St. Johnstone

St. Johnstone slideshow

Hearts end Celtic's 69-game unbeaten domestic run with four-goal hammering at Tynecastle

It had to finish eventually, of course, but no reputable pundit would have suggested that Celtic’s mighty record of 69 successive games unbeaten in domestic fixtures would be truncated in such emphatic fashion and by a team who finished the contest with two 16-year-olds in their ranks - one of whom was on the score sheet. Last Sunday at Easter Road, only a goal-line clearance by Mikael Lustig stopped 19-year-old Oli Shaw from putting an end to Celtic’s run in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road but on the other side of Edinburgh it was a cadet three years junior to Shaw who struck the first blow. Harry Cochrane, the first graduate of the Scottish Football Association’s performance school to start a senior game - against Dundee in September – ensured that this would be another indelible event in his young life by scoring his first goal in senior competitive football. That momentous event occurred in the 26th minute when the midfielder gathered a pass from Don Cowie and coolly drove it beyond Craig Gordon for Hearts’ opener. Even at that stage, Celtic looked unusually dishevelled, an impression confirmed five minutes before the break when Kyle Lafferty, whose muscular presence had disrupted the Hoops’ back line, was set up by David Milinkovic for a drive which clipped off the inside of Gordon’s right-hand post and across the line. Milinkovic resolved any doubt about the likely outcome with a second half double, first when he took advantage of a horrible error by Jozo Simunovic, then from the penalty spot after Gordon had fouled Ross Callachan needlessly. David Milinkovic makes it three for Hearts  Credit: PA The occasion was heaven for stat addicts. Aside from Celtic’s immense undefeated sequence, Hearts were playing their sixth successive match at home, a consequence of the fixture disruption caused by the reconstruction of the main stand, having gone unbeaten in the previous five. Prior to this encounter, Celtic last suffered a domestic defeat on May 11, 2016, when they lost 2-1 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park before a 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell in Ronny Deila’s last game in charge started their record-breaking schedule. The champions had also won seven of their eight most recent visits to Tynecastle. Brendan Rodgers started with Leigh Griffiths as his spearhead, perhaps in acknowledgement of the former Hibs forward’s taste for scoring against city rivals. By full time, Griffiths had been joined by Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, and Celtic’s full contingent of strikers was reinforced by James Forrest and Scott Sinclair. Yet the Parkhead side failed to score in a domestic match for the first time since March 4, 2015, when they lost 1-0 at home to St Johnstone. Moreover, Celtic had scored in every game of their 69 unbeaten domestic outings. In contrast, when Lafferty was injured, he was replaced by Cole Stockton, formerly of Morecambe, who came on after Hearts had introduced their other 16-year-old, Anthony McDonald, for Prince Buaben. For all their firepower, Celtic were undone by frailty at the back and Hearts’ third goal was as basic as they come. Connor Randall launched a clearance upfield, Simunovic allowed it to bounce without interference and Milinkovic, blinking at his good fortune, drilled his finish precisely beyond Gordon. The Serb did exactly the same when presented with a similar gift, this time from the penalty spot after the Celtic keeper had tumbled Callachan as the Hearts man was moving away from goal. Rodgers acknowledged the vulnerability readily afterwards when he said: “First of all, I need to give credit to Hearts. It's a thoroughly deserved win; they were the better team. We didn't cope with their physicality, we made too many mistakes. “We could have played five games today and not scored a goal, but I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and for this to be their first defeat -  of course, it's a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. “They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.” Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, was both mightily relieved – having been the object of criticism for indifferent results – and exultant, but he gave Celtic due credit for their remarkable accomplishment. “I must compliment Celtic - to go this far without losing a match in the league or cups in Scotland is quite remarkable,” he said. “I am probably even prouder of my players because we have managed to break that run. “They played honestly today. They ran the miles they needed to shut Celtic down. They put pressure on the ball and managed to unsettle Celtic as a team. All credit to them. “They gave themselves, each other and the supporters absolutely everything they had. I was thrilled with the interaction between the players and supporters. You could hear the noise with the new stand, and it was hugely pleasing to hear that." Hearts had not scored more than two goals in any league game this season, so it was with tremendous gusto that chants of ‘We want five!’ resounded from the stands. Sadly for the spectator seated to the left of this Telegraph correspondent who had put money on Hearts to win 5-0, it was not to be – proof that you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time.

Hearts end Celtic's 69-game unbeaten domestic run with four-goal hammering at Tynecastle

It had to finish eventually, of course, but no reputable pundit would have suggested that Celtic’s mighty record of 69 successive games unbeaten in domestic fixtures would be truncated in such emphatic fashion and by a team who finished the contest with two 16-year-olds in their ranks - one of whom was on the score sheet. Last Sunday at Easter Road, only a goal-line clearance by Mikael Lustig stopped 19-year-old Oli Shaw from putting an end to Celtic’s run in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road but on the other side of Edinburgh it was a cadet three years junior to Shaw who struck the first blow. Harry Cochrane, the first graduate of the Scottish Football Association’s performance school to start a senior game - against Dundee in September – ensured that this would be another indelible event in his young life by scoring his first goal in senior competitive football. That momentous event occurred in the 26th minute when the midfielder gathered a pass from Don Cowie and coolly drove it beyond Craig Gordon for Hearts’ opener. Even at that stage, Celtic looked unusually dishevelled, an impression confirmed five minutes before the break when Kyle Lafferty, whose muscular presence had disrupted the Hoops’ back line, was set up by David Milinkovic for a drive which clipped off the inside of Gordon’s right-hand post and across the line. Milinkovic resolved any doubt about the likely outcome with a second half double, first when he took advantage of a horrible error by Jozo Simunovic, then from the penalty spot after Gordon had fouled Ross Callachan needlessly. David Milinkovic makes it three for Hearts  Credit: PA The occasion was heaven for stat addicts. Aside from Celtic’s immense undefeated sequence, Hearts were playing their sixth successive match at home, a consequence of the fixture disruption caused by the reconstruction of the main stand, having gone unbeaten in the previous five. Prior to this encounter, Celtic last suffered a domestic defeat on May 11, 2016, when they lost 2-1 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park before a 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell in Ronny Deila’s last game in charge started their record-breaking schedule. The champions had also won seven of their eight most recent visits to Tynecastle. Brendan Rodgers started with Leigh Griffiths as his spearhead, perhaps in acknowledgement of the former Hibs forward’s taste for scoring against city rivals. By full time, Griffiths had been joined by Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, and Celtic’s full contingent of strikers was reinforced by James Forrest and Scott Sinclair. Yet the Parkhead side failed to score in a domestic match for the first time since March 4, 2015, when they lost 1-0 at home to St Johnstone. Moreover, Celtic had scored in every game of their 69 unbeaten domestic outings. In contrast, when Lafferty was injured, he was replaced by Cole Stockton, formerly of Morecambe, who came on after Hearts had introduced their other 16-year-old, Anthony McDonald, for Prince Buaben. For all their firepower, Celtic were undone by frailty at the back and Hearts’ third goal was as basic as they come. Connor Randall launched a clearance upfield, Simunovic allowed it to bounce without interference and Milinkovic, blinking at his good fortune, drilled his finish precisely beyond Gordon. The Serb did exactly the same when presented with a similar gift, this time from the penalty spot after the Celtic keeper had tumbled Callachan as the Hearts man was moving away from goal. Rodgers acknowledged the vulnerability readily afterwards when he said: “First of all, I need to give credit to Hearts. It's a thoroughly deserved win; they were the better team. We didn't cope with their physicality, we made too many mistakes. “We could have played five games today and not scored a goal, but I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and for this to be their first defeat -  of course, it's a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. “They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.” Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, was both mightily relieved – having been the object of criticism for indifferent results – and exultant, but he gave Celtic due credit for their remarkable accomplishment. “I must compliment Celtic - to go this far without losing a match in the league or cups in Scotland is quite remarkable,” he said. “I am probably even prouder of my players because we have managed to break that run. “They played honestly today. They ran the miles they needed to shut Celtic down. They put pressure on the ball and managed to unsettle Celtic as a team. All credit to them. “They gave themselves, each other and the supporters absolutely everything they had. I was thrilled with the interaction between the players and supporters. You could hear the noise with the new stand, and it was hugely pleasing to hear that." Hearts had not scored more than two goals in any league game this season, so it was with tremendous gusto that chants of ‘We want five!’ resounded from the stands. Sadly for the spectator seated to the left of this Telegraph correspondent who had put money on Hearts to win 5-0, it was not to be – proof that you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 1: Spirited Accies downed as Brendan Rodgers' side extend unbeaten run

Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession  almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety.   Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.

Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 1: Spirited Accies downed as Brendan Rodgers' side extend unbeaten run

Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession  almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety.   Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.

Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 1: Spirited Accies downed as Brendan Rodgers' side extend unbeaten run

Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession  almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety.   Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.

Managerless Rangers' January transfer activity to be led by former Manchester City academy director

As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”

Managerless Rangers' January transfer activity to be led by former Manchester City academy director

As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”

Managerless Rangers' January transfer activity to be led by former Manchester City academy director

As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”

Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended

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

Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kieran Tierney on his meteoric rise with Celtic and Scotland - and being dressing room DJ

He will be on the same field as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani when Celtic face Paris St-Germain in their Champions League group stage tie on Wednesday night, but to see Kieran Tierney star-struck you had to be at the Queen’s Hall  in Edinburgh on Monday. The occasion was a solo acoustic gig by singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, after which he and Tierney got together to celebrate their mutual interests. In Bugg’s case, the topic of choice was football – the musician is this month’s shirt sponsor for Notts County, his local team – and Tierney presented him with a signed Celtic jersey. For Tierney, it was yet another in a fast-moving sequence of personal highlights. Only four days previously, he had captained Scotland at the age of 20 in the friendly against Holland at Pittodrie on only his ninth appearance for his county since his debut in March, 2016 at home to Denmark. During an international career which so far spans just 18 months, Tierney’s versatility has seen him moved from left-back to central defence and also to right-back. In his most recent club appearance, a 4-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth, Tierney was a member of the Celtic team who broke their own UK record of 62 successive domestic games unbeaten. Tierney was also named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October Credit: Action Plus via Getty Images On Thursday he was named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October and today he will make his 100th appearance for Celtic in the lunchtime kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall. It is not a feat upon which the prudent gambler would have wagered folding money in 2015, a year which began with Tierney suffering a broken leg. Since then he has sustained ankle ligament damage and a shoulder injury. Adversity, however, confirmed Tierney’s characteristic resilience and this season he has made 24 appearances for his club and five for Scotland. He has, in every sense, taken great strides since his first appearance for Celtic as a late substitute in a game with Dundee at Dens Park on April 22, 2015. “I could never have envisaged this when I made my debut. It’s happened quite quickly as well,” Tierney said, when invited to review his meteoric progress. “Other than the injuries I’ve had, it’s all been good. “I’d been in the squad for a few games then we played Ross County at home and I’d made the bench for the very first time. The next day I broke my leg at training and I was thinking, ‘What chance do I have?’ but I believe that it made me hungrier. I came back and worked at stuff I was weak on try to come back stronger. “When you have injuries you just need to try and focus on the positives that you can take from them. They are horrible, though – this time last year I was going around with a plaster on my leg and wearing a shoulder brace for two months. “So now, when we have a busy schedule of games – like the one coming up – you don’t moan. You just want to be available to play in all of them.” There have been inevitable comparisons with legendary left-back, Danny McGrain, whose spell at Celtic between 1970 and 1987 encompassed 663 matches. “How many games did he play? That’s mad, isn’t it?” Tierney said. “I’m just taking it as it comes. “I don’t take anything for granted and work as hard as I can every day. The more matches I  play the better it is for me and, hopefully, I’ll keep on learning.” Buttressed by a close-knit family and childhood friends with common interests, Tierney presents a lively but steady personality. “I’m texting my pals at half three or four o’clock asking if anyone is ready  for Call of Duty, but they are all working until five,” he said. “Every time I’ve been injured and come out of hospital my friend Jamie has come to stay with me, keep me company and take my mind off it. We’ve been pals since nursery school. I’ve had the same friends since the very start and I think that’s important.” Tierney’s unseen contribution to Celtic team spirit is as dressing room DJ, with a retro list of tastes which includes Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Spandau Ballet, Stone Roses and Oasis. “The boys love it. They always ask me to do the tunes after games so I must be doing something right,” he insisted. “I wasn’t born when the stuff was out but my musical taste is brilliant, to be fair.” It’s not the only Tierney attribute that merits that description – or why Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt is an entirely apt theme song for the singer’s Celtic celebrity fan.

Kieran Tierney on his meteoric rise with Celtic and Scotland - and being dressing room DJ

He will be on the same field as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani when Celtic face Paris St-Germain in their Champions League group stage tie on Wednesday night, but to see Kieran Tierney star-struck you had to be at the Queen’s Hall  in Edinburgh on Monday. The occasion was a solo acoustic gig by singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, after which he and Tierney got together to celebrate their mutual interests. In Bugg’s case, the topic of choice was football – the musician is this month’s shirt sponsor for Notts County, his local team – and Tierney presented him with a signed Celtic jersey. For Tierney, it was yet another in a fast-moving sequence of personal highlights. Only four days previously, he had captained Scotland at the age of 20 in the friendly against Holland at Pittodrie on only his ninth appearance for his county since his debut in March, 2016 at home to Denmark. During an international career which so far spans just 18 months, Tierney’s versatility has seen him moved from left-back to central defence and also to right-back. In his most recent club appearance, a 4-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth, Tierney was a member of the Celtic team who broke their own UK record of 62 successive domestic games unbeaten. Tierney was also named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October Credit: Action Plus via Getty Images On Thursday he was named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October and today he will make his 100th appearance for Celtic in the lunchtime kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall. It is not a feat upon which the prudent gambler would have wagered folding money in 2015, a year which began with Tierney suffering a broken leg. Since then he has sustained ankle ligament damage and a shoulder injury. Adversity, however, confirmed Tierney’s characteristic resilience and this season he has made 24 appearances for his club and five for Scotland. He has, in every sense, taken great strides since his first appearance for Celtic as a late substitute in a game with Dundee at Dens Park on April 22, 2015. “I could never have envisaged this when I made my debut. It’s happened quite quickly as well,” Tierney said, when invited to review his meteoric progress. “Other than the injuries I’ve had, it’s all been good. “I’d been in the squad for a few games then we played Ross County at home and I’d made the bench for the very first time. The next day I broke my leg at training and I was thinking, ‘What chance do I have?’ but I believe that it made me hungrier. I came back and worked at stuff I was weak on try to come back stronger. “When you have injuries you just need to try and focus on the positives that you can take from them. They are horrible, though – this time last year I was going around with a plaster on my leg and wearing a shoulder brace for two months. “So now, when we have a busy schedule of games – like the one coming up – you don’t moan. You just want to be available to play in all of them.” There have been inevitable comparisons with legendary left-back, Danny McGrain, whose spell at Celtic between 1970 and 1987 encompassed 663 matches. “How many games did he play? That’s mad, isn’t it?” Tierney said. “I’m just taking it as it comes. “I don’t take anything for granted and work as hard as I can every day. The more matches I  play the better it is for me and, hopefully, I’ll keep on learning.” Buttressed by a close-knit family and childhood friends with common interests, Tierney presents a lively but steady personality. “I’m texting my pals at half three or four o’clock asking if anyone is ready  for Call of Duty, but they are all working until five,” he said. “Every time I’ve been injured and come out of hospital my friend Jamie has come to stay with me, keep me company and take my mind off it. We’ve been pals since nursery school. I’ve had the same friends since the very start and I think that’s important.” Tierney’s unseen contribution to Celtic team spirit is as dressing room DJ, with a retro list of tastes which includes Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Spandau Ballet, Stone Roses and Oasis. “The boys love it. They always ask me to do the tunes after games so I must be doing something right,” he insisted. “I wasn’t born when the stuff was out but my musical taste is brilliant, to be fair.” It’s not the only Tierney attribute that merits that description – or why Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt is an entirely apt theme song for the singer’s Celtic celebrity fan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Johnstone 0-4 Celtic

St Johnstone 0-4 Celtic

St Johnstone 0-4 Celtic

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 make history as 4-0 win over St Johnstone takes unbeaten record to 63

Celtic make history as 4-0 win over St Johnstone takes unbeaten record to 63

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 set new British record with 63rd game unbeaten

Brendan Rodgers' dominant Scottish champions Celtic made it 63 games unbeaten at St Johnstone, setting a new club and British record.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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