St. Johnstone

St. Johnstone slideshow

The consensus was that Motherwell and Aberdeen were playing merely for the right to lose to Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final, but there was professional pride at stake at Hampden Park and by the end it belonged to the Steelmen. Stephen Robinson’s players ran Aberdeen off the ball, hustled them into horrible errors and punished the Dons with three goals, the recollection of which will awaken Derek McInnes in a cold sweat at dead of night. Aberdeen were runners-up in all three domestic competitions last season but have regressed this campaign, with only the possibility of a second-place league finish remaining. Curtis Main exemplified Motherwell’s spirit and desire in this semi-final, scoring in each half and also hunting the Aberdeen defenders deep inside their own territory with a man-of-the-match performance. The man from South Shields has banished the Fir Park fans’ regret for the departure of Louis Moult to Preston in January. Both managers had to reshuffle their personnel but Motherwell fared better from the switches. Stephen Robinson restored Allan Campbell to midfield after missing the 0-0 draw at St Johnstone, with Gael Bigirimana relegated to the bench. Chris Cadden, Andy Rose and Charles Dunne replaced Elliott Frear, Barry Maguire and Carl McHugh. Motherwell players aplaude their fans Credit: PA Motherwell’s morale had been further boosted by Dunne, Ryan Bowman, Cedric Kipre and Richard Tait all agreeing contract extensions. Aberdeen also made four changes from the team beaten 2-0 by Hearts at Tynecastle, with Chidi Nwakali back from injury and Adam Rooney, Dominic Ball and Kari Arnason in for Graeme Shinnie, Shay Logan and Kenny McLean, with Niall McGinn dropping to the bench. One of the discussion points during the build-up was whether Motherwell would attempt to impose themselves physically, a proposition that took less than 20 seconds to be endorsed as Andrew Rose clattered into Greg Stewart to concede the first foul. Subtlety was exiled from the opening 20 minutes, a period which would have gratified the Red Baron as an illustration of attrition in aerial combat. Motherwell played long, unabashed by their lack of subtlety, but, just as Aberdeen looked like they were gaining the measure of the ploy, it paid off with the breakthrough. Tait chased a lob into the box, where he used his right arm to keep the ball in his path. Ball made the fatal error of failing to play the whistle and stopped dead, looking for the referee to intervene. With Kevin Clancy unsighted, Tait passed square for Main to stab home. If Aberdeen were aggrieved by that, they were incensed by what followed two minutes later although they were once again culpable. Scott McKenna, captain for the absent Shinnie, knocked a clearance backwards into his own box, where Bowman bundled Arnason aside for a shot which struck Joe Lewis on the chest. The rebound fell back to Bowman, who switched to his left foot to steer the ball between the inert Lewis and the despairing McKenna. Adam Rooney (L) had Aberdeen's only real chance of the game Credit: Getty Images “I actually thought Aberdeen started better than us but we got the goal at a crucial time,” Robinson said. “We got the second quickly afterwards and from then we’re hard to break down – we’re a team that don’t concede many goals. We’ve got a real strong defensive unit, you don’t lose games if you don’t concede goals. I haven’t seen the first goal but, for the amount of decisions that have gone against us this season, I’ll take it.” At 2-0, Motherwell looked comfortable but not impregnable, especially after Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn were sent on to work the flanks for Aberdeen. McGinn’s arrival on the hour fuelled a surge that brought the Dons’ first truly menacing attempt on goal – an Adam Rooney drive beaten out by Trevor Carson for Aberdeen’s only corner kick. It came to nothing and, within a minute, Main seized upon a lurid mistake by Arnason, who attempted a volleyed clearance on the halfway line but managed only to drive the ball off the striker, who then bore down unchecked on the Aberdeen box to beat Lewis with a flamboyant left foot drive. “The first goal, we don’t deal with the long ball. It’s still a handball,” McInnes said. “The second goal, I thought at the time was a foul on Arnason. I’ve seen it again, I don’t think it is. “2-0 and you’re still in the game. 3-0 killed it. Today, the squad was stretched and that shouldn’t be the case for a club like Aberdeen. I’m responsible for that side of it. I know what needs to be done in the summer.”
Curtis Main scores twice to send Motherwell to Scottish Cup Final at Aberdeen's expense
The consensus was that Motherwell and Aberdeen were playing merely for the right to lose to Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final, but there was professional pride at stake at Hampden Park and by the end it belonged to the Steelmen. Stephen Robinson’s players ran Aberdeen off the ball, hustled them into horrible errors and punished the Dons with three goals, the recollection of which will awaken Derek McInnes in a cold sweat at dead of night. Aberdeen were runners-up in all three domestic competitions last season but have regressed this campaign, with only the possibility of a second-place league finish remaining. Curtis Main exemplified Motherwell’s spirit and desire in this semi-final, scoring in each half and also hunting the Aberdeen defenders deep inside their own territory with a man-of-the-match performance. The man from South Shields has banished the Fir Park fans’ regret for the departure of Louis Moult to Preston in January. Both managers had to reshuffle their personnel but Motherwell fared better from the switches. Stephen Robinson restored Allan Campbell to midfield after missing the 0-0 draw at St Johnstone, with Gael Bigirimana relegated to the bench. Chris Cadden, Andy Rose and Charles Dunne replaced Elliott Frear, Barry Maguire and Carl McHugh. Motherwell players aplaude their fans Credit: PA Motherwell’s morale had been further boosted by Dunne, Ryan Bowman, Cedric Kipre and Richard Tait all agreeing contract extensions. Aberdeen also made four changes from the team beaten 2-0 by Hearts at Tynecastle, with Chidi Nwakali back from injury and Adam Rooney, Dominic Ball and Kari Arnason in for Graeme Shinnie, Shay Logan and Kenny McLean, with Niall McGinn dropping to the bench. One of the discussion points during the build-up was whether Motherwell would attempt to impose themselves physically, a proposition that took less than 20 seconds to be endorsed as Andrew Rose clattered into Greg Stewart to concede the first foul. Subtlety was exiled from the opening 20 minutes, a period which would have gratified the Red Baron as an illustration of attrition in aerial combat. Motherwell played long, unabashed by their lack of subtlety, but, just as Aberdeen looked like they were gaining the measure of the ploy, it paid off with the breakthrough. Tait chased a lob into the box, where he used his right arm to keep the ball in his path. Ball made the fatal error of failing to play the whistle and stopped dead, looking for the referee to intervene. With Kevin Clancy unsighted, Tait passed square for Main to stab home. If Aberdeen were aggrieved by that, they were incensed by what followed two minutes later although they were once again culpable. Scott McKenna, captain for the absent Shinnie, knocked a clearance backwards into his own box, where Bowman bundled Arnason aside for a shot which struck Joe Lewis on the chest. The rebound fell back to Bowman, who switched to his left foot to steer the ball between the inert Lewis and the despairing McKenna. Adam Rooney (L) had Aberdeen's only real chance of the game Credit: Getty Images “I actually thought Aberdeen started better than us but we got the goal at a crucial time,” Robinson said. “We got the second quickly afterwards and from then we’re hard to break down – we’re a team that don’t concede many goals. We’ve got a real strong defensive unit, you don’t lose games if you don’t concede goals. I haven’t seen the first goal but, for the amount of decisions that have gone against us this season, I’ll take it.” At 2-0, Motherwell looked comfortable but not impregnable, especially after Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn were sent on to work the flanks for Aberdeen. McGinn’s arrival on the hour fuelled a surge that brought the Dons’ first truly menacing attempt on goal – an Adam Rooney drive beaten out by Trevor Carson for Aberdeen’s only corner kick. It came to nothing and, within a minute, Main seized upon a lurid mistake by Arnason, who attempted a volleyed clearance on the halfway line but managed only to drive the ball off the striker, who then bore down unchecked on the Aberdeen box to beat Lewis with a flamboyant left foot drive. “The first goal, we don’t deal with the long ball. It’s still a handball,” McInnes said. “The second goal, I thought at the time was a foul on Arnason. I’ve seen it again, I don’t think it is. “2-0 and you’re still in the game. 3-0 killed it. Today, the squad was stretched and that shouldn’t be the case for a club like Aberdeen. I’m responsible for that side of it. I know what needs to be done in the summer.”
The consensus was that Motherwell and Aberdeen were playing merely for the right to lose to Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final, but there was professional pride at stake at Hampden Park and by the end it belonged to the Steelmen. Stephen Robinson’s players ran Aberdeen off the ball, hustled them into horrible errors and punished the Dons with three goals, the recollection of which will awaken Derek McInnes in a cold sweat at dead of night. Aberdeen were runners-up in all three domestic competitions last season but have regressed this campaign, with only the possibility of a second-place league finish remaining. Curtis Main exemplified Motherwell’s spirit and desire in this semi-final, scoring in each half and also hunting the Aberdeen defenders deep inside their own territory with a man-of-the-match performance. The man from South Shields has banished the Fir Park fans’ regret for the departure of Louis Moult to Preston in January. Both managers had to reshuffle their personnel but Motherwell fared better from the switches. Stephen Robinson restored Allan Campbell to midfield after missing the 0-0 draw at St Johnstone, with Gael Bigirimana relegated to the bench. Chris Cadden, Andy Rose and Charles Dunne replaced Elliott Frear, Barry Maguire and Carl McHugh. Motherwell players aplaude their fans Credit: PA Motherwell’s morale had been further boosted by Dunne, Ryan Bowman, Cedric Kipre and Richard Tait all agreeing contract extensions. Aberdeen also made four changes from the team beaten 2-0 by Hearts at Tynecastle, with Chidi Nwakali back from injury and Adam Rooney, Dominic Ball and Kari Arnason in for Graeme Shinnie, Shay Logan and Kenny McLean, with Niall McGinn dropping to the bench. One of the discussion points during the build-up was whether Motherwell would attempt to impose themselves physically, a proposition that took less than 20 seconds to be endorsed as Andrew Rose clattered into Greg Stewart to concede the first foul. Subtlety was exiled from the opening 20 minutes, a period which would have gratified the Red Baron as an illustration of attrition in aerial combat. Motherwell played long, unabashed by their lack of subtlety, but, just as Aberdeen looked like they were gaining the measure of the ploy, it paid off with the breakthrough. Tait chased a lob into the box, where he used his right arm to keep the ball in his path. Ball made the fatal error of failing to play the whistle and stopped dead, looking for the referee to intervene. With Kevin Clancy unsighted, Tait passed square for Main to stab home. If Aberdeen were aggrieved by that, they were incensed by what followed two minutes later although they were once again culpable. Scott McKenna, captain for the absent Shinnie, knocked a clearance backwards into his own box, where Bowman bundled Arnason aside for a shot which struck Joe Lewis on the chest. The rebound fell back to Bowman, who switched to his left foot to steer the ball between the inert Lewis and the despairing McKenna. Adam Rooney (L) had Aberdeen's only real chance of the game Credit: Getty Images “I actually thought Aberdeen started better than us but we got the goal at a crucial time,” Robinson said. “We got the second quickly afterwards and from then we’re hard to break down – we’re a team that don’t concede many goals. We’ve got a real strong defensive unit, you don’t lose games if you don’t concede goals. I haven’t seen the first goal but, for the amount of decisions that have gone against us this season, I’ll take it.” At 2-0, Motherwell looked comfortable but not impregnable, especially after Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn were sent on to work the flanks for Aberdeen. McGinn’s arrival on the hour fuelled a surge that brought the Dons’ first truly menacing attempt on goal – an Adam Rooney drive beaten out by Trevor Carson for Aberdeen’s only corner kick. It came to nothing and, within a minute, Main seized upon a lurid mistake by Arnason, who attempted a volleyed clearance on the halfway line but managed only to drive the ball off the striker, who then bore down unchecked on the Aberdeen box to beat Lewis with a flamboyant left foot drive. “The first goal, we don’t deal with the long ball. It’s still a handball,” McInnes said. “The second goal, I thought at the time was a foul on Arnason. I’ve seen it again, I don’t think it is. “2-0 and you’re still in the game. 3-0 killed it. Today, the squad was stretched and that shouldn’t be the case for a club like Aberdeen. I’m responsible for that side of it. I know what needs to be done in the summer.”
Curtis Main scores twice to send Motherwell to Scottish Cup Final at Aberdeen's expense
The consensus was that Motherwell and Aberdeen were playing merely for the right to lose to Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final, but there was professional pride at stake at Hampden Park and by the end it belonged to the Steelmen. Stephen Robinson’s players ran Aberdeen off the ball, hustled them into horrible errors and punished the Dons with three goals, the recollection of which will awaken Derek McInnes in a cold sweat at dead of night. Aberdeen were runners-up in all three domestic competitions last season but have regressed this campaign, with only the possibility of a second-place league finish remaining. Curtis Main exemplified Motherwell’s spirit and desire in this semi-final, scoring in each half and also hunting the Aberdeen defenders deep inside their own territory with a man-of-the-match performance. The man from South Shields has banished the Fir Park fans’ regret for the departure of Louis Moult to Preston in January. Both managers had to reshuffle their personnel but Motherwell fared better from the switches. Stephen Robinson restored Allan Campbell to midfield after missing the 0-0 draw at St Johnstone, with Gael Bigirimana relegated to the bench. Chris Cadden, Andy Rose and Charles Dunne replaced Elliott Frear, Barry Maguire and Carl McHugh. Motherwell players aplaude their fans Credit: PA Motherwell’s morale had been further boosted by Dunne, Ryan Bowman, Cedric Kipre and Richard Tait all agreeing contract extensions. Aberdeen also made four changes from the team beaten 2-0 by Hearts at Tynecastle, with Chidi Nwakali back from injury and Adam Rooney, Dominic Ball and Kari Arnason in for Graeme Shinnie, Shay Logan and Kenny McLean, with Niall McGinn dropping to the bench. One of the discussion points during the build-up was whether Motherwell would attempt to impose themselves physically, a proposition that took less than 20 seconds to be endorsed as Andrew Rose clattered into Greg Stewart to concede the first foul. Subtlety was exiled from the opening 20 minutes, a period which would have gratified the Red Baron as an illustration of attrition in aerial combat. Motherwell played long, unabashed by their lack of subtlety, but, just as Aberdeen looked like they were gaining the measure of the ploy, it paid off with the breakthrough. Tait chased a lob into the box, where he used his right arm to keep the ball in his path. Ball made the fatal error of failing to play the whistle and stopped dead, looking for the referee to intervene. With Kevin Clancy unsighted, Tait passed square for Main to stab home. If Aberdeen were aggrieved by that, they were incensed by what followed two minutes later although they were once again culpable. Scott McKenna, captain for the absent Shinnie, knocked a clearance backwards into his own box, where Bowman bundled Arnason aside for a shot which struck Joe Lewis on the chest. The rebound fell back to Bowman, who switched to his left foot to steer the ball between the inert Lewis and the despairing McKenna. Adam Rooney (L) had Aberdeen's only real chance of the game Credit: Getty Images “I actually thought Aberdeen started better than us but we got the goal at a crucial time,” Robinson said. “We got the second quickly afterwards and from then we’re hard to break down – we’re a team that don’t concede many goals. We’ve got a real strong defensive unit, you don’t lose games if you don’t concede goals. I haven’t seen the first goal but, for the amount of decisions that have gone against us this season, I’ll take it.” At 2-0, Motherwell looked comfortable but not impregnable, especially after Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn were sent on to work the flanks for Aberdeen. McGinn’s arrival on the hour fuelled a surge that brought the Dons’ first truly menacing attempt on goal – an Adam Rooney drive beaten out by Trevor Carson for Aberdeen’s only corner kick. It came to nothing and, within a minute, Main seized upon a lurid mistake by Arnason, who attempted a volleyed clearance on the halfway line but managed only to drive the ball off the striker, who then bore down unchecked on the Aberdeen box to beat Lewis with a flamboyant left foot drive. “The first goal, we don’t deal with the long ball. It’s still a handball,” McInnes said. “The second goal, I thought at the time was a foul on Arnason. I’ve seen it again, I don’t think it is. “2-0 and you’re still in the game. 3-0 killed it. Today, the squad was stretched and that shouldn’t be the case for a club like Aberdeen. I’m responsible for that side of it. I know what needs to be done in the summer.”
The consensus was that Motherwell and Aberdeen were playing merely for the right to lose to Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final, but there was professional pride at stake at Hampden Park and by the end it belonged to the Steelmen. Stephen Robinson’s players ran Aberdeen off the ball, hustled them into horrible errors and punished the Dons with three goals, the recollection of which will awaken Derek McInnes in a cold sweat at dead of night. Aberdeen were runners-up in all three domestic competitions last season but have regressed this campaign, with only the possibility of a second-place league finish remaining. Curtis Main exemplified Motherwell’s spirit and desire in this semi-final, scoring in each half and also hunting the Aberdeen defenders deep inside their own territory with a man-of-the-match performance. The man from South Shields has banished the Fir Park fans’ regret for the departure of Louis Moult to Preston in January. Both managers had to reshuffle their personnel but Motherwell fared better from the switches. Stephen Robinson restored Allan Campbell to midfield after missing the 0-0 draw at St Johnstone, with Gael Bigirimana relegated to the bench. Chris Cadden, Andy Rose and Charles Dunne replaced Elliott Frear, Barry Maguire and Carl McHugh. Motherwell players aplaude their fans Credit: PA Motherwell’s morale had been further boosted by Dunne, Ryan Bowman, Cedric Kipre and Richard Tait all agreeing contract extensions. Aberdeen also made four changes from the team beaten 2-0 by Hearts at Tynecastle, with Chidi Nwakali back from injury and Adam Rooney, Dominic Ball and Kari Arnason in for Graeme Shinnie, Shay Logan and Kenny McLean, with Niall McGinn dropping to the bench. One of the discussion points during the build-up was whether Motherwell would attempt to impose themselves physically, a proposition that took less than 20 seconds to be endorsed as Andrew Rose clattered into Greg Stewart to concede the first foul. Subtlety was exiled from the opening 20 minutes, a period which would have gratified the Red Baron as an illustration of attrition in aerial combat. Motherwell played long, unabashed by their lack of subtlety, but, just as Aberdeen looked like they were gaining the measure of the ploy, it paid off with the breakthrough. Tait chased a lob into the box, where he used his right arm to keep the ball in his path. Ball made the fatal error of failing to play the whistle and stopped dead, looking for the referee to intervene. With Kevin Clancy unsighted, Tait passed square for Main to stab home. If Aberdeen were aggrieved by that, they were incensed by what followed two minutes later although they were once again culpable. Scott McKenna, captain for the absent Shinnie, knocked a clearance backwards into his own box, where Bowman bundled Arnason aside for a shot which struck Joe Lewis on the chest. The rebound fell back to Bowman, who switched to his left foot to steer the ball between the inert Lewis and the despairing McKenna. Adam Rooney (L) had Aberdeen's only real chance of the game Credit: Getty Images “I actually thought Aberdeen started better than us but we got the goal at a crucial time,” Robinson said. “We got the second quickly afterwards and from then we’re hard to break down – we’re a team that don’t concede many goals. We’ve got a real strong defensive unit, you don’t lose games if you don’t concede goals. I haven’t seen the first goal but, for the amount of decisions that have gone against us this season, I’ll take it.” At 2-0, Motherwell looked comfortable but not impregnable, especially after Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn were sent on to work the flanks for Aberdeen. McGinn’s arrival on the hour fuelled a surge that brought the Dons’ first truly menacing attempt on goal – an Adam Rooney drive beaten out by Trevor Carson for Aberdeen’s only corner kick. It came to nothing and, within a minute, Main seized upon a lurid mistake by Arnason, who attempted a volleyed clearance on the halfway line but managed only to drive the ball off the striker, who then bore down unchecked on the Aberdeen box to beat Lewis with a flamboyant left foot drive. “The first goal, we don’t deal with the long ball. It’s still a handball,” McInnes said. “The second goal, I thought at the time was a foul on Arnason. I’ve seen it again, I don’t think it is. “2-0 and you’re still in the game. 3-0 killed it. Today, the squad was stretched and that shouldn’t be the case for a club like Aberdeen. I’m responsible for that side of it. I know what needs to be done in the summer.”
Curtis Main scores twice to send Motherwell to Scottish Cup Final at Aberdeen's expense
The consensus was that Motherwell and Aberdeen were playing merely for the right to lose to Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup final, but there was professional pride at stake at Hampden Park and by the end it belonged to the Steelmen. Stephen Robinson’s players ran Aberdeen off the ball, hustled them into horrible errors and punished the Dons with three goals, the recollection of which will awaken Derek McInnes in a cold sweat at dead of night. Aberdeen were runners-up in all three domestic competitions last season but have regressed this campaign, with only the possibility of a second-place league finish remaining. Curtis Main exemplified Motherwell’s spirit and desire in this semi-final, scoring in each half and also hunting the Aberdeen defenders deep inside their own territory with a man-of-the-match performance. The man from South Shields has banished the Fir Park fans’ regret for the departure of Louis Moult to Preston in January. Both managers had to reshuffle their personnel but Motherwell fared better from the switches. Stephen Robinson restored Allan Campbell to midfield after missing the 0-0 draw at St Johnstone, with Gael Bigirimana relegated to the bench. Chris Cadden, Andy Rose and Charles Dunne replaced Elliott Frear, Barry Maguire and Carl McHugh. Motherwell players aplaude their fans Credit: PA Motherwell’s morale had been further boosted by Dunne, Ryan Bowman, Cedric Kipre and Richard Tait all agreeing contract extensions. Aberdeen also made four changes from the team beaten 2-0 by Hearts at Tynecastle, with Chidi Nwakali back from injury and Adam Rooney, Dominic Ball and Kari Arnason in for Graeme Shinnie, Shay Logan and Kenny McLean, with Niall McGinn dropping to the bench. One of the discussion points during the build-up was whether Motherwell would attempt to impose themselves physically, a proposition that took less than 20 seconds to be endorsed as Andrew Rose clattered into Greg Stewart to concede the first foul. Subtlety was exiled from the opening 20 minutes, a period which would have gratified the Red Baron as an illustration of attrition in aerial combat. Motherwell played long, unabashed by their lack of subtlety, but, just as Aberdeen looked like they were gaining the measure of the ploy, it paid off with the breakthrough. Tait chased a lob into the box, where he used his right arm to keep the ball in his path. Ball made the fatal error of failing to play the whistle and stopped dead, looking for the referee to intervene. With Kevin Clancy unsighted, Tait passed square for Main to stab home. If Aberdeen were aggrieved by that, they were incensed by what followed two minutes later although they were once again culpable. Scott McKenna, captain for the absent Shinnie, knocked a clearance backwards into his own box, where Bowman bundled Arnason aside for a shot which struck Joe Lewis on the chest. The rebound fell back to Bowman, who switched to his left foot to steer the ball between the inert Lewis and the despairing McKenna. Adam Rooney (L) had Aberdeen's only real chance of the game Credit: Getty Images “I actually thought Aberdeen started better than us but we got the goal at a crucial time,” Robinson said. “We got the second quickly afterwards and from then we’re hard to break down – we’re a team that don’t concede many goals. We’ve got a real strong defensive unit, you don’t lose games if you don’t concede goals. I haven’t seen the first goal but, for the amount of decisions that have gone against us this season, I’ll take it.” At 2-0, Motherwell looked comfortable but not impregnable, especially after Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn were sent on to work the flanks for Aberdeen. McGinn’s arrival on the hour fuelled a surge that brought the Dons’ first truly menacing attempt on goal – an Adam Rooney drive beaten out by Trevor Carson for Aberdeen’s only corner kick. It came to nothing and, within a minute, Main seized upon a lurid mistake by Arnason, who attempted a volleyed clearance on the halfway line but managed only to drive the ball off the striker, who then bore down unchecked on the Aberdeen box to beat Lewis with a flamboyant left foot drive. “The first goal, we don’t deal with the long ball. It’s still a handball,” McInnes said. “The second goal, I thought at the time was a foul on Arnason. I’ve seen it again, I don’t think it is. “2-0 and you’re still in the game. 3-0 killed it. Today, the squad was stretched and that shouldn’t be the case for a club like Aberdeen. I’m responsible for that side of it. I know what needs to be done in the summer.”
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor getting lift from Scotland call-ups, claims Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor getting lift from Scotland call-ups, claims Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
Scottish Cup quarter-final ties given the go-ahead despite Morton's fears over fan safety
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
Scottish Cup quarter-final ties given the go-ahead despite Morton's fears over fan safety
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Rangers beat St Johnstone 4-1
Rangers beat St Johnstone 4-1
Rangers beat St Johnstone 4-1
Rangers beat St Johnstone 4-1 (AFP Photo/IAN MACNICOL)
Rangers beat St Johnstone 4-1
Rangers beat St Johnstone 4-1 (AFP Photo/IAN MACNICOL)
Despite Celtic’s advance on a second successive domestic treble, Scottish football is getting more competitive at its top level, according to Graeme Murty. The Rangers manager made his case after Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Heart of Midlothian, which saw his side move to within six points of Celtic ahead of the leaders’ meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday. Although Celtic have faltered during this campaign, those sides closest to them in the table have previously been unable to close the gap because of their own stumbles. Murty, though, cited the fact that the champions’ points advantage is significantly less than half of what it was a year ago. He said: “Their nearest rivals are closer than for a long time and getting closer to the league that we all want it to be. So, regardless of what Celtic do, our job is to push ourselves further and improve and make sure that, come the end of the season, we’re still talking about title races and challenges at the top of the table and in the Scottish Cup. “We want to be right at the top of the table and involved in every competition we compete in. I’m sure Derek McInnes is saying that at Aberdeen, Neil Lennon is saying that at Hibs and Craig Levein is saying that at Hearts. We want to be closer to what Celtic have done over the last period and, whilst being respectful to them, we want to make sure the season isn’t over by March. “We’re closer but we’re not where we need to be. We’re still improving, we’re still gelling and getting the group tighter and quicker with the ball and more cohesive in all departments.” Alfredo Morales, Rangers’ Colombian striker, stated last week that his aim was to move to an English club, a declaration which Murty declared laudable. “Yes. We want ambitious players here – players that are hungry to get to that next level,” he said. “We have just signed contracts with Josh Windass and James Tavernier, who are ambitious, still hungry to go and play at the highest level, but they understand that this place, this environment, gives them a fantastic platform. “We play in front of masses and masses of people at home. Our fans travel in their thousands away and we get fantastic coverage in the media, so there are not many places in Britain which get better coverage than we get and if Alfredo wants to go to England, he’s got things he has to do here that will bring that closer to being a reality for him. “He wants to be on the pitch scoring goals and I think that his last few performances have shown that he’s a real asset to the team. He’s shown good enthusiasm, good quality and that predatory instinct that we love. “At the moment, fatigue hasn’t become an issue. What we do have is a really, really good squad that means that, if we get the opportunity, or we need to, we can freshen things up. “As I keep on reiterating, though, this group has not finished growing yet. You’ve seen it just at the very, very start of its journey and we have to continue that growth. “There will be setbacks along the way. There will be knockbacks. We just have to understand what we are building. We are closer than we have been recently. But close doesn’t appease people. We want to be in front.” Rangers scored late in each half, taking the lead just before the break from Jamie Murphy and securing their three points two minutes before full- time when Russell Martin netted his first for the club with a tap-in. Elsewhere, Hibernian stunned Kilmarnock at Rugby Park with a first-minute strike by Florian Kamberi and a header by Ryan Porteous and by the interval the visitors could claim that they were unfortunate not to have doubled their advantage. Kilmarnock, though, responded with a swift double on their own account, first with a Jordan Jones shot and then with a penalty kick by Kris Boyd, in a match which finished 2-2. At the other end of the table, Ross County remained bottom when they lost 2-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where Murray Davidson netted a double and a poor day for the Staggies deteriorated when Craig Curran was sent off in the closing stages. Partick Thistle dropped into the relegation play-off place when their habit of conceding last-gasp goals materialised again with David Templeton’s injury time winner in a 2-1 defeat at Hamilton, who leapfrogged the Jags into 10th spot. Accies are now two points behind Dundee, whose fans were noisily unhappy at losing to Motherwell at Dens Park, where Craig Tanner scored the only goal.
Scottish football is getting more competitive at the top, insists Rangers manager Graeme Murty
Despite Celtic’s advance on a second successive domestic treble, Scottish football is getting more competitive at its top level, according to Graeme Murty. The Rangers manager made his case after Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Heart of Midlothian, which saw his side move to within six points of Celtic ahead of the leaders’ meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday. Although Celtic have faltered during this campaign, those sides closest to them in the table have previously been unable to close the gap because of their own stumbles. Murty, though, cited the fact that the champions’ points advantage is significantly less than half of what it was a year ago. He said: “Their nearest rivals are closer than for a long time and getting closer to the league that we all want it to be. So, regardless of what Celtic do, our job is to push ourselves further and improve and make sure that, come the end of the season, we’re still talking about title races and challenges at the top of the table and in the Scottish Cup. “We want to be right at the top of the table and involved in every competition we compete in. I’m sure Derek McInnes is saying that at Aberdeen, Neil Lennon is saying that at Hibs and Craig Levein is saying that at Hearts. We want to be closer to what Celtic have done over the last period and, whilst being respectful to them, we want to make sure the season isn’t over by March. “We’re closer but we’re not where we need to be. We’re still improving, we’re still gelling and getting the group tighter and quicker with the ball and more cohesive in all departments.” Alfredo Morales, Rangers’ Colombian striker, stated last week that his aim was to move to an English club, a declaration which Murty declared laudable. “Yes. We want ambitious players here – players that are hungry to get to that next level,” he said. “We have just signed contracts with Josh Windass and James Tavernier, who are ambitious, still hungry to go and play at the highest level, but they understand that this place, this environment, gives them a fantastic platform. “We play in front of masses and masses of people at home. Our fans travel in their thousands away and we get fantastic coverage in the media, so there are not many places in Britain which get better coverage than we get and if Alfredo wants to go to England, he’s got things he has to do here that will bring that closer to being a reality for him. “He wants to be on the pitch scoring goals and I think that his last few performances have shown that he’s a real asset to the team. He’s shown good enthusiasm, good quality and that predatory instinct that we love. “At the moment, fatigue hasn’t become an issue. What we do have is a really, really good squad that means that, if we get the opportunity, or we need to, we can freshen things up. “As I keep on reiterating, though, this group has not finished growing yet. You’ve seen it just at the very, very start of its journey and we have to continue that growth. “There will be setbacks along the way. There will be knockbacks. We just have to understand what we are building. We are closer than we have been recently. But close doesn’t appease people. We want to be in front.” Rangers scored late in each half, taking the lead just before the break from Jamie Murphy and securing their three points two minutes before full- time when Russell Martin netted his first for the club with a tap-in. Elsewhere, Hibernian stunned Kilmarnock at Rugby Park with a first-minute strike by Florian Kamberi and a header by Ryan Porteous and by the interval the visitors could claim that they were unfortunate not to have doubled their advantage. Kilmarnock, though, responded with a swift double on their own account, first with a Jordan Jones shot and then with a penalty kick by Kris Boyd, in a match which finished 2-2. At the other end of the table, Ross County remained bottom when they lost 2-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where Murray Davidson netted a double and a poor day for the Staggies deteriorated when Craig Curran was sent off in the closing stages. Partick Thistle dropped into the relegation play-off place when their habit of conceding last-gasp goals materialised again with David Templeton’s injury time winner in a 2-1 defeat at Hamilton, who leapfrogged the Jags into 10th spot. Accies are now two points behind Dundee, whose fans were noisily unhappy at losing to Motherwell at Dens Park, where Craig Tanner scored the only goal.
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Celtic head to happy hunting ground hoping to replicate Parkhead perfection
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Celtic head to happy hunting ground hoping to replicate Parkhead perfection
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Celtic head to happy hunting ground hoping to replicate Parkhead perfection
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Alex McLeish backs calls for Scotland to remain at Hampden Park
Alex McLeish backed Hampden Park to remain Scotland’s home ground as he began the preparations for his second spell as national manager. The Scottish Football Association are in the process of considering whether to remain at Hampden – where their administrative offices are based, alongside those of the Scottish Professional Football League – or switch major internationals and Scottish Cup finals to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby. The stadium in Mount Florida saw McLeish win many of 77 Scotland caps between 1980 and 1993 and it was there that he scored in Aberdeen’s 4-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers on his 200th appearance for the Dons. “I would like to stay here,” McLeish said. “If it is a question of modernisation, sometimes we have to move forward but I’ve got to say it would be hard to leave Hampden.” The venerable ground will be the venue for the first contest of McLeish’s second tenure in charge when the Scots host Costa Rica in a Friday night friendly on March 23. The countries have met only once and recollections of the occasion are painful for McLeish, who was a member of the Scotland side beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica in the Italia ’90 World Cup finals. It is a measure of the decline in Scotland’s fortunes that 28 years ago a defeat in the finals of a major tournament was regarded as a calamity. “The front of the Daily Record was brilliant - or when I look back on it now it was brilliant!” said McLeish. “It was a big picture of the world with ‘Stop the World, we want to get aff!’ written on it. Then there were a few faces which “had to go” and I was one of them. “Fortunately, we redeemed ourselves against Sweden but it was a very apprehensive game. Now, after 22 years of not being at a big tournament we would bite your hand off to do it. “Everyone would be grateful for an early exit just because it would mean that we are there at last but, in saying that, in those days and even now, you always have to be ambitious. “When we got there, we tried to get to the next stage, even if we never quite made that. Just to get to three finals in my playing days was a fantastic feeling.” Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia after a 2-2 in Slovenia Credit: PA Given that the transition from Gordon Strachan to McLeish is also a handover from one former Aberdeen player to another who was a Pittodrie team mate, it is possible to wonder if there will be discernible difference between the two regimes. “I have spoken about attention to detail,” said McLeish. “I'm not saying Gordon didn't do that but I believe that a year on - and a tournament - a lot of the lads were involved in these games and you would expect them to learn from that. What I can do is empower players. “How do you empower them? You can show things they have done well to give them the chest puffed out but you can also show them things from the past that they could have done better. These are the little details. “I am not discarding anybody at the moment. I believe there are little tweaks that can happen. A lot of them play in England at the highest level and I've seen a huge difference with a lot of the young players who are coming through in Scotland so, having moved on a season, I feel it's time to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020.” Martin Boyle celebrates scoring the opening goal for Hibernian Credit: Getty Images Two of McLeish’s former clubs met in the game of the day at Easter Road, where Hibs – whom he managed between 1998 and 2001 – hosted Aberdeen, who were bidding for a win that would cut Celtic’s lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of today’s (Sun) home outing against St Johnstone. By way of contrast, Celtic’s advantage over Aberdeen on the same weekend last year was a massive 27 points from one game fewer played. Easter Road accommodated 17,205 spectators and, after a goalless first half, the home fans celebrated when Hibs netted within a minute of the restart. Jamie Maclaren had two efforts blocked by Freddie Woodman but the rebound from his second attempt was headed home by Martin Boyle. Hibs doubled their advantage om the hour when a Martin Boyle shot diverted into the path of Florian Kamberi, who found the mark from close range. Elsewhere, two late goals by Simon Murray thwarted Partick Thistle, for whom Conor Sammon had struck the opener just before half time. Kilmarnock’s fine run continued at Fir Park where Stephen O’Donnell’s strike saw the Ayrshire side leapfrog Motherwell into the top six of the Scottish Premiership table.
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Celtic's injury list for Zenit St Petersburg tie grows with Nir Bitton ruled out for season
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Celtic's injury list for Zenit St Petersburg tie grows with Nir Bitton ruled out for season
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
Celtic's injury list for Zenit St Petersburg tie grows with Nir Bitton ruled out for season
Nir Bitton is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season, Brendan Rodgers revealed as he assessed Celtic’s injury-blighted squad prior to Thursday's Europa League meeting with Zenit St Petersburg at Parkhead in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. The Israeli midfielder joins a casualty list that would constitute the better part of a decent domestic team, as the Celtic manager acknowledged wryly when he said: “They could have won a treble last year!” Others out of contention are Craig Gordon, Anthony Ralston, Dedryck Boyata, Stuart Armstrong, Patrick Roberts, Johnny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths. Tom Rogic has been named in the Celtic squad but will not start and could yet be held back for the visit of St Johnstone on Sunday. Marvin Compper is ineligible. “Overall, this year has been - in terms of injuries - tough,” Rodgers said. “Nir Bitton will probably be out for the season which is a blow for us. He has an issue with his knee and probably needs an operation and that is probably him for the rest of the season. It is a shame for Nir because he has been an important member of our squad. “We are hoping some of the others will be back sooner rather than later.” Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, has gone back to his parent club to have a troublesome hamstring injury monitored. Griffiths aside, the forward areas of the team are relatively unscathed, in terms of those who could command a regular starting place, but the Hoops defence is a serious concern, especially against a Zenit side who finished the group stage as top scorers in the competition with 17 goals. Patrick Roberts has returned to Man City for treatment Credit: Reuters Beaten by Kilmarnock in a Scottish Premiership fixture at Rugby Park, Celtic recovered to win 3-2 against Partick Thistle in last weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie but the Jags got their goals through frailty in the Hoops' back line and came very close to forcing a replay in injury time when Ryan Edwards was thwarted by an outstanding challenge by Kieran Tierney. “You are trying to map out with the players, as often as you can, that you have to be concentrated in every single game you play, but sometimes we give away soft goals purely on concentration level, nothing else,” Rodgers said. “We have shown we can defend really well and normally in the big games we do, but when you come to this level it is different. “Domestically, you can maybe assess the position and come away. At this level you have got to keep checking your space because the minute you come away from it and you don’t check they are gone. “We saw a goal against Bayern Munich like that. Our centre half checks the winger, thinks he is in good position, doesn’t check again for a few seconds and when he looks back he’s gone. Coman is in and scores. “Zenit are a very good team. If you look at how they play, they are what you would consider to be a top European team with speed, power, technique and ability. They obviously have all of that. They will expect to do very, very well in the competition having won five of their six group games to get through to this stage.” Despite superior firepower and a costlier squad than Celtic, if Zenit are at any disadvantage it is that they are coming off a prolonged spell without competitive football since a Russian Premier League fixture away to Akhmat which finished goalless on December 11. Brendan Rodgers is preparing his side for a tough Europa League tie Credit: Reuters When Celtic have been obliged to play early European qualifiers in July, it has been routine to cite the absence of competitive fixtures as a drawback when playing against opponents who are in mid-season. Rodgers, however, declined to accept that the same stricture should apply to Zenit. “The break could maybe freshen them and revitalise them and then they go again,” he said. “It just depends. We have the same experience in pre-season when you are not in top condition, but you can still be at a good level.” Of his opposite number, Roberto Mancini, Rodgers said: "Normally Italian coaches are very much set in a defensive block and their shape is hard to break down. Roberto is a bit more aggressive. Zenit play 4-3-3 and press the game higher at times.” In the absence of so many experienced performers, it would be a significant bonus for Celtic if Moussa Dembele could rediscover his exciting early-season form. James Forrest, on recent form, has the capacity to trouble Mancini’s side but, even in Europe’s secondary tournament, the task facing Celtic remains one that induces a degree of pessimism, even allowing for the legendary backing of the home crowd. Probably line-ups Celtic (4-2-3-1): De Vries; Gamboa, Simunovic, Ajer, Tierney; Ntcham, Brown; Forrest, McGregor, Sinclair; Dembele. Zenit St Petersburg (4-3-3): Lodigin; Criscito, Mevlja, Ivanovic, Smolnikov; Kranevitter, Noboa, Yerokhin; Poloz, Kokorin, Rigoni.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Brendan Rodgers reminds Celtic to beware the strength of Zenit St Petersberg
As Celtic seek their first European home win outside qualifying matches under Brendan Rodgers, their manager warned that Zenit St Petersburg are a stronger team than Anderlecht, who were edged out by his men for a place in the Europa League. The tournament sees Zenit – managed by Roberto Mancini who was formerly in charge of Manchester City – come to the east end of Glasgow on Thursday. Rodgers has guided Celtic to successive Champions League group stage appearances and also into the knockout stage of this season’s Europa League, but they have been unable to post a home win in six attempts against Barcelona, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Their best group stage performance was the 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Brussels, but Rodgers’ players lost the subsequent encounter at Parkhead to a Jozo Simunovic own goal. Against Zenit, Rodgers would have preferred to play the first leg in Russia. “Everyone likes the second leg at home. You know what you are playing for then,” said Rodgers. “It’s not the worst to have the first leg at home. You can try to get some sort of advantage. If you can keep a clean sheet, it gives you a real motivation going away. Brendan Rodgers is excited by the challenge his Celtic team will face in the Europa Cup Credit: Getty Images “I have looked at Zenit, and they play slightly differently from Manchester City. At Manchester City, Roberto had very much a defensive block with quality players. “It was 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 at times. This team is very clearly 4-3-3. They press the game. It is certainly a change from how his Man City team played. “Branislav Ivanovic is there, who I worked with at Chelsea. He has gone back out there and is a real linchpin for the team. He has still got good legs and strength and power and experience. “He is playing as a centre-half. That was his actual position when they brought him in to Chelsea. He ended up playing a lot at right-back and doing really well there. It is a really difficult game for us. They are a very good side.” In other circumstances, Rodgers’ CV would have included a spell as Mancini’s No 2. “Roberto had his first season at Manchester City, and I was asked to come and speak to them about maybe going in there to assist and work,” he said. “I flew out to Italy to meet him at the end of the season. We had a chat out there, then I came back, and it was a case of the Swansea position coming up, and I think Roberto was probably wanting his own man in as well. It worked out that I went to Swansea and Roberto had David Platt, whom he knew from Sampdoria.” Celtic extended the defence of their treble of domestic honours with a home victory over Partick Thistle in the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday. In contrast to their performance in the 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park the previous weekend, they got off to a racing start with a James Forrest double, the second of which saw the winger run from the halfway line for a right-foot finish beyond goalkeeper Tomas Cerny. Kyle Lafferty celebrated scoring a brace for Hearts 3-0 win over St Johnstone Credit: PA The Jags looked beaten but were revived when Simunovic played an attempted a pass back to Dorus de Vries straight into the path of Kris Doolan, who marked his 350th appearance for Thistle with a first-time left-foot chip over De Vries. When Forrest netted his hat-trick after the break, Celtic looked safe, but Connor Sammon revived Thistle’s hopes with a late close-range strike, and it took a tackle by Kieran Tierney and a clutch on the line by De Vries to prevent Ryan Edwards stealing a draw in injury time. Also into the quarter-finals are Hearts, whose 3-0 home win over St Johnstone included a Kyle Lafferty brace, and Kilmarnock, who ended Brora Rangers’ progress with a 4-0 win over at Rugby Park. The other Highland League team, Cove Rangers, were beaten 3-1 at home by Falkirk, while in the all-Premiership collision at Dens Park, Dundee lost 2-0 to Motherwell. The remaining tie of the day was at Cappielow, where Morton prevailed against their trans-Clyde rivals, Dumbarton, with goals from Frank Ross, Jack Iredale and Bob McHugh. Today’s games see Ayr United at home to Rangers and Aberdeen against Dundee United at Pittodrie, where the quarter-final draw will be made.
Craig Levein was accused by Brendan Rodgers of having an obsession about Scott Brown, after the Hearts manager returned once again to the subject of Celtic’s captain and his combative style of play. Levein had previously voiced concern about a challenge by Brown on Harry Cochrane, which put the 16-year-old Hearts midfielder out of the game with a collarbone injury before half-time in Celtic’s 3-1 victory at Parkhead on January 30. Rodgers retorted that the decision to field the teenager in such a high-intensity game was questionable, although Cochrane had scored in Hearts’ 4-0 win over the champions at Tynecastle in December. Celtic lost their second domestic match under Rodgers on Saturday at Kilmarnock, with Brown booked in the 73rd minute, prompting him to say afterwards, in reference to Levein: “He has done his job, hasn’t he? I was booked with my first foul and that is exactly what Craig was looking to do.” Levein, however, postulated the theory that Brown had deliberately drawn a yellow card to manipulate the disciplinary process ahead of the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on March 11. “If Scott didn’t get booked against Kilmarnock and got booked against St Johnstone [on 18 February] then he’d miss the Rangers game,” Levein said. The former Scotland boss added: “I’m not trying to irritate anybody. I’m just pointing stuff out. Scott Brown mentioned last week that he got booked because of me bringing to attention his proclivity to foul people. I disagree with that. “I’m just pointing out things that are obvious. I think you’ll find that his intentions were always to get himself booked in that game so he didn’t miss the Rangers match. “That sort of things happens all the time. Anybody who is sensible would look at the situation if there is a particular game they want to play in and know they need to get booked to miss a game prior to that. I did it myself when I was playing, so it happens. I don’t know Scott’s intentions, but I’m just pointing out the fact. That’s all.” Levein’s comments evoked scorn from Rodgers, who said: “He is obviously fairly obsessed by our captain. It is a credit to Scott that you’ve got another manager, who is not even playing against him, talking about him. “If that is what has been said – and I haven’t seen it yet, so I have to see it – then he might have something to answer on that.” Whether or not that was a hint to the Scottish Football Association to consider a disrepute charge against Levein is a moot point, but the long-distance exchanges might not yet have run their course. In the meantime, Celtic will attempt to expunge the memory of last weekend’s anaemic display at Rugby Park by defending one of the three trophies in their possession when they meet Partick Thistle at home in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round on Saturday. Rodgers expressed gratitude for the rare absence of a midweek fixture. “It’s been brilliant. It was good, obviously, after the game to give the players two days off and then we were back in working,” he said. “We’ve had a great week’s training and been able to do some work which is very important. We’re now looking forward to the schedule ahead.” There was mixed news, meanwhile, about the lengthy casualty list at Parkhead. “It’s just unfortunate,” Rodgers said. “Kris Ajer should be fine, but he hurt his Achilles last week which was the same injury Nir Bitton had earlier on in the season on that surface [Rugby Park], where you can land awkwardly and it just disrupts you. “The squad is starting to piece itself back together even though we still have some injuries. We have players starting to return and hopefully that will make us really strong for the last part of the season. “We try to not cry about it or moan about it, but certainly it is a factor and it doesn’t help when there is constant change in certain areas of the field.”
Brendan Rodgers accuses Craig Levein of being 'fairly obsessed' about Scott Brown
Craig Levein was accused by Brendan Rodgers of having an obsession about Scott Brown, after the Hearts manager returned once again to the subject of Celtic’s captain and his combative style of play. Levein had previously voiced concern about a challenge by Brown on Harry Cochrane, which put the 16-year-old Hearts midfielder out of the game with a collarbone injury before half-time in Celtic’s 3-1 victory at Parkhead on January 30. Rodgers retorted that the decision to field the teenager in such a high-intensity game was questionable, although Cochrane had scored in Hearts’ 4-0 win over the champions at Tynecastle in December. Celtic lost their second domestic match under Rodgers on Saturday at Kilmarnock, with Brown booked in the 73rd minute, prompting him to say afterwards, in reference to Levein: “He has done his job, hasn’t he? I was booked with my first foul and that is exactly what Craig was looking to do.” Levein, however, postulated the theory that Brown had deliberately drawn a yellow card to manipulate the disciplinary process ahead of the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on March 11. “If Scott didn’t get booked against Kilmarnock and got booked against St Johnstone [on 18 February] then he’d miss the Rangers game,” Levein said. The former Scotland boss added: “I’m not trying to irritate anybody. I’m just pointing stuff out. Scott Brown mentioned last week that he got booked because of me bringing to attention his proclivity to foul people. I disagree with that. “I’m just pointing out things that are obvious. I think you’ll find that his intentions were always to get himself booked in that game so he didn’t miss the Rangers match. “That sort of things happens all the time. Anybody who is sensible would look at the situation if there is a particular game they want to play in and know they need to get booked to miss a game prior to that. I did it myself when I was playing, so it happens. I don’t know Scott’s intentions, but I’m just pointing out the fact. That’s all.” Levein’s comments evoked scorn from Rodgers, who said: “He is obviously fairly obsessed by our captain. It is a credit to Scott that you’ve got another manager, who is not even playing against him, talking about him. “If that is what has been said – and I haven’t seen it yet, so I have to see it – then he might have something to answer on that.” Whether or not that was a hint to the Scottish Football Association to consider a disrepute charge against Levein is a moot point, but the long-distance exchanges might not yet have run their course. In the meantime, Celtic will attempt to expunge the memory of last weekend’s anaemic display at Rugby Park by defending one of the three trophies in their possession when they meet Partick Thistle at home in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round on Saturday. Rodgers expressed gratitude for the rare absence of a midweek fixture. “It’s been brilliant. It was good, obviously, after the game to give the players two days off and then we were back in working,” he said. “We’ve had a great week’s training and been able to do some work which is very important. We’re now looking forward to the schedule ahead.” There was mixed news, meanwhile, about the lengthy casualty list at Parkhead. “It’s just unfortunate,” Rodgers said. “Kris Ajer should be fine, but he hurt his Achilles last week which was the same injury Nir Bitton had earlier on in the season on that surface [Rugby Park], where you can land awkwardly and it just disrupts you. “The squad is starting to piece itself back together even though we still have some injuries. We have players starting to return and hopefully that will make us really strong for the last part of the season. “We try to not cry about it or moan about it, but certainly it is a factor and it doesn’t help when there is constant change in certain areas of the field.”
Even for a game of opinions, there was a striking difference in assessments of the second Old Firm derby of the season, which finished goalless on Saturday at Parkhead. Several of the press room regulars felt that it had been a lacklustre event, short of fluency because Rangers played a high press against a Celtic side who looked – not for the first time in recent weeks – somewhat jaded. On the other hand, this correspondent was part of the Radio 5 broadcast team, which included Pat Nevin as summariser and Alistair Bruce-Ball as co-commentator, and it was striking that both remarked upon the positivity of the match, compared with much of what they watch week-to-week in the Premier League in England. Even without goals – in a derby that could easily have had five or six – there was far more to compel attention in the east end of Glasgow than had been witnessed at the previous evening’s meeting of Newcastle United and Manchester City. Celtic fans left the ground less satisfied than their Rangers equivalents, although the result was better for their team in that it maintained their comfortable advantage at the top of the Scottish Premiership. The Rangers contingent, meanwhile, were relieved at not having been shredded by their arch-foes – as many had feared - and optimistic that if, in his spell in charge until the end of the season, Graeme Murty can eke consistency out of his players, they might chip away at Celtic’s superiority. It remains to be seen how many personnel changes there will be on each side of the city in January. Moussa Dembele has looked for some weeks now as though he has already gone elsewhere in his head and, in that regard, the Celtic striker has a counterpart in Carlos Pena, who has never seemed comfortable since Pedro Caixinha spent £2.5 million to bring him to Rangers in the summer. James Tavernier vies with Moussa Dembele Credit: GETTY IMAGES Both camps, though, were united in welcoming the rest afforded by the Scottish Premiership’s short winter break. Brendan Rodgers has given his players a week off before heading for warm-weather training in the Middle East, while Rangers fly to the USA to take part in the Florida Cup, where they will meet Atletico and Fluminese of Brazil. “We wanted to win and we wanted to go into the break off the back of a good win and performance, but it’s been a long year for us with a lot of football,” said Stuart Armstrong, the Hoops midfielder, who played 54 games for Celtic in Scotland in 2017. “It’s been one of the busiest seasons we have had. There was not much break in the summer and now that we’re sitting here at New Year looking back on all our achievements, we should be happy and proud, but the break is important, especially when you have been playing, playing and playing over back-to-back seasons with jaded legs and jaded minds. “You could lose count of the competitions, the games, the travel - everything involved in the fixture list we have. Sometimes it’s important not to forget the intensity of our schedule. The rest will stand us in good stead going forward into the new year.” Celtic, it should not be forgotten, play six European qualifiers – a total that will rise to eight – just to get to the Champions League group stage, and have done so in both of Rodgers’ seasons in charge. Rangers, meanwhile, are simply trying to establish some sort of credibility as domestic contenders. That prospect looked even less likely when Bruno Alves limped off after 18 minutes and the veteran Portuguese centre-back was replaced by David Bates, on only his sixth appearance. The 21 year-old, however, stepped up to the mark – aided by Dembele’s sub-par performance - and was later named as Rangers’ man of the match. Asked how he responded to Rangers fans who assert that if their team had produced similar displays against Dundee, Hamilton and St Johnstone they would have converted defeats into victories to go top of the league, Bates said: “Dundee or Hamilton sit in and play on the counter-attack, so it's a completely different game, but we have taken points from the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs, so maybe we need to do better against others. “Now we go to Florida and Murts has three weeks to put across how he wants us to play. Confidence will be high for the second half of the season. We can’t wait to get started again.”
Old Firm rivals Celtic and Rangers happy to take a break after stalemate
Even for a game of opinions, there was a striking difference in assessments of the second Old Firm derby of the season, which finished goalless on Saturday at Parkhead. Several of the press room regulars felt that it had been a lacklustre event, short of fluency because Rangers played a high press against a Celtic side who looked – not for the first time in recent weeks – somewhat jaded. On the other hand, this correspondent was part of the Radio 5 broadcast team, which included Pat Nevin as summariser and Alistair Bruce-Ball as co-commentator, and it was striking that both remarked upon the positivity of the match, compared with much of what they watch week-to-week in the Premier League in England. Even without goals – in a derby that could easily have had five or six – there was far more to compel attention in the east end of Glasgow than had been witnessed at the previous evening’s meeting of Newcastle United and Manchester City. Celtic fans left the ground less satisfied than their Rangers equivalents, although the result was better for their team in that it maintained their comfortable advantage at the top of the Scottish Premiership. The Rangers contingent, meanwhile, were relieved at not having been shredded by their arch-foes – as many had feared - and optimistic that if, in his spell in charge until the end of the season, Graeme Murty can eke consistency out of his players, they might chip away at Celtic’s superiority. It remains to be seen how many personnel changes there will be on each side of the city in January. Moussa Dembele has looked for some weeks now as though he has already gone elsewhere in his head and, in that regard, the Celtic striker has a counterpart in Carlos Pena, who has never seemed comfortable since Pedro Caixinha spent £2.5 million to bring him to Rangers in the summer. James Tavernier vies with Moussa Dembele Credit: GETTY IMAGES Both camps, though, were united in welcoming the rest afforded by the Scottish Premiership’s short winter break. Brendan Rodgers has given his players a week off before heading for warm-weather training in the Middle East, while Rangers fly to the USA to take part in the Florida Cup, where they will meet Atletico and Fluminese of Brazil. “We wanted to win and we wanted to go into the break off the back of a good win and performance, but it’s been a long year for us with a lot of football,” said Stuart Armstrong, the Hoops midfielder, who played 54 games for Celtic in Scotland in 2017. “It’s been one of the busiest seasons we have had. There was not much break in the summer and now that we’re sitting here at New Year looking back on all our achievements, we should be happy and proud, but the break is important, especially when you have been playing, playing and playing over back-to-back seasons with jaded legs and jaded minds. “You could lose count of the competitions, the games, the travel - everything involved in the fixture list we have. Sometimes it’s important not to forget the intensity of our schedule. The rest will stand us in good stead going forward into the new year.” Celtic, it should not be forgotten, play six European qualifiers – a total that will rise to eight – just to get to the Champions League group stage, and have done so in both of Rodgers’ seasons in charge. Rangers, meanwhile, are simply trying to establish some sort of credibility as domestic contenders. That prospect looked even less likely when Bruno Alves limped off after 18 minutes and the veteran Portuguese centre-back was replaced by David Bates, on only his sixth appearance. The 21 year-old, however, stepped up to the mark – aided by Dembele’s sub-par performance - and was later named as Rangers’ man of the match. Asked how he responded to Rangers fans who assert that if their team had produced similar displays against Dundee, Hamilton and St Johnstone they would have converted defeats into victories to go top of the league, Bates said: “Dundee or Hamilton sit in and play on the counter-attack, so it's a completely different game, but we have taken points from the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs, so maybe we need to do better against others. “Now we go to Florida and Murts has three weeks to put across how he wants us to play. Confidence will be high for the second half of the season. We can’t wait to get started again.”
Even for a game of opinions, there was a striking difference in assessments of the second Old Firm derby of the season, which finished goalless on Saturday at Parkhead. Several of the press room regulars felt that it had been a lacklustre event, short of fluency because Rangers played a high press against a Celtic side who looked – not for the first time in recent weeks – somewhat jaded. On the other hand, this correspondent was part of the Radio 5 broadcast team, which included Pat Nevin as summariser and Alistair Bruce-Ball as co-commentator, and it was striking that both remarked upon the positivity of the match, compared with much of what they watch week-to-week in the Premier League in England. Even without goals – in a derby that could easily have had five or six – there was far more to compel attention in the east end of Glasgow than had been witnessed at the previous evening’s meeting of Newcastle United and Manchester City. Celtic fans left the ground less satisfied than their Rangers equivalents, although the result was better for their team in that it maintained their comfortable advantage at the top of the Scottish Premiership. The Rangers contingent, meanwhile, were relieved at not having been shredded by their arch-foes – as many had feared - and optimistic that if, in his spell in charge until the end of the season, Graeme Murty can eke consistency out of his players, they might chip away at Celtic’s superiority. It remains to be seen how many personnel changes there will be on each side of the city in January. Moussa Dembele has looked for some weeks now as though he has already gone elsewhere in his head and, in that regard, the Celtic striker has a counterpart in Carlos Pena, who has never seemed comfortable since Pedro Caixinha spent £2.5 million to bring him to Rangers in the summer. James Tavernier vies with Moussa Dembele Credit: GETTY IMAGES Both camps, though, were united in welcoming the rest afforded by the Scottish Premiership’s short winter break. Brendan Rodgers has given his players a week off before heading for warm-weather training in the Middle East, while Rangers fly to the USA to take part in the Florida Cup, where they will meet Atletico and Fluminese of Brazil. “We wanted to win and we wanted to go into the break off the back of a good win and performance, but it’s been a long year for us with a lot of football,” said Stuart Armstrong, the Hoops midfielder, who played 54 games for Celtic in Scotland in 2017. “It’s been one of the busiest seasons we have had. There was not much break in the summer and now that we’re sitting here at New Year looking back on all our achievements, we should be happy and proud, but the break is important, especially when you have been playing, playing and playing over back-to-back seasons with jaded legs and jaded minds. “You could lose count of the competitions, the games, the travel - everything involved in the fixture list we have. Sometimes it’s important not to forget the intensity of our schedule. The rest will stand us in good stead going forward into the new year.” Celtic, it should not be forgotten, play six European qualifiers – a total that will rise to eight – just to get to the Champions League group stage, and have done so in both of Rodgers’ seasons in charge. Rangers, meanwhile, are simply trying to establish some sort of credibility as domestic contenders. That prospect looked even less likely when Bruno Alves limped off after 18 minutes and the veteran Portuguese centre-back was replaced by David Bates, on only his sixth appearance. The 21 year-old, however, stepped up to the mark – aided by Dembele’s sub-par performance - and was later named as Rangers’ man of the match. Asked how he responded to Rangers fans who assert that if their team had produced similar displays against Dundee, Hamilton and St Johnstone they would have converted defeats into victories to go top of the league, Bates said: “Dundee or Hamilton sit in and play on the counter-attack, so it's a completely different game, but we have taken points from the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs, so maybe we need to do better against others. “Now we go to Florida and Murts has three weeks to put across how he wants us to play. Confidence will be high for the second half of the season. We can’t wait to get started again.”
Old Firm rivals Celtic and Rangers happy to take a break after stalemate
Even for a game of opinions, there was a striking difference in assessments of the second Old Firm derby of the season, which finished goalless on Saturday at Parkhead. Several of the press room regulars felt that it had been a lacklustre event, short of fluency because Rangers played a high press against a Celtic side who looked – not for the first time in recent weeks – somewhat jaded. On the other hand, this correspondent was part of the Radio 5 broadcast team, which included Pat Nevin as summariser and Alistair Bruce-Ball as co-commentator, and it was striking that both remarked upon the positivity of the match, compared with much of what they watch week-to-week in the Premier League in England. Even without goals – in a derby that could easily have had five or six – there was far more to compel attention in the east end of Glasgow than had been witnessed at the previous evening’s meeting of Newcastle United and Manchester City. Celtic fans left the ground less satisfied than their Rangers equivalents, although the result was better for their team in that it maintained their comfortable advantage at the top of the Scottish Premiership. The Rangers contingent, meanwhile, were relieved at not having been shredded by their arch-foes – as many had feared - and optimistic that if, in his spell in charge until the end of the season, Graeme Murty can eke consistency out of his players, they might chip away at Celtic’s superiority. It remains to be seen how many personnel changes there will be on each side of the city in January. Moussa Dembele has looked for some weeks now as though he has already gone elsewhere in his head and, in that regard, the Celtic striker has a counterpart in Carlos Pena, who has never seemed comfortable since Pedro Caixinha spent £2.5 million to bring him to Rangers in the summer. James Tavernier vies with Moussa Dembele Credit: GETTY IMAGES Both camps, though, were united in welcoming the rest afforded by the Scottish Premiership’s short winter break. Brendan Rodgers has given his players a week off before heading for warm-weather training in the Middle East, while Rangers fly to the USA to take part in the Florida Cup, where they will meet Atletico and Fluminese of Brazil. “We wanted to win and we wanted to go into the break off the back of a good win and performance, but it’s been a long year for us with a lot of football,” said Stuart Armstrong, the Hoops midfielder, who played 54 games for Celtic in Scotland in 2017. “It’s been one of the busiest seasons we have had. There was not much break in the summer and now that we’re sitting here at New Year looking back on all our achievements, we should be happy and proud, but the break is important, especially when you have been playing, playing and playing over back-to-back seasons with jaded legs and jaded minds. “You could lose count of the competitions, the games, the travel - everything involved in the fixture list we have. Sometimes it’s important not to forget the intensity of our schedule. The rest will stand us in good stead going forward into the new year.” Celtic, it should not be forgotten, play six European qualifiers – a total that will rise to eight – just to get to the Champions League group stage, and have done so in both of Rodgers’ seasons in charge. Rangers, meanwhile, are simply trying to establish some sort of credibility as domestic contenders. That prospect looked even less likely when Bruno Alves limped off after 18 minutes and the veteran Portuguese centre-back was replaced by David Bates, on only his sixth appearance. The 21 year-old, however, stepped up to the mark – aided by Dembele’s sub-par performance - and was later named as Rangers’ man of the match. Asked how he responded to Rangers fans who assert that if their team had produced similar displays against Dundee, Hamilton and St Johnstone they would have converted defeats into victories to go top of the league, Bates said: “Dundee or Hamilton sit in and play on the counter-attack, so it's a completely different game, but we have taken points from the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs, so maybe we need to do better against others. “Now we go to Florida and Murts has three weeks to put across how he wants us to play. Confidence will be high for the second half of the season. We can’t wait to get started again.”
There was a time, not so long ago, when mention of a meeting of the top two clubs in Scotland was shorthand for an Old Firm derby. In the continued absence of Rangers as credible contenders, the burden of mounting some form of challenge to Brendan Rodgers & Co has fallen upon Aberdeen, who responded last season by finishing as runners-up in all three domestic competitions. If that was a consistent response to the challenge, it also had the potential to be dispiriting for Derek McInnes and his squad, especially since Celtic won all six meetings of the pair and supplemented that record with a 3-0 victory at Pittodrie in which they produced their single best display of football in 2017. Aberdeen subsequently lost to Rangers home and away but McInnes rebuffed the Ibrox board’s invitation to become their manager, as he had done with Sunderland’s summer approach, prudently as events at the Stadium of Light were to demonstrate. In both instances McInnes declared that he had unfinished business at Pittodrie, which presumably included inflicting some sort of check on Celtic’s imperious progress through the Scottish fixture calendar, a desire that can only have been sharpened by recent developments. Celtic finished the 2016-17 title campaign unbeaten and having shed only eight points from 38 games. The Hoops’ attempt to take their unbeaten record in successive domestic matches to 70 was derailed spectacularly by Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend but, even before that, Celtic had dropped more points by the mid-point of the current campaign that in the whole of Rodgers’ inaugural season. Graeme Shinnie was booked for a tackle on ex-teammate Jonny Hayes Credit: PA Hearts prevailed by adopting the pressing tactics used by Anderlecht when they beat Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League group stage but Aberdeen were more reticent on the leaders’ turf, although the robustness of their challenges saw yellow cards shown to Kari Arnason, Graeme Shinnie and Dominic Ball. The Dons emerged from their defensive cocoon midway through the first half and almost took the lead through Gary Mackay-Steven, scorer of a hat-trick against Hibernian the previous weekend, when the former Celtic midfielder ambushed Dedryck Boyata and drove narrowly beyond the far post. Celtic’s response was instant, a break which put Scott Sinclair one on one against Joe Lewis, who blocked the winger’s shot. Hayes scored Celtic's second against his old side Credit: PA Aberdeen looked value to reach the break unscathed but they were undone by cruel fortune when Mikael Lustig pushed up from his right-back beat for a speculative effort which clipped Ball’s shoulder to veer away from the wrong-footed Lewis. Another capricious rebound, midway through the second half, helped Celtic double their advantage when Sinclair’s cross was headed by Mark Reynold off Arnason’s boot and straight into the path of Jonny Hayes who stabbed his finish across the line to inflict further pain on his former employers. Aberdeen’s miserable afternoon was compounded by a horrible error by Kenny McLean, with a woefully short pass back to Lewis, who could not intervene as Olivier Ntcham capered around him to stroke the ball home and confirm that Celtic would post an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals. The Scottish Premiership season stops next week for a brief winter break, after the second Old Firm derby of the season is contested at Parkhead. On Thursday, Rangers moved to stabilise their managerial situation by confirming interim boss, Graeme Murty, until the end of the season. Murty’s extended tenure began with a setback at Rugby Park, where Kilmarnock’s improved form under Steve Clarke continued as they beat Rangers 2-1, with two goals in three minutes from Kris Boyd, a former Ibrox striker. Murty remained defiant and can at least console himself with the thought that he can speak of a personal unbeaten record at Celtic Park, where he saw Rangers to a 1-1 draw in March while acting as interim manager after Mark Warburton’s departure. “We have a chance next week to measure ourselves against Celtic, who are the benchmark, but we also have to be pushing as a football club to be at the top table,” Murty said. “They are currently there and the team to beat. We have to make up the gap, that’s the aim for the season. “It was the aim at the start and it’s still the aim. We must have an outstanding second half of the season. We have a cup competition to play for and we’re still in touch in the league – albeit we could be closer. If we’re positive and strong, who knows where that could take us?” Celtic might be the benchmark, as Murty says, but few Rangers supporters will nourish much hope that he can repeat the feat of plundering points from the other side of Glasgow, given that the Ibrox side have themselves been pillaged by Dundee, Hamilton, St Johnstone and now Kilmarnock. The Ibrox faithful’s frustration has been compounded by the knowledge that, had they taken maximum reward from fixtures they would once have considered routine, they would lead the standings. As it stands, the message on Celtic’s Christmas card is doubly resonant – joyful and triumphant.
Celtic 3 Aberdeen 0: Hoops extend league lead as Dons disappoint
There was a time, not so long ago, when mention of a meeting of the top two clubs in Scotland was shorthand for an Old Firm derby. In the continued absence of Rangers as credible contenders, the burden of mounting some form of challenge to Brendan Rodgers & Co has fallen upon Aberdeen, who responded last season by finishing as runners-up in all three domestic competitions. If that was a consistent response to the challenge, it also had the potential to be dispiriting for Derek McInnes and his squad, especially since Celtic won all six meetings of the pair and supplemented that record with a 3-0 victory at Pittodrie in which they produced their single best display of football in 2017. Aberdeen subsequently lost to Rangers home and away but McInnes rebuffed the Ibrox board’s invitation to become their manager, as he had done with Sunderland’s summer approach, prudently as events at the Stadium of Light were to demonstrate. In both instances McInnes declared that he had unfinished business at Pittodrie, which presumably included inflicting some sort of check on Celtic’s imperious progress through the Scottish fixture calendar, a desire that can only have been sharpened by recent developments. Celtic finished the 2016-17 title campaign unbeaten and having shed only eight points from 38 games. The Hoops’ attempt to take their unbeaten record in successive domestic matches to 70 was derailed spectacularly by Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend but, even before that, Celtic had dropped more points by the mid-point of the current campaign that in the whole of Rodgers’ inaugural season. Graeme Shinnie was booked for a tackle on ex-teammate Jonny Hayes Credit: PA Hearts prevailed by adopting the pressing tactics used by Anderlecht when they beat Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League group stage but Aberdeen were more reticent on the leaders’ turf, although the robustness of their challenges saw yellow cards shown to Kari Arnason, Graeme Shinnie and Dominic Ball. The Dons emerged from their defensive cocoon midway through the first half and almost took the lead through Gary Mackay-Steven, scorer of a hat-trick against Hibernian the previous weekend, when the former Celtic midfielder ambushed Dedryck Boyata and drove narrowly beyond the far post. Celtic’s response was instant, a break which put Scott Sinclair one on one against Joe Lewis, who blocked the winger’s shot. Hayes scored Celtic's second against his old side Credit: PA Aberdeen looked value to reach the break unscathed but they were undone by cruel fortune when Mikael Lustig pushed up from his right-back beat for a speculative effort which clipped Ball’s shoulder to veer away from the wrong-footed Lewis. Another capricious rebound, midway through the second half, helped Celtic double their advantage when Sinclair’s cross was headed by Mark Reynold off Arnason’s boot and straight into the path of Jonny Hayes who stabbed his finish across the line to inflict further pain on his former employers. Aberdeen’s miserable afternoon was compounded by a horrible error by Kenny McLean, with a woefully short pass back to Lewis, who could not intervene as Olivier Ntcham capered around him to stroke the ball home and confirm that Celtic would post an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals. The Scottish Premiership season stops next week for a brief winter break, after the second Old Firm derby of the season is contested at Parkhead. On Thursday, Rangers moved to stabilise their managerial situation by confirming interim boss, Graeme Murty, until the end of the season. Murty’s extended tenure began with a setback at Rugby Park, where Kilmarnock’s improved form under Steve Clarke continued as they beat Rangers 2-1, with two goals in three minutes from Kris Boyd, a former Ibrox striker. Murty remained defiant and can at least console himself with the thought that he can speak of a personal unbeaten record at Celtic Park, where he saw Rangers to a 1-1 draw in March while acting as interim manager after Mark Warburton’s departure. “We have a chance next week to measure ourselves against Celtic, who are the benchmark, but we also have to be pushing as a football club to be at the top table,” Murty said. “They are currently there and the team to beat. We have to make up the gap, that’s the aim for the season. “It was the aim at the start and it’s still the aim. We must have an outstanding second half of the season. We have a cup competition to play for and we’re still in touch in the league – albeit we could be closer. If we’re positive and strong, who knows where that could take us?” Celtic might be the benchmark, as Murty says, but few Rangers supporters will nourish much hope that he can repeat the feat of plundering points from the other side of Glasgow, given that the Ibrox side have themselves been pillaged by Dundee, Hamilton, St Johnstone and now Kilmarnock. The Ibrox faithful’s frustration has been compounded by the knowledge that, had they taken maximum reward from fixtures they would once have considered routine, they would lead the standings. As it stands, the message on Celtic’s Christmas card is doubly resonant – joyful and triumphant.
There was a time, not so long ago, when mention of a meeting of the top two clubs in Scotland was shorthand for an Old Firm derby. In the continued absence of Rangers as credible contenders, the burden of mounting some form of challenge to Brendan Rodgers & Co has fallen upon Aberdeen, who responded last season by finishing as runners-up in all three domestic competitions. If that was a consistent response to the challenge, it also had the potential to be dispiriting for Derek McInnes and his squad, especially since Celtic won all six meetings of the pair and supplemented that record with a 3-0 victory at Pittodrie in which they produced their single best display of football in 2017. Aberdeen subsequently lost to Rangers home and away but McInnes rebuffed the Ibrox board’s invitation to become their manager, as he had done with Sunderland’s summer approach, prudently as events at the Stadium of Light were to demonstrate. In both instances McInnes declared that he had unfinished business at Pittodrie, which presumably included inflicting some sort of check on Celtic’s imperious progress through the Scottish fixture calendar, a desire that can only have been sharpened by recent developments. Celtic finished the 2016-17 title campaign unbeaten and having shed only eight points from 38 games. The Hoops’ attempt to take their unbeaten record in successive domestic matches to 70 was derailed spectacularly by Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend but, even before that, Celtic had dropped more points by the mid-point of the current campaign that in the whole of Rodgers’ inaugural season. Graeme Shinnie was booked for a tackle on ex-teammate Jonny Hayes Credit: PA Hearts prevailed by adopting the pressing tactics used by Anderlecht when they beat Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League group stage but Aberdeen were more reticent on the leaders’ turf, although the robustness of their challenges saw yellow cards shown to Kari Arnason, Graeme Shinnie and Dominic Ball. The Dons emerged from their defensive cocoon midway through the first half and almost took the lead through Gary Mackay-Steven, scorer of a hat-trick against Hibernian the previous weekend, when the former Celtic midfielder ambushed Dedryck Boyata and drove narrowly beyond the far post. Celtic’s response was instant, a break which put Scott Sinclair one on one against Joe Lewis, who blocked the winger’s shot. Hayes scored Celtic's second against his old side Credit: PA Aberdeen looked value to reach the break unscathed but they were undone by cruel fortune when Mikael Lustig pushed up from his right-back beat for a speculative effort which clipped Ball’s shoulder to veer away from the wrong-footed Lewis. Another capricious rebound, midway through the second half, helped Celtic double their advantage when Sinclair’s cross was headed by Mark Reynold off Arnason’s boot and straight into the path of Jonny Hayes who stabbed his finish across the line to inflict further pain on his former employers. Aberdeen’s miserable afternoon was compounded by a horrible error by Kenny McLean, with a woefully short pass back to Lewis, who could not intervene as Olivier Ntcham capered around him to stroke the ball home and confirm that Celtic would post an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals. The Scottish Premiership season stops next week for a brief winter break, after the second Old Firm derby of the season is contested at Parkhead. On Thursday, Rangers moved to stabilise their managerial situation by confirming interim boss, Graeme Murty, until the end of the season. Murty’s extended tenure began with a setback at Rugby Park, where Kilmarnock’s improved form under Steve Clarke continued as they beat Rangers 2-1, with two goals in three minutes from Kris Boyd, a former Ibrox striker. Murty remained defiant and can at least console himself with the thought that he can speak of a personal unbeaten record at Celtic Park, where he saw Rangers to a 1-1 draw in March while acting as interim manager after Mark Warburton’s departure. “We have a chance next week to measure ourselves against Celtic, who are the benchmark, but we also have to be pushing as a football club to be at the top table,” Murty said. “They are currently there and the team to beat. We have to make up the gap, that’s the aim for the season. “It was the aim at the start and it’s still the aim. We must have an outstanding second half of the season. We have a cup competition to play for and we’re still in touch in the league – albeit we could be closer. If we’re positive and strong, who knows where that could take us?” Celtic might be the benchmark, as Murty says, but few Rangers supporters will nourish much hope that he can repeat the feat of plundering points from the other side of Glasgow, given that the Ibrox side have themselves been pillaged by Dundee, Hamilton, St Johnstone and now Kilmarnock. The Ibrox faithful’s frustration has been compounded by the knowledge that, had they taken maximum reward from fixtures they would once have considered routine, they would lead the standings. As it stands, the message on Celtic’s Christmas card is doubly resonant – joyful and triumphant.
Celtic 3 Aberdeen 0: Hoops extend league lead as Dons disappoint
There was a time, not so long ago, when mention of a meeting of the top two clubs in Scotland was shorthand for an Old Firm derby. In the continued absence of Rangers as credible contenders, the burden of mounting some form of challenge to Brendan Rodgers & Co has fallen upon Aberdeen, who responded last season by finishing as runners-up in all three domestic competitions. If that was a consistent response to the challenge, it also had the potential to be dispiriting for Derek McInnes and his squad, especially since Celtic won all six meetings of the pair and supplemented that record with a 3-0 victory at Pittodrie in which they produced their single best display of football in 2017. Aberdeen subsequently lost to Rangers home and away but McInnes rebuffed the Ibrox board’s invitation to become their manager, as he had done with Sunderland’s summer approach, prudently as events at the Stadium of Light were to demonstrate. In both instances McInnes declared that he had unfinished business at Pittodrie, which presumably included inflicting some sort of check on Celtic’s imperious progress through the Scottish fixture calendar, a desire that can only have been sharpened by recent developments. Celtic finished the 2016-17 title campaign unbeaten and having shed only eight points from 38 games. The Hoops’ attempt to take their unbeaten record in successive domestic matches to 70 was derailed spectacularly by Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend but, even before that, Celtic had dropped more points by the mid-point of the current campaign that in the whole of Rodgers’ inaugural season. Graeme Shinnie was booked for a tackle on ex-teammate Jonny Hayes Credit: PA Hearts prevailed by adopting the pressing tactics used by Anderlecht when they beat Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League group stage but Aberdeen were more reticent on the leaders’ turf, although the robustness of their challenges saw yellow cards shown to Kari Arnason, Graeme Shinnie and Dominic Ball. The Dons emerged from their defensive cocoon midway through the first half and almost took the lead through Gary Mackay-Steven, scorer of a hat-trick against Hibernian the previous weekend, when the former Celtic midfielder ambushed Dedryck Boyata and drove narrowly beyond the far post. Celtic’s response was instant, a break which put Scott Sinclair one on one against Joe Lewis, who blocked the winger’s shot. Hayes scored Celtic's second against his old side Credit: PA Aberdeen looked value to reach the break unscathed but they were undone by cruel fortune when Mikael Lustig pushed up from his right-back beat for a speculative effort which clipped Ball’s shoulder to veer away from the wrong-footed Lewis. Another capricious rebound, midway through the second half, helped Celtic double their advantage when Sinclair’s cross was headed by Mark Reynold off Arnason’s boot and straight into the path of Jonny Hayes who stabbed his finish across the line to inflict further pain on his former employers. Aberdeen’s miserable afternoon was compounded by a horrible error by Kenny McLean, with a woefully short pass back to Lewis, who could not intervene as Olivier Ntcham capered around him to stroke the ball home and confirm that Celtic would post an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals. The Scottish Premiership season stops next week for a brief winter break, after the second Old Firm derby of the season is contested at Parkhead. On Thursday, Rangers moved to stabilise their managerial situation by confirming interim boss, Graeme Murty, until the end of the season. Murty’s extended tenure began with a setback at Rugby Park, where Kilmarnock’s improved form under Steve Clarke continued as they beat Rangers 2-1, with two goals in three minutes from Kris Boyd, a former Ibrox striker. Murty remained defiant and can at least console himself with the thought that he can speak of a personal unbeaten record at Celtic Park, where he saw Rangers to a 1-1 draw in March while acting as interim manager after Mark Warburton’s departure. “We have a chance next week to measure ourselves against Celtic, who are the benchmark, but we also have to be pushing as a football club to be at the top table,” Murty said. “They are currently there and the team to beat. We have to make up the gap, that’s the aim for the season. “It was the aim at the start and it’s still the aim. We must have an outstanding second half of the season. We have a cup competition to play for and we’re still in touch in the league – albeit we could be closer. If we’re positive and strong, who knows where that could take us?” Celtic might be the benchmark, as Murty says, but few Rangers supporters will nourish much hope that he can repeat the feat of plundering points from the other side of Glasgow, given that the Ibrox side have themselves been pillaged by Dundee, Hamilton, St Johnstone and now Kilmarnock. The Ibrox faithful’s frustration has been compounded by the knowledge that, had they taken maximum reward from fixtures they would once have considered routine, they would lead the standings. As it stands, the message on Celtic’s Christmas card is doubly resonant – joyful and triumphant.
There was a time, not so long ago, when mention of a meeting of the top two clubs in Scotland was shorthand for an Old Firm derby. In the continued absence of Rangers as credible contenders, the burden of mounting some form of challenge to Brendan Rodgers & Co has fallen upon Aberdeen, who responded last season by finishing as runners-up in all three domestic competitions. If that was a consistent response to the challenge, it also had the potential to be dispiriting for Derek McInnes and his squad, especially since Celtic won all six meetings of the pair and supplemented that record with a 3-0 victory at Pittodrie in which they produced their single best display of football in 2017. Aberdeen subsequently lost to Rangers home and away but McInnes rebuffed the Ibrox board’s invitation to become their manager, as he had done with Sunderland’s summer approach, prudently as events at the Stadium of Light were to demonstrate. In both instances McInnes declared that he had unfinished business at Pittodrie, which presumably included inflicting some sort of check on Celtic’s imperious progress through the Scottish fixture calendar, a desire that can only have been sharpened by recent developments. Celtic finished the 2016-17 title campaign unbeaten and having shed only eight points from 38 games. The Hoops’ attempt to take their unbeaten record in successive domestic matches to 70 was derailed spectacularly by Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend but, even before that, Celtic had dropped more points by the mid-point of the current campaign that in the whole of Rodgers’ inaugural season. Graeme Shinnie was booked for a tackle on ex-teammate Jonny Hayes Credit: PA Hearts prevailed by adopting the pressing tactics used by Anderlecht when they beat Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League group stage but Aberdeen were more reticent on the leaders’ turf, although the robustness of their challenges saw yellow cards shown to Kari Arnason, Graeme Shinnie and Dominic Ball. The Dons emerged from their defensive cocoon midway through the first half and almost took the lead through Gary Mackay-Steven, scorer of a hat-trick against Hibernian the previous weekend, when the former Celtic midfielder ambushed Dedryck Boyata and drove narrowly beyond the far post. Celtic’s response was instant, a break which put Scott Sinclair one on one against Joe Lewis, who blocked the winger’s shot. Hayes scored Celtic's second against his old side Credit: PA Aberdeen looked value to reach the break unscathed but they were undone by cruel fortune when Mikael Lustig pushed up from his right-back beat for a speculative effort which clipped Ball’s shoulder to veer away from the wrong-footed Lewis. Another capricious rebound, midway through the second half, helped Celtic double their advantage when Sinclair’s cross was headed by Mark Reynold off Arnason’s boot and straight into the path of Jonny Hayes who stabbed his finish across the line to inflict further pain on his former employers. Aberdeen’s miserable afternoon was compounded by a horrible error by Kenny McLean, with a woefully short pass back to Lewis, who could not intervene as Olivier Ntcham capered around him to stroke the ball home and confirm that Celtic would post an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals. The Scottish Premiership season stops next week for a brief winter break, after the second Old Firm derby of the season is contested at Parkhead. On Thursday, Rangers moved to stabilise their managerial situation by confirming interim boss, Graeme Murty, until the end of the season. Murty’s extended tenure began with a setback at Rugby Park, where Kilmarnock’s improved form under Steve Clarke continued as they beat Rangers 2-1, with two goals in three minutes from Kris Boyd, a former Ibrox striker. Murty remained defiant and can at least console himself with the thought that he can speak of a personal unbeaten record at Celtic Park, where he saw Rangers to a 1-1 draw in March while acting as interim manager after Mark Warburton’s departure. “We have a chance next week to measure ourselves against Celtic, who are the benchmark, but we also have to be pushing as a football club to be at the top table,” Murty said. “They are currently there and the team to beat. We have to make up the gap, that’s the aim for the season. “It was the aim at the start and it’s still the aim. We must have an outstanding second half of the season. We have a cup competition to play for and we’re still in touch in the league – albeit we could be closer. If we’re positive and strong, who knows where that could take us?” Celtic might be the benchmark, as Murty says, but few Rangers supporters will nourish much hope that he can repeat the feat of plundering points from the other side of Glasgow, given that the Ibrox side have themselves been pillaged by Dundee, Hamilton, St Johnstone and now Kilmarnock. The Ibrox faithful’s frustration has been compounded by the knowledge that, had they taken maximum reward from fixtures they would once have considered routine, they would lead the standings. As it stands, the message on Celtic’s Christmas card is doubly resonant – joyful and triumphant.
Celtic 3 Aberdeen 0: Hoops extend league lead as Dons disappoint
There was a time, not so long ago, when mention of a meeting of the top two clubs in Scotland was shorthand for an Old Firm derby. In the continued absence of Rangers as credible contenders, the burden of mounting some form of challenge to Brendan Rodgers & Co has fallen upon Aberdeen, who responded last season by finishing as runners-up in all three domestic competitions. If that was a consistent response to the challenge, it also had the potential to be dispiriting for Derek McInnes and his squad, especially since Celtic won all six meetings of the pair and supplemented that record with a 3-0 victory at Pittodrie in which they produced their single best display of football in 2017. Aberdeen subsequently lost to Rangers home and away but McInnes rebuffed the Ibrox board’s invitation to become their manager, as he had done with Sunderland’s summer approach, prudently as events at the Stadium of Light were to demonstrate. In both instances McInnes declared that he had unfinished business at Pittodrie, which presumably included inflicting some sort of check on Celtic’s imperious progress through the Scottish fixture calendar, a desire that can only have been sharpened by recent developments. Celtic finished the 2016-17 title campaign unbeaten and having shed only eight points from 38 games. The Hoops’ attempt to take their unbeaten record in successive domestic matches to 70 was derailed spectacularly by Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend but, even before that, Celtic had dropped more points by the mid-point of the current campaign that in the whole of Rodgers’ inaugural season. Graeme Shinnie was booked for a tackle on ex-teammate Jonny Hayes Credit: PA Hearts prevailed by adopting the pressing tactics used by Anderlecht when they beat Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League group stage but Aberdeen were more reticent on the leaders’ turf, although the robustness of their challenges saw yellow cards shown to Kari Arnason, Graeme Shinnie and Dominic Ball. The Dons emerged from their defensive cocoon midway through the first half and almost took the lead through Gary Mackay-Steven, scorer of a hat-trick against Hibernian the previous weekend, when the former Celtic midfielder ambushed Dedryck Boyata and drove narrowly beyond the far post. Celtic’s response was instant, a break which put Scott Sinclair one on one against Joe Lewis, who blocked the winger’s shot. Hayes scored Celtic's second against his old side Credit: PA Aberdeen looked value to reach the break unscathed but they were undone by cruel fortune when Mikael Lustig pushed up from his right-back beat for a speculative effort which clipped Ball’s shoulder to veer away from the wrong-footed Lewis. Another capricious rebound, midway through the second half, helped Celtic double their advantage when Sinclair’s cross was headed by Mark Reynold off Arnason’s boot and straight into the path of Jonny Hayes who stabbed his finish across the line to inflict further pain on his former employers. Aberdeen’s miserable afternoon was compounded by a horrible error by Kenny McLean, with a woefully short pass back to Lewis, who could not intervene as Olivier Ntcham capered around him to stroke the ball home and confirm that Celtic would post an eight-point lead over their nearest rivals. The Scottish Premiership season stops next week for a brief winter break, after the second Old Firm derby of the season is contested at Parkhead. On Thursday, Rangers moved to stabilise their managerial situation by confirming interim boss, Graeme Murty, until the end of the season. Murty’s extended tenure began with a setback at Rugby Park, where Kilmarnock’s improved form under Steve Clarke continued as they beat Rangers 2-1, with two goals in three minutes from Kris Boyd, a former Ibrox striker. Murty remained defiant and can at least console himself with the thought that he can speak of a personal unbeaten record at Celtic Park, where he saw Rangers to a 1-1 draw in March while acting as interim manager after Mark Warburton’s departure. “We have a chance next week to measure ourselves against Celtic, who are the benchmark, but we also have to be pushing as a football club to be at the top table,” Murty said. “They are currently there and the team to beat. We have to make up the gap, that’s the aim for the season. “It was the aim at the start and it’s still the aim. We must have an outstanding second half of the season. We have a cup competition to play for and we’re still in touch in the league – albeit we could be closer. If we’re positive and strong, who knows where that could take us?” Celtic might be the benchmark, as Murty says, but few Rangers supporters will nourish much hope that he can repeat the feat of plundering points from the other side of Glasgow, given that the Ibrox side have themselves been pillaged by Dundee, Hamilton, St Johnstone and now Kilmarnock. The Ibrox faithful’s frustration has been compounded by the knowledge that, had they taken maximum reward from fixtures they would once have considered routine, they would lead the standings. As it stands, the message on Celtic’s Christmas card is doubly resonant – joyful and triumphant.
When Rangers revealed the identity of their managerial successor to Pedro Caixinha, all that was missing was the sticky back plastic and someone to say “here’s one we made earlier...” A full eight weeks after jettisoning Caixinha and after being rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, the Ibrox directors decided that the man for the job was the one they already had as interim boss and, moreover, who has been acting in that capacity for the second time in a year. Graeme Murty will now be in charge until the end of the season and will be active during the January transfer window. Some, including a section of the Rangers support, will regard the appointment as cheap and expedient. It is certainly remarkable that the board could not identify an irresistible candidate with pedigree willing to take the job. According to Stewart Robertson, Rangers’ managing director, however, Murty effectively worked himself into the position, despite losing 3-1 at home to St Johnstone last weekend. “There was a wide range of candidates we were looking at – and still were, post-Derek [McInnes] – but we weren’t overlooking the job that Graeme had done and is doing in the last couple of months and also in his previous stint,” Robertson said. “As time went on we were confident that he had the capability to take us forward. It wasn’t about one result. You’re looking at the body of work and the body of evidence over a period of time. “That made us confident that, while Graeme is inexperienced in management, a lot of the characteristics we were looking for were sitting right in front of us. He (Murty) is taking it that he gets one kick of the ball and he wants to give it a right good welly. Rangers are currently third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: pa “He has got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the manager of Rangers and it says a lot about his character how he is approaching it, with his enthusiasm to take things on and get stuck in. He has got a different level of authority with the players now. “He is now the manager, not the guy who is only holding the fort until the manager comes in and it will be interesting to see if that helps. It has to help him, it has to be a positive. He doesn’t see it as a burden. If he thought he was going to see it as a burden, we wouldn’t have appointed him.” Murty was invited to extend his tenure at a meeting in Robertson’s house at 8.30pm on Thursday and did not require time to muse upon his options. “There was no way I could turn that down,” he said. Had he supposed, after last Saturday’s defeat by St Johnstone, that he had blown his chance? “As low as I got – because I was annoyed at the way we played – I didn’t think that would have any bearing on it because I didn’t think I was under consideration,” said the former Scotland defender, who played for York, Reading, Charlton and Southampton. Pedro Caixinha is a forgotten figure at Ibrox Credit: Reuters “Before, I was just preparing the team for someone else to come in, judge and take forward – and I was content with that. Now that it’s my team, there are things I would like to change, things I’d like to implement around the training ground and around our match-day protocols that I think we can be sharper on. “It wasn’t my place because I was just trying to keep them ready for someone else coming in and now I’ve got an opportunity to the end of the season to try and do things as I would like to do them.” It was a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock that finished Caixinha and, by grace of the fixture list, Murty has the chance to open his longer-term account against the same opponents at Rugby Park. Should Rangers prevail over Steve Clarke’s improving side in the lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Premiership, they would be bound to gain from whatever occurs later at Parkhead, where Celtic play second-placed Aberdeen. Murty’s extended appointment was not the only news emanating from Rangers, whose chairman, Dave King, was judged in the Court of Session to have breached the 2006 Companies Act when he acted in concert with businessmen George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park to acquire more than 40 per cent of voting rights in the club in 2014. King must make an £11 million offer to buy stock from other investors at 20p a share, although since they are valued currently at 32p, he is unlikely to find takers. “In terms of the day-to-day running of the club and the PLC and the share issue we are looking at in the future, it has no impact whatsoever,” said Robertson.
Graeme Murty will 'give it a right good welly' after being appointed Rangers manager
When Rangers revealed the identity of their managerial successor to Pedro Caixinha, all that was missing was the sticky back plastic and someone to say “here’s one we made earlier...” A full eight weeks after jettisoning Caixinha and after being rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, the Ibrox directors decided that the man for the job was the one they already had as interim boss and, moreover, who has been acting in that capacity for the second time in a year. Graeme Murty will now be in charge until the end of the season and will be active during the January transfer window. Some, including a section of the Rangers support, will regard the appointment as cheap and expedient. It is certainly remarkable that the board could not identify an irresistible candidate with pedigree willing to take the job. According to Stewart Robertson, Rangers’ managing director, however, Murty effectively worked himself into the position, despite losing 3-1 at home to St Johnstone last weekend. “There was a wide range of candidates we were looking at – and still were, post-Derek [McInnes] – but we weren’t overlooking the job that Graeme had done and is doing in the last couple of months and also in his previous stint,” Robertson said. “As time went on we were confident that he had the capability to take us forward. It wasn’t about one result. You’re looking at the body of work and the body of evidence over a period of time. “That made us confident that, while Graeme is inexperienced in management, a lot of the characteristics we were looking for were sitting right in front of us. He (Murty) is taking it that he gets one kick of the ball and he wants to give it a right good welly. Rangers are currently third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: pa “He has got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the manager of Rangers and it says a lot about his character how he is approaching it, with his enthusiasm to take things on and get stuck in. He has got a different level of authority with the players now. “He is now the manager, not the guy who is only holding the fort until the manager comes in and it will be interesting to see if that helps. It has to help him, it has to be a positive. He doesn’t see it as a burden. If he thought he was going to see it as a burden, we wouldn’t have appointed him.” Murty was invited to extend his tenure at a meeting in Robertson’s house at 8.30pm on Thursday and did not require time to muse upon his options. “There was no way I could turn that down,” he said. Had he supposed, after last Saturday’s defeat by St Johnstone, that he had blown his chance? “As low as I got – because I was annoyed at the way we played – I didn’t think that would have any bearing on it because I didn’t think I was under consideration,” said the former Scotland defender, who played for York, Reading, Charlton and Southampton. Pedro Caixinha is a forgotten figure at Ibrox Credit: Reuters “Before, I was just preparing the team for someone else to come in, judge and take forward – and I was content with that. Now that it’s my team, there are things I would like to change, things I’d like to implement around the training ground and around our match-day protocols that I think we can be sharper on. “It wasn’t my place because I was just trying to keep them ready for someone else coming in and now I’ve got an opportunity to the end of the season to try and do things as I would like to do them.” It was a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock that finished Caixinha and, by grace of the fixture list, Murty has the chance to open his longer-term account against the same opponents at Rugby Park. Should Rangers prevail over Steve Clarke’s improving side in the lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Premiership, they would be bound to gain from whatever occurs later at Parkhead, where Celtic play second-placed Aberdeen. Murty’s extended appointment was not the only news emanating from Rangers, whose chairman, Dave King, was judged in the Court of Session to have breached the 2006 Companies Act when he acted in concert with businessmen George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park to acquire more than 40 per cent of voting rights in the club in 2014. King must make an £11 million offer to buy stock from other investors at 20p a share, although since they are valued currently at 32p, he is unlikely to find takers. “In terms of the day-to-day running of the club and the PLC and the share issue we are looking at in the future, it has no impact whatsoever,” said Robertson.
When Rangers revealed the identity of their managerial successor to Pedro Caixinha, all that was missing was the sticky back plastic and someone to say “here’s one we made earlier...” A full eight weeks after jettisoning Caixinha and after being rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, the Ibrox directors decided that the man for the job was the one they already had as interim boss and, moreover, who has been acting in that capacity for the second time in a year. Graeme Murty will now be in charge until the end of the season and will be active during the January transfer window. Some, including a section of the Rangers support, will regard the appointment as cheap and expedient. It is certainly remarkable that the board could not identify an irresistible candidate with pedigree willing to take the job. According to Stewart Robertson, Rangers’ managing director, however, Murty effectively worked himself into the position, despite losing 3-1 at home to St Johnstone last weekend. “There was a wide range of candidates we were looking at – and still were, post-Derek [McInnes] – but we weren’t overlooking the job that Graeme had done and is doing in the last couple of months and also in his previous stint,” Robertson said. “As time went on we were confident that he had the capability to take us forward. It wasn’t about one result. You’re looking at the body of work and the body of evidence over a period of time. “That made us confident that, while Graeme is inexperienced in management, a lot of the characteristics we were looking for were sitting right in front of us. He (Murty) is taking it that he gets one kick of the ball and he wants to give it a right good welly. Rangers are currently third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: pa “He has got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the manager of Rangers and it says a lot about his character how he is approaching it, with his enthusiasm to take things on and get stuck in. He has got a different level of authority with the players now. “He is now the manager, not the guy who is only holding the fort until the manager comes in and it will be interesting to see if that helps. It has to help him, it has to be a positive. He doesn’t see it as a burden. If he thought he was going to see it as a burden, we wouldn’t have appointed him.” Murty was invited to extend his tenure at a meeting in Robertson’s house at 8.30pm on Thursday and did not require time to muse upon his options. “There was no way I could turn that down,” he said. Had he supposed, after last Saturday’s defeat by St Johnstone, that he had blown his chance? “As low as I got – because I was annoyed at the way we played – I didn’t think that would have any bearing on it because I didn’t think I was under consideration,” said the former Scotland defender, who played for York, Reading, Charlton and Southampton. Pedro Caixinha is a forgotten figure at Ibrox Credit: Reuters “Before, I was just preparing the team for someone else to come in, judge and take forward – and I was content with that. Now that it’s my team, there are things I would like to change, things I’d like to implement around the training ground and around our match-day protocols that I think we can be sharper on. “It wasn’t my place because I was just trying to keep them ready for someone else coming in and now I’ve got an opportunity to the end of the season to try and do things as I would like to do them.” It was a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock that finished Caixinha and, by grace of the fixture list, Murty has the chance to open his longer-term account against the same opponents at Rugby Park. Should Rangers prevail over Steve Clarke’s improving side in the lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Premiership, they would be bound to gain from whatever occurs later at Parkhead, where Celtic play second-placed Aberdeen. Murty’s extended appointment was not the only news emanating from Rangers, whose chairman, Dave King, was judged in the Court of Session to have breached the 2006 Companies Act when he acted in concert with businessmen George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park to acquire more than 40 per cent of voting rights in the club in 2014. King must make an £11 million offer to buy stock from other investors at 20p a share, although since they are valued currently at 32p, he is unlikely to find takers. “In terms of the day-to-day running of the club and the PLC and the share issue we are looking at in the future, it has no impact whatsoever,” said Robertson.
Graeme Murty will 'give it a right good welly' after being appointed Rangers manager
When Rangers revealed the identity of their managerial successor to Pedro Caixinha, all that was missing was the sticky back plastic and someone to say “here’s one we made earlier...” A full eight weeks after jettisoning Caixinha and after being rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, the Ibrox directors decided that the man for the job was the one they already had as interim boss and, moreover, who has been acting in that capacity for the second time in a year. Graeme Murty will now be in charge until the end of the season and will be active during the January transfer window. Some, including a section of the Rangers support, will regard the appointment as cheap and expedient. It is certainly remarkable that the board could not identify an irresistible candidate with pedigree willing to take the job. According to Stewart Robertson, Rangers’ managing director, however, Murty effectively worked himself into the position, despite losing 3-1 at home to St Johnstone last weekend. “There was a wide range of candidates we were looking at – and still were, post-Derek [McInnes] – but we weren’t overlooking the job that Graeme had done and is doing in the last couple of months and also in his previous stint,” Robertson said. “As time went on we were confident that he had the capability to take us forward. It wasn’t about one result. You’re looking at the body of work and the body of evidence over a period of time. “That made us confident that, while Graeme is inexperienced in management, a lot of the characteristics we were looking for were sitting right in front of us. He (Murty) is taking it that he gets one kick of the ball and he wants to give it a right good welly. Rangers are currently third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: pa “He has got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the manager of Rangers and it says a lot about his character how he is approaching it, with his enthusiasm to take things on and get stuck in. He has got a different level of authority with the players now. “He is now the manager, not the guy who is only holding the fort until the manager comes in and it will be interesting to see if that helps. It has to help him, it has to be a positive. He doesn’t see it as a burden. If he thought he was going to see it as a burden, we wouldn’t have appointed him.” Murty was invited to extend his tenure at a meeting in Robertson’s house at 8.30pm on Thursday and did not require time to muse upon his options. “There was no way I could turn that down,” he said. Had he supposed, after last Saturday’s defeat by St Johnstone, that he had blown his chance? “As low as I got – because I was annoyed at the way we played – I didn’t think that would have any bearing on it because I didn’t think I was under consideration,” said the former Scotland defender, who played for York, Reading, Charlton and Southampton. Pedro Caixinha is a forgotten figure at Ibrox Credit: Reuters “Before, I was just preparing the team for someone else to come in, judge and take forward – and I was content with that. Now that it’s my team, there are things I would like to change, things I’d like to implement around the training ground and around our match-day protocols that I think we can be sharper on. “It wasn’t my place because I was just trying to keep them ready for someone else coming in and now I’ve got an opportunity to the end of the season to try and do things as I would like to do them.” It was a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock that finished Caixinha and, by grace of the fixture list, Murty has the chance to open his longer-term account against the same opponents at Rugby Park. Should Rangers prevail over Steve Clarke’s improving side in the lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Premiership, they would be bound to gain from whatever occurs later at Parkhead, where Celtic play second-placed Aberdeen. Murty’s extended appointment was not the only news emanating from Rangers, whose chairman, Dave King, was judged in the Court of Session to have breached the 2006 Companies Act when he acted in concert with businessmen George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park to acquire more than 40 per cent of voting rights in the club in 2014. King must make an £11 million offer to buy stock from other investors at 20p a share, although since they are valued currently at 32p, he is unlikely to find takers. “In terms of the day-to-day running of the club and the PLC and the share issue we are looking at in the future, it has no impact whatsoever,” said Robertson.
When Rangers revealed the identity of their managerial successor to Pedro Caixinha, all that was missing was the sticky back plastic and someone to say “here’s one we made earlier...” A full eight weeks after jettisoning Caixinha and after being rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, the Ibrox directors decided that the man for the job was the one they already had as interim boss and, moreover, who has been acting in that capacity for the second time in a year. Graeme Murty will now be in charge until the end of the season and will be active during the January transfer window. Some, including a section of the Rangers support, will regard the appointment as cheap and expedient. It is certainly remarkable that the board could not identify an irresistible candidate with pedigree willing to take the job. According to Stewart Robertson, Rangers’ managing director, however, Murty effectively worked himself into the position, despite losing 3-1 at home to St Johnstone last weekend. “There was a wide range of candidates we were looking at – and still were, post-Derek [McInnes] – but we weren’t overlooking the job that Graeme had done and is doing in the last couple of months and also in his previous stint,” Robertson said. “As time went on we were confident that he had the capability to take us forward. It wasn’t about one result. You’re looking at the body of work and the body of evidence over a period of time. “That made us confident that, while Graeme is inexperienced in management, a lot of the characteristics we were looking for were sitting right in front of us. He (Murty) is taking it that he gets one kick of the ball and he wants to give it a right good welly. Rangers are currently third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: pa “He has got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the manager of Rangers and it says a lot about his character how he is approaching it, with his enthusiasm to take things on and get stuck in. He has got a different level of authority with the players now. “He is now the manager, not the guy who is only holding the fort until the manager comes in and it will be interesting to see if that helps. It has to help him, it has to be a positive. He doesn’t see it as a burden. If he thought he was going to see it as a burden, we wouldn’t have appointed him.” Murty was invited to extend his tenure at a meeting in Robertson’s house at 8.30pm on Thursday and did not require time to muse upon his options. “There was no way I could turn that down,” he said. Had he supposed, after last Saturday’s defeat by St Johnstone, that he had blown his chance? “As low as I got – because I was annoyed at the way we played – I didn’t think that would have any bearing on it because I didn’t think I was under consideration,” said the former Scotland defender, who played for York, Reading, Charlton and Southampton. Pedro Caixinha is a forgotten figure at Ibrox Credit: Reuters “Before, I was just preparing the team for someone else to come in, judge and take forward – and I was content with that. Now that it’s my team, there are things I would like to change, things I’d like to implement around the training ground and around our match-day protocols that I think we can be sharper on. “It wasn’t my place because I was just trying to keep them ready for someone else coming in and now I’ve got an opportunity to the end of the season to try and do things as I would like to do them.” It was a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock that finished Caixinha and, by grace of the fixture list, Murty has the chance to open his longer-term account against the same opponents at Rugby Park. Should Rangers prevail over Steve Clarke’s improving side in the lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Premiership, they would be bound to gain from whatever occurs later at Parkhead, where Celtic play second-placed Aberdeen. Murty’s extended appointment was not the only news emanating from Rangers, whose chairman, Dave King, was judged in the Court of Session to have breached the 2006 Companies Act when he acted in concert with businessmen George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park to acquire more than 40 per cent of voting rights in the club in 2014. King must make an £11 million offer to buy stock from other investors at 20p a share, although since they are valued currently at 32p, he is unlikely to find takers. “In terms of the day-to-day running of the club and the PLC and the share issue we are looking at in the future, it has no impact whatsoever,” said Robertson.
Graeme Murty will 'give it a right good welly' after being appointed Rangers manager
When Rangers revealed the identity of their managerial successor to Pedro Caixinha, all that was missing was the sticky back plastic and someone to say “here’s one we made earlier...” A full eight weeks after jettisoning Caixinha and after being rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, the Ibrox directors decided that the man for the job was the one they already had as interim boss and, moreover, who has been acting in that capacity for the second time in a year. Graeme Murty will now be in charge until the end of the season and will be active during the January transfer window. Some, including a section of the Rangers support, will regard the appointment as cheap and expedient. It is certainly remarkable that the board could not identify an irresistible candidate with pedigree willing to take the job. According to Stewart Robertson, Rangers’ managing director, however, Murty effectively worked himself into the position, despite losing 3-1 at home to St Johnstone last weekend. “There was a wide range of candidates we were looking at – and still were, post-Derek [McInnes] – but we weren’t overlooking the job that Graeme had done and is doing in the last couple of months and also in his previous stint,” Robertson said. “As time went on we were confident that he had the capability to take us forward. It wasn’t about one result. You’re looking at the body of work and the body of evidence over a period of time. “That made us confident that, while Graeme is inexperienced in management, a lot of the characteristics we were looking for were sitting right in front of us. He (Murty) is taking it that he gets one kick of the ball and he wants to give it a right good welly. Rangers are currently third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: pa “He has got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the manager of Rangers and it says a lot about his character how he is approaching it, with his enthusiasm to take things on and get stuck in. He has got a different level of authority with the players now. “He is now the manager, not the guy who is only holding the fort until the manager comes in and it will be interesting to see if that helps. It has to help him, it has to be a positive. He doesn’t see it as a burden. If he thought he was going to see it as a burden, we wouldn’t have appointed him.” Murty was invited to extend his tenure at a meeting in Robertson’s house at 8.30pm on Thursday and did not require time to muse upon his options. “There was no way I could turn that down,” he said. Had he supposed, after last Saturday’s defeat by St Johnstone, that he had blown his chance? “As low as I got – because I was annoyed at the way we played – I didn’t think that would have any bearing on it because I didn’t think I was under consideration,” said the former Scotland defender, who played for York, Reading, Charlton and Southampton. Pedro Caixinha is a forgotten figure at Ibrox Credit: Reuters “Before, I was just preparing the team for someone else to come in, judge and take forward – and I was content with that. Now that it’s my team, there are things I would like to change, things I’d like to implement around the training ground and around our match-day protocols that I think we can be sharper on. “It wasn’t my place because I was just trying to keep them ready for someone else coming in and now I’ve got an opportunity to the end of the season to try and do things as I would like to do them.” It was a 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock that finished Caixinha and, by grace of the fixture list, Murty has the chance to open his longer-term account against the same opponents at Rugby Park. Should Rangers prevail over Steve Clarke’s improving side in the lunchtime kick-off in the Scottish Premiership, they would be bound to gain from whatever occurs later at Parkhead, where Celtic play second-placed Aberdeen. Murty’s extended appointment was not the only news emanating from Rangers, whose chairman, Dave King, was judged in the Court of Session to have breached the 2006 Companies Act when he acted in concert with businessmen George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park to acquire more than 40 per cent of voting rights in the club in 2014. King must make an £11 million offer to buy stock from other investors at 20p a share, although since they are valued currently at 32p, he is unlikely to find takers. “In terms of the day-to-day running of the club and the PLC and the share issue we are looking at in the future, it has no impact whatsoever,” said Robertson.

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