Rumour Mill: Leigh Griffiths | Rangers | Houston | Lennon’s future

After Charles Green claimed the current side were “probably the worst Rangers team that you have ever seen”, manager Ally McCoist has come out to defend his players.

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“If someone had asked me if I’d take being 20 points clear at the beginning of March? Are you kidding me on? I’d have bitten their hand off.

“We’ve a squad of players who are doing exactly what’s asked of them.

“But the bottom line is the players, who I would tell you have been absolutely fabulous in terms of their willingness to learn and to do what is asked of them, have got us 20 points clear in a league which we needed to get out of. So we have absolutely no complaints in terms of what the players are giving us.

“Of course, there will be inconsistencies in levels of performances both as a team and as individuals, that is apparent with every team. But in terms of getting the job done and doing what was asked of them, at this moment in time, I am delighted with them.” (Scotsman)

Neil Lennon’s Celtic future

In the wake of his side’s Champions League last-16 exit on Wednesday night at the hands of Juventus in Turin, the prospect of Neil Lennon attracting interest from other clubs on the back of such an impressive run was acknowledged by chief executive Peter Lawwell.

Lennon however has tried to calm the rumours of his departure, he said: “It [speculation] makes no difference to me. I am the manager of Celtic and I am one of the privileged few who have been lucky enough to do this job. I enjoy it, I love what I do. I can’t stop speculation about players or myself but at this current period I am Celtic manager and I don’t see any reason for that to change in the future.”

Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster, when asked about his manager possibly moving on, said he “could definitely see it happening”. (Various)

Forster’s future at Celtic... for now

Fraser Forster admits he needs Champions League football to maintain his hopes of playing for England.

“If I want to hang around the England squad I need to be playing in those games,” he said. “I need that exposure. It’s benefited me massively this season. Once you’ve played in those games you want to be playing in them as often as you can. It probably makes qualification next season that bit more important.”

The Celtic goalkeeper, in an interview with an English journalist, said of his team-mates “a lot of them will move on at some stage and I’m no different”.

“It’s got to be the right club,” he said. “Why would I move to sit on the bench when I’m at a good club like Celtic? I think there’s always more to achieve [with Celtic]. I’ve got three years left on my contract so there’s plenty of time. Champions League football at Celtic is very special. It’s been fantastic for all of us this year. There are some huge clubs but I’m a Celtic player and I intend on being that.” (Various)

Hibs dealt Griffiths blow

It has emerged that Hibs striker Griffiths will not be at the club next pre-season. Pat Fenlon had hoped to tie up the club’s top scorer on a permanent deal, but Wolves boss Dean Saunders now wants the striker back in the Black Country for pre-season training.

Saunders said: “Leigh is scoring for fun at the moment. When I came to the club I’d only seen him in one training session.

“We said we would monitor him and I hope he keeps banging the goals in because I’ve told him to come back here for pre-season training, ready to try to get a place in my team.” (Daily Record)

Hearts set on Houston

The former Dundee United boss, who was Craig Levein’s assistant at Tynecastle, has been favoured by the Tynecastle board over John Robertson and Derek McInnes.

Hearts sources indicated last night that negotiations were at an advanced stage, and that barring any unforeseen happenings a final agreement should be reached shortly. (Various)

No fast track back to SPL for Rangers

The combined rule book for a proposed 12-12-18 league set-up in Scottish football next season has confirmed there will be no fast-track route for Rangers back to the top flight.

The first draft of rules for the new body, which would incorporate all 42 current senior clubs and be called The Scottish Professional Football League, also reveals there will be no championship trophy up for grabs for clubs in the middle tier of the new structure. (Scotsman)

Thomson set for Hibs return, and could play for free

The 28-year-old midfielder, who was released by Middlesbrough at the end of January, is expected to sign for Hibs until the end of the season after spending the past two weeks training with Fenlon’s squad.

Thomson’s relationship with the Hibs supporters soured in the wake of his departure from the club six years ago, when he joined Rangers in a £2 million.

The Hibs manager maintains there isn’t money to finance a deal. He said: “I said at the start we didn’t have any money to do it and we still don’t. But he has indicated he wants to come in and play, which is fantastic.

“It’s between the club and Kevin how it is done. I’m delighted to have a quality player on board. I said at the start we have to live within our means and that’s what we are trying to do.” (Various)

Rangers looks to strengthen with Daly, Law and Bikey

Ally McCoist last night confirmed his interest in Dundee United captain Jon Daly, Motherwell midfielder Nicky Law and Middlesbrough defender Andre Bikey. McCoist said: “That’s the ideal scenario, to completely strengthen the squad and get back to a level where we want to be.”

Vancouver boss in line for Falkirk hot seat

Martin Rennie has emerged as a possible successor to Steven Pressley at Falkirk, after the former Scotland defender’s move to Coventry.

Rennie, currently managing Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS, was born in Thurso and is a Bairns fan.

Others rumoured to be in the frame for the top job at Falkirk include, veteran defender Darren Dods, Alloa boss Paul Hartley and Queen of the South manager Allan Johnston.