Mike Ashley’s associates meet with Brian Stockbridge; Gordon Strachan warns Ireland that Celtic Park is now Scotland Park; Martin O’Neill insists his players are focused on the game not off-field antics and more in Friday’s Rumour Mill
Mike Ashley’s men meet with Brian Stockbridge
Two of Rangers tycoon Mike Ashley’s right-hand men held bar room talks with the controversial former director Brian Stockbridge at Scotland’s team hotel, the Daily Record have reported.
Video footage allegedly shows Ashley’s close associates Derek Llambias and Barry Leach emerging from a meeting with Stockbridge on Wednesday night at five star Mar Hall. The meeting was held ahead of a fresh round of redundancies at Rangers. The Record have reported that the meeting was arranged as an opportunity for Stockbridge to clear up historic financial issues. A source close to Llambias told the Record that Stockbridge would not return to the boardroom. The source said: “If fans are concerned that Stockbridge might be coming back to the club, we can tell them categorically, there is no chance of that happening. Never in a million years.” (Record)
Gordon Strachan warns Ireland that Celtic Park is now Scotland Park
Although the seats surrounding him will still be predominantly green, Gordon Strachan is confident blue will be the colour at a stadium he re-named “Scotland Park” ahead of tonight’s crucial Group D fixture with Republic of Ireland.
He was adamant that no advantage has been yielded to the visitors on a crucial night for both Scotland and Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2016.
“It’s Scottish territory and you’ll know it’s Scottish territory,” said Strachan. “There will be 55,000 Scots in there. You’ll be in no doubt where you are tomorrow. You’re in Scotland and Scotland are playing, against Ireland.
“We will turn Celtic Park into the home of Scottish football and you will know fine well you are in Scotland tomorrow night,” he added. “We are quite familiar with Celtic Park as well – most of our players have played there. But as I say, it is not going to be Celtic Park, tomorrow it is Scotland Park.” (Scotsman)
Martin O’Neill insists his team are focused on the game not off-field antics
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has insisted his preparations for tonight’s pivotal Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland at Celtic Park have not been disrupted by his assistant Roy Keane’s off-the-field incident with a supporter.
Keane called Irish police to the team’s Portmarnock Hotel on Thursday following what is believed to have been a heated altercation with the fan in the reception area. The Football Association of Ireland and O’Neill both expressed their full support for Keane in a statement released yesterday morning.
While police continue to investigate the incident, O’Neill was reluctant to expand his thoughts on the matter when he faced the media at Celtic Park last night.
“It’s only a distraction,” said O’Neill. “That’s all it was. I’ve made a statement earlier and there’s not really much I can talk about.
“But I think we are fine. The players are fine and the man in question is fine. We are ready to go. Roy is okay, he’s here with us.”
Asked if Keane had spoken to the players about the incident, O’Neill replied: “Why would he do that? He spoke to me. The incident is over – that’s it.” (Various)
Martin O’Neill has warned his players to beware of Steven Fletcher
O’Neill signed Fletcher when he was manager of Sunderland and he reckons the form of the striker and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was key to the team’s Premier league survival.
And the Ireland manager has noted Fletcher’s recent upturn in form ahead of the eagerly-awaited match.
O’Neill said: “Steven is a very good player. I signed him for Sunderland and my own view was that his goals were instrumental in keeping the side up, as well as Simon Mignolet’s performances in goal, so the two of them can take great credit for that.
“But he has had a few injury problems - he was injured for Scotland at the back end of that particular season and he has fought his way back, so he is in very good form at the moment.” (Football365.com)
Henrik Larsson lifts lid on secret meeting with Celtic
The Hoops legend was this week appointed boss at his former club, Helsingborgs, after keeping minnows Falkenbergs in the Swedish top flight.
But Larsson, 43, rejected the chance to become manager of Celtic after a hush-hush meeting in Sweden, before the Scottish champions opted to go for Norwegian Ronny Deila to replace Neil Lennon, who quit at the end of last season.
Larsson revealed: “It’s been so long since it happened in the summer, I feel more comfortable talking about what happened.
“The owner of Celtic came here and the president too. The first thing I did was to tell Falkenberg that I would be meeting with Celtic. I wanted to listen to them. I think you should always listen. But, in the end, I decided to stay at Falkenberg. I did not feel ready for Celtic. Clearly, it was difficult for me. There are details that I don’t want to go into, details that I would like to retain for myself. Of course it was a tough decision, but it was all about timing.” (Record)
Frank McAvennie urges Celtic to sign up Swedish striker John Guidetti.
Frank McAvennie has urged Celtic to push the boat out in order to sign up Swedish striker John Guidetti.
The former Hoops striker believes that Guidetti - out of contract in the summer - is the man who can fill the void since Gary Hooper left the club and wants Celtic to start courting him for a permanent deal.
McAvennie also sees parallels between himself and the charismatic Guidetti, pointing out that having a bit of front while playing your football in Glasgow can go a long way on the pitch.
“He reminds me of the likes of myself, Charlie [Nicholas] and wee Mo [Johnston]. He’s got a bit of cheek about him, he is a wee bit gallus and I love that in a player,” he said.
“When you come in to play for Celtic that can give you a real edge. You need to have that belief and that bit of arrogance, especially on the pitch. You see that confidence, belief, whatever you want to call it, come out on the park and that rubs off on everyone.
“I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of the boy. Since Gary Hooper left there hasn’t really been anyone at the club whom you would regard as an out-and-out goalscorer, someone that you could look to produce something out of nothing.
“But I do think that Celtic should be starting to think of making him an attractive offer.
“I don’t think that Manchester City will be an option for him and if you are settled at a club and scoring goals then your confidence will be high.”
“I think Guidetti and Celtic is a match made in heaven -they’d be as good for him as he would be for them. It is a superb platform to play football on and it would give him the chance to really make a name for himself.” (Times)
Frank De Boer says Virgil Van Dijk needs to complete his “football education” at Celtic
Virgil Van Dijk needs to complete his “football education” at Celtic before he contemplates a switch to Arsenal or Manchester United, claims Ajax boss Frank De Boer.
“It is no surprise to me that he is being linked with clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United,” De Boer told The Daily Record.
“They are both in the situation where they could use another top central defender and they are not easy to find.
“I am sure that he could be a success for any club in Europe but Celtic will know exactly what they have and no coach will ever want to sell in January.
It would be good for him to win trophies in the SPL first before he thinks about anything else – it will all be a part of his education.” (Record)
News in brief:
• Temuri Ketsbaia has stormed out of a TV interview ahead of tonight’s game with Poland. (Various)
• Alan Stubbs has made a pop at fans group BuyHibs by insisting the majority of fans are getting behind the current regime. (Record)
• Glasgow City goalkeeper Lee Alexander admits she didn’t realise that she broke her collarbone as played on in the first half in Wednesday night’s 4-2 win against FC Zurich. (Sun)
• Aberdeen are still interested in Caley Thistle full back Graeme Shinnie and could make a move in January. (Sun)
• Wigan could be set to offer Malky Mackay a return to football management. (Sun)
• Jessica Ennis has announced she would want her name removed from a stand at Bramall Lane if Sheffield United were to resign Ched Evans. (Mail)
• Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink could be set to manage English League Two side Burton Albion. (Express)