Ally McCoist hits out at underperforming players as he admits he “couldn’t give a monkey’s” about Rangers’ winning streak being broken; Neil Lennon hails Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk’s individual brilliance; Barry Ferguson says Scottish game is on the up, plus the rest of today’s football news and gossup
Neil Lennon hails brilliance of Virgil van Dijk
NEIL Lennon paid tribute last night to the “unbelievable piece of individual brilliance” from Virgil van Dijk that strengthened Celtic’s grip on the Scottish Premiership title.
The Dutch defender’s solo goal proved the difference between the champions and their hosts, St Johnstone, at McDiarmid Park as a 1-0 win extended the cushion that Lennon’s side enjoy over their rivals to 11 points.
“If we’d dropped points we probably would not have been talking about Virgil’s goal,” said Lennon. “So I’m glad we are because it was an unbelievable piece of individual brilliance. He certainly lit up the game.” (Celtic)
Display irks Ally McCoist more than end of record
Ally McCoist insists he “couldn’t give a monkey’s” about Rangers’ 100 per cent Scottish League 1 record coming to an end at the hands of Stranraer yesterday afternoon.
The Rangers manager’s hopes of his side claiming a 21st win in a row were dashed when Jamie Longworth struck deep into injury time to cancel out Lee McCulloch’s first-half penalty and claim a share of the points.
He said: “I will be 100 per cent honest with you – I actually couldn’t give a monkey’s about the record. I really couldn’t. I’m not interested in the record, I’m only concerned about the level of performance that we gave and it was extremely disappointing.” (Scotsman)
Tommy Wright furious at failed penalty claim
NEIL Lennon and Tommy Wright delivered predictably contrasting verdicts on the failed penalty claim which St Johnstone felt cost them a potential share of the spoils against champions Celtic at McDiarmid Park yesterday.
Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, who scored the only goal of the game after just five minutes, was at the centre of controversy at the other end of the pitch in the second half when St Johnstone striker Stevie May went down under his challenge.
Referee Craig Thomson turned down Saints’ vociferous appeals for a spot-kick, a decision which incensed home manager Wright. “I thought it was a penalty at the time,” said Wright. “I’ve seen it again since and nothing has changed my mind. Anywhere else on the pitch, it’s a free-kick so it should have been a penalty.
“Craig is a good referee and I thought he had a good game, but you always have decisions you feel go against you.” (Scotsman)
Derek McInnes frustrated by Well ‘smash and grab’
ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes was left feeling like someone who had all their Christmas presents stolen after Motherwell’s “smash and grab” win at Pittodrie.
Lionel Ainsworth’s third goal of his loan spell from Rotherham United was enough to give Stuart McCall’s side the victory, their first against top six opposition this season.
The clearly frustrated Aberdeen manager said: ”We were by far the more dominant team but what we needed on the back of that were goals and we missed two or three opportunities from good play.
“We lost a really untidy goal which helped invigorate Motherwell. We still asked questions of them and we looked the team more likely to score.” (Scotsman)
Gary Locke insists ‘Hearts must do better’
THERE have been few memorable afternoons at Tynecastle this season, and Hearts manager Gary Locke will certainly have no fond reminiscences of his team’s 4-0 defeat by Kilmarnock yesterday. The Premiership’s bottom side looked second best from the opening stages of the game to the last minute, and Locke accepted that one of his most pressing tasks now is to lift the confidence of his struggling squad.
“You’ve got to compete better than we did in the first half,” he said. “It’s certainly not something that could be levelled at the players much this season, but we didn’t compete well enough. We didn’t start the game well enough and Kilmarnock ended up a couple of goals up [by half-time], but we’ve certainly got to do better.
“You could see there’s probably one or two players there that are short on confidence, but if you play here you’ve got to be brave, you’ve got to take the ball, and that was one of the disappointing things today, because we can pass the ball.” (Scotsman)
Scottish game on the up, says Barry Ferguson
Former Rangers captain Barry Ferguson says that the prolific form of Scottish strikers in the English Championship is proof that the Scottish game is on the rise again. Leeds’ Ross McCormack and Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes, have 29 goals between them for their respective clubs, and the former Scotland midfielder thinks that such form bodes well for the national team. He also mentioned the form of two other Scottish players, midfielders Craig Bryson and Scotty Arfield, who play for Derby and Burnley respectively: “These four can’t even get a start for Gordon Strachan’s side so what does that tell you?
“It tells me we now have one of the strongest pools of players we’ve had in a long time. McCormack and Rhodes are stand-outs, though. I’ve known Ross from Rangers when he was coming through the ranks. He always had natural ability and an eye for goal but he has been on fire lately.” (Daily Record)