Ex-Karagandy boss reckons Celtic will lose to Astana; Hibs edged out on penalties in Copenhagen; Efe Ambrose close to Celtic exit and James Tavernier extends his Rangers contract
Celtic ‘will lose to Astana’, claims ex-Karagandy boss
THE former manager of Shakhter Karagandy has claimed that Celtic will lose to FK Astana in their upcoming Champions League qualifier.
Viktor Kumykov reckons his Karagandy team should have beaten Celtic in 2013, adding: “Celtic are a famous team and I respect them but they are not the Celtic team of old, the one who beat Barcelona.
“A lot has changed at Celtic, they have very few of their stronger players left at the club. I would expect Astana to beat Celtic. I will certainly be supporting them.” (Various)
Lennon ‘proud’ of battling Hibs
NEIL Lennon hailed his battling Hibernian side after a 1-0 victory on the night in Copenhagen took their tie with Brondby to penalties.
John McGinn saw his penalty saved by Frederik Ronnow as the Danes went on to win 5-3 on penalties and set up a tricky clash with Hertha Berlin.
But Lennon refused to point the finger, saying: “I don’t think you can talk about villains after a night like this, we were absolutely brilliant and did the fans here proud.
“Without poor officials in the first tie last week, we would have been through. Any luck in this tie went against us. But I can’t speak highly enough of my team — they were outstanding.” (Scottish Sun)
Ambrose faces Celtic exit
EFE Ambrose is reportedly closer to departing Celtic, after the Nigerian defender failed to make the matchday squad for the Hoops’ 3-0 win over Lincoln Red Imps earlier this week.
Hoops No 2 Chris Davies was cryptic when asked about Ambrose, saying: “All I can say about Efe is that since we’ve come in here he’s been great to work with every day, his personality and his attitude to training.
“But we’re obviously assessing the whole squad and what we need to bring in to improve and take the team forward. We are trying to refine it down to the core group that we will be working with and there might be opportunity for players to move on.” (Various)
Hoops ‘could face Legia’
CELTIC stand a chance of meeting old foes Legia Warsaw - if they can get past Astana.
Celtic were beaten 6-1 on aggregrate by the Polish outfit two years ago but Legia fielded an ineligible player and UEFA awarded the second leg of the match to the Hoops, who advanced on away goals.
And if Legia beat Slovakian side Trencin, they could face off against the Hoops again as an unseeded team. (Scottish Sun)
Tavernier extends Ibrox deal
RANGERS defender James Tavernier has extended his Ibrox deal to 2019, following team mates Wes Foderingham, Lee Wallace and Rob Kiernan.
There had been fears Tavernier and former Wigan team mate Martyn Waghorn wouldn’t put pen to paper on extended contracts, but Waghorn is expected to extend his own contract in the next few days.
Taking to Twitter, Tavernier posted: “Delighted to sign a new contract at Rangers. I love this club! I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.” (Daily Mail)
Rangers have ‘stolen a march on Celtic’ claims Durrant
BRENDAN Rodgers has allowed Rangers to steal a march on the defending champions, according to former Ibrox player and coach Ian Durrant.
Durrant said he had been surprised at the lack of transfer manoeuvrings by Celtic, who have added only Moussa Dembele, while their rivals have virtually rebuilt the squad that won last season’s Championship.
“I’ve been surprised by it,” Durrant said. “But if you know Brendan Rodgers, the English league is a wee bit later than us in terms of declaring their squads and maybe he has a couple of irons in the fire.
“I think he’ll need to act quick because you want to get the team bedded in. Mark Warburton has basically brought in a new team. I looked at the bench the other night there and it’s a formidable squad they’ve got.” (The Scotsman)
Hearts set record with Birkirkara loss
HEARTS went crashing out of Europe last night after a shock 2-1 home defeat to Birkirkara - becoming the first Scottish club to lose to a team from Malta in European competition.
Prince Buaben saw a first half penalty saved by Birkirkara ‘keeper Miroslav Kropic before Christian Bubalovic and Edward Herrera score. Conor Sammon pulled one back for the hosts but Hearts slumped to a surprise defeat.
And Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson said: “We have a lot of guys who hadn’t played any European football before. We have kids who are still growing. We need to make sure we put this in perspective.
“We’re devastated for the club, players and fans, but we have to go from here and we have to keep building.” (Evening News)
No Hoops move for Duffy
BLACKBURN Rovers boss Owen Coyle has insisted that the Ewood Park side have not received any concrete offers for Shane Duffy from Celtic.
Coyle, who lost Grant Hanley to Newcastle earlier this week, said: “In regards to Shane, there’s been no concrete offers from Celtic. If there’s other people speculating, then I can’t really comment on that.
“I only deal in the facts and the fact is there’s been no concrete offer from Glasgow Celtic for Shane Duffy.” (Lancashire Telegraph)
McClair quits SFA role
BRIAN McClair has resigned as performance director of the Scottish FA after just 13 months in the role and has expressed his dismay at being unable to effect the changes he sought in the development of elite young players.
McClair was appointed last year with the backing of several Scottish football luminaries, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Andy Roxburgh, Walter Smith and current national team boss Gordon Strachan.
But it appears McClair became exasperated at the difficulties he faced in persuading Scottish clubs to get fully behind his performance strategy. (The Scotsman)
Hoops ‘could add wildcard signing’
CELTIC missed Thursday’s 11pm deadline to add to their squad ahead of their arduous trip to Kazakhstan, but could add a wildcard signing 24 hours before kick off.
Among the possible signings - who could be pitched into action immediately - are Kolo Toure, Jerry St Juste and Scott Sinclair.
Assistant boss Chris Davies said: “It would be a big boost for us if we could get people in who are going to make a difference.” (Various)
Skacel ‘focused on Raith’ despite Hibs lure
RUDI Skacel has claimed he is focused on Raith Rovers - despite admitting that playing against Hibs was a major factor in teaming up with ex-Hearts boss Gary Locke at Stark’s Park.
Skacel, 37, said: “The most important thing was that I had worked with the manager before. He knows what he can expect and how I can help him, and how he can help me.
“Of course I’m looking forward to playing against Hibs again. This is another big challenge for the gaffer and for me. But I’m focused on Raith Rovers and helping them.” (The Scotsman)
Dons face Maribor test after win in Latvia
ABERDEEN boss Derek McInnes was left raging at the referee despite the Dons’ 1-0 win in Latvia over Ventspils setting up a mouthwatering tie against Maribor.
McInnes hit out at Serbian whistler Danielo Grujic’s decision to award the home side a first half penalty, adding: “The biggest drama came with the officials because I’ve watched the penalty incident back and it’s a real injustice. The ref had a brilliant view of it but if it had gone in then it may have made things more difficult.” (Various)
NEWS IN BRIEF
• Former Everton and Manchester United boss David Moyes is being lined up to succeed Sam Allardyce at Sunderland
• The SPFL has two months to try and save Scottish football’s involvement in the Champions League, with UEFA due to discuss an invitation-only format in September
• New Rangers signing Jordan Rossiter is set to make his debut in next weekend’s friendly meeting with Burnley