point, but the long-distance exchanges might not yet have run their course. In the meantime, Celtic will attempt to expunge the memory of last weekend’s anaemic display at Rugby Park by defending one of the three trophies in their possession when they meet Partick Thistle at home in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round on Saturday. Rodgers expressed gratitude for the rare absence of a midweek fixture. “It’s been brilliant. It was good, obviously, after the game to give the players two days off and then we were back in working,” he said. “We’ve had a great week’s training and been able to do some work which is very important. We’re now looking forward to the schedule ahead.” There was mixed news, meanwhile, about the lengthy casualty list at Parkhead. “It’s just unfortunate,” Rodgers said. “Kris Ajer should be fine, but he hurt his Achilles last week which was the same injury Nir Bitton had earlier on in the season on that surface [Rugby Park], where you can land awkwardly and it just disrupts you. “The squad is starting to piece itself back together even though we still have some injuries. We have players starting to return and hopefully that will make us really strong for the last part of the season. “We try to not cry about it or moan about it, but certainly it is a factor and it doesn’t help when there is constant change in certain areas of the field.”
Steve Clarke has already played down speculation linking him with the vacant position of Scotland manager but his lustre will be enhanced by Kilmarnock’s unexpected success against Celtic on Saturday, winning 1-0 at Rugby Park, where Youssouf Mulumbu scored the only goal. The Ayrshire side remain closer to the relegation zone than the higher reaches of the Scottish Premiership but their weekend win saw them into the top half of the division. That prospect looked remote during Lee McCulloch’s spell in charge earlier in the season, when Killie lost 5-0 to Celtic at Parkhead in the Betfred Scottish League Cup and 2-0 at home in the league, but under Clarke they have now drawn with Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow and beaten both Old Firm teams at Rugby Park. Clarke had been away from Scottish football for 30 years prior to the return to his native Ayrshire and in his 11 years as a Chelsea defender he won FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup medals as well as making six appearances for Scotland. Coaching and management experience followed at Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, West Brom, Reading and Aston Villa, so it would be no surprise if the Scottish Football Association should take more than a passing interest in the 54-year-old. Not that the possibility is welcome amongst the Kilmarnock players. “If it happens, he does have credentials,” said Jamie MacDonald. The goalkeeper added: “It’s been a long time since Scotland’s been to an international tournament and that’s something we hope will be addressed in the coming years, but for purely selfish reasons I hope he’s here in the long run.’’ Pressed to identify how Clarke has transformed Kilmarnock’s fortunes, MacDonald said: “Everybody asks this and I don’t think anybody can give you a proper answer. He just makes everything so simple in terms of knowing what you’re doing. “Football’s not a difficult game as such. It’s us players who seem to make it more difficult. We worked on our shape all week, what we were going to do to combat Celtic, what we would do when we got the ball back – little simple things – but he doesn’t overdo it. Football players only need to take in little bits at a time, to be honest.” The occasion was one of singularities. Kilmarnock had not beaten Celtic since October 2012 and Mulumba – who was the subject of a transfer bid from Bordeaux last week – had not scored since March 15, 2014, when he was on target for West Brom in a 2-1 win at Swansea. “It was a great ball from Jordan Jones and Youssuf found a bit of space,” said MacDonald. “It was a composed finish as well, especially taking it first time on the astro, because it can sometimes check up a little bit. You can tell the quality he has – although the boys are having a bit of a joke, saying he only turns up for the TV games.” Celtic, it must be said, could have cited exculpatory reasons for what was only their second domestic defeat during Brendan Rodgers’ 20 months in charge. The early loss to injury of two of their three starting central defenders – Dedryck Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer – plus the inhibiting tendencies of Rugby Park’s much-used artificial 3G pitch were undoubtedly disruptive, but it is a measure of the mindset instilled by Rodgers that Celtic declined to use those factors to excuse a performance which was their poorest against domestic opposition under his supervision. Celtic had 69% of possession but it took them until the 87th minute to force the first of two corner kicks. Their single shot on target did not arrive until the 90th minute when Olivier Ntcham’s free-kick was blocked by MacDonald. Had Jones, Malumba and Kirk Broadfoot taken all of the clear chances that came their way Celtic would have sustained a setback on the scale of the 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle in December which ended their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures after 69 outings. On that occasion, though, the champions had four attempts on target and were ahead on the corner-kick count by full time. “We did create more in the Hearts game,” said James Forrest, the Celtic winger. “We know as a team that it wasn’t good enough on Saturday and we just have to rectify that next week against Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup. “Then the game after that is the Europa League against Zenit St Petersburg so we know we have to try to turn it around. We do play a lot of games but the manager does change it to help the boys get a rest. We have a strong squad and we will be able to cope with that.”
Steve Clarke again linked with Scotland job after Kilmarnock beat Celtic
Steve Clarke has already played down speculation linking him with the vacant position of Scotland manager but his lustre will be enhanced by Kilmarnock’s unexpected success against Celtic on Saturday, winning 1-0 at Rugby Park, where Youssouf Mulumbu scored the only goal. The Ayrshire side remain closer to the relegation zone than the higher reaches of the Scottish Premiership but their weekend win saw them into the top half of the division. That prospect looked remote during Lee McCulloch’s spell in charge earlier in the season, when Killie lost 5-0 to Celtic at Parkhead in the Betfred Scottish League Cup and 2-0 at home in the league, but under Clarke they have now drawn with Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow and beaten both Old Firm teams at Rugby Park. Clarke had been away from Scottish football for 30 years prior to the return to his native Ayrshire and in his 11 years as a Chelsea defender he won FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup medals as well as making six appearances for Scotland. Coaching and management experience followed at Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, West Brom, Reading and Aston Villa, so it would be no surprise if the Scottish Football Association should take more than a passing interest in the 54-year-old. Not that the possibility is welcome amongst the Kilmarnock players. “If it happens, he does have credentials,” said Jamie MacDonald. The goalkeeper added: “It’s been a long time since Scotland’s been to an international tournament and that’s something we hope will be addressed in the coming years, but for purely selfish reasons I hope he’s here in the long run.’’ Pressed to identify how Clarke has transformed Kilmarnock’s fortunes, MacDonald said: “Everybody asks this and I don’t think anybody can give you a proper answer. He just makes everything so simple in terms of knowing what you’re doing. “Football’s not a difficult game as such. It’s us players who seem to make it more difficult. We worked on our shape all week, what we were going to do to combat Celtic, what we would do when we got the ball back – little simple things – but he doesn’t overdo it. Football players only need to take in little bits at a time, to be honest.” The occasion was one of singularities. Kilmarnock had not beaten Celtic since October 2012 and Mulumba – who was the subject of a transfer bid from Bordeaux last week – had not scored since March 15, 2014, when he was on target for West Brom in a 2-1 win at Swansea. “It was a great ball from Jordan Jones and Youssuf found a bit of space,” said MacDonald. “It was a composed finish as well, especially taking it first time on the astro, because it can sometimes check up a little bit. You can tell the quality he has – although the boys are having a bit of a joke, saying he only turns up for the TV games.” Celtic, it must be said, could have cited exculpatory reasons for what was only their second domestic defeat during Brendan Rodgers’ 20 months in charge. The early loss to injury of two of their three starting central defenders – Dedryck Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer – plus the inhibiting tendencies of Rugby Park’s much-used artificial 3G pitch were undoubtedly disruptive, but it is a measure of the mindset instilled by Rodgers that Celtic declined to use those factors to excuse a performance which was their poorest against domestic opposition under his supervision. Celtic had 69% of possession but it took them until the 87th minute to force the first of two corner kicks. Their single shot on target did not arrive until the 90th minute when Olivier Ntcham’s free-kick was blocked by MacDonald. Had Jones, Malumba and Kirk Broadfoot taken all of the clear chances that came their way Celtic would have sustained a setback on the scale of the 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle in December which ended their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures after 69 outings. On that occasion, though, the champions had four attempts on target and were ahead on the corner-kick count by full time. “We did create more in the Hearts game,” said James Forrest, the Celtic winger. “We know as a team that it wasn’t good enough on Saturday and we just have to rectify that next week against Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup. “Then the game after that is the Europa League against Zenit St Petersburg so we know we have to try to turn it around. We do play a lot of games but the manager does change it to help the boys get a rest. We have a strong squad and we will be able to cope with that.”
Celtic's striker Leigh Griffiths, pictured in October 2017, fired home a 70th minute winner against Partick Thistle (AFP Photo/ANDY BUCHANAN )
Celtic's striker Leigh Griffiths, pictured in October 2017, fired home a 70th minute winner against Partick Thistle
Celtic's striker Leigh Griffiths, pictured in October 2017, fired home a 70th minute winner against Partick Thistle (AFP Photo/ANDY BUCHANAN )
Celtic's striker Leigh Griffiths, pictured in October 2017, fired home a 70th minute winner against Partick Thistle
Celtic's striker Leigh Griffiths, pictured in October 2017, fired home a 70th minute winner against Partick Thistle
Celtic's striker Leigh Griffiths, pictured in October 2017, fired home a 70th minute winner against Partick Thistle
Celtic posted a double-figure points lead over Aberdeen – whose game in hand is at home to Partick Thistle tomorrow – with this comfortable victory over Dundee at Dens Park and goals from James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths on an afternoon that would have been significantly more damaging for the home team had the champions taken their chances during an early period of overwhelming domination. Since losing their long unbeaten record under Brendan Rodgers to Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic have posted three successive wins, as the manager rotates his squad. For this fixture, Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong dropped to the bench and Scott Sinclair was granted an afternoon’s rest against a Dundee side unchanged from their 1-1 weekend draw with Motherwell. Dembele was the subject of reports which claimed him to be a January target for Brighton but Rodgers remarked of the speculation about the French striker that there was “nothing at all” in it, although, when asked if the player would still be a Celtic employee by the end of next month, added: “I can’t say that.” What could be stated without contradiction by the midway stage of the contest was that the first half must have seemed close to interminable for Dundee. By the quarter-hour mark Celtic had a near monopoly of possession – no less than 85 per cent, in fact – and their relentless pressing game had seen them take the lead when a typically dangerous thrust and cutback from Kieran Tierney set Forrest up for a simple strike to take his striking total for the club to 50 goals. Even before the opener, Callum McGregor had rifled a shot off the post and Celtic’s unremitting pressure saw them produce 13 attempts on and off the target by the break, compared to Dundee’s grand total of zero. The surprise by that stage of the proceedings was that Celtic were only 2-0 to the good and that their second goal arrived as late as the 42nd minute when Olivier Ntcham provided a pass for Griffiths, so well judged that the striker did not have to break stride before placing his finish low behind Elliot Parish. James Forrest, who stood out for Celtic in this win, scores his goal Credit: Getty Images Celtic’s momentum had perhaps been disrupted by the seven-minute stoppage required when Hayes and Meekings went into a full-blooded challenge which left both players writhing on the turf. Meekings was able to limp from the field, to be replaced by Darren O’Dea, but Hayes – who scored his first Celtic goal in Saturday’s 3-0 home victory over Aberdeen – had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle, with Michael Johnston taking his place. The 18-year-old winger thought he had added to Celtic’s advantage in first-half injury time but his close-range attempt was blocked by Parish and the goalkeeper was promptly required to deal with a powerful effort from Forrest by tipping it over the top. Forrest was Celtic’s outstanding performer and displayed a channelled energy which seemed beyond his capability in his younger days. Celtic’s superiority extended to maintaining their position while dropping down through the gears in the second half, with Saturday’s meeting with Rangers in mind. The drop in tempo and intensity allowed Dundee – for whom Jack Lambert and Matty Henvey made debuts as substitutes – to salvage a degree of self-respect with a spell of late pressure but their overall menace amounted only to one fierce drive from Paul McGowan, which swooped just over the crossbar, plus a drive from distance by Cammy Kerr that was taken comfortably by Craig Gordon, who was probably glad of the exercise. Match details Dundee (4-4-2): Parish; Kerr, Hendry, Meekings (O’Dea 26), Aurtenetxe; O’Hara, McGowan, Kamara, El-Bakhtaoui (Lambert 62); Moussa, Leitch-Smith (Henvey 79). Subs: Ferrie (g), Holt, Waddell, Curran. Booked: Moussa. Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham (Armstrong 66), Brown; Hayes (Johnston 26), McGregor, Forrest; Griffiths (Dembele 77). Subs: De Vries (g), Bitton, Simunovic, Edouard. Booked: Boyata, Brown. Referee: Kevin Clancy.
Dundee 0 Celtic 2: James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths goals move Celtic 11 points clear
Celtic posted a double-figure points lead over Aberdeen – whose game in hand is at home to Partick Thistle tomorrow – with this comfortable victory over Dundee at Dens Park and goals from James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths on an afternoon that would have been significantly more damaging for the home team had the champions taken their chances during an early period of overwhelming domination. Since losing their long unbeaten record under Brendan Rodgers to Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic have posted three successive wins, as the manager rotates his squad. For this fixture, Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong dropped to the bench and Scott Sinclair was granted an afternoon’s rest against a Dundee side unchanged from their 1-1 weekend draw with Motherwell. Dembele was the subject of reports which claimed him to be a January target for Brighton but Rodgers remarked of the speculation about the French striker that there was “nothing at all” in it, although, when asked if the player would still be a Celtic employee by the end of next month, added: “I can’t say that.” What could be stated without contradiction by the midway stage of the contest was that the first half must have seemed close to interminable for Dundee. By the quarter-hour mark Celtic had a near monopoly of possession – no less than 85 per cent, in fact – and their relentless pressing game had seen them take the lead when a typically dangerous thrust and cutback from Kieran Tierney set Forrest up for a simple strike to take his striking total for the club to 50 goals. Even before the opener, Callum McGregor had rifled a shot off the post and Celtic’s unremitting pressure saw them produce 13 attempts on and off the target by the break, compared to Dundee’s grand total of zero. The surprise by that stage of the proceedings was that Celtic were only 2-0 to the good and that their second goal arrived as late as the 42nd minute when Olivier Ntcham provided a pass for Griffiths, so well judged that the striker did not have to break stride before placing his finish low behind Elliot Parish. James Forrest, who stood out for Celtic in this win, scores his goal Credit: Getty Images Celtic’s momentum had perhaps been disrupted by the seven-minute stoppage required when Hayes and Meekings went into a full-blooded challenge which left both players writhing on the turf. Meekings was able to limp from the field, to be replaced by Darren O’Dea, but Hayes – who scored his first Celtic goal in Saturday’s 3-0 home victory over Aberdeen – had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle, with Michael Johnston taking his place. The 18-year-old winger thought he had added to Celtic’s advantage in first-half injury time but his close-range attempt was blocked by Parish and the goalkeeper was promptly required to deal with a powerful effort from Forrest by tipping it over the top. Forrest was Celtic’s outstanding performer and displayed a channelled energy which seemed beyond his capability in his younger days. Celtic’s superiority extended to maintaining their position while dropping down through the gears in the second half, with Saturday’s meeting with Rangers in mind. The drop in tempo and intensity allowed Dundee – for whom Jack Lambert and Matty Henvey made debuts as substitutes – to salvage a degree of self-respect with a spell of late pressure but their overall menace amounted only to one fierce drive from Paul McGowan, which swooped just over the crossbar, plus a drive from distance by Cammy Kerr that was taken comfortably by Craig Gordon, who was probably glad of the exercise. Match details Dundee (4-4-2): Parish; Kerr, Hendry, Meekings (O’Dea 26), Aurtenetxe; O’Hara, McGowan, Kamara, El-Bakhtaoui (Lambert 62); Moussa, Leitch-Smith (Henvey 79). Subs: Ferrie (g), Holt, Waddell, Curran. Booked: Moussa. Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham (Armstrong 66), Brown; Hayes (Johnston 26), McGregor, Forrest; Griffiths (Dembele 77). Subs: De Vries (g), Bitton, Simunovic, Edouard. Booked: Boyata, Brown. Referee: Kevin Clancy.
Celtic posted a double-figure points lead over Aberdeen – whose game in hand is at home to Partick Thistle tomorrow – with this comfortable victory over Dundee at Dens Park and goals from James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths on an afternoon that would have been significantly more damaging for the home team had the champions taken their chances during an early period of overwhelming domination. Since losing their long unbeaten record under Brendan Rodgers to Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic have posted three successive wins, as the manager rotates his squad. For this fixture, Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong dropped to the bench and Scott Sinclair was granted an afternoon’s rest against a Dundee side unchanged from their 1-1 weekend draw with Motherwell. Dembele was the subject of reports which claimed him to be a January target for Brighton but Rodgers remarked of the speculation about the French striker that there was “nothing at all” in it, although, when asked if the player would still be a Celtic employee by the end of next month, added: “I can’t say that.” What could be stated without contradiction by the midway stage of the contest was that the first half must have seemed close to interminable for Dundee. By the quarter-hour mark Celtic had a near monopoly of possession – no less than 85 per cent, in fact – and their relentless pressing game had seen them take the lead when a typically dangerous thrust and cutback from Kieran Tierney set Forrest up for a simple strike to take his striking total for the club to 50 goals. Even before the opener, Callum McGregor had rifled a shot off the post and Celtic’s unremitting pressure saw them produce 13 attempts on and off the target by the break, compared to Dundee’s grand total of zero. The surprise by that stage of the proceedings was that Celtic were only 2-0 to the good and that their second goal arrived as late as the 42nd minute when Olivier Ntcham provided a pass for Griffiths, so well judged that the striker did not have to break stride before placing his finish low behind Elliot Parish. James Forrest, who stood out for Celtic in this win, scores his goal Credit: Getty Images Celtic’s momentum had perhaps been disrupted by the seven-minute stoppage required when Hayes and Meekings went into a full-blooded challenge which left both players writhing on the turf. Meekings was able to limp from the field, to be replaced by Darren O’Dea, but Hayes – who scored his first Celtic goal in Saturday’s 3-0 home victory over Aberdeen – had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle, with Michael Johnston taking his place. The 18-year-old winger thought he had added to Celtic’s advantage in first-half injury time but his close-range attempt was blocked by Parish and the goalkeeper was promptly required to deal with a powerful effort from Forrest by tipping it over the top. Forrest was Celtic’s outstanding performer and displayed a channelled energy which seemed beyond his capability in his younger days. Celtic’s superiority extended to maintaining their position while dropping down through the gears in the second half, with Saturday’s meeting with Rangers in mind. The drop in tempo and intensity allowed Dundee – for whom Jack Lambert and Matty Henvey made debuts as substitutes – to salvage a degree of self-respect with a spell of late pressure but their overall menace amounted only to one fierce drive from Paul McGowan, which swooped just over the crossbar, plus a drive from distance by Cammy Kerr that was taken comfortably by Craig Gordon, who was probably glad of the exercise. Match details Dundee (4-4-2): Parish; Kerr, Hendry, Meekings (O’Dea 26), Aurtenetxe; O’Hara, McGowan, Kamara, El-Bakhtaoui (Lambert 62); Moussa, Leitch-Smith (Henvey 79). Subs: Ferrie (g), Holt, Waddell, Curran. Booked: Moussa. Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham (Armstrong 66), Brown; Hayes (Johnston 26), McGregor, Forrest; Griffiths (Dembele 77). Subs: De Vries (g), Bitton, Simunovic, Edouard. Booked: Boyata, Brown. Referee: Kevin Clancy.
Dundee 0 Celtic 2: James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths goals move Celtic 11 points clear
Celtic posted a double-figure points lead over Aberdeen – whose game in hand is at home to Partick Thistle tomorrow – with this comfortable victory over Dundee at Dens Park and goals from James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths on an afternoon that would have been significantly more damaging for the home team had the champions taken their chances during an early period of overwhelming domination. Since losing their long unbeaten record under Brendan Rodgers to Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic have posted three successive wins, as the manager rotates his squad. For this fixture, Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong dropped to the bench and Scott Sinclair was granted an afternoon’s rest against a Dundee side unchanged from their 1-1 weekend draw with Motherwell. Dembele was the subject of reports which claimed him to be a January target for Brighton but Rodgers remarked of the speculation about the French striker that there was “nothing at all” in it, although, when asked if the player would still be a Celtic employee by the end of next month, added: “I can’t say that.” What could be stated without contradiction by the midway stage of the contest was that the first half must have seemed close to interminable for Dundee. By the quarter-hour mark Celtic had a near monopoly of possession – no less than 85 per cent, in fact – and their relentless pressing game had seen them take the lead when a typically dangerous thrust and cutback from Kieran Tierney set Forrest up for a simple strike to take his striking total for the club to 50 goals. Even before the opener, Callum McGregor had rifled a shot off the post and Celtic’s unremitting pressure saw them produce 13 attempts on and off the target by the break, compared to Dundee’s grand total of zero. The surprise by that stage of the proceedings was that Celtic were only 2-0 to the good and that their second goal arrived as late as the 42nd minute when Olivier Ntcham provided a pass for Griffiths, so well judged that the striker did not have to break stride before placing his finish low behind Elliot Parish. James Forrest, who stood out for Celtic in this win, scores his goal Credit: Getty Images Celtic’s momentum had perhaps been disrupted by the seven-minute stoppage required when Hayes and Meekings went into a full-blooded challenge which left both players writhing on the turf. Meekings was able to limp from the field, to be replaced by Darren O’Dea, but Hayes – who scored his first Celtic goal in Saturday’s 3-0 home victory over Aberdeen – had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle, with Michael Johnston taking his place. The 18-year-old winger thought he had added to Celtic’s advantage in first-half injury time but his close-range attempt was blocked by Parish and the goalkeeper was promptly required to deal with a powerful effort from Forrest by tipping it over the top. Forrest was Celtic’s outstanding performer and displayed a channelled energy which seemed beyond his capability in his younger days. Celtic’s superiority extended to maintaining their position while dropping down through the gears in the second half, with Saturday’s meeting with Rangers in mind. The drop in tempo and intensity allowed Dundee – for whom Jack Lambert and Matty Henvey made debuts as substitutes – to salvage a degree of self-respect with a spell of late pressure but their overall menace amounted only to one fierce drive from Paul McGowan, which swooped just over the crossbar, plus a drive from distance by Cammy Kerr that was taken comfortably by Craig Gordon, who was probably glad of the exercise. Match details Dundee (4-4-2): Parish; Kerr, Hendry, Meekings (O’Dea 26), Aurtenetxe; O’Hara, McGowan, Kamara, El-Bakhtaoui (Lambert 62); Moussa, Leitch-Smith (Henvey 79). Subs: Ferrie (g), Holt, Waddell, Curran. Booked: Moussa. Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham (Armstrong 66), Brown; Hayes (Johnston 26), McGregor, Forrest; Griffiths (Dembele 77). Subs: De Vries (g), Bitton, Simunovic, Edouard. Booked: Boyata, Brown. Referee: Kevin Clancy.
Celtic posted a double-figure points lead over Aberdeen – whose game in hand is at home to Partick Thistle tomorrow – with this comfortable victory over Dundee at Dens Park and goals from James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths on an afternoon that would have been significantly more damaging for the home team had the champions taken their chances during an early period of overwhelming domination. Since losing their long unbeaten record under Brendan Rodgers to Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic have posted three successive wins, as the manager rotates his squad. For this fixture, Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong dropped to the bench and Scott Sinclair was granted an afternoon’s rest against a Dundee side unchanged from their 1-1 weekend draw with Motherwell. Dembele was the subject of reports which claimed him to be a January target for Brighton but Rodgers remarked of the speculation about the French striker that there was “nothing at all” in it, although, when asked if the player would still be a Celtic employee by the end of next month, added: “I can’t say that.” What could be stated without contradiction by the midway stage of the contest was that the first half must have seemed close to interminable for Dundee. By the quarter-hour mark Celtic had a near monopoly of possession – no less than 85 per cent, in fact – and their relentless pressing game had seen them take the lead when a typically dangerous thrust and cutback from Kieran Tierney set Forrest up for a simple strike to take his striking total for the club to 50 goals. Even before the opener, Callum McGregor had rifled a shot off the post and Celtic’s unremitting pressure saw them produce 13 attempts on and off the target by the break, compared to Dundee’s grand total of zero. The surprise by that stage of the proceedings was that Celtic were only 2-0 to the good and that their second goal arrived as late as the 42nd minute when Olivier Ntcham provided a pass for Griffiths, so well judged that the striker did not have to break stride before placing his finish low behind Elliot Parish. Forrest, who stood out for Celtic in this win, scores his goal Credit: Getty Images Europe Celtic’s momentum had perhaps been disrupted by the seven-minute stoppage required when Hayes and Meekings went into a full-blooded challenge which left both players writhing on the turf. Meekings was able to limp from the field, to be replaced by Darren O’Dea, but Hayes – who scored his first Celtic goal in Saturday’s 3-0 home victory over Aberdeen – had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle, with Michael Johnston taking his place. The 18-year-old winger thought he had added to Celtic’s advantage in first-half injury time but his close-range attempt was blocked by Parish and the goalkeeper was promptly required to deal with a powerful effort from Forrest by tipping it over the top. Forrest was Celtic’s outstanding performer and displayed a channelled energy which seemed beyond his capability in his younger days. Celtic’s superiority extended to maintaining their position while dropping down through the gears in the second half, with Saturday’s meeting with Rangers in mind. The drop in tempo and intensity allowed Dundee – for whom Jack Lambert and Matty Henvey made debuts as substitutes – to salvage a degree of self-respect with a spell of late pressure but their overall menace amounted only to one fierce drive from Paul McGowan, which swooped just over the crossbar, plus a drive from distance by Cammy Kerr that was taken comfortably by Craig Gordon, who was probably glad of the exercise. Match details Dundee (4-4-2): Parish; Kerr, Hendry, Meekings (O’Dea 26), Aurtenetxe; O’Hara, McGowan, Kamara, El-Bakhtaoui (Lambert 62); Moussa, Leitch-Smith (Henvey 79). Subs: Ferrie (g), Holt, Waddell, Curran. Booked: Moussa. Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham (Armstrong 66), Brown; Hayes (Johnston 26), McGregor, Forrest; Griffiths (Dembele 77). Subs: De Vries (g), Bitton, Simunovic, Edouard. Booked: Boyata, Brown. Referee: Kevin Clancy.
Dundee 0 Celtic 2: James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths goals move Celtic 11 points clear
Celtic posted a double-figure points lead over Aberdeen – whose game in hand is at home to Partick Thistle tomorrow – with this comfortable victory over Dundee at Dens Park and goals from James Forrest and Leigh Griffiths on an afternoon that would have been significantly more damaging for the home team had the champions taken their chances during an early period of overwhelming domination. Since losing their long unbeaten record under Brendan Rodgers to Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic have posted three successive wins, as the manager rotates his squad. For this fixture, Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong dropped to the bench and Scott Sinclair was granted an afternoon’s rest against a Dundee side unchanged from their 1-1 weekend draw with Motherwell. Dembele was the subject of reports which claimed him to be a January target for Brighton but Rodgers remarked of the speculation about the French striker that there was “nothing at all” in it, although, when asked if the player would still be a Celtic employee by the end of next month, added: “I can’t say that.” What could be stated without contradiction by the midway stage of the contest was that the first half must have seemed close to interminable for Dundee. By the quarter-hour mark Celtic had a near monopoly of possession – no less than 85 per cent, in fact – and their relentless pressing game had seen them take the lead when a typically dangerous thrust and cutback from Kieran Tierney set Forrest up for a simple strike to take his striking total for the club to 50 goals. Even before the opener, Callum McGregor had rifled a shot off the post and Celtic’s unremitting pressure saw them produce 13 attempts on and off the target by the break, compared to Dundee’s grand total of zero. The surprise by that stage of the proceedings was that Celtic were only 2-0 to the good and that their second goal arrived as late as the 42nd minute when Olivier Ntcham provided a pass for Griffiths, so well judged that the striker did not have to break stride before placing his finish low behind Elliot Parish. Forrest, who stood out for Celtic in this win, scores his goal Credit: Getty Images Europe Celtic’s momentum had perhaps been disrupted by the seven-minute stoppage required when Hayes and Meekings went into a full-blooded challenge which left both players writhing on the turf. Meekings was able to limp from the field, to be replaced by Darren O’Dea, but Hayes – who scored his first Celtic goal in Saturday’s 3-0 home victory over Aberdeen – had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle, with Michael Johnston taking his place. The 18-year-old winger thought he had added to Celtic’s advantage in first-half injury time but his close-range attempt was blocked by Parish and the goalkeeper was promptly required to deal with a powerful effort from Forrest by tipping it over the top. Forrest was Celtic’s outstanding performer and displayed a channelled energy which seemed beyond his capability in his younger days. Celtic’s superiority extended to maintaining their position while dropping down through the gears in the second half, with Saturday’s meeting with Rangers in mind. The drop in tempo and intensity allowed Dundee – for whom Jack Lambert and Matty Henvey made debuts as substitutes – to salvage a degree of self-respect with a spell of late pressure but their overall menace amounted only to one fierce drive from Paul McGowan, which swooped just over the crossbar, plus a drive from distance by Cammy Kerr that was taken comfortably by Craig Gordon, who was probably glad of the exercise. Match details Dundee (4-4-2): Parish; Kerr, Hendry, Meekings (O’Dea 26), Aurtenetxe; O’Hara, McGowan, Kamara, El-Bakhtaoui (Lambert 62); Moussa, Leitch-Smith (Henvey 79). Subs: Ferrie (g), Holt, Waddell, Curran. Booked: Moussa. Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Ntcham (Armstrong 66), Brown; Hayes (Johnston 26), McGregor, Forrest; Griffiths (Dembele 77). Subs: De Vries (g), Bitton, Simunovic, Edouard. Booked: Boyata, Brown. Referee: Kevin Clancy.
Just as Santa put his feet up, Celtic pulled on their boots to prepare for their Boxing Day lunchtime kick-off against Dundee at Dens Park. Christmas dinner with families was off the menu for the Scottish champions, who put in a late afternoon training session before boarding the bus for an overnight stay on Tayside. Tough on the Parkhead players? Hardly, according to their manager. “We were in here at Celtic Park on Christmas Day. You have to work. It’s not rocket science,” said Brendan Rodgers. “You could easily let them go home, but you have to earn your money. There is a price to pay. If you want success and to be consistent, then you must work, so we trained at 5.30pm on Christmas Day and then we drove up to Dundee and stayed in a hotel. It’s a privileged life but you have to make sacrifices.” A year ago, Celtic went into the winter break with a 19-point lead over Mark Warburton’s Rangers and a 21-point advantage over Aberdeen, as they pushed relentlessly through a season which saw them unbeaten in any domestic competition. That momentum continued until their 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle, one game shy of an unbeaten 70 in successive domestic fixtures and they have dropped more points by the midway point in the current campaign than in the whole of Rodgers’ first season in the job. That fact seemed to offer encouragement to Aberdeen, whose visit to Celtic Park on Saturday was undertaken in the hope of emulating Hearts by inflicting further damage on the leaders, as Greg Stewart, the Dons midfielder, admitted when reflecting upon losing 3-0 to the Hoops for the second time this season. “We spoke about it. Hearts did well against them and we felt that if we pressed them and imposed our game on them we could have an effect on it but, fair play to Celtic, it wasn’t to be,” Stewart said. In truth, barring a 20-minute spell before the break and intermittent flickers in the second half, Aberdeen were unable to generate much by way of plausible threat. They looked forlorn after falling behind in the 40th minute when Mikael Lustig’s shot took a wide deflection off Dominic Ball’s shoulder and were further undone when Mark Reynold’s attempted clearance of a driven cross from Scott Sinclair bounced off Kari Arnason to fall perfectly for Jonny Hayes to turn home his first Celtic goal since moving from Aberdeen in the summer. Kenny McLean’s misplaced back pass to Joe Lewis left the goalkeeper stranded as Olivier Ntcham rounded him for Celtic’s third. “We just have to be upbeat about the first half and spells in the second half,” said Stewart. “You obviously hope that somebody can take points off Celtic and you just need to keep on beating the other teams. We just want to get maximum points from the two games going into the winter break. “Realistically, probably second is what we’re aiming for but if Celtic slip up and we keep winning, you never know.” Aberdeen failed to emulate Hearts' heroics against Celtic on Saturday Credit: PA Aberdeen’s schedule sees them at home to Partick Thistle on Wednesday and to Hearts on Saturday. For Celtic, meanwhile, the trip to Dundee is followed by the visit of Rangers for the second Old Firm derby of the season. “I am not going to cry if we’re not, but if we get into a position where we have a double-digit points lead going into the break then I think the players would deserve a huge amount of credit,” said Rodgers. “Whatever the lead is, to play the number of games we have and to do so at such an intensity, it’s been really phenomenal. Over the course of 71 games now, we have faced everything. When we lost to Hearts, it was because Hearts deserved to win the game. The pitch was awful, but we weren’t very good on the day, either collectively or individually. Aberdeen, who ate a good team, want to press us, Rangers have tried to press us, teams have sat deep, we’ve been to astroturf pitches and teams have pressed us on that. “We’ve had it a number of times. That day, against Hearts, we just couldn’t find the solution. It is a tribute to these players of how they got over that disappointment. That’s the job of the manager and coaching staff to tell them that we go again. “Aberdeen press well, which is why they got a result like their win over Hibs, but we score most of our goals from 60-90 minutes because physically and technically the team is in a good condition. We always have to improve and we will do in the second half of the season.”
Celtic put Christmas dinner on hold to train for Dundee match
Just as Santa put his feet up, Celtic pulled on their boots to prepare for their Boxing Day lunchtime kick-off against Dundee at Dens Park. Christmas dinner with families was off the menu for the Scottish champions, who put in a late afternoon training session before boarding the bus for an overnight stay on Tayside. Tough on the Parkhead players? Hardly, according to their manager. “We were in here at Celtic Park on Christmas Day. You have to work. It’s not rocket science,” said Brendan Rodgers. “You could easily let them go home, but you have to earn your money. There is a price to pay. If you want success and to be consistent, then you must work, so we trained at 5.30pm on Christmas Day and then we drove up to Dundee and stayed in a hotel. It’s a privileged life but you have to make sacrifices.” A year ago, Celtic went into the winter break with a 19-point lead over Mark Warburton’s Rangers and a 21-point advantage over Aberdeen, as they pushed relentlessly through a season which saw them unbeaten in any domestic competition. That momentum continued until their 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle, one game shy of an unbeaten 70 in successive domestic fixtures and they have dropped more points by the midway point in the current campaign than in the whole of Rodgers’ first season in the job. That fact seemed to offer encouragement to Aberdeen, whose visit to Celtic Park on Saturday was undertaken in the hope of emulating Hearts by inflicting further damage on the leaders, as Greg Stewart, the Dons midfielder, admitted when reflecting upon losing 3-0 to the Hoops for the second time this season. “We spoke about it. Hearts did well against them and we felt that if we pressed them and imposed our game on them we could have an effect on it but, fair play to Celtic, it wasn’t to be,” Stewart said. In truth, barring a 20-minute spell before the break and intermittent flickers in the second half, Aberdeen were unable to generate much by way of plausible threat. They looked forlorn after falling behind in the 40th minute when Mikael Lustig’s shot took a wide deflection off Dominic Ball’s shoulder and were further undone when Mark Reynold’s attempted clearance of a driven cross from Scott Sinclair bounced off Kari Arnason to fall perfectly for Jonny Hayes to turn home his first Celtic goal since moving from Aberdeen in the summer. Kenny McLean’s misplaced back pass to Joe Lewis left the goalkeeper stranded as Olivier Ntcham rounded him for Celtic’s third. “We just have to be upbeat about the first half and spells in the second half,” said Stewart. “You obviously hope that somebody can take points off Celtic and you just need to keep on beating the other teams. We just want to get maximum points from the two games going into the winter break. “Realistically, probably second is what we’re aiming for but if Celtic slip up and we keep winning, you never know.” Aberdeen failed to emulate Hearts' heroics against Celtic on Saturday Credit: PA Aberdeen’s schedule sees them at home to Partick Thistle on Wednesday and to Hearts on Saturday. For Celtic, meanwhile, the trip to Dundee is followed by the visit of Rangers for the second Old Firm derby of the season. “I am not going to cry if we’re not, but if we get into a position where we have a double-digit points lead going into the break then I think the players would deserve a huge amount of credit,” said Rodgers. “Whatever the lead is, to play the number of games we have and to do so at such an intensity, it’s been really phenomenal. Over the course of 71 games now, we have faced everything. When we lost to Hearts, it was because Hearts deserved to win the game. The pitch was awful, but we weren’t very good on the day, either collectively or individually. Aberdeen, who ate a good team, want to press us, Rangers have tried to press us, teams have sat deep, we’ve been to astroturf pitches and teams have pressed us on that. “We’ve had it a number of times. That day, against Hearts, we just couldn’t find the solution. It is a tribute to these players of how they got over that disappointment. That’s the job of the manager and coaching staff to tell them that we go again. “Aberdeen press well, which is why they got a result like their win over Hibs, but we score most of our goals from 60-90 minutes because physically and technically the team is in a good condition. We always have to improve and we will do in the second half of the season.”
Just as Santa put his feet up, Celtic pulled on their boots to prepare for their Boxing Day lunchtime kick-off against Dundee at Dens Park. Christmas dinner with families was off the menu for the Scottish champions, who put in a late afternoon training session before boarding the bus for an overnight stay on Tayside. Tough on the Parkhead players? Hardly, according to their manager. “We were in here at Celtic Park on Christmas Day. You have to work. It’s not rocket science,” said Brendan Rodgers. “You could easily let them go home, but you have to earn your money. There is a price to pay. If you want success and to be consistent, then you must work, so we trained at 5.30pm on Christmas Day and then we drove up to Dundee and stayed in a hotel. It’s a privileged life but you have to make sacrifices.” A year ago, Celtic went into the winter break with a 19-point lead over Mark Warburton’s Rangers and a 21-point advantage over Aberdeen, as they pushed relentlessly through a season which saw them unbeaten in any domestic competition. That momentum continued until their 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle, one game shy of an unbeaten 70 in successive domestic fixtures and they have dropped more points by the midway point in the current campaign than in the whole of Rodgers’ first season in the job. That fact seemed to offer encouragement to Aberdeen, whose visit to Celtic Park on Saturday was undertaken in the hope of emulating Hearts by inflicting further damage on the leaders, as Greg Stewart, the Dons midfielder, admitted when reflecting upon losing 3-0 to the Hoops for the second time this season. “We spoke about it. Hearts did well against them and we felt that if we pressed them and imposed our game on them we could have an effect on it but, fair play to Celtic, it wasn’t to be,” Stewart said. In truth, barring a 20-minute spell before the break and intermittent flickers in the second half, Aberdeen were unable to generate much by way of plausible threat. They looked forlorn after falling behind in the 40th minute when Mikael Lustig’s shot took a wide deflection off Dominic Ball’s shoulder and were further undone when Mark Reynold’s attempted clearance of a driven cross from Scott Sinclair bounced off Kari Arnason to fall perfectly for Jonny Hayes to turn home his first Celtic goal since moving from Aberdeen in the summer. Kenny McLean’s misplaced back pass to Joe Lewis left the goalkeeper stranded as Olivier Ntcham rounded him for Celtic’s third. “We just have to be upbeat about the first half and spells in the second half,” said Stewart. “You obviously hope that somebody can take points off Celtic and you just need to keep on beating the other teams. We just want to get maximum points from the two games going into the winter break. “Realistically, probably second is what we’re aiming for but if Celtic slip up and we keep winning, you never know.” Aberdeen failed to emulate Hearts' heroics against Celtic on Saturday Credit: PA Aberdeen’s schedule sees them at home to Partick Thistle on Wednesday and to Hearts on Saturday. For Celtic, meanwhile, the trip to Dundee is followed by the visit of Rangers for the second Old Firm derby of the season. “I am not going to cry if we’re not, but if we get into a position where we have a double-digit points lead going into the break then I think the players would deserve a huge amount of credit,” said Rodgers. “Whatever the lead is, to play the number of games we have and to do so at such an intensity, it’s been really phenomenal. Over the course of 71 games now, we have faced everything. When we lost to Hearts, it was because Hearts deserved to win the game. The pitch was awful, but we weren’t very good on the day, either collectively or individually. Aberdeen, who ate a good team, want to press us, Rangers have tried to press us, teams have sat deep, we’ve been to astroturf pitches and teams have pressed us on that. “We’ve had it a number of times. That day, against Hearts, we just couldn’t find the solution. It is a tribute to these players of how they got over that disappointment. That’s the job of the manager and coaching staff to tell them that we go again. “Aberdeen press well, which is why they got a result like their win over Hibs, but we score most of our goals from 60-90 minutes because physically and technically the team is in a good condition. We always have to improve and we will do in the second half of the season.”
Celtic put Christmas dinner on hold to train for Dundee match
Just as Santa put his feet up, Celtic pulled on their boots to prepare for their Boxing Day lunchtime kick-off against Dundee at Dens Park. Christmas dinner with families was off the menu for the Scottish champions, who put in a late afternoon training session before boarding the bus for an overnight stay on Tayside. Tough on the Parkhead players? Hardly, according to their manager. “We were in here at Celtic Park on Christmas Day. You have to work. It’s not rocket science,” said Brendan Rodgers. “You could easily let them go home, but you have to earn your money. There is a price to pay. If you want success and to be consistent, then you must work, so we trained at 5.30pm on Christmas Day and then we drove up to Dundee and stayed in a hotel. It’s a privileged life but you have to make sacrifices.” A year ago, Celtic went into the winter break with a 19-point lead over Mark Warburton’s Rangers and a 21-point advantage over Aberdeen, as they pushed relentlessly through a season which saw them unbeaten in any domestic competition. That momentum continued until their 4-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle, one game shy of an unbeaten 70 in successive domestic fixtures and they have dropped more points by the midway point in the current campaign than in the whole of Rodgers’ first season in the job. That fact seemed to offer encouragement to Aberdeen, whose visit to Celtic Park on Saturday was undertaken in the hope of emulating Hearts by inflicting further damage on the leaders, as Greg Stewart, the Dons midfielder, admitted when reflecting upon losing 3-0 to the Hoops for the second time this season. “We spoke about it. Hearts did well against them and we felt that if we pressed them and imposed our game on them we could have an effect on it but, fair play to Celtic, it wasn’t to be,” Stewart said. In truth, barring a 20-minute spell before the break and intermittent flickers in the second half, Aberdeen were unable to generate much by way of plausible threat. They looked forlorn after falling behind in the 40th minute when Mikael Lustig’s shot took a wide deflection off Dominic Ball’s shoulder and were further undone when Mark Reynold’s attempted clearance of a driven cross from Scott Sinclair bounced off Kari Arnason to fall perfectly for Jonny Hayes to turn home his first Celtic goal since moving from Aberdeen in the summer. Kenny McLean’s misplaced back pass to Joe Lewis left the goalkeeper stranded as Olivier Ntcham rounded him for Celtic’s third. “We just have to be upbeat about the first half and spells in the second half,” said Stewart. “You obviously hope that somebody can take points off Celtic and you just need to keep on beating the other teams. We just want to get maximum points from the two games going into the winter break. “Realistically, probably second is what we’re aiming for but if Celtic slip up and we keep winning, you never know.” Aberdeen failed to emulate Hearts' heroics against Celtic on Saturday Credit: PA Aberdeen’s schedule sees them at home to Partick Thistle on Wednesday and to Hearts on Saturday. For Celtic, meanwhile, the trip to Dundee is followed by the visit of Rangers for the second Old Firm derby of the season. “I am not going to cry if we’re not, but if we get into a position where we have a double-digit points lead going into the break then I think the players would deserve a huge amount of credit,” said Rodgers. “Whatever the lead is, to play the number of games we have and to do so at such an intensity, it’s been really phenomenal. Over the course of 71 games now, we have faced everything. When we lost to Hearts, it was because Hearts deserved to win the game. The pitch was awful, but we weren’t very good on the day, either collectively or individually. Aberdeen, who ate a good team, want to press us, Rangers have tried to press us, teams have sat deep, we’ve been to astroturf pitches and teams have pressed us on that. “We’ve had it a number of times. That day, against Hearts, we just couldn’t find the solution. It is a tribute to these players of how they got over that disappointment. That’s the job of the manager and coaching staff to tell them that we go again. “Aberdeen press well, which is why they got a result like their win over Hibs, but we score most of our goals from 60-90 minutes because physically and technically the team is in a good condition. We always have to improve and we will do in the second half of the season.”
Normal business was resumed by Celtic who responded to the condign punishment administered in a 4-0 defeat by Heart of Midlothian by dispatching Partick Thistle in this rearranged home fixture for a victory which put the league leaders five points clear of second-placed Aberdeen, who are Saturday’s visitors. Much of the proceedings, especially in the early stages, were conducted in a desultory fashion but the occasion was enlivened by fine goals from Stuart Armstrong and Kieran Tierney, on either side of the interval. Marvin Compper, the central defender signed from Red Bull Leipzig earlier this week, flew into Glasgow to be introduced to the crowd at half time, although his first appearance at Celtic Park was almost a sodden affair, averted because he displayed sharp reflexes to avoid the deluge of a pitch sprinkler which erupted unexpectedly in his vicinity. Alan Archibald, the Thistle manager, had warned his players to anticipate a backlash from the champions, but his fears were not substantiated during a first half in which the home players and supporters were largely listless. The atmosphere was not helped by the clusters of empty seats vacated by fans whose attention was presumably diverted to the joys or demands of the festive season. Brendan Rodgers had said beforehand that that the best response to the unexpected but emphatic setback at Tynecastle would be for Celtic to press the reset button. He made three changes to his weekend team, with Jozo Simunovic, Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths replaced by Kristoffer Ajer, Armstrong and Odsonne Edouard. Thistle, meanwhile, included Steven Lawless and the 19-year-old Andrew McCarthy, in place of Martin Woods and Conor Sammon, after the 2-0 defeat by Dundee at Dens Park. The Jags’ 4-5-1 deployment proved sufficient to smother the Hoops’ ambition for most of the opening 45 minutes. History did not favour the visitors, who had not won in the east end of Glasgow since 1995 – although they achieved a draw at Parkhead in April and they could not replicate the intensity of the pressing game which proved so effective for Hearts but, they proved sufficiently diligent to contain the league leaders effectively until 10 minutes before half time. By that stage Celtic had a superior, but not overwhelming, share of possession and Thistle had given themselves encouragement by forcing two corner kicks. Armstrong’s moment came when he gathered a pass from Tierney, glanced up and saw that, for once, the available space had not been filled by a Thistle defender. The Celtic midfielder’s left-foot shot left Thomas Cerny stranded on its way high into the net. Celtic’s habit is to raise the tempo immediately after the interval, especially against opponents who succeed in generating a degree of frustration by deep defensive tactics and Cerny was twice forced to make good saves from Edouard but, midway through the second half the Firhill goalkeeper was confounded by another move involving the tireless Tierney. In this instance, the Celtic left-back pushed up to link with Scott Sinclair, exchanged passes with the winger and finished with a fierce drive between Cerny and his near post. The goal conveniently coincided with the Hoops fans’ commemoration of the club’s 1967 triumph in the European Cup final in Lisbon – the massed display of mobile phone torch lights – and Celtic Park was at last suffused with a general feeling of wellbeing. Match details Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Armstrong, Brown; Forrest (Hayes 61), McGregor, Sinclair (Johnston 70); Edouard (Griffiths 78). Subs (unused): Hazard (g), Dembele, Ntcham, Sviatchenko. Partick Thistle (4-5-1): Cerny; McGinn, Keown, Devine, Turnbull; Spittal (Fraser 72), Edwards, McCarthy (Erskine 57), Barton, Lawless; Storey (Doolan 75). Booked: Fraser, McGinn. Subs (unused): Scully (g), Nitriansky, Sammon, Nisbet. Booked: McCarthy, Barton, Devine. Referee: Alan Muir.
Celtic 2 Partick Thistle 0: Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys get back to winning ways to extend lead at top of the table
Normal business was resumed by Celtic who responded to the condign punishment administered in a 4-0 defeat by Heart of Midlothian by dispatching Partick Thistle in this rearranged home fixture for a victory which put the league leaders five points clear of second-placed Aberdeen, who are Saturday’s visitors. Much of the proceedings, especially in the early stages, were conducted in a desultory fashion but the occasion was enlivened by fine goals from Stuart Armstrong and Kieran Tierney, on either side of the interval. Marvin Compper, the central defender signed from Red Bull Leipzig earlier this week, flew into Glasgow to be introduced to the crowd at half time, although his first appearance at Celtic Park was almost a sodden affair, averted because he displayed sharp reflexes to avoid the deluge of a pitch sprinkler which erupted unexpectedly in his vicinity. Alan Archibald, the Thistle manager, had warned his players to anticipate a backlash from the champions, but his fears were not substantiated during a first half in which the home players and supporters were largely listless. The atmosphere was not helped by the clusters of empty seats vacated by fans whose attention was presumably diverted to the joys or demands of the festive season. Brendan Rodgers had said beforehand that that the best response to the unexpected but emphatic setback at Tynecastle would be for Celtic to press the reset button. He made three changes to his weekend team, with Jozo Simunovic, Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths replaced by Kristoffer Ajer, Armstrong and Odsonne Edouard. Thistle, meanwhile, included Steven Lawless and the 19-year-old Andrew McCarthy, in place of Martin Woods and Conor Sammon, after the 2-0 defeat by Dundee at Dens Park. The Jags’ 4-5-1 deployment proved sufficient to smother the Hoops’ ambition for most of the opening 45 minutes. History did not favour the visitors, who had not won in the east end of Glasgow since 1995 – although they achieved a draw at Parkhead in April and they could not replicate the intensity of the pressing game which proved so effective for Hearts but, they proved sufficiently diligent to contain the league leaders effectively until 10 minutes before half time. By that stage Celtic had a superior, but not overwhelming, share of possession and Thistle had given themselves encouragement by forcing two corner kicks. Armstrong’s moment came when he gathered a pass from Tierney, glanced up and saw that, for once, the available space had not been filled by a Thistle defender. The Celtic midfielder’s left-foot shot left Thomas Cerny stranded on its way high into the net. Celtic’s habit is to raise the tempo immediately after the interval, especially against opponents who succeed in generating a degree of frustration by deep defensive tactics and Cerny was twice forced to make good saves from Edouard but, midway through the second half the Firhill goalkeeper was confounded by another move involving the tireless Tierney. In this instance, the Celtic left-back pushed up to link with Scott Sinclair, exchanged passes with the winger and finished with a fierce drive between Cerny and his near post. The goal conveniently coincided with the Hoops fans’ commemoration of the club’s 1967 triumph in the European Cup final in Lisbon – the massed display of mobile phone torch lights – and Celtic Park was at last suffused with a general feeling of wellbeing. Match details Celtic (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Armstrong, Brown; Forrest (Hayes 61), McGregor, Sinclair (Johnston 70); Edouard (Griffiths 78). Subs (unused): Hazard (g), Dembele, Ntcham, Sviatchenko. Partick Thistle (4-5-1): Cerny; McGinn, Keown, Devine, Turnbull; Spittal (Fraser 72), Edwards, McCarthy (Erskine 57), Barton, Lawless; Storey (Doolan 75). Booked: Fraser, McGinn. Subs (unused): Scully (g), Nitriansky, Sammon, Nisbet. Booked: McCarthy, Barton, Devine. Referee: Alan Muir.
Celtic 2 Partick Thistle 0: Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys get back to winning ways to extend lead at top of the table
Celtic 2 Partick Thistle 0: Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys get back to winning ways to extend lead at top of the table
Celtic 2 Partick Thistle 0: Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys get back to winning ways to extend lead at top of the table
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.
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.
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.
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.
<p>Efe Ambrose praises Hibernian&#39;s &#39;fighting spirit&#39; in win at Partick Thistle</p>
Efe Ambrose praises Hibernian's 'fighting spirit' in win at Partick Thistle

Efe Ambrose praises Hibernian's 'fighting spirit' in win at Partick Thistle

<p>Efe Ambrose praises Hibernian&#39;s &#39;fighting spirit&#39; in win at Partick Thistle</p>
Efe Ambrose praises Hibernian's 'fighting spirit' in win at Partick Thistle

Efe Ambrose praises Hibernian's 'fighting spirit' in win at Partick Thistle

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&#39;t think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic&#39;s players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don&#39;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&#39;t sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you&#39;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&#39;ve got. I&#39;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&#39;s gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it&#39;s been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I&#39;ve been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I&#39;m not one for framing stuff but it&#39;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.
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&#39;t think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic&#39;s players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don&#39;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&#39;t sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you&#39;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&#39;ve got. I&#39;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&#39;s gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it&#39;s been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I&#39;ve been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I&#39;m not one for framing stuff but it&#39;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.
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&#39;t think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic&#39;s players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don&#39;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&#39;t sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you&#39;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&#39;ve got. I&#39;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&#39;s gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it&#39;s been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I&#39;ve been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I&#39;m not one for framing stuff but it&#39;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.
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&#39;t think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic&#39;s players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don&#39;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&#39;t sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you&#39;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&#39;ve got. I&#39;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&#39;s gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it&#39;s been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I&#39;ve been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I&#39;m not one for framing stuff but it&#39;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.
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.”
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.”
Three standout performers from the win over Partick Thistle
Three standout performers from the win over Partick Thistle
Three standout performers from the win over Partick Thistle
Three standout performers from the win over Partick Thistle
Three standout performers from the win over Partick Thistle
Three standout performers from the win over Partick Thistle
Celtic on Saturday surpassed the century-old UK record for successive unbeaten domestic matches when they extended their sequence to 63 games with a straightforward victory over St Johnstone in Perth, where Scott Sinclair set them on their way to a 4-0 win. By a quixotic twist of fortune, the record that was set against St Johnstone got under way in the aftermath of a 2-1 defeat at McDiarmid Park on May 11, 2016 when Ronny Deila was still in charge in the east end of Glasgow. The Celtic management team have consistently asserted that the accumulation of unbeaten outings has not featured in team talks, but its significance was underlined on this occasion by the selection of the same players who started in Tuesday’s match against Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage meeting at Parkhead. Saints had no such comfort, having failed to score since their 2-1 home victory over Hamilton Academical on Sept 23. An unfortunate susceptibility to injury contributed to that melancholy record and the casualty list was again a factor, with Tommy Wright forced to operate without Murray Davidson and Brian Easton, while Michael O’Halloran was judged to have only sufficient fitness for a place on the bench. One of those restored to the home side was Steven MacLean, who was swiftly afforded two tantalising glimpses of goal because of hesitancy by Nir Bitton. The Israeli midfielder, acting once more as a stopgap central defender, was ambushed by the Saints striker on the edge of the Celtic box but managed to retrieve possession before damage could be inflicted. Bitton was fortunate again when he let a dropping ball bounce in front of him, but again MacLean was unable to take advantage. The St Johnstone forward nearly made amends with an audacious lob from 40 yards which almost caught Craig Gordon off his line, but the effort went just over the top. Celtic had not displayed much menace despite controlling 75 per cent of possession but they made the breakthrough with a corner kick straight from the training ground with which Stuart Armstrong found Scott Sinclair alone inside the box for a rising shot to net his 11th goal of the campaign. After the break, a header off the line by Aaron Comrie denied Dedryck Boyata what would have been Celtic’s second, but the progression was merely postponed until the 72nd minute, when Moussa Dembele flicked an Armstrong cutback past Zander Clark, before contributing with a cutback of his own which was turned in by Steven Anderson. The rout was completed by Olivier Ntcham with a shot from the edge of the box to make it 4-0. Olivier Ntcham wrapped up the scoring with Celtic&#39;s fourth with a minute of normal time remaining Credit: Getty Images Elsewhere, Graeme Murty, Rangers’ caretaker manager and coach of the club’s under-20s, admitted that he had thought about leaving Ibrox if he is not offered the vacant manager’s job. However, Murty, who has been asked by the Rangers directors to take charge of the first team twice this year – first when Mark Warburton left in March and then when Pedro Caixinha departed last month – asserted that he had more to gain from staying in place than by taking a manager’s job at a smaller outfit. “I’ve been thinking about that one for a while - not at the moment,” he said. “I’m in possibly the best learning environment that I’ve been in, personally and professionally. “If the board ask someone else to come in and I was to go back to the under-20s, I wouldn’t think about that. If I was to go back to the under-20s, I have a fantastic project there that I can get my teeth into. “Potentially, that is how we make up ground but, however we do it, the club is structured and geared and driving towards making that gap non-existent. We want to be challenging right at the top and experiencing some fantastic European evenings. “The players have an opportunity. All I see at the moment is potential, and a pathway that is there for them to go and play in the Rangers first-team as a player. If the player is good enough, if they are driven enough, if they are hungry enough, that is what they have to be. “The bottom line is that they won’t get any special dispensation because they are home-grown. They will get special dispensation if they are good, good players.” Murty kept up his good record as interim with Rangers achieving a 3-0 win over Partick Thistle at Ibrox on Saturday that included a first goal for the club for young defender Ross McCrorie. Daniel Candeias and Josh Windass also netted. Hamilton held Aberdeen 2-2, with Hibernian now two points behind Derek McInnes’s side after a 2-1 victory against bottom-placed Dundee. Ross County triumphed 3-2 at home versus Motherwell.
Celtic make history as 4-0 win over St Johnstone takes unbeaten record to 63
Celtic on Saturday surpassed the century-old UK record for successive unbeaten domestic matches when they extended their sequence to 63 games with a straightforward victory over St Johnstone in Perth, where Scott Sinclair set them on their way to a 4-0 win. By a quixotic twist of fortune, the record that was set against St Johnstone got under way in the aftermath of a 2-1 defeat at McDiarmid Park on May 11, 2016 when Ronny Deila was still in charge in the east end of Glasgow. The Celtic management team have consistently asserted that the accumulation of unbeaten outings has not featured in team talks, but its significance was underlined on this occasion by the selection of the same players who started in Tuesday’s match against Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage meeting at Parkhead. Saints had no such comfort, having failed to score since their 2-1 home victory over Hamilton Academical on Sept 23. An unfortunate susceptibility to injury contributed to that melancholy record and the casualty list was again a factor, with Tommy Wright forced to operate without Murray Davidson and Brian Easton, while Michael O’Halloran was judged to have only sufficient fitness for a place on the bench. One of those restored to the home side was Steven MacLean, who was swiftly afforded two tantalising glimpses of goal because of hesitancy by Nir Bitton. The Israeli midfielder, acting once more as a stopgap central defender, was ambushed by the Saints striker on the edge of the Celtic box but managed to retrieve possession before damage could be inflicted. Bitton was fortunate again when he let a dropping ball bounce in front of him, but again MacLean was unable to take advantage. The St Johnstone forward nearly made amends with an audacious lob from 40 yards which almost caught Craig Gordon off his line, but the effort went just over the top. Celtic had not displayed much menace despite controlling 75 per cent of possession but they made the breakthrough with a corner kick straight from the training ground with which Stuart Armstrong found Scott Sinclair alone inside the box for a rising shot to net his 11th goal of the campaign. After the break, a header off the line by Aaron Comrie denied Dedryck Boyata what would have been Celtic’s second, but the progression was merely postponed until the 72nd minute, when Moussa Dembele flicked an Armstrong cutback past Zander Clark, before contributing with a cutback of his own which was turned in by Steven Anderson. The rout was completed by Olivier Ntcham with a shot from the edge of the box to make it 4-0. Olivier Ntcham wrapped up the scoring with Celtic's fourth with a minute of normal time remaining Credit: Getty Images Elsewhere, Graeme Murty, Rangers’ caretaker manager and coach of the club’s under-20s, admitted that he had thought about leaving Ibrox if he is not offered the vacant manager’s job. However, Murty, who has been asked by the Rangers directors to take charge of the first team twice this year – first when Mark Warburton left in March and then when Pedro Caixinha departed last month – asserted that he had more to gain from staying in place than by taking a manager’s job at a smaller outfit. “I’ve been thinking about that one for a while - not at the moment,” he said. “I’m in possibly the best learning environment that I’ve been in, personally and professionally. “If the board ask someone else to come in and I was to go back to the under-20s, I wouldn’t think about that. If I was to go back to the under-20s, I have a fantastic project there that I can get my teeth into. “Potentially, that is how we make up ground but, however we do it, the club is structured and geared and driving towards making that gap non-existent. We want to be challenging right at the top and experiencing some fantastic European evenings. “The players have an opportunity. All I see at the moment is potential, and a pathway that is there for them to go and play in the Rangers first-team as a player. If the player is good enough, if they are driven enough, if they are hungry enough, that is what they have to be. “The bottom line is that they won’t get any special dispensation because they are home-grown. They will get special dispensation if they are good, good players.” Murty kept up his good record as interim with Rangers achieving a 3-0 win over Partick Thistle at Ibrox on Saturday that included a first goal for the club for young defender Ross McCrorie. Daniel Candeias and Josh Windass also netted. Hamilton held Aberdeen 2-2, with Hibernian now two points behind Derek McInnes’s side after a 2-1 victory against bottom-placed Dundee. Ross County triumphed 3-2 at home versus Motherwell.
Celtic on Saturday surpassed the century-old UK record for successive unbeaten domestic matches when they extended their sequence to 63 games with a straightforward victory over St Johnstone in Perth, where Scott Sinclair set them on their way to a 4-0 win. By a quixotic twist of fortune, the record that was set against St Johnstone got under way in the aftermath of a 2-1 defeat at McDiarmid Park on May 11, 2016 when Ronny Deila was still in charge in the east end of Glasgow. The Celtic management team have consistently asserted that the accumulation of unbeaten outings has not featured in team talks, but its significance was underlined on this occasion by the selection of the same players who started in Tuesday’s match against Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage meeting at Parkhead. Saints had no such comfort, having failed to score since their 2-1 home victory over Hamilton Academical on Sept 23. An unfortunate susceptibility to injury contributed to that melancholy record and the casualty list was again a factor, with Tommy Wright forced to operate without Murray Davidson and Brian Easton, while Michael O’Halloran was judged to have only sufficient fitness for a place on the bench. One of those restored to the home side was Steven MacLean, who was swiftly afforded two tantalising glimpses of goal because of hesitancy by Nir Bitton. The Israeli midfielder, acting once more as a stopgap central defender, was ambushed by the Saints striker on the edge of the Celtic box but managed to retrieve possession before damage could be inflicted. Bitton was fortunate again when he let a dropping ball bounce in front of him, but again MacLean was unable to take advantage. The St Johnstone forward nearly made amends with an audacious lob from 40 yards which almost caught Craig Gordon off his line, but the effort went just over the top. Celtic had not displayed much menace despite controlling 75 per cent of possession but they made the breakthrough with a corner kick straight from the training ground with which Stuart Armstrong found Scott Sinclair alone inside the box for a rising shot to net his 11th goal of the campaign. After the break, a header off the line by Aaron Comrie denied Dedryck Boyata what would have been Celtic’s second, but the progression was merely postponed until the 72nd minute, when Moussa Dembele flicked an Armstrong cutback past Zander Clark, before contributing with a cutback of his own which was turned in by Steven Anderson. The rout was completed by Olivier Ntcham with a shot from the edge of the box to make it 4-0. Olivier Ntcham wrapped up the scoring with Celtic&#39;s fourth with a minute of normal time remaining Credit: Getty Images Elsewhere, Graeme Murty, Rangers’ caretaker manager and coach of the club’s under-20s, admitted that he had thought about leaving Ibrox if he is not offered the vacant manager’s job. However, Murty, who has been asked by the Rangers directors to take charge of the first team twice this year – first when Mark Warburton left in March and then when Pedro Caixinha departed last month – asserted that he had more to gain from staying in place than by taking a manager’s job at a smaller outfit. “I’ve been thinking about that one for a while - not at the moment,” he said. “I’m in possibly the best learning environment that I’ve been in, personally and professionally. “If the board ask someone else to come in and I was to go back to the under-20s, I wouldn’t think about that. If I was to go back to the under-20s, I have a fantastic project there that I can get my teeth into. “Potentially, that is how we make up ground but, however we do it, the club is structured and geared and driving towards making that gap non-existent. We want to be challenging right at the top and experiencing some fantastic European evenings. “The players have an opportunity. All I see at the moment is potential, and a pathway that is there for them to go and play in the Rangers first-team as a player. If the player is good enough, if they are driven enough, if they are hungry enough, that is what they have to be. “The bottom line is that they won’t get any special dispensation because they are home-grown. They will get special dispensation if they are good, good players.” Murty kept up his good record as interim with Rangers achieving a 3-0 win over Partick Thistle at Ibrox on Saturday that included a first goal for the club for young defender Ross McCrorie. Daniel Candeias and Josh Windass also netted. Hamilton held Aberdeen 2-2, with Hibernian now two points behind Derek McInnes’s side after a 2-1 victory against bottom-placed Dundee. Ross County triumphed 3-2 at home versus Motherwell.
Celtic make history as 4-0 win over St Johnstone takes unbeaten record to 63
Celtic on Saturday surpassed the century-old UK record for successive unbeaten domestic matches when they extended their sequence to 63 games with a straightforward victory over St Johnstone in Perth, where Scott Sinclair set them on their way to a 4-0 win. By a quixotic twist of fortune, the record that was set against St Johnstone got under way in the aftermath of a 2-1 defeat at McDiarmid Park on May 11, 2016 when Ronny Deila was still in charge in the east end of Glasgow. The Celtic management team have consistently asserted that the accumulation of unbeaten outings has not featured in team talks, but its significance was underlined on this occasion by the selection of the same players who started in Tuesday’s match against Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage meeting at Parkhead. Saints had no such comfort, having failed to score since their 2-1 home victory over Hamilton Academical on Sept 23. An unfortunate susceptibility to injury contributed to that melancholy record and the casualty list was again a factor, with Tommy Wright forced to operate without Murray Davidson and Brian Easton, while Michael O’Halloran was judged to have only sufficient fitness for a place on the bench. One of those restored to the home side was Steven MacLean, who was swiftly afforded two tantalising glimpses of goal because of hesitancy by Nir Bitton. The Israeli midfielder, acting once more as a stopgap central defender, was ambushed by the Saints striker on the edge of the Celtic box but managed to retrieve possession before damage could be inflicted. Bitton was fortunate again when he let a dropping ball bounce in front of him, but again MacLean was unable to take advantage. The St Johnstone forward nearly made amends with an audacious lob from 40 yards which almost caught Craig Gordon off his line, but the effort went just over the top. Celtic had not displayed much menace despite controlling 75 per cent of possession but they made the breakthrough with a corner kick straight from the training ground with which Stuart Armstrong found Scott Sinclair alone inside the box for a rising shot to net his 11th goal of the campaign. After the break, a header off the line by Aaron Comrie denied Dedryck Boyata what would have been Celtic’s second, but the progression was merely postponed until the 72nd minute, when Moussa Dembele flicked an Armstrong cutback past Zander Clark, before contributing with a cutback of his own which was turned in by Steven Anderson. The rout was completed by Olivier Ntcham with a shot from the edge of the box to make it 4-0. Olivier Ntcham wrapped up the scoring with Celtic's fourth with a minute of normal time remaining Credit: Getty Images Elsewhere, Graeme Murty, Rangers’ caretaker manager and coach of the club’s under-20s, admitted that he had thought about leaving Ibrox if he is not offered the vacant manager’s job. However, Murty, who has been asked by the Rangers directors to take charge of the first team twice this year – first when Mark Warburton left in March and then when Pedro Caixinha departed last month – asserted that he had more to gain from staying in place than by taking a manager’s job at a smaller outfit. “I’ve been thinking about that one for a while - not at the moment,” he said. “I’m in possibly the best learning environment that I’ve been in, personally and professionally. “If the board ask someone else to come in and I was to go back to the under-20s, I wouldn’t think about that. If I was to go back to the under-20s, I have a fantastic project there that I can get my teeth into. “Potentially, that is how we make up ground but, however we do it, the club is structured and geared and driving towards making that gap non-existent. We want to be challenging right at the top and experiencing some fantastic European evenings. “The players have an opportunity. All I see at the moment is potential, and a pathway that is there for them to go and play in the Rangers first-team as a player. If the player is good enough, if they are driven enough, if they are hungry enough, that is what they have to be. “The bottom line is that they won’t get any special dispensation because they are home-grown. They will get special dispensation if they are good, good players.” Murty kept up his good record as interim with Rangers achieving a 3-0 win over Partick Thistle at Ibrox on Saturday that included a first goal for the club for young defender Ross McCrorie. Daniel Candeias and Josh Windass also netted. Hamilton held Aberdeen 2-2, with Hibernian now two points behind Derek McInnes’s side after a 2-1 victory against bottom-placed Dundee. Ross County triumphed 3-2 at home versus Motherwell.
Graeme Murty declared himself ready and capable of becoming Rangers’ next manager, if the Ibrox directors rate him in his second spell as interim manager. The 42-year-old former Scotland, Southampton and Reading defender is in fourth place at 8-1 in the bookies’ odds, with Derek McInnes still front-runner, despite a dramatic repricing of David Moyes from 20-1 outsider to 9-2 second favourite, and Alan Pardew in third place. Murty, though, has already produced notable results, like the 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in March when he acted as caretaker between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha. When Murty took over from Caixinha last week, he supervised a 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield. Asked if he felt he could handle the position on a longer basis, Murty replied: “If the board said, ‘Graeme, it’s yours. Take it’ – fantastic, great. I might even crack a smile! You would be crazy to turn this job down. “For all that it’s a high-powered and high-pressured job, and very much in the media spotlight, I have said before that this is one of the stellar jobs in British football. You can’t turn it down, as I couldn’t turn it down when the board said to me: ‘Would you step up?’ “Actually, this week has been really enjoyable. It’s been bright and it’s been a real pleasure to get on the training pitch and get to know the players better. “It is a bit different from last time because I’m having to build new relationships with people I didn’t previously know. There can be a disconnect when that happens so it’s up to the staff that we make them as comfortable as possible and get to know them as people, and not just as players. Murty first took charge after Mark Warburton left and supervised a draw with Celtic Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire “I’ve had a good chat with a few of them. They now know how I like to work. They’ve sat in with me and know the standards I like. I believe they’ve understood what I am about.” Rangers host Partick Thistle on Saturday at Ibrox, where a minute’s Remembrance silence will be observed. “That is something that’ll touch a lot of people, just for the day that it is,” Murty said. “After that I will be happier if the players go and take a really good week of training into the game. If so I’ll enjoy my day more. If not then I won’t.” This weekend’s fixture card is the last before the international break and the likelihood is that the Ibrox board will make an appointment in the two weeks before the league resumes. Asked if he could present a sustainable plan to the directors if required, Murty said: “Yeah. If they ask me for one, I can bring it. I haven’t looked that far forward. “If the club were to say to me ‘Graeme, we like what you’ve done, we’d like you to have a go at it’ – then I would start to think about other issues but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m in this seat just to go and do a job to the best of my ability. If that impresses people, great, but it will only impress people if I’m conscientious, dedicated and make the team better.” Murty revealed that he had been hillwalking on Thursday with his wife, Karen, but although the weather was glorious and the views panoramic, he had been lost in contemplation of tactical options for the Partick match until she reprimanded him. “She asked me a question and I was like ‘hmm?’ She knew exactly what I had been thinking about and where I was coming from,” he said. “She had some short, sharp words for me and I focused back in again. “It’s just the nature of the game. It is all consuming and so it should be because it’s a fantastic experience. That I’m sitting at home thinking about patterns of play for Rangers Football Club still sends shivers down my spine. “It is not fair to say that Mrs Murty does not want me to become the manager of Rangers in any shape or form. If anything, she wants me to stop doing myself down and to have more belief in myself because she has lots of belief in me. “Just because I talk about the collective, about empowering players – that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in my own ability. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe I can do this job. It’s that I believe in empowering people. “The first goal against Hearts told me a lot. All 10 outfield players celebrated. Then we score again and everyone celebrates. Then we score again and the bench is jumping and bouncing. The sensation in the dressing room after the game was fantastic – no splits, nobody pulling in another direction. That’s what I like to see.”
Graeme Murty may 'even crack a smile' if offered Rangers job full time
Graeme Murty declared himself ready and capable of becoming Rangers’ next manager, if the Ibrox directors rate him in his second spell as interim manager. The 42-year-old former Scotland, Southampton and Reading defender is in fourth place at 8-1 in the bookies’ odds, with Derek McInnes still front-runner, despite a dramatic repricing of David Moyes from 20-1 outsider to 9-2 second favourite, and Alan Pardew in third place. Murty, though, has already produced notable results, like the 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in March when he acted as caretaker between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha. When Murty took over from Caixinha last week, he supervised a 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield. Asked if he felt he could handle the position on a longer basis, Murty replied: “If the board said, ‘Graeme, it’s yours. Take it’ – fantastic, great. I might even crack a smile! You would be crazy to turn this job down. “For all that it’s a high-powered and high-pressured job, and very much in the media spotlight, I have said before that this is one of the stellar jobs in British football. You can’t turn it down, as I couldn’t turn it down when the board said to me: ‘Would you step up?’ “Actually, this week has been really enjoyable. It’s been bright and it’s been a real pleasure to get on the training pitch and get to know the players better. “It is a bit different from last time because I’m having to build new relationships with people I didn’t previously know. There can be a disconnect when that happens so it’s up to the staff that we make them as comfortable as possible and get to know them as people, and not just as players. Murty first took charge after Mark Warburton left and supervised a draw with Celtic Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire “I’ve had a good chat with a few of them. They now know how I like to work. They’ve sat in with me and know the standards I like. I believe they’ve understood what I am about.” Rangers host Partick Thistle on Saturday at Ibrox, where a minute’s Remembrance silence will be observed. “That is something that’ll touch a lot of people, just for the day that it is,” Murty said. “After that I will be happier if the players go and take a really good week of training into the game. If so I’ll enjoy my day more. If not then I won’t.” This weekend’s fixture card is the last before the international break and the likelihood is that the Ibrox board will make an appointment in the two weeks before the league resumes. Asked if he could present a sustainable plan to the directors if required, Murty said: “Yeah. If they ask me for one, I can bring it. I haven’t looked that far forward. “If the club were to say to me ‘Graeme, we like what you’ve done, we’d like you to have a go at it’ – then I would start to think about other issues but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m in this seat just to go and do a job to the best of my ability. If that impresses people, great, but it will only impress people if I’m conscientious, dedicated and make the team better.” Murty revealed that he had been hillwalking on Thursday with his wife, Karen, but although the weather was glorious and the views panoramic, he had been lost in contemplation of tactical options for the Partick match until she reprimanded him. “She asked me a question and I was like ‘hmm?’ She knew exactly what I had been thinking about and where I was coming from,” he said. “She had some short, sharp words for me and I focused back in again. “It’s just the nature of the game. It is all consuming and so it should be because it’s a fantastic experience. That I’m sitting at home thinking about patterns of play for Rangers Football Club still sends shivers down my spine. “It is not fair to say that Mrs Murty does not want me to become the manager of Rangers in any shape or form. If anything, she wants me to stop doing myself down and to have more belief in myself because she has lots of belief in me. “Just because I talk about the collective, about empowering players – that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in my own ability. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe I can do this job. It’s that I believe in empowering people. “The first goal against Hearts told me a lot. All 10 outfield players celebrated. Then we score again and everyone celebrates. Then we score again and the bench is jumping and bouncing. The sensation in the dressing room after the game was fantastic – no splits, nobody pulling in another direction. That’s what I like to see.”
Graeme Murty declared himself ready and capable of becoming Rangers’ next manager, if the Ibrox directors rate him in his second spell as interim manager. The 42-year-old former Scotland, Southampton and Reading defender is in fourth place at 8-1 in the bookies’ odds, with Derek McInnes still front-runner, despite a dramatic repricing of David Moyes from 20-1 outsider to 9-2 second favourite, and Alan Pardew in third place. Murty, though, has already produced notable results, like the 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in March when he acted as caretaker between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha. When Murty took over from Caixinha last week, he supervised a 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield. Asked if he felt he could handle the position on a longer basis, Murty replied: “If the board said, ‘Graeme, it’s yours. Take it’ – fantastic, great. I might even crack a smile! You would be crazy to turn this job down. “For all that it’s a high-powered and high-pressured job, and very much in the media spotlight, I have said before that this is one of the stellar jobs in British football. You can’t turn it down, as I couldn’t turn it down when the board said to me: ‘Would you step up?’ “Actually, this week has been really enjoyable. It’s been bright and it’s been a real pleasure to get on the training pitch and get to know the players better. “It is a bit different from last time because I’m having to build new relationships with people I didn’t previously know. There can be a disconnect when that happens so it’s up to the staff that we make them as comfortable as possible and get to know them as people, and not just as players. Murty first took charge after Mark Warburton left and supervised a draw with Celtic Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire “I’ve had a good chat with a few of them. They now know how I like to work. They’ve sat in with me and know the standards I like. I believe they’ve understood what I am about.” Rangers host Partick Thistle on Saturday at Ibrox, where a minute’s Remembrance silence will be observed. “That is something that’ll touch a lot of people, just for the day that it is,” Murty said. “After that I will be happier if the players go and take a really good week of training into the game. If so I’ll enjoy my day more. If not then I won’t.” This weekend’s fixture card is the last before the international break and the likelihood is that the Ibrox board will make an appointment in the two weeks before the league resumes. Asked if he could present a sustainable plan to the directors if required, Murty said: “Yeah. If they ask me for one, I can bring it. I haven’t looked that far forward. “If the club were to say to me ‘Graeme, we like what you’ve done, we’d like you to have a go at it’ – then I would start to think about other issues but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m in this seat just to go and do a job to the best of my ability. If that impresses people, great, but it will only impress people if I’m conscientious, dedicated and make the team better.” Murty revealed that he had been hillwalking on Thursday with his wife, Karen, but although the weather was glorious and the views panoramic, he had been lost in contemplation of tactical options for the Partick match until she reprimanded him. “She asked me a question and I was like ‘hmm?’ She knew exactly what I had been thinking about and where I was coming from,” he said. “She had some short, sharp words for me and I focused back in again. “It’s just the nature of the game. It is all consuming and so it should be because it’s a fantastic experience. That I’m sitting at home thinking about patterns of play for Rangers Football Club still sends shivers down my spine. “It is not fair to say that Mrs Murty does not want me to become the manager of Rangers in any shape or form. If anything, she wants me to stop doing myself down and to have more belief in myself because she has lots of belief in me. “Just because I talk about the collective, about empowering players – that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in my own ability. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe I can do this job. It’s that I believe in empowering people. “The first goal against Hearts told me a lot. All 10 outfield players celebrated. Then we score again and everyone celebrates. Then we score again and the bench is jumping and bouncing. The sensation in the dressing room after the game was fantastic – no splits, nobody pulling in another direction. That’s what I like to see.”
Graeme Murty may 'even crack a smile' if offered Rangers job full time
Graeme Murty declared himself ready and capable of becoming Rangers’ next manager, if the Ibrox directors rate him in his second spell as interim manager. The 42-year-old former Scotland, Southampton and Reading defender is in fourth place at 8-1 in the bookies’ odds, with Derek McInnes still front-runner, despite a dramatic repricing of David Moyes from 20-1 outsider to 9-2 second favourite, and Alan Pardew in third place. Murty, though, has already produced notable results, like the 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in March when he acted as caretaker between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha. When Murty took over from Caixinha last week, he supervised a 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield. Asked if he felt he could handle the position on a longer basis, Murty replied: “If the board said, ‘Graeme, it’s yours. Take it’ – fantastic, great. I might even crack a smile! You would be crazy to turn this job down. “For all that it’s a high-powered and high-pressured job, and very much in the media spotlight, I have said before that this is one of the stellar jobs in British football. You can’t turn it down, as I couldn’t turn it down when the board said to me: ‘Would you step up?’ “Actually, this week has been really enjoyable. It’s been bright and it’s been a real pleasure to get on the training pitch and get to know the players better. “It is a bit different from last time because I’m having to build new relationships with people I didn’t previously know. There can be a disconnect when that happens so it’s up to the staff that we make them as comfortable as possible and get to know them as people, and not just as players. Murty first took charge after Mark Warburton left and supervised a draw with Celtic Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire “I’ve had a good chat with a few of them. They now know how I like to work. They’ve sat in with me and know the standards I like. I believe they’ve understood what I am about.” Rangers host Partick Thistle on Saturday at Ibrox, where a minute’s Remembrance silence will be observed. “That is something that’ll touch a lot of people, just for the day that it is,” Murty said. “After that I will be happier if the players go and take a really good week of training into the game. If so I’ll enjoy my day more. If not then I won’t.” This weekend’s fixture card is the last before the international break and the likelihood is that the Ibrox board will make an appointment in the two weeks before the league resumes. Asked if he could present a sustainable plan to the directors if required, Murty said: “Yeah. If they ask me for one, I can bring it. I haven’t looked that far forward. “If the club were to say to me ‘Graeme, we like what you’ve done, we’d like you to have a go at it’ – then I would start to think about other issues but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m in this seat just to go and do a job to the best of my ability. If that impresses people, great, but it will only impress people if I’m conscientious, dedicated and make the team better.” Murty revealed that he had been hillwalking on Thursday with his wife, Karen, but although the weather was glorious and the views panoramic, he had been lost in contemplation of tactical options for the Partick match until she reprimanded him. “She asked me a question and I was like ‘hmm?’ She knew exactly what I had been thinking about and where I was coming from,” he said. “She had some short, sharp words for me and I focused back in again. “It’s just the nature of the game. It is all consuming and so it should be because it’s a fantastic experience. That I’m sitting at home thinking about patterns of play for Rangers Football Club still sends shivers down my spine. “It is not fair to say that Mrs Murty does not want me to become the manager of Rangers in any shape or form. If anything, she wants me to stop doing myself down and to have more belief in myself because she has lots of belief in me. “Just because I talk about the collective, about empowering players – that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in my own ability. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe I can do this job. It’s that I believe in empowering people. “The first goal against Hearts told me a lot. All 10 outfield players celebrated. Then we score again and everyone celebrates. Then we score again and the bench is jumping and bouncing. The sensation in the dressing room after the game was fantastic – no splits, nobody pulling in another direction. That’s what I like to see.”
Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament. “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.
New Scotland manager must prioritise making headway in inaugural Uefa Nations League
Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament. “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.
Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament. “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.
New Scotland manager must prioritise making headway in inaugural Uefa Nations League
Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament. “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.
Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament. “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.
New Scotland manager must prioritise making headway in inaugural Uefa Nations League
Whoever is installed as the next Scotland manager – and David Moyes is still favourite with most bookmakers – his priority will be making headway in the inaugural Uefa Nations League, according to SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. The format of the tournament is abstruse but it feeds into the next European Championship, for which Hampden Park will be a host venue, hence its importance – especially after Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs. “There are Euro 2020 places linked to the Nations League and each of the four leagues, and Scotland are top seeds in Group C, the third tier,” said Regan. “One team from that third tier will come through to Euro 2020. “We’ve got two chances, so those Nations games will be really important. We won’t go into them thinking they are friendly matches. They are absolutely essential for us to have a second chance of making the tournament. “We’re entering an interesting phase, starting in 2018, because of the new competition formats and the way that the Nations League works, followed by the qualifiers, followed by the Nations League. Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup Credit: AP “It potentially produces a situation when you’ll have feast and famine years. In the Nations League we’ll be playing matches on friendly dates in a new competitive format against teams of a similar standard. The potential is the attendances might not be as great as they would be if you were playing a glamour side like Germany or Spain, or one of the big six. “That’s got the potential to have an impact on revenue streams. In terms of the most recent times, it would have been great to do a Wales or a Northern Ireland. I think in Wales’ case they brought in €18 million from reaching the semi-finals of the Euros. “Probably half of that in the case of Northern Ireland. But we are where we are and have our own resources, supplemented by income from Fifa and Uefa, as well as the public sector. We do what we feel is the right thing to develop the game within that.” The SFA board was the target for critical – and sometimes abusive – comment on social media for their decision to appoint Malky MacKay as interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands for a friendly at Pittodrie on November 9. MacKay, was involved in email exchanges, some of which contained racist, misogynist and homophobic comments, with the director of recruitment at Cardiff when both men were employed by the club. Malky MacKay is interim manager for the visit of the Netherlands Credit: AFP After apologising for his behaviour and attending diversity and inclusion classes, MacKay was appointed as the SFA’s performance director. Of MacKay’s duties next month, Regan said: “It’s about Malky’s experience as a football manager and asking him to step up on an exceptional basis to lead the team for a friendly. “We wanted someone who could manage a group of players and he knows a lot of them already. It’s simply a case of using the resources we have to take the team for a friendly match. “Malky’s our performance director and has one of the most senior roles within the organisation. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming to the Scottish FA. He’s very well respected and gets on well with the clubs, from academy to chief executive and chairman level. He’s been a fantastic recruit.” The league season resumed after the international break with Celtic bidding for a 59th successive domestic fixture unbeaten when they hosted Dundee. Brendan Rodgers made several changes to his regular line-up, with Dorus De Vries making his first appearance in goal this season, and appearances for Cristian Gamboa and Eboue Kouassi. The personnel switches seemed to blunt Celtic’s customary incisiveness, with only a curling effort from Callum McGregor, which went wide of the far post, plus a drive by Scott Sinclair into the arms of Scott Bain to show for their work. Dundee, though, could not take advantage of the Hoops’ muted threat and De Vries dealt with the single alarm in his box with a comfortable clutch from a shot from A-Jay Leitch-Smith. De Vries earned his corn with two superlative saves from powerful close-range efforts by Paul McGowan and Roary Deacon midway through the second half, by which point Celtic had taken the lead through a low, swirling finish from Olivier Ntcham. Aberdeen, meanwhile, stayed level on points with the leaders with a victory over Hibernian in an absorbing contest at Easter Road, where Gary Mackay-Steven settled the issue with his first league goal of the season for the Dons. Elsewhere, Motherwell beat Hamilton 2-1 in the Lanarkshire derby, as did Hearts against Ross County in Dingwall and Partick Thistle went bottom in a 2-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at the Energy Check Stadium.
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******&quot;.” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell&#39;s book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
Exclusive interview: Alastair Campbell on playing with Maradona being conned by Lance Armstrong and his passion for Burnley
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******".” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell's book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******&quot;.” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell&#39;s book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
Exclusive interview: Alastair Campbell on playing with Maradona being conned by Lance Armstrong and his passion for Burnley
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******".” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell's book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******&quot;.” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell&#39;s book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
Exclusive interview: Alastair Campbell on playing with Maradona being conned by Lance Armstrong and his passion for Burnley
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******".” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell's book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******&quot;.” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell&#39;s book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
Exclusive interview: Alastair Campbell on playing with Maradona being conned by Lance Armstrong and his passion for Burnley
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******".” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell's book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week
After a lifetime spent either asking or answering questions, it takes something fairly novel to make Alastair Campbell pause for even just a few moments before delivering an emphatic response. But it came this week in an email interview. “If you lost your memory and your doctor brought your family in to jog your memory about who you were, what would they say?” He duly consulted his partner Fiona and, while he reckons that bagpipes and Blair might also be worth a try, they both settle on one definite answer. “Burnley”. It is also largely sporting rather than political themes when Campbell recalls those instances when he found his heart suddenly palpitate or could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. Every audience with Nelson Mandela but, otherwise, meeting Muhammad Ali, Maradona and various moments from 50 years following Burnley. “Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup,” he says. “I didn’t realise the cameras were on me. Live on Sky. I was absolutely frenetic. ‘Blow the ****ing whistle ref!’ We won. I left. Hundreds of messages, including from Fergie, who said that Neville and Giggs were watching and called him. ‘You’ve got to see this - your mate Campbell is going completely insane’. I do get like that with Burnley. Scotland as well.” Anyone doubting the authenticity of this anecdote need only watch footage of Burnley FC’s ‘Comms Cam’ on the opening day of the season against Chelsea when, having left his holiday to be at the game, Campbell took a turn in the press box alongside Phil Bird. Analysis at key moments might be limited to shouts of ‘get in’ and ‘c’mon’ but his passion is certainly beyond reproach. His home is also like a museum of sport and politics – and you are as likely to be faced with a picture of Burnley’s 1914 FA Cup winners or an iconic Tour de France mountain as Tony Blair or Bill Clinton. It all began growing up in Yorkshire and watching matches around the area with his Scottish father, who was a Partick Thistle fan. Campbell would never take his Burnley scarf off even during lessons – “the teachers tried but I wouldn’t” – and he spent much of his teen years in “petrol stations, hitching to games”. Personal anecdotes genuinely do encompass a ‘Who’s Who’ of sport. While busking in Cannes in 1978, he winged his way into a film reception attended by Ali. He recently interviewed Usain Bolt “who sang happy birthday down the phone to my daughter” and played football in the same team as Diego Maradona at Soccer Aid in 2006. He could not sleep before the game. Neither could Maradona and so they left the hotel for an impromptu early-morning training session. Alastair Campbell with Maradona Two things are striking. First, how Maradona – then 45 – was taking the game so seriously. He ran around the empty stadium visualising what it would be like to score. When the others players chanted songs about him on the team bus, “he had a tear in his eye and was thumping his chest”. When Campbell played his bagpipes in the dressing-room shortly before kick-off, he was “dancing with Zola on the treatment table”. The other extraordinary element was how Maradona was treated with as much wide-eyed reverence by the other players, several of whom had also won the World Cup. “These top, top, top, top players felt he was in a different game, on his own.” Campbell is naturally a Maradona rather than Pele man although, interestingly, he says that Sir Alex Ferguson once told him that Ferenc Puskas was the greatest player. Campbell’s relationship with sport would stretch beyond simply fandom and, more than ever, that is documented in the sixth volume of his diaries – From Blair to Brown – which were published this week. The first 100 pages largely deal with the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and a 3-0 series defeat that became largely seen through the prism of Sir Clive Woodward’s decision to appoint him as part of his backroom team. “Like hiring the board of BP to perform an oil change on your car,” was how it was described in these pages by Paul Hayward. Alastair Campbell with Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 Lions tour Credit: AFP It was an episode that certainly reinforced one overarching truism of sports PR: almost everything is shaped by results. Campbell says that the experience persuaded him that he “probably had too big a profile” for a communications job but he made friends and has no regrets. He clearly loved working with people like Jonny Wilkinson close up. “He was so intense but in an amazing way. He had an incredible modesty. He told me his brother was as talented as he was. I was like, ‘C’mon Jonny, you love your brother, but that’s not true’. He hated being special but even Brian O’Driscoll said to me, ‘Listen, in rugby, there is Jonny and there is everyone else’.” That inner force, believes Campbell, is a thread of sporting greats, albeit with very different manifestations. He once met Roy Keane over a cup of tea at half-time of a football match. “He was raging about the full-backs with an intensity that was ferocious. ‘Those guys should be ****ing ashamed to call themselves footballers. They are on £30,000-a-week’. I said, ‘Why do you care so much?’ He said, ‘It offends me’. “I interviewed Antonio Conte. I said, ‘Do you dream about football?’ He said, ‘No, no. I don’t really sleep. But I think about football before I go to sleep and I think about football when I wake up’. Alastair Campbell with his favourite possession - a signed Burnley shirt Credit: PAUL GROVER “I met Wenger at the French Embassy. He can hold his own about politics and the economy. He was talking about whether one day robots could be managers. I think he thinks about stuff like that.” One thing that struck Campbell about sport was the teamship. A bonding exercise with the Lions involved asking all the players to contribute to a painting. “Sport really latches onto it in a way that politics doesn’t,” he says. “After that painting, I said to Tony, ‘What do you think with the cabinet?’ He looked at me like I was completely insane but actually, ‘Why not?’. Why should politics be so different? Why not think, ‘How can we get these people to cohere better than they are?’ Look at the mess they are in at the moment – Theresa May and her merry bunch of w******&quot;.” One leader that does deeply impress is Burnley’s current manager Sean Dyche. Campbell says that he “could definitely see” Dyche as an England manager and believes that he is seriously underrated. Why? “Because of the voice, because of the way he looks and how he was a rough, tough Chesterfield centre-half. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for how clever he is. He’s got something special. He is a very good reader of human beings. He’s very funny. He just takes the piss out of me – has a running joke that I’ve got a butler.” Sean Dyche pretends to read Alastair Campbell&#39;s book At a personal level, cycling and running are the sports which now largely consume Campbell. He got to know Lance Armstrong and, as is documented in the book, believed in him following several interviews. “My daughter Grace watched the interview we did the other day. She said, ‘God, he just lied to you. That’s amazing’. He gave me one of the most amazing quotes I have ever heard. I had said, ‘OK, Lance you were dying from cancer. Was that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘You are about to take on Jan Ullrich in the Tour and you might lose. Is that scary?’ Yes, that’s scary. ‘OK, which of those feels worse? You might lose or you might die?’ He said, ‘Losing and dying? It’s the same thing’. I thought, ‘Wow, I love this guy’. “Of course, if I’d been a proper journalist I’d have thought, ‘Oh right, so you really would cheat. You’d cheat to stay alive so I’m surmising that you’d cheat to win’.” My five sporting memories | by Alastair Campbell I ask if it was an experience that made him cynical about sport and he relays a recent conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s sports editor, about how the next wave of scandals after governance and drugs might relate to player welfare. “I don’t think Lance Armstrong has made me more cynical,” he says. “When I see Chris Froome and people say, ‘They are all on it’, I say, ‘No’. I’ll defend him. Sport is about human endeavour and great stories of which there always seems to be renewal”. Before we go, Campbell seeks out what is clearly his most treasured of all Burnley shirts. “There you go - how many people in the world can have a shirt with Pele AND Maradona’s signature on it?” he asks, proudly holding up his memorabilia from the SoccerAid match. “And look at that. There’s Bradley Walsh as well. Pele, Maradona AND Bradley Walsh,” he says, before bursting out laughing. Volume 6 of Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, ‘From Blair to Brown’, was published this week