CELTIC face injury crisis ahead of Karagandy tie but look to have landed Teemu Pukki; McInnes blames Brown for touchline bust-up and Rangers hire spin doctor to launch fightback against investors.
Celtic clinch Pukki signing but face Karagandy injuries sweat
CELTIC have reportedly clinched a deal for Finland international striker Teemu Pukki. The Schalke striker is due to jet in to Glasgow on Monday to tie up a deal that would see the 23-year-old pull on the green and white hoops - but he would be ineligible to face Kazakh outfit Shakhter Karagandy. Pukki, who has scored six goals in 24 international games, has been the subject of sustained interest from the Parkhead side, who turned their attentions to the German-based forward after being priced out of a move for Heerenveen striker Alfreð Finnbogason - and Neil Lennon hinted after his side’s 2-2 Draw with Inverness CT that he would be signing a striker and midfielder during the course of the next week.
However, the Celtic boss faces a sweat over a number of stars ahead of the must-win return leg against Shakhter Karagandy. Beram Kayal limped off with a groin strain after 22 minutes yesterday and will miss out, while striker Anthony Stokes is rated ‘doubtful’ by Lennon. Defender Virgil Van Dijk tweaked his hamstring during the match while James Forrest is ‘50-50’, according to the Hoops boss who is hopeful that Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras - who sat out the 2-2 draw with the Caley Jags - will be fit. Lennon could also be without Derk Boerrigter, leaving him short on attacking options in a game where he needs goals.
Rangers appoint spin doctor to deal with investors’ bid to oust Craig Mather
Rangers have brought in Jack Irvine to assume the role of spin doctor - to ensure that a group of investors keen on ousting Ibrox chief executive Craig Mather are not successful. Irvine - who alrady represents bus tycoon brothers Sandy and James Easdale - will be used to help fight attempts by Jim McColl to remove Mather and fellow directors Brian Stockbridge and Bryan Smart from the Rangers board, and replace them with former Blue Knights figurehead Paul Murray and troubleshooting accountant Frank Blin.
Irvine has already warned McColl and his partners that he will work to expose ‘reprehensible behaviour’ and in a statement said: “The board felt they were not successfully articulating their defence against vicious and times underhand attacks of Jim McColl, Frank Blin and Paul Murray.
“The board also felt that there are huge public misconceptions about the financial realities of the club and once again this was a failure of communication.
“I have known Jim, Frank and Paul for many years and have a huge respect for their abilities. Unfortunately, I believe they have now stepped out of their comfort zones.
“The media scrutiny they now face is like nothing they will ever have known in their professional lives. I , and many other observers, are staggered at the arrogance of men who have invested nothing in the club yet feel they can dictate to directors who have sunk substantial sums into the venture.
“I am reminded that some of these individuals had the chance to buy the club for a modest sum yet were repeatedly found wanting. Since then they have done little but damage the club they claim to love.”
Rangers PR chief Jim Traynor called Irvine’s appointment a ‘surprise’, adding: “I’ve not spoken to Jack Irvine. As far as I’m concerned that is the way it will stay.”
A joint statement from supporters’ organisations said they were ‘saddened’ by the return of Media House to Ibrox, ‘particularly considering their spectacular failure to defen the reputation of the club and the fans during their previous tenure.”
Derek McInnes blames Hearts assistant over touchline clash
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has pointed the finger at Billy Brown following a touchline spat that saw the Pittodrie gaffer and the Hearts assistant boss sent to the stand at Tynecastle yesterday. McInnes and Brown clashed after 17-year-old Jordan McGhee scored the winner two minutes from time, with the former East Fife boss celebrating so wildly he ended up in the away dugout, where he had a grappling match with the Dons boss before police stepped in. Both men face being hauled in front of the SFA beaks for their part in the fracas that also saw Hearts manager Gary Locke exchange words with Dons No 2 Tony Docherty, but McInnes has blamed Brown for the incident, adding: “I’ve never seen an opposition member of staff come right into their rivals’ technical area to celebrate like Brown did.
“But as soon as I’ve put my arms on him to push him back I’m guilty.”
Strachan: We must stop Benteke
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan is set to keep faith in Russell Martin and Grant Hanley ahead of Scotland’s match against Belgium, claiming that the relatively inexperienced centre half pairing can keep Belgium striker Christian Benteke at bay. The substantial Aston Villa striker has scored three goals in two games for Aston Villa, and Strachan is only too aware of his abilities in a Belgian side teeming with talent including Everton pair Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas, Spurs stopper Jan Vertonghen and Chelsea winger Eden Hazard. The Scotland boss added: “Most of them are playing Champions League and are at top clubs. They are absolutely terrific. They are up there in the top 10 in the world. They are a right good side.”