INFLUENTIAL Dundee United forward Johnny Russell is out of tomorrow’s Scottish Cup clash with Celtic.
United had been hopeful that the fans’ favourite could recover in time from the broken leg which has sidelined him for the past few weeks. But manager Jackie McNamara has conceded defeat in their hopes to have Russell, a target in the past for Celtic, back to lead the line in tomorrow’s last-four meeting.
McNamara said: “Johnny is definitely out. I wish I had a decision to make but I didn’t. He’s just not ready. There’s nothing we can do about it.
“We’ve been missing him for a few weeks now. We’re hoping he might be back in the next couple of weeks but it’s a tricky one. There’s no point crying about it. We just have to get on with it.”
McNamara is relishing locking horns with his former Celtic team-mate Neil Lennon and has urged his players to seize the moment come kick-off time in the televised clash with the competition’s odds-on favourites.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s all part of the learning curve for me having a semi-final this size so early.
“Hopefully the lads will enjoy the occasion and show they can go and match Celtic on the day.
“We don’t want to leave with any regrets. It’s all about the manner in which we go about it on Sunday. We want to have a go and try to get to the final.”
McNamara is well aware all the pressure is on Celtic to deliver but knows that could be a dangerous thing for his own men in their bid to cause an upset.
He said: “It’s a big challenge. Celtic have a lot of players who can hurt you. I think the pressure is all on them. That can be a good thing. Their players have got to handle that kind of pressure week-in, week-out and I know it brought out the best in me when I was a player. They are expected to win every game and that’s something I’d like to try and instil here.”
McNamara has made a big effort to ensure his players have had a normal build-up to tomorrow’s Hampden clash.
He added: “It’s been fairly low-key. That’s the way it should be. My job is to try and keep them as relaxed as possible until an hour-and-a-half before the game.
“We’ll head down to our hotel on Saturday night after a training session during the day.”
Celtic’s Hampden hoodoo has been well documented but McNamara is taking it with a pinch of salt. He said: “It doesn’t bother me. I’m not looking too much into that as we’ll focus on ourselves.”
United will wait and assess the fitness of defender Brian McLean who is trying to recover from a recent knee injury.
McNamara said: “We’re still waiting to see how Brian McLean responds. He’s done a bit of running with our physio so we’ll see if he’s got a chance for Sunday or not.”