IN THE Rumour Mill today: Pressure mounts on Scotland manager Craig Levein; Hooper and Wanyama attract interest from English Premier League sides; Partick Thistle reach first cup final for over 40 years plus the rest of the day’s football news and rumours.
Pressure grows on Levein after Wales defeat
SCOTLAND manager Craig Levein has pleaded with SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan to ‘hold his nerve’ and resist sacking the former Hearts and Dundee United boss after an abysmal start to Scotland’s World Cup Qualifying campaign. Scotland have taken just two points from a possible 9, leaving them second bottom in Group A ahead of Macedonia. They face Belgium in Brussels tomorrow night, knowing only a win will keep their slim chances of qualification alive.
Scotland’s fans are calling for Levein, who is contracted until 2014, to be relieved of his duties as soon as possible, with Gordon Strachan and Alex McLeish said to be favourites to replace him. Stewart Regan is set to make a statement later this week on the matter.
Strachan favourite should Levein go
GORDON Strachan is being quoted as 6/1 favourite to replace Craig Levein, should he be sacked this week. The former Celtic and Middlesbrough manager is just ahead of Alex McLeish at 8/1.
Scots injury worries grow as Forrest pulls out
A GROIN injury has ruled Celtic winger James Forrest out of the must-win match with Belgium tomorrow. Forrest and Parkhead team-mate Scott Brown returned to Glasgow yesterday for treatment on injuries, giving Craig Levein a selection headache ahead of tomorrow night, with several of the squad already missing due to injury or suspension. Cardiff City midfielder Don Cowie has been brought in as backup.
Scots walk discipline tightrope
GARY Caldwell and Charlie Adam will miss Scotland’s next qualifier if they are booked in tomorrow night’s clash. Caldwell was booked for a clumsy challenge on Joe Ledley, whilst Adam is sitting on a yellow card picked up against Macedonia.
English clubs keep tabs on Celtic pair
NEWCASTLE United and Liverpool are rumoured to be monitoring Gary Hooper, as both teams look to bolster their strikeforce come January. The Anfield side are short on attacking options following Andy Carroll’s loan switch to West Ham, and a severe injury to Fabio Borini whilst Alan Pardew is keen to add to his strikeforce with Papiss Cisse suffering a dip in form and Demba Ba possibly seeking a move away from St James’ Park.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have been linked with a move for Celtic’s versatile midfielder Victor Wanyama. The Kenyan international can play in midfield or in defence, and has scored seven goals in 54 appearances, but has expressed his desire to remain at Celtic for the time being.
Charles Green apologises for Aston Villa comment
RANGERS chief Charles Green has apologised over comments he made in which he referred to Aston Villa as ‘useless.’ The remark came as Mr Green pondered the possibility of a European ‘superleague’. He criticised the revenues of some English Premier League sides, claiming: “How can Manchester United’s revenues be £320m and Aston Villa, who are completely useless, get £250m?”
Rangers have released a statement, saying: “Mr Green has sent an apology to Aston Villa saying there had been no intention to cause offence.”
Partick reach first cup final in 41 years
PARTICK Thistle will face Queen of the South in the final of this season’s Ramsdens Cup - the first cup final the Jags have contested since they defeated Celtic in the 1971 League Cup at Hampden. A Steven Craig goal with just over 15 minutes left was enough to see off Cowdenbeath at Central Park, and Partick will meet Queen of the South, who left it late to beat Arbroath 2-1 in extra time. Ryan McGuffie - who scored the winning penalty against Rangers in the quarter final clash - scored with time running out to give the Doonhamers the victory.
• Kilmarnock midfielder Danny Racchi has been ruled out for six weeks following an operation on his knee. The 24-year-old suffered the injury in his side’s 3-1 defeat to Aberdeen
• Glasgow City Women’s team fired eight goals past Hibs Ladies as the SWPL champions defeated the second place side 8-1. The two sides face each other again in the Scottish Cup semi final on Wednesday
• Scotland Under-19s went top of their European Championship qualifying group with a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Switzerland. Former Celtic youth Islam Feruz scored a hattrick, with Joe Chalmers grabbing the first
• Referees Willie Collum and Craig Thomson are on international duty this week. The whistlers take charge of Slovakia v Greece, and Romania v Netherlands respectively.