Virgil van Dijk says pressure is on Ajax to win at Amsterdam ArenA; Neil Lennon says Kris Commons will be key to Celtic performance; Ally McCoist admits he has no-one to approach about January transfers
Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk has said that the pressure is on Ajax to beat the visiting team at the Amsterdam ArenA tonight as the two sides battle for qualification from Group H. Van Dijk, a £2m summer signing from Groningen, also had a dig at Ajax fans, saying that most of them were merely “spectators”.
“I watched the Vitesse game against Ajax at the weekend,” said Van Dijk of a game that Vitesse won 1-0. “Vitesse deserved to win and now Ajax have to beat us. I think we have a big chance to win the game. Maybe them being under pressure could work in our advantage. Their fans expect more. I’d say the clubs [Celtic and Ajax] are the same because they always have to win and the fans expect it, but at Ajax, they have a small group of big supporters and the rest are spectators. At Celtic, everyone is a hard supporter.” (Scotsman)
Neil Lennon has highlighted Kris Commons’ contribution as key to Celtic’s hopes of gaining a marquee away victory against Ajax. Celtic, whos currently sit third in Group H with three points, would boost their chances with a win at the Amsterdam ArenA, but the Celtic manager has admitted he would be content with a point.
“I would snap your hand off for a point,” said Lennon, “but we know this team is capable of winning. And we know this team is capable of losing. We have to strike a balance on how we approach this game.
“The key could be how we attack and whether we can find quality at the end of it, because we have quality in the team, with [Georgios] Samaras and Commons coming back. Kris could be pivotal because they don’t know him and he might surprise a few of them as well.” (Scotsman)
Terry Butcher has been cleared to speak to Hibernian – but Inverness have vowed to fight to keep their manager.
Caley Thistle confirmed yesterday afternoon they had received an official approach from their Scottish Premiership rivals, who have been looking for a new manager since Pat Fenlon quit on Friday, and accepted Butcher’s desire to speak to Hibs chairman Rod Petrie.
But they hope he remains loyal to the club as he did in January when he rejected a more lucrative offer to take over at Championship club Barnsley.
Inverness and Hibs meet at Easter Road on league business on Saturday but it is unclear whether Butcher will even be there as the Edinburgh club stated they have asked Jimmy Nicholl to continue as caretaker manager for the game. (Scotsman)
Terry Butcher has enjoyed an enduring love affair with Scottish football, but his introduction to club football north of the Border got off to a torrid start – coincidentally at Easter Road.
Along with fellow England international Chris Woods, Butcher had been Rangers’ marquee signing in the summer of 1986 when Graeme Souness swaggered through the door.
With an unprecedented budget already half-spent and the hype surrounding Souness’s new-look Rangers cranked up to fever pitch, the new player-manager took his team to his home city of Edinburgh on 9 August to face John Blackley’s Hibs in what would prove the most explosive of fixtures. READ MORE >>
SFA performance director Mark Wotte has said that pressing tactics and defending high up the field will give Celtic a good chance of Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA. Wotte, who followed Gordon Strachan in backing Neil Lennon’s side to win at in the Netherlands, also gave his approval to Virgil van Dijk, who is currently being monitored by the Dutch national side. But he warned that Van Dijk was not the finished article, saying: “In Holland central defenders are judged in another way. It’s not only clearing the ball and winning headers. For Celtic, Van Dijk is a good passing player but, in Holland, he’s not exceptional with his passing ability. I know big clubs have watched Van Dijk but they have their own players who they have developed through the youth system and did not want to pay the money.
“He’s just a rough diamond and still a young boy. He came from RKC Waalwijk to Groningen and didn’t have any international experience.” (Scotsman)
Rangers manager Ally McCoist claims that the current state of play at Ibrox, where financial director Brian Stockbridge and non-executive director James Easdale are the only members of the board, is preventing him from planning for the future.
McCoist revealed that he has had no-one to discuss the signing or offloading of players with since Craig Mather stepped down as the club’s chief executive three weeks ago. With the January transfer window approaching, McCoist, who volunteered to forego half of his annual £850,000 salary is anxious to know whether or not he can strengthen his squad with a view to a run in the Scottish Cup. (Scotsman)
Frank de Boer has dismissed suggestions that he will use comments made by Gordon Strachan to fire up his team against Celtic. Strachan, speaking yesterday about Celtic’s prospects against Ajax, said that the Eredivisie side’s youth was such that none of their players had “had a shave”.
Acknowledging that Strachan meant the comments in jest. De Boer said: “I won’t use Gordon’s comments as motivation. I don’t think my players should need to search for motivation from another direction. You have to find it within yourself.”
He added: “For me, it’s weak if you have to be motivated by that kind of quotes.” (Daily Mail)