Wednesday 20 February 2019

McLeish: 'Scots should embrace Old Firm'

Advice: Alex McLeish
Advice: Alex McLeish

Alex McLeish reckons Scottish football should embrace the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers rather than being fearful of the consequences of title deciders.

But the Scotland manager has warned that the winners and losers of Sunday's Parkhead clash need to be mindful of their responsibilities in making sure it is football that proves the talking point.

Celtic will clinch the Ladbrokes Premiership trophy if they beat Rangers, after defeat by Hibernian last weekend delayed their title party.

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has been keen to ensure the Glasgow pair are kept apart on days which might potentially decide the title.

A 1999 Old Firm encounter in which Rangers won the title at Celtic Park saw referee Hugh Dallas hit by a coin, some home supporters invade the pitch and Rangers players pelted with missiles after they celebrated with a Celtic-style huddle.

But McLeish believes Scottish football should accentuate the positives of the rivalry.

"They are two powerful clubs, two fantastic supports, but they have to show dignity in these games - win, lose or draw - and enjoy the spectacle," the former Rangers manager said.

"We are lucky to have this derby. People all over the world want to see the Celtic-Rangers, Rangers-Celtic game before a lot of other huge clubs.

"It is a spectacle to behold. If everybody can keep their control, we should be proud of that."

Celtic beat Rangers 4-0 in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals this month and are unbeaten in 10 meetings between the teams - but McLeish warned that the fixture does not always go as expected.

"I can imagine the week that (Rangers boss) Graeme Murty had after the Celtic game, but you bounce back with a good result," said McLeish as he launched the Scottish Football Hall of Fame nominations process.

"Celtic have got to be huge favourites, certainly on recent form and the recent result. But there is always hope in these games for the opposition who haven't been doing very well. Rangers haven't done well in these games.

"The odds will be stacked against them but you can never say an Old Firm game is going to go exactly to plan."

Meanwhile, Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd has been included on the PFA Scotland player of the year shortlist.

The 34-year-old joins Celtic pair Scott Brown and James Forrest on the four-man list along with Hibernian midfielder John McGinn.

Former Rangers striker Boyd, who has scored 21 goals this season, was last on the shortlist in 2014 but has never won the prize.

Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna, Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos, St Mirren winger Lewis Morgan and Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney are the four players in the running for the young player of the year.

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