St. Johnstone

St. Johnstone slideshow

Andrew Robertson might be an object of adulation at Anfield now but no Kop stalwart can look him in the face and say – if one may borrow from Harry Enfield’s predatory shopkeeper – ‘I saw you coming!’ Robertson’s credentials, after all, initially underwhelmed followers of a club who would pay £75 million to make Virgil van Dijk the world’s most expensive defender. Acquired last summer from newly relegated Hull City and with an international pedigree gained with Scotland – a team excluded from the finals of major tournaments for 20 years – Robertson’s £8 million transfer represented the sort of loose change Liverpool reserve for squad players. Now, however, as Jurgen Klopp’s players prepare for Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev, the full-back is second only to Mohamed Salah as steal of the season. One man, though, did see it coming – or, at least, he guessed something of the sort. Gardner Speirs, now in charge of the Queen’s Park academy at Hampden Park, base of the only amateur club in British senior football, was the Spiders’ first team manager and in charge of summer preparations for the 2012-13 campaign. Speirs, formerly a midfielder with St Mirren, Hartlepool and Airdrie, had to address a gap in his squad. “We were due to go down to Largs on the Clyde coast to play a couple of matches inside four days but we didn’t have a left-back,” Speirs said. “Andrew was just finishing a season with the under-17s, so we took him and that’s how it happened.” What might have counted as an innocuous promotion for a teenager was, in fact, an act of rehabilitation for Robertson, who had played for Celtic’s youth teams but was judged not to be of the quality required at Parkhead. “Andy left Celtic when he was about 15 and came into our academy and, obviously, kids can react to the disappointment of leaving such a big club in a number of ways,” Speirs said. Robertson celebrates making it to the Champions League final Credit: Getty images “Andy’s response was to say, ‘I’ll prove you wrong.’ He played in the first warm-up game at Largs and I don’t think he went out of the team again until he left us. “Andy’s performances meant that we couldn’t leave him out, even though he was so young. You could see his attitude, determination and ability. He was a first pick for the whole season.” Robertson made his senior competitive debut against Berwick Rangers in an Irn-Bru Cup tie at Sheilfield Park on July 28, 2012, before a congregation of 372 souls. It was the first of Robertson’s 40 appearances for the Spiders and he would almost certainly have played in all 46 of the season’s fixtures but for injury and a suspension incurred when he was dismissed in a Scottish League Cup tie against St Johnstone for an out-of-character lunge at opposing defender, Gary Miller. His earnings for the campaign consisted of the Queen’s Park standard of remunerated travel costs – except for a stint as a part-time Christmas worker at Marks & Spencer. “I couldn’t have told you that,” Speirs said. “I saw him three nights a week and on a Saturday. He gave 100% in his training and matches, to go along with the talent he had. That’s the overriding thing that we remember. He had come from the under-17s and stepped into the first team, so we felt that at some point in the season we would have to take him out and give him a rest but there was never any suggestion of that it. European Cup final 2018 | Real Madrid vs Liverpool “It never crossed our minds because his performances were so good. He had thought of going to university but decided that he would take a gap year and devote himself to football. It certainly paid off in style – a fantastic story. “People talk about having the will to run. He just ran and ran into good areas and with the energy and quality he brought, he could put quality passes and crosses in. That was the season when Rangers were in our division and he played in those four games against them and did extremely well. “It’s difficult to say that he has exceeded expectations because, at the end of that season with us, I was trying desperately hard to keep him for another year. “He comes from a very grounded family, as you can see from the way that he’s been brought up. He’s prepared to work hard for everything he gets and every challenge he’s faced – whether it be coming into our first team, going to Dundee United and into their first team, then Hull City and now a club the size of Liverpool – has always been met. “On Saturday I’ll be watching and hoping for a Liverpool win and an Andy Robertson performance – which I’m sure we’ll get.”
Andrew Robertson's remarkable rise from Celtic reject to a Champions League final
Andrew Robertson might be an object of adulation at Anfield now but no Kop stalwart can look him in the face and say – if one may borrow from Harry Enfield’s predatory shopkeeper – ‘I saw you coming!’ Robertson’s credentials, after all, initially underwhelmed followers of a club who would pay £75 million to make Virgil van Dijk the world’s most expensive defender. Acquired last summer from newly relegated Hull City and with an international pedigree gained with Scotland – a team excluded from the finals of major tournaments for 20 years – Robertson’s £8 million transfer represented the sort of loose change Liverpool reserve for squad players. Now, however, as Jurgen Klopp’s players prepare for Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev, the full-back is second only to Mohamed Salah as steal of the season. One man, though, did see it coming – or, at least, he guessed something of the sort. Gardner Speirs, now in charge of the Queen’s Park academy at Hampden Park, base of the only amateur club in British senior football, was the Spiders’ first team manager and in charge of summer preparations for the 2012-13 campaign. Speirs, formerly a midfielder with St Mirren, Hartlepool and Airdrie, had to address a gap in his squad. “We were due to go down to Largs on the Clyde coast to play a couple of matches inside four days but we didn’t have a left-back,” Speirs said. “Andrew was just finishing a season with the under-17s, so we took him and that’s how it happened.” What might have counted as an innocuous promotion for a teenager was, in fact, an act of rehabilitation for Robertson, who had played for Celtic’s youth teams but was judged not to be of the quality required at Parkhead. “Andy left Celtic when he was about 15 and came into our academy and, obviously, kids can react to the disappointment of leaving such a big club in a number of ways,” Speirs said. Robertson celebrates making it to the Champions League final Credit: Getty images “Andy’s response was to say, ‘I’ll prove you wrong.’ He played in the first warm-up game at Largs and I don’t think he went out of the team again until he left us. “Andy’s performances meant that we couldn’t leave him out, even though he was so young. You could see his attitude, determination and ability. He was a first pick for the whole season.” Robertson made his senior competitive debut against Berwick Rangers in an Irn-Bru Cup tie at Sheilfield Park on July 28, 2012, before a congregation of 372 souls. It was the first of Robertson’s 40 appearances for the Spiders and he would almost certainly have played in all 46 of the season’s fixtures but for injury and a suspension incurred when he was dismissed in a Scottish League Cup tie against St Johnstone for an out-of-character lunge at opposing defender, Gary Miller. His earnings for the campaign consisted of the Queen’s Park standard of remunerated travel costs – except for a stint as a part-time Christmas worker at Marks & Spencer. “I couldn’t have told you that,” Speirs said. “I saw him three nights a week and on a Saturday. He gave 100% in his training and matches, to go along with the talent he had. That’s the overriding thing that we remember. He had come from the under-17s and stepped into the first team, so we felt that at some point in the season we would have to take him out and give him a rest but there was never any suggestion of that it. European Cup final 2018 | Real Madrid vs Liverpool “It never crossed our minds because his performances were so good. He had thought of going to university but decided that he would take a gap year and devote himself to football. It certainly paid off in style – a fantastic story. “People talk about having the will to run. He just ran and ran into good areas and with the energy and quality he brought, he could put quality passes and crosses in. That was the season when Rangers were in our division and he played in those four games against them and did extremely well. “It’s difficult to say that he has exceeded expectations because, at the end of that season with us, I was trying desperately hard to keep him for another year. “He comes from a very grounded family, as you can see from the way that he’s been brought up. He’s prepared to work hard for everything he gets and every challenge he’s faced – whether it be coming into our first team, going to Dundee United and into their first team, then Hull City and now a club the size of Liverpool – has always been met. “On Saturday I’ll be watching and hoping for a Liverpool win and an Andy Robertson performance – which I’m sure we’ll get.”
Andrew Robertson might be an object of adulation at Anfield now but no Kop stalwart can look him in the face and say – if one may borrow from Harry Enfield’s predatory shopkeeper – ‘I saw you coming!’ Robertson’s credentials, after all, initially underwhelmed followers of a club who would pay £75 million to make Virgil van Dijk the world’s most expensive defender. Acquired last summer from newly relegated Hull City and with an international pedigree gained with Scotland – a team excluded from the finals of major tournaments for 20 years – Robertson’s £8 million transfer represented the sort of loose change Liverpool reserve for squad players. Now, however, as Jurgen Klopp’s players prepare for Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev, the full-back is second only to Mohamed Salah as steal of the season. One man, though, did see it coming – or, at least, he guessed something of the sort. Gardner Speirs, now in charge of the Queen’s Park academy at Hampden Park, base of the only amateur club in British senior football, was the Spiders’ first team manager and in charge of summer preparations for the 2012-13 campaign. Speirs, formerly a midfielder with St Mirren, Hartlepool and Airdrie, had to address a gap in his squad. “We were due to go down to Largs on the Clyde coast to play a couple of matches inside four days but we didn’t have a left-back,” Speirs said. “Andrew was just finishing a season with the under-17s, so we took him and that’s how it happened.” What might have counted as an innocuous promotion for a teenager was, in fact, an act of rehabilitation for Robertson, who had played for Celtic’s youth teams but was judged not to be of the quality required at Parkhead. “Andy left Celtic when he was about 15 and came into our academy and, obviously, kids can react to the disappointment of leaving such a big club in a number of ways,” Speirs said. Robertson celebrates making it to the Champions League final Credit: Getty images “Andy’s response was to say, ‘I’ll prove you wrong.’ He played in the first warm-up game at Largs and I don’t think he went out of the team again until he left us. “Andy’s performances meant that we couldn’t leave him out, even though he was so young. You could see his attitude, determination and ability. He was a first pick for the whole season.” Robertson made his senior competitive debut against Berwick Rangers in an Irn-Bru Cup tie at Sheilfield Park on July 28, 2012, before a congregation of 372 souls. It was the first of Robertson’s 40 appearances for the Spiders and he would almost certainly have played in all 46 of the season’s fixtures but for injury and a suspension incurred when he was dismissed in a Scottish League Cup tie against St Johnstone for an out-of-character lunge at opposing defender, Gary Miller. His earnings for the campaign consisted of the Queen’s Park standard of remunerated travel costs – except for a stint as a part-time Christmas worker at Marks & Spencer. “I couldn’t have told you that,” Speirs said. “I saw him three nights a week and on a Saturday. He gave 100% in his training and matches, to go along with the talent he had. That’s the overriding thing that we remember. He had come from the under-17s and stepped into the first team, so we felt that at some point in the season we would have to take him out and give him a rest but there was never any suggestion of that it. European Cup final 2018 | Real Madrid vs Liverpool “It never crossed our minds because his performances were so good. He had thought of going to university but decided that he would take a gap year and devote himself to football. It certainly paid off in style – a fantastic story. “People talk about having the will to run. He just ran and ran into good areas and with the energy and quality he brought, he could put quality passes and crosses in. That was the season when Rangers were in our division and he played in those four games against them and did extremely well. “It’s difficult to say that he has exceeded expectations because, at the end of that season with us, I was trying desperately hard to keep him for another year. “He comes from a very grounded family, as you can see from the way that he’s been brought up. He’s prepared to work hard for everything he gets and every challenge he’s faced – whether it be coming into our first team, going to Dundee United and into their first team, then Hull City and now a club the size of Liverpool – has always been met. “On Saturday I’ll be watching and hoping for a Liverpool win and an Andy Robertson performance – which I’m sure we’ll get.”
Andrew Robertson's remarkable rise from Celtic reject to a Champions League final
Andrew Robertson might be an object of adulation at Anfield now but no Kop stalwart can look him in the face and say – if one may borrow from Harry Enfield’s predatory shopkeeper – ‘I saw you coming!’ Robertson’s credentials, after all, initially underwhelmed followers of a club who would pay £75 million to make Virgil van Dijk the world’s most expensive defender. Acquired last summer from newly relegated Hull City and with an international pedigree gained with Scotland – a team excluded from the finals of major tournaments for 20 years – Robertson’s £8 million transfer represented the sort of loose change Liverpool reserve for squad players. Now, however, as Jurgen Klopp’s players prepare for Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev, the full-back is second only to Mohamed Salah as steal of the season. One man, though, did see it coming – or, at least, he guessed something of the sort. Gardner Speirs, now in charge of the Queen’s Park academy at Hampden Park, base of the only amateur club in British senior football, was the Spiders’ first team manager and in charge of summer preparations for the 2012-13 campaign. Speirs, formerly a midfielder with St Mirren, Hartlepool and Airdrie, had to address a gap in his squad. “We were due to go down to Largs on the Clyde coast to play a couple of matches inside four days but we didn’t have a left-back,” Speirs said. “Andrew was just finishing a season with the under-17s, so we took him and that’s how it happened.” What might have counted as an innocuous promotion for a teenager was, in fact, an act of rehabilitation for Robertson, who had played for Celtic’s youth teams but was judged not to be of the quality required at Parkhead. “Andy left Celtic when he was about 15 and came into our academy and, obviously, kids can react to the disappointment of leaving such a big club in a number of ways,” Speirs said. Robertson celebrates making it to the Champions League final Credit: Getty images “Andy’s response was to say, ‘I’ll prove you wrong.’ He played in the first warm-up game at Largs and I don’t think he went out of the team again until he left us. “Andy’s performances meant that we couldn’t leave him out, even though he was so young. You could see his attitude, determination and ability. He was a first pick for the whole season.” Robertson made his senior competitive debut against Berwick Rangers in an Irn-Bru Cup tie at Sheilfield Park on July 28, 2012, before a congregation of 372 souls. It was the first of Robertson’s 40 appearances for the Spiders and he would almost certainly have played in all 46 of the season’s fixtures but for injury and a suspension incurred when he was dismissed in a Scottish League Cup tie against St Johnstone for an out-of-character lunge at opposing defender, Gary Miller. His earnings for the campaign consisted of the Queen’s Park standard of remunerated travel costs – except for a stint as a part-time Christmas worker at Marks & Spencer. “I couldn’t have told you that,” Speirs said. “I saw him three nights a week and on a Saturday. He gave 100% in his training and matches, to go along with the talent he had. That’s the overriding thing that we remember. He had come from the under-17s and stepped into the first team, so we felt that at some point in the season we would have to take him out and give him a rest but there was never any suggestion of that it. European Cup final 2018 | Real Madrid vs Liverpool “It never crossed our minds because his performances were so good. He had thought of going to university but decided that he would take a gap year and devote himself to football. It certainly paid off in style – a fantastic story. “People talk about having the will to run. He just ran and ran into good areas and with the energy and quality he brought, he could put quality passes and crosses in. That was the season when Rangers were in our division and he played in those four games against them and did extremely well. “It’s difficult to say that he has exceeded expectations because, at the end of that season with us, I was trying desperately hard to keep him for another year. “He comes from a very grounded family, as you can see from the way that he’s been brought up. He’s prepared to work hard for everything he gets and every challenge he’s faced – whether it be coming into our first team, going to Dundee United and into their first team, then Hull City and now a club the size of Liverpool – has always been met. “On Saturday I’ll be watching and hoping for a Liverpool win and an Andy Robertson performance – which I’m sure we’ll get.”
Steven Gerrard must wait to discover when he will take charge of Rangers for the first time in a competitive game as the Ibrox club jostle with Aberdeen and Hibernian for Scotland’s quota of Europa League places. As matters stand, the Scottish Cup winners will enter the tournament in the second qualifying round, with the Scottish Premiership runners-up and the third placed side starting in the first round of qualifiers. The best scenario for Gerrard would be for Celtic to win the Scottish Cup and for Rangers to finish as league runners-up, in which case his players would begin their competitive season on July 26, giving the former Liverpool and England midfielder a little more breathing space as he attempts to reconstruct Rangers after the current dispiriting season. The nightmare scenario for the Ibrox board would be a fourth-place finish and a Motherwell win in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park on May 19. That combination would cost Rangers domestic prize money and exclude them from European football. Gerrard will sit down this week with Rangers’ director of football, Mark Allen, to identify signing targets. “That’s next on the list,” he said, when asked about his timetable on his first foray into football management. “We’ve already had a couple of brief chats but we will have lots of discussions as we try to make the team capable of competing.” With two fixture cards remaining, Rangers closed to within a point of Aberdeen after beating Kilmarnock for the first time this season. Jimmy Nicholl is in charge of Rangers for what remains of their campaign and he restored David Bates – bound for Hamburg in the summer – to central defence for the first time since March, with Ross McCrorie making way. The injured Josh Windass was replaced by Colombian striker, Alfredo Morelos, who had another frustrating outing in the Old Firm derby. None of these changes had proved productive by half time, with the game goalless and some of the home fans grumbling. The mood of frustration grew as the stalemate persisted into the closing stages of the contest. Nevertheless, Nicholl’s selection of Bates proved to be the ace card for Rangers in the 87th minute, when the centre-back got into the Kilmarnock area to turn home a Sean Goss cross. On Tuesday, Rangers travel to Pittodrie, where disparate trends encountered each other in the shape of Aberdeen and Hibs. The visitors had not won on their four most recent visits to the Granite City but arrived on an unbeaten run stretching back for 11 games. The Dons, meanwhile, had not won in May in a 13-game sequence which began in 2009. Hibs passed up a splendid opportunity to take an early lead when Jamie Maclaren was barged to the ground inside the box for a penalty kick which the Australian chose to take, only for Joe Lewis to read his intent and save with a dive low to his right to turn the ball up and over his crossbar. Maclaren was culpable again when he rose to meet a perfect cross from Martin Boyle six yards out and unmarked, but the striker placed his effort wide of the mark. Aberdeen took time to impose themselves but they came close when a Scott McKenna header was scooped off the line by Darren McGregor and, as the interval approached, Niall McGinn cracked a 25-yard free kick off the bar. John McGinn, the Hibs midfielder, alarmed Aberdeen with a 20-yard drive that was blocked by Lewis just before the hour mark, but his effort proved to be the last decent piece of work in a match which became more untidy as it wore on. “I am pleased with the performance and the mentality – and I’m disappointed not to come away with the three points,” said Neil Lennon. The Hibernian manager added: “Their goalkeeper got the man of the match and that says it all. We were comfortable and dealt with their aerial threat very well. We’ve still got a chance of finishing second. We are well in it.” Elsewhere, Motherwell seemed distracted by their appearance in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden in two weeks, as they were thrashed 5-1 at home to St Johnstone, for whom Steve MacLean scored a hat-trick on his final appearance for the Perth club. “It is what dreams are made of,” MacLean said, who was Saints’ captain for the day. “When I woke up I would not have thought about signing off with that. I am so happy to go off that way and I wish them every success in the future.”
Waiting game for Steven Gerrard as Rangers do battle for second in Scottish Premiership and a place in Europe
Steven Gerrard must wait to discover when he will take charge of Rangers for the first time in a competitive game as the Ibrox club jostle with Aberdeen and Hibernian for Scotland’s quota of Europa League places. As matters stand, the Scottish Cup winners will enter the tournament in the second qualifying round, with the Scottish Premiership runners-up and the third placed side starting in the first round of qualifiers. The best scenario for Gerrard would be for Celtic to win the Scottish Cup and for Rangers to finish as league runners-up, in which case his players would begin their competitive season on July 26, giving the former Liverpool and England midfielder a little more breathing space as he attempts to reconstruct Rangers after the current dispiriting season. The nightmare scenario for the Ibrox board would be a fourth-place finish and a Motherwell win in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park on May 19. That combination would cost Rangers domestic prize money and exclude them from European football. Gerrard will sit down this week with Rangers’ director of football, Mark Allen, to identify signing targets. “That’s next on the list,” he said, when asked about his timetable on his first foray into football management. “We’ve already had a couple of brief chats but we will have lots of discussions as we try to make the team capable of competing.” With two fixture cards remaining, Rangers closed to within a point of Aberdeen after beating Kilmarnock for the first time this season. Jimmy Nicholl is in charge of Rangers for what remains of their campaign and he restored David Bates – bound for Hamburg in the summer – to central defence for the first time since March, with Ross McCrorie making way. The injured Josh Windass was replaced by Colombian striker, Alfredo Morelos, who had another frustrating outing in the Old Firm derby. None of these changes had proved productive by half time, with the game goalless and some of the home fans grumbling. The mood of frustration grew as the stalemate persisted into the closing stages of the contest. Nevertheless, Nicholl’s selection of Bates proved to be the ace card for Rangers in the 87th minute, when the centre-back got into the Kilmarnock area to turn home a Sean Goss cross. On Tuesday, Rangers travel to Pittodrie, where disparate trends encountered each other in the shape of Aberdeen and Hibs. The visitors had not won on their four most recent visits to the Granite City but arrived on an unbeaten run stretching back for 11 games. The Dons, meanwhile, had not won in May in a 13-game sequence which began in 2009. Hibs passed up a splendid opportunity to take an early lead when Jamie Maclaren was barged to the ground inside the box for a penalty kick which the Australian chose to take, only for Joe Lewis to read his intent and save with a dive low to his right to turn the ball up and over his crossbar. Maclaren was culpable again when he rose to meet a perfect cross from Martin Boyle six yards out and unmarked, but the striker placed his effort wide of the mark. Aberdeen took time to impose themselves but they came close when a Scott McKenna header was scooped off the line by Darren McGregor and, as the interval approached, Niall McGinn cracked a 25-yard free kick off the bar. John McGinn, the Hibs midfielder, alarmed Aberdeen with a 20-yard drive that was blocked by Lewis just before the hour mark, but his effort proved to be the last decent piece of work in a match which became more untidy as it wore on. “I am pleased with the performance and the mentality – and I’m disappointed not to come away with the three points,” said Neil Lennon. The Hibernian manager added: “Their goalkeeper got the man of the match and that says it all. We were comfortable and dealt with their aerial threat very well. We’ve still got a chance of finishing second. We are well in it.” Elsewhere, Motherwell seemed distracted by their appearance in the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden in two weeks, as they were thrashed 5-1 at home to St Johnstone, for whom Steve MacLean scored a hat-trick on his final appearance for the Perth club. “It is what dreams are made of,” MacLean said, who was Saints’ captain for the day. “When I woke up I would not have thought about signing off with that. I am so happy to go off that way and I wish them every success in the future.”
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.
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.
It had to finish eventually, of course, but no reputable pundit would have suggested that Celtic’s mighty record of 69 successive games unbeaten in domestic fixtures would be truncated in such emphatic fashion and by a team who finished the contest with two 16-year-olds in their ranks - one of whom was on the score sheet. Last Sunday at Easter Road, only a goal-line clearance by Mikael Lustig stopped 19-year-old Oli Shaw from putting an end to Celtic’s run in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road but on the other side of Edinburgh it was a cadet three years junior to Shaw who struck the first blow. Harry Cochrane, the first graduate of the Scottish Football Association’s performance school to start a senior game - against Dundee in September – ensured that this would be another indelible event in his young life by scoring his first goal in senior competitive football. That momentous event occurred in the 26th minute when the midfielder gathered a pass from Don Cowie and coolly drove it beyond Craig Gordon for Hearts’ opener. Even at that stage, Celtic looked unusually dishevelled, an impression confirmed five minutes before the break when Kyle Lafferty, whose muscular presence had disrupted the Hoops’ back line, was set up by David Milinkovic for a drive which clipped off the inside of Gordon’s right-hand post and across the line. Milinkovic resolved any doubt about the likely outcome with a second half double, first when he took advantage of a horrible error by Jozo Simunovic, then from the penalty spot after Gordon had fouled Ross Callachan needlessly. David Milinkovic makes it three for Hearts Credit: PA The occasion was heaven for stat addicts. Aside from Celtic’s immense undefeated sequence, Hearts were playing their sixth successive match at home, a consequence of the fixture disruption caused by the reconstruction of the main stand, having gone unbeaten in the previous five. Prior to this encounter, Celtic last suffered a domestic defeat on May 11, 2016, when they lost 2-1 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park before a 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell in Ronny Deila’s last game in charge started their record-breaking schedule. The champions had also won seven of their eight most recent visits to Tynecastle. Brendan Rodgers started with Leigh Griffiths as his spearhead, perhaps in acknowledgement of the former Hibs forward’s taste for scoring against city rivals. By full time, Griffiths had been joined by Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, and Celtic’s full contingent of strikers was reinforced by James Forrest and Scott Sinclair. Yet the Parkhead side failed to score in a domestic match for the first time since March 4, 2015, when they lost 1-0 at home to St Johnstone. Moreover, Celtic had scored in every game of their 69 unbeaten domestic outings. In contrast, when Lafferty was injured, he was replaced by Cole Stockton, formerly of Morecambe, who came on after Hearts had introduced their other 16-year-old, Anthony McDonald, for Prince Buaben. For all their firepower, Celtic were undone by frailty at the back and Hearts’ third goal was as basic as they come. Connor Randall launched a clearance upfield, Simunovic allowed it to bounce without interference and Milinkovic, blinking at his good fortune, drilled his finish precisely beyond Gordon. The Serb did exactly the same when presented with a similar gift, this time from the penalty spot after the Celtic keeper had tumbled Callachan as the Hearts man was moving away from goal. Rodgers acknowledged the vulnerability readily afterwards when he said: “First of all, I need to give credit to Hearts. It's a thoroughly deserved win; they were the better team. We didn't cope with their physicality, we made too many mistakes. “We could have played five games today and not scored a goal, but I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and for this to be their first defeat - of course, it's a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. “They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.” Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, was both mightily relieved – having been the object of criticism for indifferent results – and exultant, but he gave Celtic due credit for their remarkable accomplishment. “I must compliment Celtic - to go this far without losing a match in the league or cups in Scotland is quite remarkable,” he said. “I am probably even prouder of my players because we have managed to break that run. “They played honestly today. They ran the miles they needed to shut Celtic down. They put pressure on the ball and managed to unsettle Celtic as a team. All credit to them. “They gave themselves, each other and the supporters absolutely everything they had. I was thrilled with the interaction between the players and supporters. You could hear the noise with the new stand, and it was hugely pleasing to hear that." Hearts had not scored more than two goals in any league game this season, so it was with tremendous gusto that chants of ‘We want five!’ resounded from the stands. Sadly for the spectator seated to the left of this Telegraph correspondent who had put money on Hearts to win 5-0, it was not to be – proof that you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time.
Hearts end Celtic's 69-game unbeaten domestic run with four-goal hammering at Tynecastle
It had to finish eventually, of course, but no reputable pundit would have suggested that Celtic’s mighty record of 69 successive games unbeaten in domestic fixtures would be truncated in such emphatic fashion and by a team who finished the contest with two 16-year-olds in their ranks - one of whom was on the score sheet. Last Sunday at Easter Road, only a goal-line clearance by Mikael Lustig stopped 19-year-old Oli Shaw from putting an end to Celtic’s run in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road but on the other side of Edinburgh it was a cadet three years junior to Shaw who struck the first blow. Harry Cochrane, the first graduate of the Scottish Football Association’s performance school to start a senior game - against Dundee in September – ensured that this would be another indelible event in his young life by scoring his first goal in senior competitive football. That momentous event occurred in the 26th minute when the midfielder gathered a pass from Don Cowie and coolly drove it beyond Craig Gordon for Hearts’ opener. Even at that stage, Celtic looked unusually dishevelled, an impression confirmed five minutes before the break when Kyle Lafferty, whose muscular presence had disrupted the Hoops’ back line, was set up by David Milinkovic for a drive which clipped off the inside of Gordon’s right-hand post and across the line. Milinkovic resolved any doubt about the likely outcome with a second half double, first when he took advantage of a horrible error by Jozo Simunovic, then from the penalty spot after Gordon had fouled Ross Callachan needlessly. David Milinkovic makes it three for Hearts Credit: PA The occasion was heaven for stat addicts. Aside from Celtic’s immense undefeated sequence, Hearts were playing their sixth successive match at home, a consequence of the fixture disruption caused by the reconstruction of the main stand, having gone unbeaten in the previous five. Prior to this encounter, Celtic last suffered a domestic defeat on May 11, 2016, when they lost 2-1 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park before a 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell in Ronny Deila’s last game in charge started their record-breaking schedule. The champions had also won seven of their eight most recent visits to Tynecastle. Brendan Rodgers started with Leigh Griffiths as his spearhead, perhaps in acknowledgement of the former Hibs forward’s taste for scoring against city rivals. By full time, Griffiths had been joined by Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, and Celtic’s full contingent of strikers was reinforced by James Forrest and Scott Sinclair. Yet the Parkhead side failed to score in a domestic match for the first time since March 4, 2015, when they lost 1-0 at home to St Johnstone. Moreover, Celtic had scored in every game of their 69 unbeaten domestic outings. In contrast, when Lafferty was injured, he was replaced by Cole Stockton, formerly of Morecambe, who came on after Hearts had introduced their other 16-year-old, Anthony McDonald, for Prince Buaben. For all their firepower, Celtic were undone by frailty at the back and Hearts’ third goal was as basic as they come. Connor Randall launched a clearance upfield, Simunovic allowed it to bounce without interference and Milinkovic, blinking at his good fortune, drilled his finish precisely beyond Gordon. The Serb did exactly the same when presented with a similar gift, this time from the penalty spot after the Celtic keeper had tumbled Callachan as the Hearts man was moving away from goal. Rodgers acknowledged the vulnerability readily afterwards when he said: “First of all, I need to give credit to Hearts. It's a thoroughly deserved win; they were the better team. We didn't cope with their physicality, we made too many mistakes. “We could have played five games today and not scored a goal, but I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and for this to be their first defeat - of course, it's a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. “They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.” Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, was both mightily relieved – having been the object of criticism for indifferent results – and exultant, but he gave Celtic due credit for their remarkable accomplishment. “I must compliment Celtic - to go this far without losing a match in the league or cups in Scotland is quite remarkable,” he said. “I am probably even prouder of my players because we have managed to break that run. “They played honestly today. They ran the miles they needed to shut Celtic down. They put pressure on the ball and managed to unsettle Celtic as a team. All credit to them. “They gave themselves, each other and the supporters absolutely everything they had. I was thrilled with the interaction between the players and supporters. You could hear the noise with the new stand, and it was hugely pleasing to hear that." Hearts had not scored more than two goals in any league game this season, so it was with tremendous gusto that chants of ‘We want five!’ resounded from the stands. Sadly for the spectator seated to the left of this Telegraph correspondent who had put money on Hearts to win 5-0, it was not to be – proof that you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time.
It had to finish eventually, of course, but no reputable pundit would have suggested that Celtic’s mighty record of 69 successive games unbeaten in domestic fixtures would be truncated in such emphatic fashion and by a team who finished the contest with two 16-year-olds in their ranks - one of whom was on the score sheet. Last Sunday at Easter Road, only a goal-line clearance by Mikael Lustig stopped 19-year-old Oli Shaw from putting an end to Celtic’s run in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road but on the other side of Edinburgh it was a cadet three years junior to Shaw who struck the first blow. Harry Cochrane, the first graduate of the Scottish Football Association’s performance school to start a senior game - against Dundee in September – ensured that this would be another indelible event in his young life by scoring his first goal in senior competitive football. That momentous event occurred in the 26th minute when the midfielder gathered a pass from Don Cowie and coolly drove it beyond Craig Gordon for Hearts’ opener. Even at that stage, Celtic looked unusually dishevelled, an impression confirmed five minutes before the break when Kyle Lafferty, whose muscular presence had disrupted the Hoops’ back line, was set up by David Milinkovic for a drive which clipped off the inside of Gordon’s right-hand post and across the line. Milinkovic resolved any doubt about the likely outcome with a second half double, first when he took advantage of a horrible error by Jozo Simunovic, then from the penalty spot after Gordon had fouled Ross Callachan needlessly. David Milinkovic makes it three for Hearts Credit: PA The occasion was heaven for stat addicts. Aside from Celtic’s immense undefeated sequence, Hearts were playing their sixth successive match at home, a consequence of the fixture disruption caused by the reconstruction of the main stand, having gone unbeaten in the previous five. Prior to this encounter, Celtic last suffered a domestic defeat on May 11, 2016, when they lost 2-1 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park before a 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell in Ronny Deila’s last game in charge started their record-breaking schedule. The champions had also won seven of their eight most recent visits to Tynecastle. Brendan Rodgers started with Leigh Griffiths as his spearhead, perhaps in acknowledgement of the former Hibs forward’s taste for scoring against city rivals. By full time, Griffiths had been joined by Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, and Celtic’s full contingent of strikers was reinforced by James Forrest and Scott Sinclair. Yet the Parkhead side failed to score in a domestic match for the first time since March 4, 2015, when they lost 1-0 at home to St Johnstone. Moreover, Celtic had scored in every game of their 69 unbeaten domestic outings. In contrast, when Lafferty was injured, he was replaced by Cole Stockton, formerly of Morecambe, who came on after Hearts had introduced their other 16-year-old, Anthony McDonald, for Prince Buaben. For all their firepower, Celtic were undone by frailty at the back and Hearts’ third goal was as basic as they come. Connor Randall launched a clearance upfield, Simunovic allowed it to bounce without interference and Milinkovic, blinking at his good fortune, drilled his finish precisely beyond Gordon. The Serb did exactly the same when presented with a similar gift, this time from the penalty spot after the Celtic keeper had tumbled Callachan as the Hearts man was moving away from goal. Rodgers acknowledged the vulnerability readily afterwards when he said: “First of all, I need to give credit to Hearts. It's a thoroughly deserved win; they were the better team. We didn't cope with their physicality, we made too many mistakes. “We could have played five games today and not scored a goal, but I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and for this to be their first defeat - of course, it's a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. “They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.” Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, was both mightily relieved – having been the object of criticism for indifferent results – and exultant, but he gave Celtic due credit for their remarkable accomplishment. “I must compliment Celtic - to go this far without losing a match in the league or cups in Scotland is quite remarkable,” he said. “I am probably even prouder of my players because we have managed to break that run. “They played honestly today. They ran the miles they needed to shut Celtic down. They put pressure on the ball and managed to unsettle Celtic as a team. All credit to them. “They gave themselves, each other and the supporters absolutely everything they had. I was thrilled with the interaction between the players and supporters. You could hear the noise with the new stand, and it was hugely pleasing to hear that." Hearts had not scored more than two goals in any league game this season, so it was with tremendous gusto that chants of ‘We want five!’ resounded from the stands. Sadly for the spectator seated to the left of this Telegraph correspondent who had put money on Hearts to win 5-0, it was not to be – proof that you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time.
Hearts end Celtic's 69-game unbeaten domestic run with four-goal hammering at Tynecastle
It had to finish eventually, of course, but no reputable pundit would have suggested that Celtic’s mighty record of 69 successive games unbeaten in domestic fixtures would be truncated in such emphatic fashion and by a team who finished the contest with two 16-year-olds in their ranks - one of whom was on the score sheet. Last Sunday at Easter Road, only a goal-line clearance by Mikael Lustig stopped 19-year-old Oli Shaw from putting an end to Celtic’s run in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road but on the other side of Edinburgh it was a cadet three years junior to Shaw who struck the first blow. Harry Cochrane, the first graduate of the Scottish Football Association’s performance school to start a senior game - against Dundee in September – ensured that this would be another indelible event in his young life by scoring his first goal in senior competitive football. That momentous event occurred in the 26th minute when the midfielder gathered a pass from Don Cowie and coolly drove it beyond Craig Gordon for Hearts’ opener. Even at that stage, Celtic looked unusually dishevelled, an impression confirmed five minutes before the break when Kyle Lafferty, whose muscular presence had disrupted the Hoops’ back line, was set up by David Milinkovic for a drive which clipped off the inside of Gordon’s right-hand post and across the line. Milinkovic resolved any doubt about the likely outcome with a second half double, first when he took advantage of a horrible error by Jozo Simunovic, then from the penalty spot after Gordon had fouled Ross Callachan needlessly. David Milinkovic makes it three for Hearts Credit: PA The occasion was heaven for stat addicts. Aside from Celtic’s immense undefeated sequence, Hearts were playing their sixth successive match at home, a consequence of the fixture disruption caused by the reconstruction of the main stand, having gone unbeaten in the previous five. Prior to this encounter, Celtic last suffered a domestic defeat on May 11, 2016, when they lost 2-1 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park before a 7-0 thrashing of Motherwell in Ronny Deila’s last game in charge started their record-breaking schedule. The champions had also won seven of their eight most recent visits to Tynecastle. Brendan Rodgers started with Leigh Griffiths as his spearhead, perhaps in acknowledgement of the former Hibs forward’s taste for scoring against city rivals. By full time, Griffiths had been joined by Moussa Dembele and Odsonne Edouard, and Celtic’s full contingent of strikers was reinforced by James Forrest and Scott Sinclair. Yet the Parkhead side failed to score in a domestic match for the first time since March 4, 2015, when they lost 1-0 at home to St Johnstone. Moreover, Celtic had scored in every game of their 69 unbeaten domestic outings. In contrast, when Lafferty was injured, he was replaced by Cole Stockton, formerly of Morecambe, who came on after Hearts had introduced their other 16-year-old, Anthony McDonald, for Prince Buaben. For all their firepower, Celtic were undone by frailty at the back and Hearts’ third goal was as basic as they come. Connor Randall launched a clearance upfield, Simunovic allowed it to bounce without interference and Milinkovic, blinking at his good fortune, drilled his finish precisely beyond Gordon. The Serb did exactly the same when presented with a similar gift, this time from the penalty spot after the Celtic keeper had tumbled Callachan as the Hearts man was moving away from goal. Rodgers acknowledged the vulnerability readily afterwards when he said: “First of all, I need to give credit to Hearts. It's a thoroughly deserved win; they were the better team. We didn't cope with their physicality, we made too many mistakes. “We could have played five games today and not scored a goal, but I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and for this to be their first defeat - of course, it's a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. “They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.” Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, was both mightily relieved – having been the object of criticism for indifferent results – and exultant, but he gave Celtic due credit for their remarkable accomplishment. “I must compliment Celtic - to go this far without losing a match in the league or cups in Scotland is quite remarkable,” he said. “I am probably even prouder of my players because we have managed to break that run. “They played honestly today. They ran the miles they needed to shut Celtic down. They put pressure on the ball and managed to unsettle Celtic as a team. All credit to them. “They gave themselves, each other and the supporters absolutely everything they had. I was thrilled with the interaction between the players and supporters. You could hear the noise with the new stand, and it was hugely pleasing to hear that." Hearts had not scored more than two goals in any league game this season, so it was with tremendous gusto that chants of ‘We want five!’ resounded from the stands. Sadly for the spectator seated to the left of this Telegraph correspondent who had put money on Hearts to win 5-0, it was not to be – proof that you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time.
An Old Firm manager gets the bullet after a string of bad results and a novice is thrust into the maelstrom with no notice. Sounds familiar? Yes, it was in March 2010 that Tony Mowbray was sacked by Celtic after 10 months in charge and Neil Lennon asked to take care on an interim basis, a tenure that was almost stillborn when Celtic crashed to a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County. He remained in place for the rest of the season before being given the job full-time. He guided Celtic to three titles, two Scottish Cups and the last 16 of the Champions League. The Northern Irishman quit Celtic Park in 2014 and, after a spell at Bolton, was lured back to Scotland by Hibs in the summer of 2016, steering them to a return to the Premiership in his season. In the current campaign, his side have drawn with Celtic home and away in the league and beaten Rangers at Ibrox. On Wednesday, Rangers made up for the setback by beating Hibs at Easter Road, under the supervision of Graeme Murty, now in his second spell as caretaker manager in the aftermath of Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, having already performed the function in the wake of Mark Warburton’s departure in February. Murty did not expect to still be in charge; the Ibrox board were chasing Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes but their job offer was rebuffed. “I’m not sure there are many people who have been on the type of journey I’ve been on,” Murty said last night. “I actually talked to one on Wednesday in the shape of Neil Lennon and he spoke of his experience of being a caretaker at a massive, massive club. “The lessons he talked about are the things that I am going through now. It’s been an eye-opening year, a year of fantastic growth and development for me personally and professionally. It’s given me an insight into what I have to say is a magnificent club. “It’s opened my eyes to the wider world of football. Sometimes when you are in football, you get caught up in a bubble of the here and now, you forget how transient everything is but, coming to a club like Rangers, you get that feeling of history. “I realise I have a different status currently but I’m still the same person who goes home every night and is only third in charge of my own house.” Murty described his discussions with Lennon as “open and candid”, with his main piece of advice to enjoy the wins. “Coming from someone who must have been hurting quite a bit, that was very big of him. I really appreciated that,” says Murty. “I always have the feeling that it’s going to come crashing to a halt at any moment. That is why I’m enjoying it so much.” Graeme Murty directs his players Credit: GETTY IMAGES That sense of transience has underlined the importance of taking lessons from every day. “I’m trying to take as much learning and depth out of everything to help me to keep growing and developing as you don’t know when it’s going to stop,” he added. “I’m embracing it, but I’m thankful to the players for being on this journey with me. They haven’t come into this with any agenda whatsoever. They have just been very good pros and worked so hard. They get a lot of stick but I’ll be the one to stand up for them as they have been great for me.” Murty and Lennon experienced severe reverses on Saturday. Hibs lost away for the first time since March against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where Graeme Shinnie opened the scoring and Gary Mackay-Steven got a hat-trick in a 4-1 win, with Anthony Stokes netting a last-minute consolation goal. Rangers – bidding for five successive top-flight league wins for the first time since 2011 – took the lead at home to St Johnstone through Alfredo Morelos, but goals from Blair Alston, Denny Johnstone and Graham Cummings gave Saints their first league win at Ibrox since 1971. Elsewhere, Dundee beat bottom side Partick Thistle 3-0, Hamilton were 3-2 winners over Ross County, and Kilmarnock pipped Motherwell 1-0.
Graeme Murty takes advice from Neil Lennon on being an Old Firm caretaker
An Old Firm manager gets the bullet after a string of bad results and a novice is thrust into the maelstrom with no notice. Sounds familiar? Yes, it was in March 2010 that Tony Mowbray was sacked by Celtic after 10 months in charge and Neil Lennon asked to take care on an interim basis, a tenure that was almost stillborn when Celtic crashed to a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County. He remained in place for the rest of the season before being given the job full-time. He guided Celtic to three titles, two Scottish Cups and the last 16 of the Champions League. The Northern Irishman quit Celtic Park in 2014 and, after a spell at Bolton, was lured back to Scotland by Hibs in the summer of 2016, steering them to a return to the Premiership in his season. In the current campaign, his side have drawn with Celtic home and away in the league and beaten Rangers at Ibrox. On Wednesday, Rangers made up for the setback by beating Hibs at Easter Road, under the supervision of Graeme Murty, now in his second spell as caretaker manager in the aftermath of Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, having already performed the function in the wake of Mark Warburton’s departure in February. Murty did not expect to still be in charge; the Ibrox board were chasing Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes but their job offer was rebuffed. “I’m not sure there are many people who have been on the type of journey I’ve been on,” Murty said last night. “I actually talked to one on Wednesday in the shape of Neil Lennon and he spoke of his experience of being a caretaker at a massive, massive club. “The lessons he talked about are the things that I am going through now. It’s been an eye-opening year, a year of fantastic growth and development for me personally and professionally. It’s given me an insight into what I have to say is a magnificent club. “It’s opened my eyes to the wider world of football. Sometimes when you are in football, you get caught up in a bubble of the here and now, you forget how transient everything is but, coming to a club like Rangers, you get that feeling of history. “I realise I have a different status currently but I’m still the same person who goes home every night and is only third in charge of my own house.” Murty described his discussions with Lennon as “open and candid”, with his main piece of advice to enjoy the wins. “Coming from someone who must have been hurting quite a bit, that was very big of him. I really appreciated that,” says Murty. “I always have the feeling that it’s going to come crashing to a halt at any moment. That is why I’m enjoying it so much.” Graeme Murty directs his players Credit: GETTY IMAGES That sense of transience has underlined the importance of taking lessons from every day. “I’m trying to take as much learning and depth out of everything to help me to keep growing and developing as you don’t know when it’s going to stop,” he added. “I’m embracing it, but I’m thankful to the players for being on this journey with me. They haven’t come into this with any agenda whatsoever. They have just been very good pros and worked so hard. They get a lot of stick but I’ll be the one to stand up for them as they have been great for me.” Murty and Lennon experienced severe reverses on Saturday. Hibs lost away for the first time since March against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where Graeme Shinnie opened the scoring and Gary Mackay-Steven got a hat-trick in a 4-1 win, with Anthony Stokes netting a last-minute consolation goal. Rangers – bidding for five successive top-flight league wins for the first time since 2011 – took the lead at home to St Johnstone through Alfredo Morelos, but goals from Blair Alston, Denny Johnstone and Graham Cummings gave Saints their first league win at Ibrox since 1971. Elsewhere, Dundee beat bottom side Partick Thistle 3-0, Hamilton were 3-2 winners over Ross County, and Kilmarnock pipped Motherwell 1-0.
An Old Firm manager gets the bullet after a string of bad results and a novice is thrust into the maelstrom with no notice. Sounds familiar? Yes, it was in March 2010 that Tony Mowbray was sacked by Celtic after 10 months in charge and Neil Lennon asked to take care on an interim basis, a tenure that was almost stillborn when Celtic crashed to a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County. He remained in place for the rest of the season before being given the job full-time. He guided Celtic to three titles, two Scottish Cups and the last 16 of the Champions League. The Northern Irishman quit Celtic Park in 2014 and, after a spell at Bolton, was lured back to Scotland by Hibs in the summer of 2016, steering them to a return to the Premiership in his season. In the current campaign, his side have drawn with Celtic home and away in the league and beaten Rangers at Ibrox. On Wednesday, Rangers made up for the setback by beating Hibs at Easter Road, under the supervision of Graeme Murty, now in his second spell as caretaker manager in the aftermath of Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, having already performed the function in the wake of Mark Warburton’s departure in February. Murty did not expect to still be in charge; the Ibrox board were chasing Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes but their job offer was rebuffed. “I’m not sure there are many people who have been on the type of journey I’ve been on,” Murty said last night. “I actually talked to one on Wednesday in the shape of Neil Lennon and he spoke of his experience of being a caretaker at a massive, massive club. “The lessons he talked about are the things that I am going through now. It’s been an eye-opening year, a year of fantastic growth and development for me personally and professionally. It’s given me an insight into what I have to say is a magnificent club. “It’s opened my eyes to the wider world of football. Sometimes when you are in football, you get caught up in a bubble of the here and now, you forget how transient everything is but, coming to a club like Rangers, you get that feeling of history. “I realise I have a different status currently but I’m still the same person who goes home every night and is only third in charge of my own house.” Murty described his discussions with Lennon as “open and candid”, with his main piece of advice to enjoy the wins. “Coming from someone who must have been hurting quite a bit, that was very big of him. I really appreciated that,” says Murty. “I always have the feeling that it’s going to come crashing to a halt at any moment. That is why I’m enjoying it so much.” Graeme Murty directs his players Credit: GETTY IMAGES That sense of transience has underlined the importance of taking lessons from every day. “I’m trying to take as much learning and depth out of everything to help me to keep growing and developing as you don’t know when it’s going to stop,” he added. “I’m embracing it, but I’m thankful to the players for being on this journey with me. They haven’t come into this with any agenda whatsoever. They have just been very good pros and worked so hard. They get a lot of stick but I’ll be the one to stand up for them as they have been great for me.” Murty and Lennon experienced severe reverses on Saturday. Hibs lost away for the first time since March against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where Graeme Shinnie opened the scoring and Gary Mackay-Steven got a hat-trick in a 4-1 win, with Anthony Stokes netting a last-minute consolation goal. Rangers – bidding for five successive top-flight league wins for the first time since 2011 – took the lead at home to St Johnstone through Alfredo Morelos, but goals from Blair Alston, Denny Johnstone and Graham Cummings gave Saints their first league win at Ibrox since 1971. Elsewhere, Dundee beat bottom side Partick Thistle 3-0, Hamilton were 3-2 winners over Ross County, and Kilmarnock pipped Motherwell 1-0.
Graeme Murty takes advice from Neil Lennon on being an Old Firm caretaker
An Old Firm manager gets the bullet after a string of bad results and a novice is thrust into the maelstrom with no notice. Sounds familiar? Yes, it was in March 2010 that Tony Mowbray was sacked by Celtic after 10 months in charge and Neil Lennon asked to take care on an interim basis, a tenure that was almost stillborn when Celtic crashed to a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County. He remained in place for the rest of the season before being given the job full-time. He guided Celtic to three titles, two Scottish Cups and the last 16 of the Champions League. The Northern Irishman quit Celtic Park in 2014 and, after a spell at Bolton, was lured back to Scotland by Hibs in the summer of 2016, steering them to a return to the Premiership in his season. In the current campaign, his side have drawn with Celtic home and away in the league and beaten Rangers at Ibrox. On Wednesday, Rangers made up for the setback by beating Hibs at Easter Road, under the supervision of Graeme Murty, now in his second spell as caretaker manager in the aftermath of Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, having already performed the function in the wake of Mark Warburton’s departure in February. Murty did not expect to still be in charge; the Ibrox board were chasing Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes but their job offer was rebuffed. “I’m not sure there are many people who have been on the type of journey I’ve been on,” Murty said last night. “I actually talked to one on Wednesday in the shape of Neil Lennon and he spoke of his experience of being a caretaker at a massive, massive club. “The lessons he talked about are the things that I am going through now. It’s been an eye-opening year, a year of fantastic growth and development for me personally and professionally. It’s given me an insight into what I have to say is a magnificent club. “It’s opened my eyes to the wider world of football. Sometimes when you are in football, you get caught up in a bubble of the here and now, you forget how transient everything is but, coming to a club like Rangers, you get that feeling of history. “I realise I have a different status currently but I’m still the same person who goes home every night and is only third in charge of my own house.” Murty described his discussions with Lennon as “open and candid”, with his main piece of advice to enjoy the wins. “Coming from someone who must have been hurting quite a bit, that was very big of him. I really appreciated that,” says Murty. “I always have the feeling that it’s going to come crashing to a halt at any moment. That is why I’m enjoying it so much.” Graeme Murty directs his players Credit: GETTY IMAGES That sense of transience has underlined the importance of taking lessons from every day. “I’m trying to take as much learning and depth out of everything to help me to keep growing and developing as you don’t know when it’s going to stop,” he added. “I’m embracing it, but I’m thankful to the players for being on this journey with me. They haven’t come into this with any agenda whatsoever. They have just been very good pros and worked so hard. They get a lot of stick but I’ll be the one to stand up for them as they have been great for me.” Murty and Lennon experienced severe reverses on Saturday. Hibs lost away for the first time since March against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, where Graeme Shinnie opened the scoring and Gary Mackay-Steven got a hat-trick in a 4-1 win, with Anthony Stokes netting a last-minute consolation goal. Rangers – bidding for five successive top-flight league wins for the first time since 2011 – took the lead at home to St Johnstone through Alfredo Morelos, but goals from Blair Alston, Denny Johnstone and Graham Cummings gave Saints their first league win at Ibrox since 1971. Elsewhere, Dundee beat bottom side Partick Thistle 3-0, Hamilton were 3-2 winners over Ross County, and Kilmarnock pipped Motherwell 1-0.
It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer. “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you. It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”
Danny Wilson says Rangers must improve at home to stand a chance of winning trophies
It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer. “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you. It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”
It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer. “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you. It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”
Danny Wilson says Rangers must improve at home to stand a chance of winning trophies
It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer. “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you. It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”
It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer. “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you. It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”
Danny Wilson says Rangers must improve at home to stand a chance of winning trophies
It is a measure of Rangers’ fortunes on and off the field that, if they win on Saturday at home to St Johnstone, they will have recorded five successive league victories for the first time in as many years. The last time they accomplished the feat was between July and September 2011 when, with Ally McCoist in charge, they prevailed against St Johnstone, Inverness Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Celtic. Later that season, of course, came the club’s financial meltdown under Craig Whyte, after which four campaigns were spent in pursuit of a return to the top flight of Scottish football. That was achieved last year under Mark Warburton but the best sequence assembled by the Englishman in the Scottish Premiership fell between St Andrew’s Day and Christmas Eve, with full points taken from meetings with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hamilton and Inverness. Rangers’ current run, with four successive wins against Aberdeen home and away, Ross County at Ibrox and Hibernian at Easter Road is not, however, evidence of a tide of superior form, as Danny Wilson admitted readily yesterday. At half time in the game against Hibs, the Rangers central defender berated his team mates in the dressing room, despite the fact that they were leading 2-1. “Within those four results there have been some good performances and some really bad performances as a team,” Wilson said. “We can do much better than we did at Hibs. “I haven’t watched the game back but, from playing in it, I felt we were miles off it in terms of what we want to do and achieve as a team. However, we were able to dig the result out and that was probably something people have held against us - that when the going got tough, we went under. Wilson in action during the 2-1 win over Hibs Credit: ACTION PLUS “There’s no doubt we were well below the standards required. The words at half time were to that effect. After the game everyone was obviously delighted with the result and to be able to show that resilience at a tough place like Hibs, where we haven’t enjoyed great results in our last few encounters. We were just delighted to win and continue the run we’re on and now we know we’ll have it tough against St Johnstone.” It was against St Johnstone, albeit in Perth, that last year’s run of wins came to an end and, if Rangers need further warning of potential hazard, they need only reference Tommy Wright’s ability to coax his players into quarrying points from unpromising fixtures. Saints drew home and away with Rangers in the second half of last season and they left Celtic Park with a 1-1 draw in August. Wright is arguably the most undervalued manager in the division – his name scarcely featured in the reckoning for a successor to Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, a hiatus that has stretched for seven weeks – and the Northern Irishman was in prickly mood on Monday when he said: “Even our own support is negative about us at the minute, but we cannot let that affect us.” Rangers are still searching for a permanent manager but have secured positive results under Graeme Murty's watch Credit: PA St Johnstone lost at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday and Wright surely spies an opportunity in Rangers’ patchy home form. In nine league games at Ibrox, Rangers have won four, drawn two and lost three. “If we want to achieve anything this season we have to fix the home form because it's not been good enough,” said Wilson. “If we had taken more points at home, we would have been closer to first, but we are not looking too far ahead because, like I say, we know where we have just been.” Rangers will be without Kenny Miller, victim of a hamstring injury, and the veteran striker might still be absent when his colleagues travel to Celtic Park on December 30. Graham Dorrans, meanwhile, has not featured in midfield since the 1-1 home draw with Kilmarnock on October 25 and will be out for at least another three months after having undergone ankle surgery. “Graham is really unfortunate and I feel for him,” said Graeme Murty, Rangers’ interim manager. “On medical advice we took a conservative path with his initial rehab and that didn’t work. "I know he’s down and he’s quite low and before we talk about length of time being out I want to make sure the fellow is alright. Having been there myself, I know that coming up to Christmas it’s a brilliant time to be a footballer. “You get loads of games and at home everything is done for you. It’s all geared towards you performing in an extended way and you do miss it. We have to make sure Graham as a person is taken care of and then we’ll take care of the player after that.”
Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety. Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.
Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 1: Spirited Accies downed as Brendan Rodgers' side extend unbeaten run
Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety. Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.
Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety. Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.
Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 1: Spirited Accies downed as Brendan Rodgers' side extend unbeaten run
Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety. Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.
Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety. Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.
Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 1: Spirited Accies downed as Brendan Rodgers' side extend unbeaten run
Celtic’s mileage stretches on with no sign of interruption. The needle hit 69 successive games unbeaten with goals from Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair against a worthy effort from Hamilton, for whom Daniel Redmond found the mark and Rakish Bingham struck the post. The Celtic Park ambience on a bitterly cold night reflected season diversions and office parties must have had an impact on the attendance because the usually vibrant stadium had the feel of a half-empty Christmas stocking. Those who made the effort to attend, however, were treated to an opening first 45 minutes replete with four goals, all of them excellent. Brendan Rodgers made three changes from the 2-2 draw with Hibernian at Easter Road, with Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Kieran Tierney all on the bench to make way for Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Stuart Armstrong. Also sitting out the start once more were the striker pair of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele. The Hamilton manager, Martin Canning, without the luxury of a substantial squad, was forced to make six alterations to the line-up for their weekend defeat by St Johnstone in Perth. Canning revealed that David Templeton had missed training because of a throat infection, although the midfielder was numbered among the Accies substitutes, but Antiono Rojano had to be ruled out completely because of a back injury. In such circumstances, Celtic generally attempt to throttle opponents as early as possible and this occasion was no exception, with the stats showing them controlling 75% of possession by the 10-minute mark. By that stage, they were already a goal to the good from a delightful combination of Sinclair and Ntcham, the former chipping towards the back of the box for his colleague to strike a rising right-foot volley beyond Gary Woods. Daniel Redmond scores Hamilton's goal Credit: PA Hamilton might easily have folded but they stuck to a dispiriting task and got unexpected reward for persisting with an unpromising attack that seemed to have run out of steam on the left. The move was revitalised thanks to Darian MacKinnon’s persistence and, when the combative midfielder worked the ball to the edge of the box, Redmond did well to scoop his left-footed strike with precision and power high past Craig Gordon. As the interval approached, Hamilton could have been pardoned for imagining that they could take the comfort of a draw into the dressing room, but they were to be floored by two goals in as many minutes. The double blow carried additional force because Rakish Bingham had almost burst clear inside the Celtic half, only to be thwarted by a superbly timed interception by Ajer. Another day, another Celtic win Credit: PA The ball was shuttled adeptly through Armstrong to Forrest, who finished with trademark efficiency. Accies made the cardinal error of losing possession almost straight from therir restart and this time Forrest turned supplier, setting up Sinclair for an accomplished lofted effort into the top corner of the net. Odsonne Edouard, the teenager on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, had been granted the role of Celtic spearhead and his predatory instincts would have bagged him a couple of goals had it not been for impressive alertness from Woods, who twice plucked the ball from the Frenchman’s toes as he was played clean through the Hamilton back line. Edouard’s stint was done midway through the second half, when he was replaced by Griffiths, who took to the field with high energy. It was, though, Bingham who came closest when he prodded a shot through Gordon’s legs but was frustrated as the ball bobbled along the goal line and off the far post to safety. Match details Celtic (3-5-2):Gordon; Ajer, Boyata (Simunovic 72), Bitton; Forrest, Ntcham, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor; Edouard (Griffiths 67), Sinclair. Subs (unused): De Vries (g), Dembele, Hayes, Lustig, Tierney. Booked: Edouard. Hamilton Academical (3-5-2): Woods; Gogic, Tomas, McManus; Gillespie (, MacKinnon, Donati, Docherty, Imrie; Redmond, Bingham. Subs (unused): Fulton (g), Templeton, Lyon, Ferguson, Cunningham, Sarris. Booked: Gillespie. Referee: Stephen Finnie.
As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”
Managerless Rangers' January transfer activity to be led by former Manchester City academy director
As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”
As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”
Managerless Rangers' January transfer activity to be led by former Manchester City academy director
As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”
As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”
Managerless Rangers' January transfer activity to be led by former Manchester City academy director
As they approach the January transfer window with no sign of filling their managerial vacancy, Rangers will rely upon Mark Allen to reinforce their squad for the second half of the season. The man formerly in charge of the Manchester City academy is now director of football at Ibrox and according to interim manager, Graeme Murty, Allen could be thwarted in pursuit of targets because of the absence of a manager in the wake of Derek McInnes’s decision to snub Rangers’ offer to take charge. “It’s possible but, to be perfectly honest, I think we're buying a bit of trouble if we get focused on it,” Murty said. “Our recruitment department and Mark are looking at targets. “We're in daily discussions but, as it comes closer to that time and to individual players, you'll have to talk to Mark because he's in charge of that side of it at the moment. “I haven't been told anything is going to stop us getting a player that we like but, similarly, I haven't yet been detailed with specific targets. That will just have to take care of itself when January comes.” Meanwhile, the gulf that must somehow be bridged if Rangers are ever to restore their credibility as challengers to Celtic can be summed up by their respective aims on visits to Easter Road. On Sunday Celtic left the stadium with their unbeaten run extended to 68 in successive domestic fixtures. Interim manager Graeme Murty thinks Rangers could suffer in the transfer market given their lack of a permanent manager Credit: PA On Wednesday Rangers will aim to get to four wins in a row, having achieved three on the bounce for the first time in a year after beating Aberdeen home and away as well as coming from behind to prevail against Ross County at Ibrox on Saturday. Hibernian, of course, are in good shape with Neil Lennon in charge of their first season back in the top flight of Scottish football and a win would put them level with Rangers on points, and perhaps also with Aberdeen, depending upon the outcome in Perth, where the Dons meet St Johnstone. Hibs beat Rangers at Ibrox when the hapless Pedro Caixinha was in charge earlier in the season, but Murty did not accept that it would be a marker for him to reverse that outcome. “It’s three points. There’s no point reading any more into that,” he said. Murty and his de facto assistant, Jonatan Johansson, were at Easter Road to watch Hibs play Celtic on Sunday, although the interim boss confessed that the value of the exercise was debatable because of Lennon’s versatility. “JJ and I actually questioned how useful it was because I am not sure that Hibs will play in the same manner against us. I think they will have a different mindset, but it was useful for me to see the environment and to see some of their personnel without being constrained by the TV screen, to see how they move and what their strengths are. “Then we came back and watched three or four hours of their games and seeing them play in different formations. Mr Lennon is very adept at changing formations within the game too and we have to be on our toes dealing with that. Rangers are aiming for a fourth win in a row Credit: PA “I just think they will be more intense than they were against Celtic. The way that Celtic play in spreading the pitch and playing out from the back, and them being so good at it, actually draws the teeth of any aggressive press at the moment. I think Hibs will have possibly a different formation from the start.” Asked if Rangers’ current modest unbeaten run has encouraged him to nourish hope of extending the sequence as far as the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on December 30, Murty said: This is Rangers - we should be looking at that anyway. “We are trying make sure we take care of one marker at a time. If we get carried away and start looking at Celtic Park, I have got no doubt there are opponents before that that will be looking to trip us up. “We have to deal with Hibs’ intensity, their level of play, because they have got some good players. They have been successful this season and we have to make sure we are fully prepared for that. “Then, if we get closer to Celtic, great, but let’s make sure we focus on our process and our game first. Let’s not worry about Celtic, let’s concern ourselves with us. “At Aberdeen, everyone contributed and even Carlos Pena was involved when he came off, congratulating the guys, realising that everyone has a part to play. “If we get that mindset, that togetherness, as I’ve said there are qualities and threats within our group that mean we can go and hurt teams.”
Graeme Murty’s sojourn as Rangers caretaker manager has invested the term with unexpected substance, as confirmed by the latest extension to his Ibrox duties. The Under-20s coach took charge of the first team for six games after Mark Warburton left in February and had supervised another half dozen following Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, when he got the call on Thursday night to inform him that he would remain in place until New Year, by which point he will have been in charge for 18 matches. Given that Caixinha lasted all of 26 games, if Rangers should still have Celtic in sight come the start of January, Murty will be entitled to claim the lion’s share of credit, although, typically, he cited the contribution of others when the matter was raised. “Players might have something to do with it,” he said. “I’d contend that if we are in that sort of shape, our squad and our history would dictate that’s where we should be. “I couldn’t have imagined it. I couldn’t have seen myself in this position. I don’t like talking too much about myself, but the reality is I have a big job ahead of me and so do the players and theirs doesn’t get any easier. “The speculation around the club could lead to them losing focus. “It’s our job to make sure the players don’t do that, that they concentrate and do their jobs on the pitch, and meet the standards they reached against Aberdeen [in the 2-1 win].” The Ibrox directors have been condemned and scorned for the absence of a fall-back plan when they were rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes on Thursday. That they were all but certain that McInnes would accept is not in doubt, although one can only speculate about the source of their confidence. One Ibrox insider told The Sunday Telegraph: “Something spooked him at the last minute”. The Rangers board’s belief that McInnes would be their 18th manager and their complete surprise at his decision was reflected in Dave King’s scarcely disguised sarcasm when he retorted that “moving to a massive club like Rangers is a big step with concomitant risk”. The club’s longer-term playing issues are, however, being addressed as best they can be in the absence of a manager and targets have been drawn up for the January transfer window, according to Murty. “Identifying players is down to the new scouting department that’s been put together expressly for that purpose,” he said. “Those things will be collated by Mark Allen [director of football]. As to who the personnel are I’m not sure yet, but my thoughts have been asked for and given freely. “That’s how we operate. The person who comes in as permanent manager will get the benefit of that, albeit he might want some input also. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been compiling databases for the incoming manager. They list physical load, physical capacity, even their body comps, to make sure the manager coming in has the clearest physical picture of the playing staff available. Derek McInnes rejected the Rangers job Credit: PA “We’ve looked at all the players and I’ve a very good idea of who is capable of doing what at what stage – and where they are in terms of their physical cycle. So, planning an advance schedule from that or a longer schedule from that is easier than it would be if we didn’t have a sensational staff behind the scenes.” On the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ inconsistency denied them the possibility of going top of the Premiership on Saturday night, a position which would have been attainable had they preceded their back-to-back league victories over Aberdeen with the same against Hamilton and Dundee, games which were lost. “We dropped two points against Kilmarnock as well,” added Murty. “We’ve not managed to sustain our intensity or our levels and it’s our job collectively as staff and as players to make sure we do that. If we do that it lifts the fans, and makes Ibrox an intimidating place to come and play. “We need to do that we can push on from what’s been a challenging time.” The challenge, though, continued on Saturday at home to Ross County, who went ahead after 10 minutes when Craig Curran headed past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Rangers equalised on the hour through striker Alfredo Morelos before defender Danny Wilson headed home with seven minutes remaining to ensure a third successive victory for the first time in a year. At Rugby Park, doubles from Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy, plus Niall Keown’s own goal, saw Kilmarnock win 5-1 against Partick Thistle, for whom Chris Erskine netted. Motherwell’s tough spell was extended when, after two defeats and a draw against Celtic, they lost to a deflected Kyle Lafferty shot for Hearts at Tynecastle. Stefan Scougall’s strike gave St Johnstone all three points against Hamilton at New Douglas Park.
Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended
Graeme Murty’s sojourn as Rangers caretaker manager has invested the term with unexpected substance, as confirmed by the latest extension to his Ibrox duties. The Under-20s coach took charge of the first team for six games after Mark Warburton left in February and had supervised another half dozen following Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, when he got the call on Thursday night to inform him that he would remain in place until New Year, by which point he will have been in charge for 18 matches. Given that Caixinha lasted all of 26 games, if Rangers should still have Celtic in sight come the start of January, Murty will be entitled to claim the lion’s share of credit, although, typically, he cited the contribution of others when the matter was raised. “Players might have something to do with it,” he said. “I’d contend that if we are in that sort of shape, our squad and our history would dictate that’s where we should be. “I couldn’t have imagined it. I couldn’t have seen myself in this position. I don’t like talking too much about myself, but the reality is I have a big job ahead of me and so do the players and theirs doesn’t get any easier. “The speculation around the club could lead to them losing focus. “It’s our job to make sure the players don’t do that, that they concentrate and do their jobs on the pitch, and meet the standards they reached against Aberdeen [in the 2-1 win].” The Ibrox directors have been condemned and scorned for the absence of a fall-back plan when they were rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes on Thursday. That they were all but certain that McInnes would accept is not in doubt, although one can only speculate about the source of their confidence. One Ibrox insider told The Sunday Telegraph: “Something spooked him at the last minute”. The Rangers board’s belief that McInnes would be their 18th manager and their complete surprise at his decision was reflected in Dave King’s scarcely disguised sarcasm when he retorted that “moving to a massive club like Rangers is a big step with concomitant risk”. The club’s longer-term playing issues are, however, being addressed as best they can be in the absence of a manager and targets have been drawn up for the January transfer window, according to Murty. “Identifying players is down to the new scouting department that’s been put together expressly for that purpose,” he said. “Those things will be collated by Mark Allen [director of football]. As to who the personnel are I’m not sure yet, but my thoughts have been asked for and given freely. “That’s how we operate. The person who comes in as permanent manager will get the benefit of that, albeit he might want some input also. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been compiling databases for the incoming manager. They list physical load, physical capacity, even their body comps, to make sure the manager coming in has the clearest physical picture of the playing staff available. Derek McInnes rejected the Rangers job Credit: PA “We’ve looked at all the players and I’ve a very good idea of who is capable of doing what at what stage – and where they are in terms of their physical cycle. So, planning an advance schedule from that or a longer schedule from that is easier than it would be if we didn’t have a sensational staff behind the scenes.” On the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ inconsistency denied them the possibility of going top of the Premiership on Saturday night, a position which would have been attainable had they preceded their back-to-back league victories over Aberdeen with the same against Hamilton and Dundee, games which were lost. “We dropped two points against Kilmarnock as well,” added Murty. “We’ve not managed to sustain our intensity or our levels and it’s our job collectively as staff and as players to make sure we do that. If we do that it lifts the fans, and makes Ibrox an intimidating place to come and play. “We need to do that we can push on from what’s been a challenging time.” The challenge, though, continued on Saturday at home to Ross County, who went ahead after 10 minutes when Craig Curran headed past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Rangers equalised on the hour through striker Alfredo Morelos before defender Danny Wilson headed home with seven minutes remaining to ensure a third successive victory for the first time in a year. At Rugby Park, doubles from Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy, plus Niall Keown’s own goal, saw Kilmarnock win 5-1 against Partick Thistle, for whom Chris Erskine netted. Motherwell’s tough spell was extended when, after two defeats and a draw against Celtic, they lost to a deflected Kyle Lafferty shot for Hearts at Tynecastle. Stefan Scougall’s strike gave St Johnstone all three points against Hamilton at New Douglas Park.
Graeme Murty’s sojourn as Rangers caretaker manager has invested the term with unexpected substance, as confirmed by the latest extension to his Ibrox duties. The Under-20s coach took charge of the first team for six games after Mark Warburton left in February and had supervised another half dozen following Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, when he got the call on Thursday night to inform him that he would remain in place until New Year, by which point he will have been in charge for 18 matches. Given that Caixinha lasted all of 26 games, if Rangers should still have Celtic in sight come the start of January, Murty will be entitled to claim the lion’s share of credit, although, typically, he cited the contribution of others when the matter was raised. “Players might have something to do with it,” he said. “I’d contend that if we are in that sort of shape, our squad and our history would dictate that’s where we should be. “I couldn’t have imagined it. I couldn’t have seen myself in this position. I don’t like talking too much about myself, but the reality is I have a big job ahead of me and so do the players and theirs doesn’t get any easier. “The speculation around the club could lead to them losing focus. “It’s our job to make sure the players don’t do that, that they concentrate and do their jobs on the pitch, and meet the standards they reached against Aberdeen [in the 2-1 win].” The Ibrox directors have been condemned and scorned for the absence of a fall-back plan when they were rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes on Thursday. That they were all but certain that McInnes would accept is not in doubt, although one can only speculate about the source of their confidence. One Ibrox insider told The Sunday Telegraph: “Something spooked him at the last minute”. The Rangers board’s belief that McInnes would be their 18th manager and their complete surprise at his decision was reflected in Dave King’s scarcely disguised sarcasm when he retorted that “moving to a massive club like Rangers is a big step with concomitant risk”. The club’s longer-term playing issues are, however, being addressed as best they can be in the absence of a manager and targets have been drawn up for the January transfer window, according to Murty. “Identifying players is down to the new scouting department that’s been put together expressly for that purpose,” he said. “Those things will be collated by Mark Allen [director of football]. As to who the personnel are I’m not sure yet, but my thoughts have been asked for and given freely. “That’s how we operate. The person who comes in as permanent manager will get the benefit of that, albeit he might want some input also. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been compiling databases for the incoming manager. They list physical load, physical capacity, even their body comps, to make sure the manager coming in has the clearest physical picture of the playing staff available. Derek McInnes rejected the Rangers job Credit: PA “We’ve looked at all the players and I’ve a very good idea of who is capable of doing what at what stage – and where they are in terms of their physical cycle. So, planning an advance schedule from that or a longer schedule from that is easier than it would be if we didn’t have a sensational staff behind the scenes.” On the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ inconsistency denied them the possibility of going top of the Premiership on Saturday night, a position which would have been attainable had they preceded their back-to-back league victories over Aberdeen with the same against Hamilton and Dundee, games which were lost. “We dropped two points against Kilmarnock as well,” added Murty. “We’ve not managed to sustain our intensity or our levels and it’s our job collectively as staff and as players to make sure we do that. If we do that it lifts the fans, and makes Ibrox an intimidating place to come and play. “We need to do that we can push on from what’s been a challenging time.” The challenge, though, continued on Saturday at home to Ross County, who went ahead after 10 minutes when Craig Curran headed past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Rangers equalised on the hour through striker Alfredo Morelos before defender Danny Wilson headed home with seven minutes remaining to ensure a third successive victory for the first time in a year. At Rugby Park, doubles from Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy, plus Niall Keown’s own goal, saw Kilmarnock win 5-1 against Partick Thistle, for whom Chris Erskine netted. Motherwell’s tough spell was extended when, after two defeats and a draw against Celtic, they lost to a deflected Kyle Lafferty shot for Hearts at Tynecastle. Stefan Scougall’s strike gave St Johnstone all three points against Hamilton at New Douglas Park.
Graeme Murty acclaims Rangers squad as reign is extended
Graeme Murty’s sojourn as Rangers caretaker manager has invested the term with unexpected substance, as confirmed by the latest extension to his Ibrox duties. The Under-20s coach took charge of the first team for six games after Mark Warburton left in February and had supervised another half dozen following Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, when he got the call on Thursday night to inform him that he would remain in place until New Year, by which point he will have been in charge for 18 matches. Given that Caixinha lasted all of 26 games, if Rangers should still have Celtic in sight come the start of January, Murty will be entitled to claim the lion’s share of credit, although, typically, he cited the contribution of others when the matter was raised. “Players might have something to do with it,” he said. “I’d contend that if we are in that sort of shape, our squad and our history would dictate that’s where we should be. “I couldn’t have imagined it. I couldn’t have seen myself in this position. I don’t like talking too much about myself, but the reality is I have a big job ahead of me and so do the players and theirs doesn’t get any easier. “The speculation around the club could lead to them losing focus. “It’s our job to make sure the players don’t do that, that they concentrate and do their jobs on the pitch, and meet the standards they reached against Aberdeen [in the 2-1 win].” The Ibrox directors have been condemned and scorned for the absence of a fall-back plan when they were rebuffed by Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes on Thursday. That they were all but certain that McInnes would accept is not in doubt, although one can only speculate about the source of their confidence. One Ibrox insider told The Sunday Telegraph: “Something spooked him at the last minute”. The Rangers board’s belief that McInnes would be their 18th manager and their complete surprise at his decision was reflected in Dave King’s scarcely disguised sarcasm when he retorted that “moving to a massive club like Rangers is a big step with concomitant risk”. The club’s longer-term playing issues are, however, being addressed as best they can be in the absence of a manager and targets have been drawn up for the January transfer window, according to Murty. “Identifying players is down to the new scouting department that’s been put together expressly for that purpose,” he said. “Those things will be collated by Mark Allen [director of football]. As to who the personnel are I’m not sure yet, but my thoughts have been asked for and given freely. “That’s how we operate. The person who comes in as permanent manager will get the benefit of that, albeit he might want some input also. “Behind the scenes, we’ve been compiling databases for the incoming manager. They list physical load, physical capacity, even their body comps, to make sure the manager coming in has the clearest physical picture of the playing staff available. Derek McInnes rejected the Rangers job Credit: PA “We’ve looked at all the players and I’ve a very good idea of who is capable of doing what at what stage – and where they are in terms of their physical cycle. So, planning an advance schedule from that or a longer schedule from that is easier than it would be if we didn’t have a sensational staff behind the scenes.” On the field, meanwhile, Rangers’ inconsistency denied them the possibility of going top of the Premiership on Saturday night, a position which would have been attainable had they preceded their back-to-back league victories over Aberdeen with the same against Hamilton and Dundee, games which were lost. “We dropped two points against Kilmarnock as well,” added Murty. “We’ve not managed to sustain our intensity or our levels and it’s our job collectively as staff and as players to make sure we do that. If we do that it lifts the fans, and makes Ibrox an intimidating place to come and play. “We need to do that we can push on from what’s been a challenging time.” The challenge, though, continued on Saturday at home to Ross County, who went ahead after 10 minutes when Craig Curran headed past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham. Rangers equalised on the hour through striker Alfredo Morelos before defender Danny Wilson headed home with seven minutes remaining to ensure a third successive victory for the first time in a year. At Rugby Park, doubles from Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy, plus Niall Keown’s own goal, saw Kilmarnock win 5-1 against Partick Thistle, for whom Chris Erskine netted. Motherwell’s tough spell was extended when, after two defeats and a draw against Celtic, they lost to a deflected Kyle Lafferty shot for Hearts at Tynecastle. Stefan Scougall’s strike gave St Johnstone all three points against Hamilton at New Douglas Park.
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
Celtic's form has James Forrest dreaming of a European run to rival 2003
James Forrest played for Celtic last time they were in a European final, when the Hoops lost 3-2 to Porto after extra time in Seville in 2003. To be more precise, while Martin O’Neill’s men were edged out of the silverware by a Porto side under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, Forrest was featuring as an 11-year-old for one of the Parkhead club’s boys’ teams. On Tuesday night, however, Celtic can secure European football after Christmas providing that they get any result better than a 4-0 defeat at home to Anderlecht in their final Champions League group match. Brendan Rodgers’ players would then go into the Europa League, a tournament which offers them the chance of progress at that level into the spring of next year. Celtic would require a degree of luck in the draw because although there are no teams of the calibre of Paris Saint-Germain – who have beaten them 5-0 in Glasgow and 7-1 in France in their Champions League group – the Europa League knockout stage will still feature the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan, Lazio, Diamo Kiev, Olympique Marseille and Villareal. Still, Hoops fans nourish hope of a campaign that would rekindle memories of the adventures of their 2003 side, who prevailed against Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista to reach the final, to which they were followed by an estimated 80,000 supporters, fewer than half of whom had tickets for the match. “It was a memorable year, a special season,” said Forrest. “They did really well, they got on a run, but back then, they were probably just taking it a game at time. I don't think they would have predicted that they would get to the final. Celtic's players trudge off after defeat in the 2003 Uefa Cup final Credit: REx feautures “We’re the same. I don't think anybody has really thought about the Europa League. At the start of the season the goal was to get into the Champions League and we wanted to be in Europe after Christmas. “Now we’re coming to the last Champions League game at home at Celtic Park and we want to make sure we have a good result and a positive performance and take it from there, game by game.” Forrest has enjoyed a buoyant campaign so far. Never a prolific scorer, his most productive season was 2011-12, when he netted nine times in 43 appearances. This time around he is on 10 goals from 32 outings and his strike for the opener in last Sunday’s Betfred Scottish League Cup final helped ensure him a 12th medal to show for his nine years at the club. “I’ve matched Bobby Lennox now by scoring in three League Cup Finals, which is great,” said the 26-year-old. “But I don't sit and count the medals. At Celtic, when you play in a final, you've normally got a game a few days later, so you just win it and move on. Celtic breezed past Motherwell Credit: Getty images “And you never want to stop with what you've got. I've been in the first team for seven years and only Broony (Scott Brown) is still here from when I made my debut. “The number of players who have come and gone is scary, but it's gone quite quickly. There have been ups and downs but it's been really enjoyable. “It’s hard to imagine myself playing for any other club. I've been here since I was nine years old so anywhere but Celtic would feel strange. “All my medals are in my flat. I'm not one for framing stuff but it's great to have so many – and the most important one is the next.” Rodgers made six changes to his team with Anderlecht in mind next week Credit: Getty images Forrest was on the bench for the third meeting on the bounce of Celtic and Motherwell. With the Anderlecht tie in mind, Rodgers made no fewer than six changes to the team who drew 1-1 at Fir Park in midweek. One of the incomers, Odsonne Edouard, made an immediate impact with two first half goals and only a very slow offside decision denied Tom Rogic another when he was put clear by Olivier Ntcham just before the break. Elliot Frear reduced the deficit against the run of play in the second half before Forrest arrived as a sub to net Celtic’s third and fifth in the 76th minute, before Odsonne secured his hat-trick from close range. Elsewhere, there were victories for Kilmarnock at St Johnstone, Dundee away to Ross County and Hibernian against Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Hearts drew at home with Hamilton. Sunday sees attention switch to Pittodrie, where Aberdeen meet Rangers for the second time in four days, the Dons having lost 3-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday. The game will proceed against a background of intense speculation within Scottish football that Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, remains Rangers’ principal target to replace Pedro Caixinha, who was sacked in October and that developments could occur as early as Monday.
Nir Bitton was not called upon to endure the painful experience of facing Paris St-Germain when they inflicted a 5-0 home defeat on Celtic in the Champions League group stage tie in September but on Wednesday he could be called upon to stand against the fearsome trio of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé when the teams meet again in the French capital. That prospect is not lightened by the fact that Bitton has been operating as a makeshift centre-back, a role that has seen him draw fire from critics who regard the Israel international midfielder as a risk at the heart of the back line. He was allotted the task because of injuries to Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko, both of whom are now back in training. The Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers, however, praised Bitton after his side's 1-0 win against Ross County in Dingwall on Saturday, when he said: “This guy gets slated for not being a centre-half, but I haven’t seen one better outside of Celtic [in the SPFL].” When Rodgers’ comment was subsequently relayed to Bitton, the 26-year-old grinned. “I told you a few weeks ago I’m a £50 million player,” he said. “No, I am trying to do my best and still trying to learn the position. “I don’t know if you see it but Dedryck Boyata is talking to me all through the game. I don’t know if he has lost his voice by now. He is trying to help and guide me. “I haven’t played centre midfield for a long time now. If the gaffer thinks I deserve to play centre back, that’s what I will do. If he thinks I should play as goalkeeper, that’s what I will do. I am enjoying it, I am enjoying my football and winning and I am just trying to keep that going.” Beating Spurs is Arsenal's Cup final 39:00 Recent performances have revealed a more assertive streak to Bitton in his newly-acquired incarnation. “I don’t know if it’s more aggression but as a centre-back you need to jump, you need to be strong, you need to press the strikers,” he said. “For football players it’s all about confidence. When you get confidence from the manager and from the players around you, you can do things you didn’t do before, but it’s still an early stage for me as a centre-back and I’m still trying to learn the position. I’m trying to be better and there are a lot of things to do.” Should Bitton be called upon to go in against the might of the PSG front three, he will have no illusions about the magnitude of the task. “In every respect Wednesday is going to be different conditions from the game at Ross County – very different players and maybe the best front three in the world right now. “You just need to face it and you just need to enjoy it as much as you can. Everybody knows that PSG are better than Celtic but we need to compete and show that we deserve to play at this level and hopefully we will do that. “When you play against Neymar, Mbappé, Cavani – it doesn’t matter who plays there – you need to make no mistakes and compete and, if we do that, hopefully Wednesday will be another kind of game. With Aberdeen held to a home draw by Motherwell and Rangers and Hibernian losing at home to Hamilton Academical and St Johnstone respectively, Celtic are now six points clear at the top of the SPFL Premiership ahead of next Sunday’s meeting with Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park.
Celtic midfielder Nir Bitton takes step back into defence ahead of ultimate test against PSG in Champions League
Nir Bitton was not called upon to endure the painful experience of facing Paris St-Germain when they inflicted a 5-0 home defeat on Celtic in the Champions League group stage tie in September but on Wednesday he could be called upon to stand against the fearsome trio of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé when the teams meet again in the French capital. That prospect is not lightened by the fact that Bitton has been operating as a makeshift centre-back, a role that has seen him draw fire from critics who regard the Israel international midfielder as a risk at the heart of the back line. He was allotted the task because of injuries to Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko, both of whom are now back in training. The Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers, however, praised Bitton after his side's 1-0 win against Ross County in Dingwall on Saturday, when he said: “This guy gets slated for not being a centre-half, but I haven’t seen one better outside of Celtic [in the SPFL].” When Rodgers’ comment was subsequently relayed to Bitton, the 26-year-old grinned. “I told you a few weeks ago I’m a £50 million player,” he said. “No, I am trying to do my best and still trying to learn the position. “I don’t know if you see it but Dedryck Boyata is talking to me all through the game. I don’t know if he has lost his voice by now. He is trying to help and guide me. “I haven’t played centre midfield for a long time now. If the gaffer thinks I deserve to play centre back, that’s what I will do. If he thinks I should play as goalkeeper, that’s what I will do. I am enjoying it, I am enjoying my football and winning and I am just trying to keep that going.” Beating Spurs is Arsenal's Cup final 39:00 Recent performances have revealed a more assertive streak to Bitton in his newly-acquired incarnation. “I don’t know if it’s more aggression but as a centre-back you need to jump, you need to be strong, you need to press the strikers,” he said. “For football players it’s all about confidence. When you get confidence from the manager and from the players around you, you can do things you didn’t do before, but it’s still an early stage for me as a centre-back and I’m still trying to learn the position. I’m trying to be better and there are a lot of things to do.” Should Bitton be called upon to go in against the might of the PSG front three, he will have no illusions about the magnitude of the task. “In every respect Wednesday is going to be different conditions from the game at Ross County – very different players and maybe the best front three in the world right now. “You just need to face it and you just need to enjoy it as much as you can. Everybody knows that PSG are better than Celtic but we need to compete and show that we deserve to play at this level and hopefully we will do that. “When you play against Neymar, Mbappé, Cavani – it doesn’t matter who plays there – you need to make no mistakes and compete and, if we do that, hopefully Wednesday will be another kind of game. With Aberdeen held to a home draw by Motherwell and Rangers and Hibernian losing at home to Hamilton Academical and St Johnstone respectively, Celtic are now six points clear at the top of the SPFL Premiership ahead of next Sunday’s meeting with Motherwell in the Betfred Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park.
The World Cup and Champions League will combine to give Brendan Rodgers a headache next summer when the Celtic manager must address the overlap of two competitions involving his players. Tom Rogic, Cristian Gamboa and Mikael Lustig are set to be at the World Cup finals with Australia, Costa Rica and Sweden respectively, while Erik Sviatchenko could also be in Russia with Denmark if he regains a place in the squad after his injury lay-off. The finals get under way on June 14 and end on July 15, but changes to the Champions League qualifying process mean that Celtic are likely to be involved in that tournament’s first round on July 10 or 11, and Rodgers has to ensure he has resources at right-back, where both Lustig and Gamboa play. “It is the way it is,” he said. “We have to prepare for that in the next window to ensure we’re covered. Gambo and Lustig are both right-sided defensive players, so that’s going to be a key area because we don’t want to be short. “We will manage our schedule accordingly. We do have Tony Ralston who is here and so I think we cover, but it is an area we need to consider going through the summer. “We have been short in certain areas over the last two summers, so January is a bid window for us if we feel we need to do something. “It [the Champions League schedule] is punishing to say the least, with eight games in as many weeks. Normally, you get a wee breather in there. There are the other games you need to play to get fit, and the league might be up and running, so it’s certainly not made any easier for the team which is trying to qualify.” Lustiq is expected to be in the Sweden squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia Credit: Getty Images In the meantime, World Cup qualification for the lucky trio has had a positive knock-on effect, according to Rodgers. “I think there is a real good-feel factor there. Everyone is happy for them,” he said. “You would have seen Mikael’s celebrations in the week, and he’s come back full of enthusiasm. That’s contagious, and it goes around the group. “Tom Rogic? God, if anybody deserves to be at the World Cup it’s him, given how far he’s had to travel – constantly all around tKhe world. Cristian Gamboa will be there as well, and if Erik Sviatchenko gets into Danish squad the second part of the season, then there’s a chance for him as well.” Celtic, of course, have immediate business in this season’s Champions League when they meet Paris Saint-Germain in Paris on Wednesday. The Scottish champions cannot make the knockout stage but remain favourites to claim the Europa League spot ahead of Anderlecht and, although they lost 2-1 at home to Bayern Munich in their previous outing, Rodgers saw improvement in his players’ performance. “We performed very well in that game but didn’t get the result, so we can learn from that,” he said. “There were lots of great moments in that game, but our frustration was that from when we scored, there were three minutes till they went ahead again and what’s so important in the 10 minutes after you score is you keep the ball as much as you can. That was our only downfall. We gave everything in the game. We defended well, we came from being behind and got level and with 15 minutes to go, we have a great chance of getting a result. But after we scored, we gave the ball away three times and didn’t press as hard as we normally would. “Then all of a sudden, you are 2-1 behind, so that’s typical of the lessons that we are finding out all the time. At this level, it’s not so much about the possession you have, it’s about dangerous possession. “Can you show the personality and confidence to show you belong on that stage? These teams, PSG and Bayern Munich, are expected to go all the way in the competition. “So realistically, it is tough for us. The question on Wednesday is can we play our game and improve?” Celtic were in Dingwall for yesterday’s lunchtime meeting with Ross County, seeking a 64th successive domestic fixture unbeaten. Although they were dominant from first to last, the Scottish Premiership leaders had to wait until the 75th minute to secure their victory when Leigh Griffiths, a late substitute, struck one of his trademark free kicks from 25 yards to beat Aaron McCarey, on the occasion of left-back Kieran Tierney’s 100th appearance for Celtic. A good afternoon for Celtic got even better as the chasing pack were all defeated in the 3pm kick-offs. League Cup finalists Motherwell –who will contest the first silverware of the season against Celtic at Hampden a week today – secured an excellent 2-0 win in Aberdeen with a Louis Moult double. Hibernian were beaten 2-1 at home when Steven MacLean scored for St Johnstone with the last kick of the game. Most surprisingly, Rangers lost at home to Hamilton for the first time in the league for 91 years as goals by David Templeton and Darren Taylor made history at Ibrox. Elsewhere, Dundee and Kilmarnock saw out a 0-0 draw at Dens Park.
Brendan Rodgers looks to January transfer window in preparation for busy summer
The World Cup and Champions League will combine to give Brendan Rodgers a headache next summer when the Celtic manager must address the overlap of two competitions involving his players. Tom Rogic, Cristian Gamboa and Mikael Lustig are set to be at the World Cup finals with Australia, Costa Rica and Sweden respectively, while Erik Sviatchenko could also be in Russia with Denmark if he regains a place in the squad after his injury lay-off. The finals get under way on June 14 and end on July 15, but changes to the Champions League qualifying process mean that Celtic are likely to be involved in that tournament’s first round on July 10 or 11, and Rodgers has to ensure he has resources at right-back, where both Lustig and Gamboa play. “It is the way it is,” he said. “We have to prepare for that in the next window to ensure we’re covered. Gambo and Lustig are both right-sided defensive players, so that’s going to be a key area because we don’t want to be short. “We will manage our schedule accordingly. We do have Tony Ralston who is here and so I think we cover, but it is an area we need to consider going through the summer. “We have been short in certain areas over the last two summers, so January is a bid window for us if we feel we need to do something. “It [the Champions League schedule] is punishing to say the least, with eight games in as many weeks. Normally, you get a wee breather in there. There are the other games you need to play to get fit, and the league might be up and running, so it’s certainly not made any easier for the team which is trying to qualify.” Lustiq is expected to be in the Sweden squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia Credit: Getty Images In the meantime, World Cup qualification for the lucky trio has had a positive knock-on effect, according to Rodgers. “I think there is a real good-feel factor there. Everyone is happy for them,” he said. “You would have seen Mikael’s celebrations in the week, and he’s come back full of enthusiasm. That’s contagious, and it goes around the group. “Tom Rogic? God, if anybody deserves to be at the World Cup it’s him, given how far he’s had to travel – constantly all around tKhe world. Cristian Gamboa will be there as well, and if Erik Sviatchenko gets into Danish squad the second part of the season, then there’s a chance for him as well.” Celtic, of course, have immediate business in this season’s Champions League when they meet Paris Saint-Germain in Paris on Wednesday. The Scottish champions cannot make the knockout stage but remain favourites to claim the Europa League spot ahead of Anderlecht and, although they lost 2-1 at home to Bayern Munich in their previous outing, Rodgers saw improvement in his players’ performance. “We performed very well in that game but didn’t get the result, so we can learn from that,” he said. “There were lots of great moments in that game, but our frustration was that from when we scored, there were three minutes till they went ahead again and what’s so important in the 10 minutes after you score is you keep the ball as much as you can. That was our only downfall. We gave everything in the game. We defended well, we came from being behind and got level and with 15 minutes to go, we have a great chance of getting a result. But after we scored, we gave the ball away three times and didn’t press as hard as we normally would. “Then all of a sudden, you are 2-1 behind, so that’s typical of the lessons that we are finding out all the time. At this level, it’s not so much about the possession you have, it’s about dangerous possession. “Can you show the personality and confidence to show you belong on that stage? These teams, PSG and Bayern Munich, are expected to go all the way in the competition. “So realistically, it is tough for us. The question on Wednesday is can we play our game and improve?” Celtic were in Dingwall for yesterday’s lunchtime meeting with Ross County, seeking a 64th successive domestic fixture unbeaten. Although they were dominant from first to last, the Scottish Premiership leaders had to wait until the 75th minute to secure their victory when Leigh Griffiths, a late substitute, struck one of his trademark free kicks from 25 yards to beat Aaron McCarey, on the occasion of left-back Kieran Tierney’s 100th appearance for Celtic. A good afternoon for Celtic got even better as the chasing pack were all defeated in the 3pm kick-offs. League Cup finalists Motherwell –who will contest the first silverware of the season against Celtic at Hampden a week today – secured an excellent 2-0 win in Aberdeen with a Louis Moult double. Hibernian were beaten 2-1 at home when Steven MacLean scored for St Johnstone with the last kick of the game. Most surprisingly, Rangers lost at home to Hamilton for the first time in the league for 91 years as goals by David Templeton and Darren Taylor made history at Ibrox. Elsewhere, Dundee and Kilmarnock saw out a 0-0 draw at Dens Park.
The World Cup and Champions League will combine to give Brendan Rodgers a headache next summer when the Celtic manager must address the overlap of two competitions involving his players. Tom Rogic, Cristian Gamboa and Mikael Lustig are set to be at the World Cup finals with Australia, Costa Rica and Sweden respectively, while Erik Sviatchenko could also be in Russia with Denmark if he regains a place in the squad after his injury lay-off. The finals get under way on June 14 and end on July 15, but changes to the Champions League qualifying process mean that Celtic are likely to be involved in that tournament’s first round on July 10 or 11, and Rodgers has to ensure he has resources at right-back, where both Lustig and Gamboa play. “It is the way it is,” he said. “We have to prepare for that in the next window to ensure we’re covered. Gambo and Lustig are both right-sided defensive players, so that’s going to be a key area because we don’t want to be short. “We will manage our schedule accordingly. We do have Tony Ralston who is here and so I think we cover, but it is an area we need to consider going through the summer. “We have been short in certain areas over the last two summers, so January is a bid window for us if we feel we need to do something. “It [the Champions League schedule] is punishing to say the least, with eight games in as many weeks. Normally, you get a wee breather in there. There are the other games you need to play to get fit, and the league might be up and running, so it’s certainly not made any easier for the team which is trying to qualify.” Lustiq is expected to be in the Sweden squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia Credit: Getty Images In the meantime, World Cup qualification for the lucky trio has had a positive knock-on effect, according to Rodgers. “I think there is a real good-feel factor there. Everyone is happy for them,” he said. “You would have seen Mikael’s celebrations in the week, and he’s come back full of enthusiasm. That’s contagious, and it goes around the group. “Tom Rogic? God, if anybody deserves to be at the World Cup it’s him, given how far he’s had to travel – constantly all around tKhe world. Cristian Gamboa will be there as well, and if Erik Sviatchenko gets into Danish squad the second part of the season, then there’s a chance for him as well.” Celtic, of course, have immediate business in this season’s Champions League when they meet Paris Saint-Germain in Paris on Wednesday. The Scottish champions cannot make the knockout stage but remain favourites to claim the Europa League spot ahead of Anderlecht and, although they lost 2-1 at home to Bayern Munich in their previous outing, Rodgers saw improvement in his players’ performance. “We performed very well in that game but didn’t get the result, so we can learn from that,” he said. “There were lots of great moments in that game, but our frustration was that from when we scored, there were three minutes till they went ahead again and what’s so important in the 10 minutes after you score is you keep the ball as much as you can. That was our only downfall. We gave everything in the game. We defended well, we came from being behind and got level and with 15 minutes to go, we have a great chance of getting a result. But after we scored, we gave the ball away three times and didn’t press as hard as we normally would. “Then all of a sudden, you are 2-1 behind, so that’s typical of the lessons that we are finding out all the time. At this level, it’s not so much about the possession you have, it’s about dangerous possession. “Can you show the personality and confidence to show you belong on that stage? These teams, PSG and Bayern Munich, are expected to go all the way in the competition. “So realistically, it is tough for us. The question on Wednesday is can we play our game and improve?” Celtic were in Dingwall for yesterday’s lunchtime meeting with Ross County, seeking a 64th successive domestic fixture unbeaten. Although they were dominant from first to last, the Scottish Premiership leaders had to wait until the 75th minute to secure their victory when Leigh Griffiths, a late substitute, struck one of his trademark free kicks from 25 yards to beat Aaron McCarey, on the occasion of left-back Kieran Tierney’s 100th appearance for Celtic. A good afternoon for Celtic got even better as the chasing pack were all defeated in the 3pm kick-offs. League Cup finalists Motherwell –who will contest the first silverware of the season against Celtic at Hampden a week today – secured an excellent 2-0 win in Aberdeen with a Louis Moult double. Hibernian were beaten 2-1 at home when Steven MacLean scored for St Johnstone with the last kick of the game. Most surprisingly, Rangers lost at home to Hamilton for the first time in the league for 91 years as goals by David Templeton and Darren Taylor made history at Ibrox. Elsewhere, Dundee and Kilmarnock saw out a 0-0 draw at Dens Park.
Brendan Rodgers looks to January transfer window in preparation for busy summer
The World Cup and Champions League will combine to give Brendan Rodgers a headache next summer when the Celtic manager must address the overlap of two competitions involving his players. Tom Rogic, Cristian Gamboa and Mikael Lustig are set to be at the World Cup finals with Australia, Costa Rica and Sweden respectively, while Erik Sviatchenko could also be in Russia with Denmark if he regains a place in the squad after his injury lay-off. The finals get under way on June 14 and end on July 15, but changes to the Champions League qualifying process mean that Celtic are likely to be involved in that tournament’s first round on July 10 or 11, and Rodgers has to ensure he has resources at right-back, where both Lustig and Gamboa play. “It is the way it is,” he said. “We have to prepare for that in the next window to ensure we’re covered. Gambo and Lustig are both right-sided defensive players, so that’s going to be a key area because we don’t want to be short. “We will manage our schedule accordingly. We do have Tony Ralston who is here and so I think we cover, but it is an area we need to consider going through the summer. “We have been short in certain areas over the last two summers, so January is a bid window for us if we feel we need to do something. “It [the Champions League schedule] is punishing to say the least, with eight games in as many weeks. Normally, you get a wee breather in there. There are the other games you need to play to get fit, and the league might be up and running, so it’s certainly not made any easier for the team which is trying to qualify.” Lustiq is expected to be in the Sweden squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia Credit: Getty Images In the meantime, World Cup qualification for the lucky trio has had a positive knock-on effect, according to Rodgers. “I think there is a real good-feel factor there. Everyone is happy for them,” he said. “You would have seen Mikael’s celebrations in the week, and he’s come back full of enthusiasm. That’s contagious, and it goes around the group. “Tom Rogic? God, if anybody deserves to be at the World Cup it’s him, given how far he’s had to travel – constantly all around tKhe world. Cristian Gamboa will be there as well, and if Erik Sviatchenko gets into Danish squad the second part of the season, then there’s a chance for him as well.” Celtic, of course, have immediate business in this season’s Champions League when they meet Paris Saint-Germain in Paris on Wednesday. The Scottish champions cannot make the knockout stage but remain favourites to claim the Europa League spot ahead of Anderlecht and, although they lost 2-1 at home to Bayern Munich in their previous outing, Rodgers saw improvement in his players’ performance. “We performed very well in that game but didn’t get the result, so we can learn from that,” he said. “There were lots of great moments in that game, but our frustration was that from when we scored, there were three minutes till they went ahead again and what’s so important in the 10 minutes after you score is you keep the ball as much as you can. That was our only downfall. We gave everything in the game. We defended well, we came from being behind and got level and with 15 minutes to go, we have a great chance of getting a result. But after we scored, we gave the ball away three times and didn’t press as hard as we normally would. “Then all of a sudden, you are 2-1 behind, so that’s typical of the lessons that we are finding out all the time. At this level, it’s not so much about the possession you have, it’s about dangerous possession. “Can you show the personality and confidence to show you belong on that stage? These teams, PSG and Bayern Munich, are expected to go all the way in the competition. “So realistically, it is tough for us. The question on Wednesday is can we play our game and improve?” Celtic were in Dingwall for yesterday’s lunchtime meeting with Ross County, seeking a 64th successive domestic fixture unbeaten. Although they were dominant from first to last, the Scottish Premiership leaders had to wait until the 75th minute to secure their victory when Leigh Griffiths, a late substitute, struck one of his trademark free kicks from 25 yards to beat Aaron McCarey, on the occasion of left-back Kieran Tierney’s 100th appearance for Celtic. A good afternoon for Celtic got even better as the chasing pack were all defeated in the 3pm kick-offs. League Cup finalists Motherwell –who will contest the first silverware of the season against Celtic at Hampden a week today – secured an excellent 2-0 win in Aberdeen with a Louis Moult double. Hibernian were beaten 2-1 at home when Steven MacLean scored for St Johnstone with the last kick of the game. Most surprisingly, Rangers lost at home to Hamilton for the first time in the league for 91 years as goals by David Templeton and Darren Taylor made history at Ibrox. Elsewhere, Dundee and Kilmarnock saw out a 0-0 draw at Dens Park.
He will be on the same field as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani when Celtic face Paris St-Germain in their Champions League group stage tie on Wednesday night, but to see Kieran Tierney star-struck you had to be at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Monday. The occasion was a solo acoustic gig by singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, after which he and Tierney got together to celebrate their mutual interests. In Bugg’s case, the topic of choice was football – the musician is this month’s shirt sponsor for Notts County, his local team – and Tierney presented him with a signed Celtic jersey. For Tierney, it was yet another in a fast-moving sequence of personal highlights. Only four days previously, he had captained Scotland at the age of 20 in the friendly against Holland at Pittodrie on only his ninth appearance for his county since his debut in March, 2016 at home to Denmark. During an international career which so far spans just 18 months, Tierney’s versatility has seen him moved from left-back to central defence and also to right-back. In his most recent club appearance, a 4-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth, Tierney was a member of the Celtic team who broke their own UK record of 62 successive domestic games unbeaten. Tierney was also named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October Credit: Action Plus via Getty Images On Thursday he was named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October and today he will make his 100th appearance for Celtic in the lunchtime kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall. It is not a feat upon which the prudent gambler would have wagered folding money in 2015, a year which began with Tierney suffering a broken leg. Since then he has sustained ankle ligament damage and a shoulder injury. Adversity, however, confirmed Tierney’s characteristic resilience and this season he has made 24 appearances for his club and five for Scotland. He has, in every sense, taken great strides since his first appearance for Celtic as a late substitute in a game with Dundee at Dens Park on April 22, 2015. “I could never have envisaged this when I made my debut. It’s happened quite quickly as well,” Tierney said, when invited to review his meteoric progress. “Other than the injuries I’ve had, it’s all been good. “I’d been in the squad for a few games then we played Ross County at home and I’d made the bench for the very first time. The next day I broke my leg at training and I was thinking, ‘What chance do I have?’ but I believe that it made me hungrier. I came back and worked at stuff I was weak on try to come back stronger. “When you have injuries you just need to try and focus on the positives that you can take from them. They are horrible, though – this time last year I was going around with a plaster on my leg and wearing a shoulder brace for two months. “So now, when we have a busy schedule of games – like the one coming up – you don’t moan. You just want to be available to play in all of them.” There have been inevitable comparisons with legendary left-back, Danny McGrain, whose spell at Celtic between 1970 and 1987 encompassed 663 matches. “How many games did he play? That’s mad, isn’t it?” Tierney said. “I’m just taking it as it comes. “I don’t take anything for granted and work as hard as I can every day. The more matches I play the better it is for me and, hopefully, I’ll keep on learning.” Buttressed by a close-knit family and childhood friends with common interests, Tierney presents a lively but steady personality. “I’m texting my pals at half three or four o’clock asking if anyone is ready for Call of Duty, but they are all working until five,” he said. “Every time I’ve been injured and come out of hospital my friend Jamie has come to stay with me, keep me company and take my mind off it. We’ve been pals since nursery school. I’ve had the same friends since the very start and I think that’s important.” Tierney’s unseen contribution to Celtic team spirit is as dressing room DJ, with a retro list of tastes which includes Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Spandau Ballet, Stone Roses and Oasis. “The boys love it. They always ask me to do the tunes after games so I must be doing something right,” he insisted. “I wasn’t born when the stuff was out but my musical taste is brilliant, to be fair.” It’s not the only Tierney attribute that merits that description – or why Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt is an entirely apt theme song for the singer’s Celtic celebrity fan.
Kieran Tierney on his meteoric rise with Celtic and Scotland - and being dressing room DJ
He will be on the same field as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani when Celtic face Paris St-Germain in their Champions League group stage tie on Wednesday night, but to see Kieran Tierney star-struck you had to be at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Monday. The occasion was a solo acoustic gig by singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, after which he and Tierney got together to celebrate their mutual interests. In Bugg’s case, the topic of choice was football – the musician is this month’s shirt sponsor for Notts County, his local team – and Tierney presented him with a signed Celtic jersey. For Tierney, it was yet another in a fast-moving sequence of personal highlights. Only four days previously, he had captained Scotland at the age of 20 in the friendly against Holland at Pittodrie on only his ninth appearance for his county since his debut in March, 2016 at home to Denmark. During an international career which so far spans just 18 months, Tierney’s versatility has seen him moved from left-back to central defence and also to right-back. In his most recent club appearance, a 4-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth, Tierney was a member of the Celtic team who broke their own UK record of 62 successive domestic games unbeaten. Tierney was also named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October Credit: Action Plus via Getty Images On Thursday he was named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October and today he will make his 100th appearance for Celtic in the lunchtime kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall. It is not a feat upon which the prudent gambler would have wagered folding money in 2015, a year which began with Tierney suffering a broken leg. Since then he has sustained ankle ligament damage and a shoulder injury. Adversity, however, confirmed Tierney’s characteristic resilience and this season he has made 24 appearances for his club and five for Scotland. He has, in every sense, taken great strides since his first appearance for Celtic as a late substitute in a game with Dundee at Dens Park on April 22, 2015. “I could never have envisaged this when I made my debut. It’s happened quite quickly as well,” Tierney said, when invited to review his meteoric progress. “Other than the injuries I’ve had, it’s all been good. “I’d been in the squad for a few games then we played Ross County at home and I’d made the bench for the very first time. The next day I broke my leg at training and I was thinking, ‘What chance do I have?’ but I believe that it made me hungrier. I came back and worked at stuff I was weak on try to come back stronger. “When you have injuries you just need to try and focus on the positives that you can take from them. They are horrible, though – this time last year I was going around with a plaster on my leg and wearing a shoulder brace for two months. “So now, when we have a busy schedule of games – like the one coming up – you don’t moan. You just want to be available to play in all of them.” There have been inevitable comparisons with legendary left-back, Danny McGrain, whose spell at Celtic between 1970 and 1987 encompassed 663 matches. “How many games did he play? That’s mad, isn’t it?” Tierney said. “I’m just taking it as it comes. “I don’t take anything for granted and work as hard as I can every day. The more matches I play the better it is for me and, hopefully, I’ll keep on learning.” Buttressed by a close-knit family and childhood friends with common interests, Tierney presents a lively but steady personality. “I’m texting my pals at half three or four o’clock asking if anyone is ready for Call of Duty, but they are all working until five,” he said. “Every time I’ve been injured and come out of hospital my friend Jamie has come to stay with me, keep me company and take my mind off it. We’ve been pals since nursery school. I’ve had the same friends since the very start and I think that’s important.” Tierney’s unseen contribution to Celtic team spirit is as dressing room DJ, with a retro list of tastes which includes Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Spandau Ballet, Stone Roses and Oasis. “The boys love it. They always ask me to do the tunes after games so I must be doing something right,” he insisted. “I wasn’t born when the stuff was out but my musical taste is brilliant, to be fair.” It’s not the only Tierney attribute that merits that description – or why Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt is an entirely apt theme song for the singer’s Celtic celebrity fan.
He will be on the same field as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani when Celtic face Paris St-Germain in their Champions League group stage tie on Wednesday night, but to see Kieran Tierney star-struck you had to be at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Monday. The occasion was a solo acoustic gig by singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, after which he and Tierney got together to celebrate their mutual interests. In Bugg’s case, the topic of choice was football – the musician is this month’s shirt sponsor for Notts County, his local team – and Tierney presented him with a signed Celtic jersey. For Tierney, it was yet another in a fast-moving sequence of personal highlights. Only four days previously, he had captained Scotland at the age of 20 in the friendly against Holland at Pittodrie on only his ninth appearance for his county since his debut in March, 2016 at home to Denmark. During an international career which so far spans just 18 months, Tierney’s versatility has seen him moved from left-back to central defence and also to right-back. In his most recent club appearance, a 4-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth, Tierney was a member of the Celtic team who broke their own UK record of 62 successive domestic games unbeaten. Tierney was also named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October Credit: Action Plus via Getty Images On Thursday he was named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October and today he will make his 100th appearance for Celtic in the lunchtime kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall. It is not a feat upon which the prudent gambler would have wagered folding money in 2015, a year which began with Tierney suffering a broken leg. Since then he has sustained ankle ligament damage and a shoulder injury. Adversity, however, confirmed Tierney’s characteristic resilience and this season he has made 24 appearances for his club and five for Scotland. He has, in every sense, taken great strides since his first appearance for Celtic as a late substitute in a game with Dundee at Dens Park on April 22, 2015. “I could never have envisaged this when I made my debut. It’s happened quite quickly as well,” Tierney said, when invited to review his meteoric progress. “Other than the injuries I’ve had, it’s all been good. “I’d been in the squad for a few games then we played Ross County at home and I’d made the bench for the very first time. The next day I broke my leg at training and I was thinking, ‘What chance do I have?’ but I believe that it made me hungrier. I came back and worked at stuff I was weak on try to come back stronger. “When you have injuries you just need to try and focus on the positives that you can take from them. They are horrible, though – this time last year I was going around with a plaster on my leg and wearing a shoulder brace for two months. “So now, when we have a busy schedule of games – like the one coming up – you don’t moan. You just want to be available to play in all of them.” There have been inevitable comparisons with legendary left-back, Danny McGrain, whose spell at Celtic between 1970 and 1987 encompassed 663 matches. “How many games did he play? That’s mad, isn’t it?” Tierney said. “I’m just taking it as it comes. “I don’t take anything for granted and work as hard as I can every day. The more matches I play the better it is for me and, hopefully, I’ll keep on learning.” Buttressed by a close-knit family and childhood friends with common interests, Tierney presents a lively but steady personality. “I’m texting my pals at half three or four o’clock asking if anyone is ready for Call of Duty, but they are all working until five,” he said. “Every time I’ve been injured and come out of hospital my friend Jamie has come to stay with me, keep me company and take my mind off it. We’ve been pals since nursery school. I’ve had the same friends since the very start and I think that’s important.” Tierney’s unseen contribution to Celtic team spirit is as dressing room DJ, with a retro list of tastes which includes Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Spandau Ballet, Stone Roses and Oasis. “The boys love it. They always ask me to do the tunes after games so I must be doing something right,” he insisted. “I wasn’t born when the stuff was out but my musical taste is brilliant, to be fair.” It’s not the only Tierney attribute that merits that description – or why Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt is an entirely apt theme song for the singer’s Celtic celebrity fan.
Kieran Tierney on his meteoric rise with Celtic and Scotland - and being dressing room DJ
He will be on the same field as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani when Celtic face Paris St-Germain in their Champions League group stage tie on Wednesday night, but to see Kieran Tierney star-struck you had to be at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh on Monday. The occasion was a solo acoustic gig by singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, after which he and Tierney got together to celebrate their mutual interests. In Bugg’s case, the topic of choice was football – the musician is this month’s shirt sponsor for Notts County, his local team – and Tierney presented him with a signed Celtic jersey. For Tierney, it was yet another in a fast-moving sequence of personal highlights. Only four days previously, he had captained Scotland at the age of 20 in the friendly against Holland at Pittodrie on only his ninth appearance for his county since his debut in March, 2016 at home to Denmark. During an international career which so far spans just 18 months, Tierney’s versatility has seen him moved from left-back to central defence and also to right-back. In his most recent club appearance, a 4-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth, Tierney was a member of the Celtic team who broke their own UK record of 62 successive domestic games unbeaten. Tierney was also named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October Credit: Action Plus via Getty Images On Thursday he was named Scottish Premiership player of the month for October and today he will make his 100th appearance for Celtic in the lunchtime kick-off against Ross County in Dingwall. It is not a feat upon which the prudent gambler would have wagered folding money in 2015, a year which began with Tierney suffering a broken leg. Since then he has sustained ankle ligament damage and a shoulder injury. Adversity, however, confirmed Tierney’s characteristic resilience and this season he has made 24 appearances for his club and five for Scotland. He has, in every sense, taken great strides since his first appearance for Celtic as a late substitute in a game with Dundee at Dens Park on April 22, 2015. “I could never have envisaged this when I made my debut. It’s happened quite quickly as well,” Tierney said, when invited to review his meteoric progress. “Other than the injuries I’ve had, it’s all been good. “I’d been in the squad for a few games then we played Ross County at home and I’d made the bench for the very first time. The next day I broke my leg at training and I was thinking, ‘What chance do I have?’ but I believe that it made me hungrier. I came back and worked at stuff I was weak on try to come back stronger. “When you have injuries you just need to try and focus on the positives that you can take from them. They are horrible, though – this time last year I was going around with a plaster on my leg and wearing a shoulder brace for two months. “So now, when we have a busy schedule of games – like the one coming up – you don’t moan. You just want to be available to play in all of them.” There have been inevitable comparisons with legendary left-back, Danny McGrain, whose spell at Celtic between 1970 and 1987 encompassed 663 matches. “How many games did he play? That’s mad, isn’t it?” Tierney said. “I’m just taking it as it comes. “I don’t take anything for granted and work as hard as I can every day. The more matches I play the better it is for me and, hopefully, I’ll keep on learning.” Buttressed by a close-knit family and childhood friends with common interests, Tierney presents a lively but steady personality. “I’m texting my pals at half three or four o’clock asking if anyone is ready for Call of Duty, but they are all working until five,” he said. “Every time I’ve been injured and come out of hospital my friend Jamie has come to stay with me, keep me company and take my mind off it. We’ve been pals since nursery school. I’ve had the same friends since the very start and I think that’s important.” Tierney’s unseen contribution to Celtic team spirit is as dressing room DJ, with a retro list of tastes which includes Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Spandau Ballet, Stone Roses and Oasis. “The boys love it. They always ask me to do the tunes after games so I must be doing something right,” he insisted. “I wasn’t born when the stuff was out but my musical taste is brilliant, to be fair.” It’s not the only Tierney attribute that merits that description – or why Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt is an entirely apt theme song for the singer’s Celtic celebrity fan.
If Michael O’Neill becomes Scotland manager, Brendan Rodgers will form an alliance with his Northern Irish compatriot for their mutual benefit, according to the Celtic manager. O’Neill will meet the Scottish Football Association next week to discuss the national team job, vacant since Gordon Strachan’s departure last month. Should he accept, he will inherit a group of Celtic players who formed the backbone of Strachan’s team. Asked if he expected to be speaking regularly with O’Neill under such circumstances, Rodgers said: “Absolutely, and I want to help. There is a real energy about the Celtic players when they go there, a real core of them that can help. “He has lived in Scotland for a number of years, played in Scotland and knows what you are all like. “He has spent six years or so at Northern Ireland and has done a European Championship and just missed out on a World Cup. Their top players over the next few years will move on. “If you look at Scotland, it is an exciting group and if he can pull them together and develop them, then he would maybe have a chance of getting them to their first Euros in 20-odd years and then maybe on to a World Cup after that. I am sure it is one he will think about.” Rodgers thinks St Johnstone's Tommy Wright would be a perfect replacement for Michael O'Neill at Northern Ireland Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Rodgers also backed another fellow countryman to take over the Northern Ireland job should O’Neill quit. Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, has surmounted the Perth club’s limited resources to post three successive fourth-place finishes and in 2014 guided them to their first major trophy success with a victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final. Surprisingly to some, Wright has not been in the frame for the managerial vacancy at Rangers, for which the favourite remains Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, but his feats have been noted by the Irish Football Association. “Tommy would be perfect for Northern Ireland if Michael moved on,” said Rodgers. “He has earned his stripes at St Johnstone. For me, for the Rangers job, Derek McInnes and him would be obvious stand-outs, but I really hope he gets the chance given the work he has done to do it on a bigger stage.” The resumption of domestic fixtures after the international break sees Celtic travel to Dingwall tomorrow where they will attempt to extend their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures to 64 against Ross County. “It’ll end at some point,” Rodgers said. “We only focus on the next game. The squad is coming back now. I see the competitiveness in the players – we have Patrick Roberts, Jozo Simunovic and Leigh Griffiths back training this week. Erik [Sviatchenko] played 45 minutes of a practice match last week. They are fit, if not football fit, but the availability is there.” That match will mark another milestone in the career path of Kieran Tierney, when the defender makes his 100th appearance for Celtic at the ripe old age of 20. He also earned the accolade of captain of Scotland in the recent friendly with The Netherlands. “He can be a great leader for Scotland and I think he will be a captain here at Celtic one day,” said Rodgers. “He is developing and maturing on and off the field. I heard him speak at the end of the season at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association dinner and thought he spoke so well. It is nice to see young players come on in all aspects.”
Brendan Rodgers welcomes mutually beneficial possible alliance with Michael O'Neill
If Michael O’Neill becomes Scotland manager, Brendan Rodgers will form an alliance with his Northern Irish compatriot for their mutual benefit, according to the Celtic manager. O’Neill will meet the Scottish Football Association next week to discuss the national team job, vacant since Gordon Strachan’s departure last month. Should he accept, he will inherit a group of Celtic players who formed the backbone of Strachan’s team. Asked if he expected to be speaking regularly with O’Neill under such circumstances, Rodgers said: “Absolutely, and I want to help. There is a real energy about the Celtic players when they go there, a real core of them that can help. “He has lived in Scotland for a number of years, played in Scotland and knows what you are all like. “He has spent six years or so at Northern Ireland and has done a European Championship and just missed out on a World Cup. Their top players over the next few years will move on. “If you look at Scotland, it is an exciting group and if he can pull them together and develop them, then he would maybe have a chance of getting them to their first Euros in 20-odd years and then maybe on to a World Cup after that. I am sure it is one he will think about.” Rodgers thinks St Johnstone's Tommy Wright would be a perfect replacement for Michael O'Neill at Northern Ireland Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Rodgers also backed another fellow countryman to take over the Northern Ireland job should O’Neill quit. Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, has surmounted the Perth club’s limited resources to post three successive fourth-place finishes and in 2014 guided them to their first major trophy success with a victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final. Surprisingly to some, Wright has not been in the frame for the managerial vacancy at Rangers, for which the favourite remains Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, but his feats have been noted by the Irish Football Association. “Tommy would be perfect for Northern Ireland if Michael moved on,” said Rodgers. “He has earned his stripes at St Johnstone. For me, for the Rangers job, Derek McInnes and him would be obvious stand-outs, but I really hope he gets the chance given the work he has done to do it on a bigger stage.” The resumption of domestic fixtures after the international break sees Celtic travel to Dingwall tomorrow where they will attempt to extend their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures to 64 against Ross County. “It’ll end at some point,” Rodgers said. “We only focus on the next game. The squad is coming back now. I see the competitiveness in the players – we have Patrick Roberts, Jozo Simunovic and Leigh Griffiths back training this week. Erik [Sviatchenko] played 45 minutes of a practice match last week. They are fit, if not football fit, but the availability is there.” That match will mark another milestone in the career path of Kieran Tierney, when the defender makes his 100th appearance for Celtic at the ripe old age of 20. He also earned the accolade of captain of Scotland in the recent friendly with The Netherlands. “He can be a great leader for Scotland and I think he will be a captain here at Celtic one day,” said Rodgers. “He is developing and maturing on and off the field. I heard him speak at the end of the season at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association dinner and thought he spoke so well. It is nice to see young players come on in all aspects.”
If Michael O’Neill becomes Scotland manager, Brendan Rodgers will form an alliance with his Northern Irish compatriot for their mutual benefit, according to the Celtic manager. O’Neill will meet the Scottish Football Association next week to discuss the national team job, vacant since Gordon Strachan’s departure last month. Should he accept, he will inherit a group of Celtic players who formed the backbone of Strachan’s team. Asked if he expected to be speaking regularly with O’Neill under such circumstances, Rodgers said: “Absolutely, and I want to help. There is a real energy about the Celtic players when they go there, a real core of them that can help. “He has lived in Scotland for a number of years, played in Scotland and knows what you are all like. “He has spent six years or so at Northern Ireland and has done a European Championship and just missed out on a World Cup. Their top players over the next few years will move on. “If you look at Scotland, it is an exciting group and if he can pull them together and develop them, then he would maybe have a chance of getting them to their first Euros in 20-odd years and then maybe on to a World Cup after that. I am sure it is one he will think about.” Rodgers thinks St Johnstone's Tommy Wright would be a perfect replacement for Michael O'Neill at Northern Ireland Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Rodgers also backed another fellow countryman to take over the Northern Ireland job should O’Neill quit. Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, has surmounted the Perth club’s limited resources to post three successive fourth-place finishes and in 2014 guided them to their first major trophy success with a victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final. Surprisingly to some, Wright has not been in the frame for the managerial vacancy at Rangers, for which the favourite remains Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, but his feats have been noted by the Irish Football Association. “Tommy would be perfect for Northern Ireland if Michael moved on,” said Rodgers. “He has earned his stripes at St Johnstone. For me, for the Rangers job, Derek McInnes and him would be obvious stand-outs, but I really hope he gets the chance given the work he has done to do it on a bigger stage.” The resumption of domestic fixtures after the international break sees Celtic travel to Dingwall tomorrow where they will attempt to extend their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures to 64 against Ross County. “It’ll end at some point,” Rodgers said. “We only focus on the next game. The squad is coming back now. I see the competitiveness in the players – we have Patrick Roberts, Jozo Simunovic and Leigh Griffiths back training this week. Erik [Sviatchenko] played 45 minutes of a practice match last week. They are fit, if not football fit, but the availability is there.” That match will mark another milestone in the career path of Kieran Tierney, when the defender makes his 100th appearance for Celtic at the ripe old age of 20. He also earned the accolade of captain of Scotland in the recent friendly with The Netherlands. “He can be a great leader for Scotland and I think he will be a captain here at Celtic one day,” said Rodgers. “He is developing and maturing on and off the field. I heard him speak at the end of the season at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association dinner and thought he spoke so well. It is nice to see young players come on in all aspects.”
Brendan Rodgers welcomes mutually beneficial possible alliance with Michael O'Neill
If Michael O’Neill becomes Scotland manager, Brendan Rodgers will form an alliance with his Northern Irish compatriot for their mutual benefit, according to the Celtic manager. O’Neill will meet the Scottish Football Association next week to discuss the national team job, vacant since Gordon Strachan’s departure last month. Should he accept, he will inherit a group of Celtic players who formed the backbone of Strachan’s team. Asked if he expected to be speaking regularly with O’Neill under such circumstances, Rodgers said: “Absolutely, and I want to help. There is a real energy about the Celtic players when they go there, a real core of them that can help. “He has lived in Scotland for a number of years, played in Scotland and knows what you are all like. “He has spent six years or so at Northern Ireland and has done a European Championship and just missed out on a World Cup. Their top players over the next few years will move on. “If you look at Scotland, it is an exciting group and if he can pull them together and develop them, then he would maybe have a chance of getting them to their first Euros in 20-odd years and then maybe on to a World Cup after that. I am sure it is one he will think about.” Rodgers thinks St Johnstone's Tommy Wright would be a perfect replacement for Michael O'Neill at Northern Ireland Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Rodgers also backed another fellow countryman to take over the Northern Ireland job should O’Neill quit. Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, has surmounted the Perth club’s limited resources to post three successive fourth-place finishes and in 2014 guided them to their first major trophy success with a victory over Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final. Surprisingly to some, Wright has not been in the frame for the managerial vacancy at Rangers, for which the favourite remains Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, but his feats have been noted by the Irish Football Association. “Tommy would be perfect for Northern Ireland if Michael moved on,” said Rodgers. “He has earned his stripes at St Johnstone. For me, for the Rangers job, Derek McInnes and him would be obvious stand-outs, but I really hope he gets the chance given the work he has done to do it on a bigger stage.” The resumption of domestic fixtures after the international break sees Celtic travel to Dingwall tomorrow where they will attempt to extend their run of successive unbeaten domestic fixtures to 64 against Ross County. “It’ll end at some point,” Rodgers said. “We only focus on the next game. The squad is coming back now. I see the competitiveness in the players – we have Patrick Roberts, Jozo Simunovic and Leigh Griffiths back training this week. Erik [Sviatchenko] played 45 minutes of a practice match last week. They are fit, if not football fit, but the availability is there.” That match will mark another milestone in the career path of Kieran Tierney, when the defender makes his 100th appearance for Celtic at the ripe old age of 20. He also earned the accolade of captain of Scotland in the recent friendly with The Netherlands. “He can be a great leader for Scotland and I think he will be a captain here at Celtic one day,” said Rodgers. “He is developing and maturing on and off the field. I heard him speak at the end of the season at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association dinner and thought he spoke so well. It is nice to see young players come on in all aspects.”
Scottish football has not been at the top table of international competition for 20 years – hence the SFA’s urgent desire to find a manager with the Midas touch – but the country’s clubs have never been more successful at providing aid to charities and worthy causes in their communities. Independent research commissioned by the Scottish Professional Football League has revealed that 770,000 local people – an annual increase of over 60,000 - have been engaged in community initiatives involving all 42 league clubs. The research also found that season ticket holders were well served by making a commitment to back their team throughout the campaign. Headline figures show that clubs engaged with approximately 772,000 people via community activity in season 2016/17, many supported by programmes run and organised by the SPFL Trust, the charitable arm of the league. Around 86 per cent of all clubs provide free tickets to matches for community groups, charities and other worthy causes, with an estimated total of 84,000 donated last season. The number of clubs offering free admission to children has risen to 62 per cent, up 5 per cent on last year’s figure. The average maximum saving for supporters across all four divisions buying a 2017/18 season ticket is £96.20, when compared with paying at the gate. Attendance figures also told an encouraging story, with total crowds for the four Ladbrokes divisions exceeding four million in season 2016/17, a 12 per cent increase year on year, while almost a quarter of a million supporters attended the first two matches of the 2017/18 season to set a new record for the SPFL. Nicky Reid, chief executive of the SPFL Trust, said: “The recent Responsiball annual report now places the SPFL as the fourth most community-focused league in the world, based on their analysis of the 25 biggest national competitions. “A rise of three places year on year, shows that this is an area of significant strength and opportunity for Scottish football. In the past year, the SPFL Trust and our clubs have been trusted to work on projects funded by the Scottish Government, Big Lottery Fund, Erasmus, Scottish Water, Kinder+Sport, and the SPFL itself amongst others. “Our Trusted Trophy Tour also visited more than 20 clubs and demonstrated the power that football has for good across a wide range of projects. Trust is hard-earned and we all accept the responsibilities that come with that, but the direction of travel is extremely positive.” The SFA, meanwhile, announced that its Elite club football academies are Aberdeen, Celtic, Hamilton, Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Rangers. The second-tier Progressive grade consists of Ayr United, Dundee United, Forth Valley, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Partick Thistle, Ross County,St Mirren and St Johnstone. The third-tier Progressive level academies are Dundee, Fife, Greenock Morton and Queen’s Park. Scottish FA Performance Director Malky Mackay said: “What I would like to stress is that the bandings are not fixed and they will be reassessed in June 2018. No door is closed to clubs outside of the Elite bracket with aspirations to move up.”
Scottish clubs set national charity records, with SPFL now 'fourth most community-focused league in the world'
Scottish football has not been at the top table of international competition for 20 years – hence the SFA’s urgent desire to find a manager with the Midas touch – but the country’s clubs have never been more successful at providing aid to charities and worthy causes in their communities. Independent research commissioned by the Scottish Professional Football League has revealed that 770,000 local people – an annual increase of over 60,000 - have been engaged in community initiatives involving all 42 league clubs. The research also found that season ticket holders were well served by making a commitment to back their team throughout the campaign. Headline figures show that clubs engaged with approximately 772,000 people via community activity in season 2016/17, many supported by programmes run and organised by the SPFL Trust, the charitable arm of the league. Around 86 per cent of all clubs provide free tickets to matches for community groups, charities and other worthy causes, with an estimated total of 84,000 donated last season. The number of clubs offering free admission to children has risen to 62 per cent, up 5 per cent on last year’s figure. The average maximum saving for supporters across all four divisions buying a 2017/18 season ticket is £96.20, when compared with paying at the gate. Attendance figures also told an encouraging story, with total crowds for the four Ladbrokes divisions exceeding four million in season 2016/17, a 12 per cent increase year on year, while almost a quarter of a million supporters attended the first two matches of the 2017/18 season to set a new record for the SPFL. Nicky Reid, chief executive of the SPFL Trust, said: “The recent Responsiball annual report now places the SPFL as the fourth most community-focused league in the world, based on their analysis of the 25 biggest national competitions. “A rise of three places year on year, shows that this is an area of significant strength and opportunity for Scottish football. In the past year, the SPFL Trust and our clubs have been trusted to work on projects funded by the Scottish Government, Big Lottery Fund, Erasmus, Scottish Water, Kinder+Sport, and the SPFL itself amongst others. “Our Trusted Trophy Tour also visited more than 20 clubs and demonstrated the power that football has for good across a wide range of projects. Trust is hard-earned and we all accept the responsibilities that come with that, but the direction of travel is extremely positive.” The SFA, meanwhile, announced that its Elite club football academies are Aberdeen, Celtic, Hamilton, Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Rangers. The second-tier Progressive grade consists of Ayr United, Dundee United, Forth Valley, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Partick Thistle, Ross County,St Mirren and St Johnstone. The third-tier Progressive level academies are Dundee, Fife, Greenock Morton and Queen’s Park. Scottish FA Performance Director Malky Mackay said: “What I would like to stress is that the bandings are not fixed and they will be reassessed in June 2018. No door is closed to clubs outside of the Elite bracket with aspirations to move up.”