ROBBIE Neilson says win against Rangers at Ibrox heralded start of Hearts’ title challenge; Jordan Rhodes set for Scotland chance against Gibraltar; Kenny Miller suggests service to Rangers strikers lacking, plus the rest of today’s football news and gossip
Title dream began with Ibrox win, says Neilson
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson admitted that he had allowed himself to start dreaming of a league title the minute his men beat Rangers on the opening day of the Championship season.
He said: “When we got that last-minute winner at Ibrox it gave us real momentum and a massive lift. Then we got another result against Hibs here the week after and thought, ‘we’ve got a real chance here’. I never expected it to be the way it ended up – that’s beyond everyone’s imagination. But we did it ourselves.” (Scotland on Sunday)
Jordan Rhodes set for Gibraltar chance
Jordan Rhodes has been called Scotland’s best “out-and-out” striker by manager Gordon Strachan and has been invited to show he belongs in the side after returning from a prolonged absence from the Scotland set-up.
Strachan, who is set to hand Rhodes a prominent role in their next Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar, said: “He will find it easier playing with us now than it was two years ago. We make it easier for our striker to play with us now. We have evolved from the last time he was in the squad.” (The Scottish Sun on Sunday)
Service a problem for strikers, says Kenny Miller
Rangers striker Kenny Miller has suggested that the front line’s under-par performances this season have been due to a lack of service from the team’s midfielders.
“Personally, I don’t feel we have performed well individually – no individual has stood out this season.”
“But I don’t think it’s a coincidence the strikers haven’t scored as many as they should have. Nicky Clark came here off the back of scoring more than 40 with Queen of the South. Jon Daly scored regularly for Dundee United. Kris’s record speaks for itself and I’ve always scored goals wherever I’ve been.” (Scotland on Sunday)
Ryan Gauld: Sbragia not a dinosaur
Former Dundee United starlet Ryan Gauld has defended Scotland Under-19 coach Ricky Sbragia against accusations of being behind the times after omitting Real Madrid’s Jack Harper for being a “luxury player”.
Gauld said: “The flak Ricky has received this week has been really unfair. In his U19 squad last year he had myself, Charlie Telfer and Aidan Connolly and we’re all small, technical players. In all my time working with him he never once asked me to play a long ball. He’s a top coach who always encouraged us to play in the right way, on the deck.” (Sunday Mail)
Stuart McCall denies Kris Boyd bust-up
Rangers manager Stuart McCall has moved to defuse speculation of a rift between him and Kris Boyd after the striker was left out of the squad for the second successive game.
McCall said: “There’s not been a problem with him. If I am not starting either Kris or Jon Daly, I don’t feel I need both of them on the bench.
“Kris played in my first game and Jon came on against Alloa and made an impact, so it would be difficult to leave Jon out of the squad at the moment.” (Sunday Express)
Shaun Maloney hails injury-free run in Scotland side
Shaun Maloney’s good form for Scotland is down an injury-free period with Wigan – before moving to MLS side Chicago fire, where he now plays – and the arrival of Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager, according to the midfielder.
“That was a big turning point in my form at that time,” he says. “After that I stayed fit, which was probably a big part of why my form improved. Then with the manager coming in here [Scotland] and his style of football and the way he wants to play, that has probably benefited not just me but some of the other players like [Ikechi] Anya, [Steven] Naismith. They have flourished, but you could go through the team as the way he [Gordon Strachan] plays suits the forward players we have here.” (Scotland on Sunday)
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