Tag Archives: strachan

Serbia v Scotland World Cup qualifier to go ahead despite snow

Scotland's World Cup qualifier in snowy Serbia set to go ahead as Tartan Army dig in to help clear pitch

By
Stuart Fraser

PUBLISHED:

11:40 GMT, 26 March 2013

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UPDATED:

14:04 GMT, 26 March 2013

Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Serbia is set to go ahead, despite continuing heavy snowfall.

Gordon Strachan's side are due to play tonight in the city of Novi Sad, around an hour north west of the Scots' base in Belgrade, and work to clear the Karadjordje Stadium pitch is underway.

Digging in: Members of the Tartan Army help clear the pitch in Novi Sad

Digging in: Members of the Tartan Army help clear the pitch in Novi Sad

Helping hand: Scotland fan David Wildridge clears snow from the seats in the Karadjordje Stadium

Helping hand: Scotland fan David Wildridge clears snow from the seats in the Karadjordje Stadium

The Serbia FA and the Scottish FA are continuing to monitor the situation, the latter tweeting: 'Serbia v Scotland on as it stands. Serbia FA clearing pitch of snow.'

Around 1,200 members of the Tartan Army are expected to attend the match, which would be rescheduled for Wednesday if it was postponed tonight.

Snow: The scene outside the Scotland team hotel in Belgrade this morning

Snow: The scene outside the Scotland team hotel in Belgrade this morning

Wrapped up: Strachan tries to keep warm during Scotland's training session in Belgrade last night

Wrapped up: Strachan tries to keep warm during Scotland's training session in Belgrade last night

Scotland are currently bottom of Group A with two points from five games after losing 2-1 to Wales in the snow at Hampden on Friday.

With qualification hopes for the World Cup almost certainly over, Strachan is set make a number of changes to his team tonight against Serbia, who sit fourth with four points.

Warming up: Scotland trained at the Partizan Belgrade Academy ahead of tonight's match against Serbia

Warming up: Scotland trained at the Partizan Belgrade Academy ahead of tonight's match against Serbia

Defeat: Scotland lost out in the Glasgow snow on Friday night as they were beaten 2-1 by Wales

Defeat: Scotland lost out in the Glasgow snow on Friday night as they were beaten 2-1 by Wales

Paul Ince is new Blackpool manager

Ince 'over the moon' as Blackpool confirm appointment of former MK Dons manager

– present

Gordon Strachan and Gavin Strachan
Coventry – 1997-2001

'It’s great to be here,' said Ince.
'Considering I’ve watched the team play for the last 14 months, it’s
strange sitting here as the manager, having obviously watched Blackpool
as a fan as well as watching my son play.

'I’m over the moon though and
delighted, it’s great to be back on the training ground and great to be
involved with, and in charge of, a great bunch of lads.

'I’ve worked with a lot of players and
the spirit and togetherness of the lads is absolutely fantastic. I’m
glad I’ve been given the opportunity by Karl Oyston.'

Ince was the latest in a long line to
have talks with Oyston.

The 45-year old has been out of work since April
2011.

However, he impressed Oyston with his knowledge of Blackpool’s strengths
and weaknesses after watching every one of their games this season.

Paul was in the crowd last week to see 21-year-old Tom score for England Under 21s in their 4-0 win over Sweden.

Back in the game: Ince's last job in management ended with the sack from Notts County in April 2011

Back in the game: Ince's last job in management ended with the sack from Notts County in April 2011

Lionheart: Ince had a top class career as a player with England, Manchester United, Liverpool and Inter Milan

Lionheart: Ince had a top class career as a player with England, Manchester United, Liverpool and Inter Milan

But Ince Snr was spotted getting a clip round the ear from wife Claire
for sitting in silent appreciation of his son's goal on the rebound late
in the first half as though he'd seen him score for England a
million times before.

Claire, by contrast, was right on her feet and jumping about in
celebration – before whacking her husband to encourage him to liven up.

Bright future: England U21 star Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading, among others

Bright future: England U21 star Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading, among others

Bright future: Young Lion Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading among others

Bright future: Young Lion Tom Ince has attracted interest from Liverpool and Reading among others

VIDEO Watch Paul Ince get a clip round the ear from his missus – for not celebrating son Tom's goal!

Celtic player Scott Brown named Scotland manager by Gordon Strachan

Brown named Scotland captain for Strachan's first match in charge

PUBLISHED:

15:34 GMT, 5 February 2013

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UPDATED:

15:35 GMT, 5 February 2013


New skipper: Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has named Celtic's Scott Brown as his captain for the friendly with Estonia in Aberdeen tomorrow

New skipper: Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has named Celtic's Scott Brown as his captain for the friendly with Estonia in Aberdeen tomorrow

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has named Scott Brown as his first captain.

Celtic skipper Brown will lead out the team for the first time ahead of tomorrow night's friendly against Estonia at Pittodrie.

'He already knows what it's like to be a captain with pressure and that made him favourite,' Strachan told a press conference in Aberdeen.

Gary Caldwell and Kenny Miller have shared captaincy duties in the absence of Darren Fletcher, who is battling a chronic bowel condition.

But Caldwell has returned to Wigan with an injury and 33-year-old Miller is unlikely to start as the Vancouver Whitecaps striker is in the midst of his close season.

Strachan confirmed Caldwell's withdrawal was one of several from his squad, adding: 'He's left. Grant (Hanley) has left too, they did well to come up, they'd really been struggling.

'Ross McCormack has left, he's got some sort of bug but he made it up here which was terrific.

'Young James (Forrest) went back because I felt it might be too much to play two games back to back for him. So he's away to Celtic and they'll look after him there.'

The Scotland boss is more than willing to co-operate with Clydesdale Bank Premier League managers as all parties aim to minimise player fatigue.

'I spoke to a lot of managers recently and I'm trying to do the best for the group and the best for the managers,' he added. 'The team that is picked is the best one we can put out tomorrow.

New dawn: Strachan takes charge of his first international match at Pittodrie in Aberdeen

New dawn: Strachan takes charge of his first international match at Pittodrie in Aberdeen

'We're taking into consideration the last time they played, the conditions they played in and who'll be playing at the weekend.

'We'll try to help them and try to get something positive for ourselves.'

Strachan is preparing to make his debut as Scotland manager at the ground where he spent seven successful years as a player between 1977 and 1984.

Out: Gary Caldwell has returned to Wigan after picking up an injury

Out: Gary Caldwell has returned to Wigan after picking up an injury

He added: 'When I first got the job I thought 'wherever the first game is, it will be fantastic' but I think I've realised it's even more special that I'm going back to Aberdeen where I enjoyed smashing times with great players.

'I'm going back again 30-odd years later and the best wishes have been overwhelming, especially in Aberdeen. The people that I've met around this area recently have made it even more special.

'The group Craig (Levein) passed to me are a smashing bunch of players and sometimes they're over enthusiastic but we can always curtail that.'

Paul Scholes is 38 – can he play on?

Scholes is 38… but can he join Sheringham and Strachan in exclusive '40s club'

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UPDATED:

01:05 GMT, 17 November 2012

Paul Scholes celebrated his 38th birthday on Friday as he continues to flourish in the Manchester United midfield.

The former England international came out of retirement earlier this year and remains a key component of Sir Alex Ferguson's side, albeit on a bit-part basis.

But few outfield players lace up their boots in the Premier League into their 40s – only Gordon Strachan and Teddy Sheringham to be precise. Can Scholes carry on for another two more years

Back where it started: Paul Scholes made his Manchester United debut against Port Vale in September 1994

Back where it started: Paul Scholes made his Manchester United debut against Port Vale in September 1994

Paul Scholes factfile

Born: 16 November 1974, Salford

Man United debut: 21 September 1994, v Port Vale, League Cup (scores two goals)

Man United honours: 10 Premier League titles; three FA Cups; two League Cups; five Community Shields; two Champions League titles

England caps (goals): 66 (14)

At 38, Scholes is in good company with a host of players having made it that far, including Bryan Robson, his current United team-mate Ryan Giggs and Mark Hughes.

Of course, goalkeepers are a different story. John Burridge is the oldest player to appear in the top flight at 43 while Brad Friedel is still going strong at 41.

Ferguson meanwhile is in no rush to sort out Scholes' United future but the chances of him carrying on has not been completely dismissed.

Happy days: Scholes has helped United to a string of trophies during his time at Old Trafford

Happy days: Scholes has helped United to a string of trophies during his time at Old Trafford

Current old guard

Brad Friedel (Tottenham) 41

Mark Schwarzer (Fulham) 40

Ryan Giggs (Man United) 38

Brynjar Gunnarsson (Reading) 37

Rory Delap (Stoke City) 36

Ian Harte (Reading) 35

'It is not a time to make a judgment on that,' said Ferguson. 'Paul will know himself.

'He still has the desire to play. That has not stopped.

'He is still the best passer of the ball in the country. It is amazing.

'He has had one or two injuries over the years, quit last summer and came back.

'He made a fantastic contribution in the second half of the season and I just think he should keep doing what he is doing. He will sort the rest out himself.'

He's back! Scholes came out of retirement in January this year against rivals Manchester City

He's back! Scholes came out of retirement in January this year against rivals Manchester City

Fellow midfielder Michael Carrick – set to make the 400th league appearance of his career this weekend – believes Scholes has had a major effect on him.

'It is fantastic to play with Paul Scholes,' Carrick told the club's official website.

'He is a genius. We all know what he can do. A lot of them you simply cannot teach.

Golden oldies: Scholes with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and team-mate Ryan Giggs

Golden oldies: Scholes with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and team-mate Ryan Giggs

'You can learn and take things from his game, as I have done since I have been here. Whether he realises or not, he has helped me enormously just by watching him and taking things in.

'But there are some things only he can do. It is fabulous to play with him. I have enjoyed it immensely since I came here.'

Graeme Souness backs Joe Jordan for Scotland

Souness backs Scotland legend Jordan to take over from sacked Levein

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UPDATED:

17:01 GMT, 12 November 2012

Graeme Souness has backed Joe Jordan to take over as the new Scotland manager.

The Scottish Football Association have begun the search for a new national team boss following the sacking of Craig Levein.

Souness was previously on a four-man shortlist for the position when Levein’s predecessor George Burley was appointed to the role but the former Rangers manager says he has no interest in the job this time around.

Backing: Joe Jordan (left) has been tipped to replace Craig Levein

Backing: Joe Jordan (left) has been tipped to replace Craig Levein

Speaking at a Hall of Fame event at Hampden, Souness made it clear who he believes is the outstanding candidate.Asked if he would be open to an approach from the SFA,

He said: 'I think your man is Joe Jordan. He would be my choice if I was making the decision.

Raring to go: Scotland train ahead of their friendly with Luxembourg

Raring to go: Scotland train ahead of their friendly with Luxembourg

Raring to go: Scotland train ahead of their friendly with Luxembourg

'He’s an obvious candidate. Everyone knows the passion that Joe showed when he was a player.

'He would be perfect. He fits the bill.

'He’s knowledgeable, he has worked at the highest level, played at the highest level and is extremely passionate. He’s your man.'

No thanks: Graeme Souness has ruled himself out of the running

No thanks: Graeme Souness has ruled himself out of the running

Gordon Strachan quickly emerged as the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Levein.

Souness added: 'He’s another real genuine candidate. In fact, him and Joe would be the outstanding candidates.'

Caretaker: Billy Stark (left) has stepped in after Levein was sacked

Caretaker: Billy Stark (left) has stepped in after Levein was sacked

Asked if he would be open to an approach from the SFA, Souness said: 'No, it’s not for me.'

Craig Levein taking legal advice after Scotland sacking

Axed Scotland boss Levein seeking legal advice as fallout from dismissal continues

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UPDATED:

08:41 GMT, 8 November 2012

Former Scotland manager Craig Levein has confirmed he is taking legal advice following his dismissal.

Levein was 'relieved of his duties' by the Scottish Football Association on Monday, who stressed they would honour the remaining 20 months of his contract.

The former Hearts and Dundee United boss was removed from his role four days after the seven-man SFA board first met to discuss his position, with a poor start to the World Cup qualifying campaign cited as the main reason for their decision.

Legal advice: Craig Levein was sacked after a poor start to World Cup qualifying

Legal advice: Craig Levein was sacked after a poor start to World Cup qualifying

In a statement on Wednesday night, Levein said: 'I would like to thank everyone who has supported the team and I during my time as Scotland manager.

'It has been a privilege to have done the job and I would like to thank my backroom staff who have worked tirelessly during my time as manager.

'Most of all I would like to thank the players for their unswerving loyalty, effort and professionalism. I am extremely disappointed by the process of the last week.

'I note the position as stated by the Scottish Football Association but do not concur and I am currently taking legal advice as to my options. I will make no further comment at this time.'

Meanwhile, interim boss Billy Stark is determined to use the friendly against Luxembourg to galvanise a Scotland squad left disappointed by Levein's departure.

Gordon Strachan and Owen Coyle are among those who have been tipped to fill the vacancy and Under 21s boss Stark has refused to rule himself out of the running.

Axe: SFA chiefs Stewart Regan and Campbell Ogilvie confirmed the departure

Axe: SFA chiefs Stewart Regan and Campbell Ogilvie confirmed the departure

But he insists his priority right now is boosting morale ahead of the match on November 14.

Stark said: 'I can say categorically I'm not thinking anywhere beyond this game. I've got enough on my plate trying to get the players lifted because they are disappointed that Craig has left.

'It has been very apparent that there was a real loyalty there to Craig. I've spoken to a few of the senior players and they are old and wise enough to know that we have to move on.

'But they are very disappointed and part of the job will be to try to lift morale and get a really positive attitude going into the game.'

On his own interest in the job long-term, Stark said: 'I've been happy in the Under 21s job and I'm honoured and absolutely delighted to have the faith of the board that I can prove myself capable of taking the team next week.

'I don't think you rule anything out in football.'

Paolo di Canio and Gianluca Vialli on Southampton wish list

EXCLUSIVE: Di Canio and Vialli on Saints wish-list should Cortese sack boss Adkins

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UPDATED:

23:11 GMT, 6 November 2012

Paolo di Canio and Gianluca Vialli are in line to replace Nigel Adkins if he is sacked as Southampton manager.

Chairman Nicola Cortese is said to be furious with the club’s start to the season and Monday’s 2-0 defeat at West Brom may be the final straw. Cortese and Adkins were in talks but the 47-year-old could still be there at the weekend as Cortese wants a replacement ready before axing his manager.

Target: Vialli

Target: Di Canio

Twin targets: Gianluca Vialli (left) and Paolo Di Canio

Di Canio, boss of League One
Swindon, Vialli, the former Chelsea manager and ex-Saints boss Gordon
Strachan are all under consideration.

However, Strachan would need a lot of persuading to return after leaving the club acrimoniously in 2004.

Sportsmail understands discreet overtures have been made to various third parties in a bid to draw up a list of potential new managers.

Favourite for the sack: Nigel Adkins' side are bottom of the Premier League

Favourite for the sack: Nigel Adkins' side are bottom of the Premier League

Another man to be mentioned is Harry Redknapp, who left the club to take over at Portsmouth in 2005.

The writing has been on the wall for Adkins for weeks now as Southampton have lost eight of their first 10 games since gaining promotion from the Championship last season.

They have a crucial home clash with Swansea on Saturday.

Middlesbrough must win promotion – Colin Young Northern Exposure

Promotion is a must this season for Boro

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UPDATED:

16:03 GMT, 14 August 2012

Middlesbrough returned from Bury unscathed at the weekend.

Still in the Capital One League Cup hat, incidentally, hoping to bring back the only piece of silverware won by a North East team for more than 40 years.

And no I’m not a Smoggie. Or a Geordie. Or a Mackem. For the record. And the last time.

Now football is back, and the Olympics still fresh in the mind, it will be fascinating to see how quickly Boro come out of the blocks this season!

And to quote the other major summer event, the return of The Stones Roses, 'This Is The One' for Middlesbrough.

Close call: Boro were in the top six for much of last season

Close call: Boro were in the top six for much of last season

They have to get back in the Premier League now.

So I’m looking forward to seeing how Tony Mowbray’s new signings perform, what system the Boro boss will adopt, where his players fit in, who grasps his passing philosophy, and, as I’ve mentioned previously, if the Teesside 'faithful' have it in their hearts and their wallets to back the efforts of one of their own.

Astute signings are Mowbray’s forte, and he appears to have cherry-picked from the market this summer, so we wait and see how his team selection develops. He will feel he is close to a fully equipped squad now.

Mowbray has also patiently chiselled away at the mess left by Gordon Strachan to mould a squad looking to build on the surprise flirtation with the play-offs last season.

In doing so he has identified the talent which was staring the Scot in the face before he blundered into the clubs in Scotland who, in serious hindsight, must have been delighted with Steve Gibson’s faith in Strachan’s eye for a player.

In fairness, Strachan could see Rhys Williams is a Premier League player but even I could. That was obvious from his debut four years ago in the 5-1 win over Yeovil in the Carling Cup and he always seems to put in effortless, mature performances in central defence or midfield.

Local lad: Tony Mowbray had made some astute signings

Local lad: Tony Mowbray had made some astute signings

Football League blog

He’s only 24, on the verge of becoming a regular Australia international and a player who has attracted scouts to the Riverside in their droves. Name a club and he’s on the list. He could be that good.

Everyone at Middlesbrough has known it for a while, and Mowbray has not only insisted he is not for sale, but given him the captain’s armband.

As I say, Mowbray has proved he is astute in the transfer market, so…

Magpies' Greek odyssey

They haven’t even kicked a ball in Europe yet but already Newcastle United have discovered the harsh realities of the Europa Cup.

It is the competition all Premier League clubs outside the top four or five want to be in. It was Newcastle’s reward for their surprising and deserved fifth place, cementing their long-awaited and hard-earned return to European competition after a five year absence.

Yet once it comes around do they really want to be in it that much

Euro stars: Newcastle will compete on the continent this season

Euro stars: Newcastle will compete on the continent this season

Newcastle’s play-off draw may have been reasonably favourable, and could have been considerably worse. They must play Atromitos, one of Athens’ lesser known teams, whose European experience stretches to a shortlived UEFA Cup run more than 10 years ago. But they were praying for a home draw.

Good old Atromitos have their own reasons for refusing to move next week’s tie to Newcastle. A home game for the second leg would be in their favour, so it is a strange decision, and clearly shifting it to a more convenient Tuesday or Wednesday to assist Newcastle was not an option either.

So next week Alan Pardew and his full squad must make a four-hour journey to Athens, play on Thursday night, get out of Greece as quickly as possible, and then prepare to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with little more than 24 hours to spare.

Last season’s visit to the current European champions was one of the most memorable in a memorable season. There was more to it than Papiss Cisse’s breathtaking goal. But what a goal.

Next Saturday, for the police and TV have decided it must be Saturday, and thanks to their success last season, it already promises to be one of the toughest tests of the season, and the Premier League will be just one game old.

In the first week of pre-season, Pardew said that his young fringe players will have their chance to shine in Europe. So presumably we can expect to see Haris Vuckic, Mehdi Abeid, Dan Gosling, Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson in action.

Tough test: Pardew will have to try and replicate last season's success

Tough test: Pardew will have to try and replicate last season's success

All will have a point to prove, all desperate to achieve the result which will put Newcastle in the league phase of the Europa Cup. And then really put the whole squad to the test.

And for all the inconvenience in the months to come, Pardew will welcome that challenge, just as the supporters will relish the prospect of putting the black and white flag back on the European map.

Atromitos are ideal fodder for Newcastle under normal circumstances, but experience of other Premier League clubs at this phase of the competition proves nothing can be taken for granted.

Newcastle and their manager want to be in the Europa League. And they will travel to Greece somewhat riled by events since the draw, which makes them very dangerous opponents for Atromitos.

Westwood gets his chance

When Keiren Westwood joined up with the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 squad, he didn’t go as Shay Given’s understudy. He wanted to be Ireland’s No 1.

The Sunderland keeper was unhappy with his first season in the Barclays Premier League. He played nine games and hated every minute of his isolation from first team action since a bug had ruled him out of the dramatic New Year win over his first club Manchester City.

The efficient and reliable Simon Mignolet kept him out of the team, and between them they have seen off Craig Gordon. The competition is one of the more pleasing aspect Martin O’Neill has to contend with in his fragile squad.

No 1: Westwood will get his chance for Ireland following Given's retirement

No 1: Westwood will get his chance for Ireland following Given's retirement

Poland offered the opportunity for Westwood to make a point to O’Neill, and prove he could play on the highest stage. He wanted to put Given under pressure to start in the opening game against Croatia, and trained accordingly in the heat of Italy and Poland, often with Given unable to go through the same rigorous sessions with coach Alan Kelly.

And here came the drawback of Westwood’s curtailed Premier League season, which started as Mignolet’s understudy because the Belgian had been Steve Bruce’s choice after pre-season.

He played nine games. He may have set the standard with a superb performance at Old Trafford, and he is a keeper who brims with confidence when he is playing well. Player of the season awards at Carlisle and Coventry are testament to his popularity, as well as the match-saving contributions. But he played nine Premier League games. Given has played for more than nine seasons.

Trapattoni’s loyalty, which is questionable on so many other levels, deemed that Given played, despite his own self-doubts about his full fitness. After a 10-year wait for a finals stage, he had also earned the right to represent his country.

I consider myself privileged to have seen Shay Given prove the undoubted potential he showed at such a young age over a decade with Newcastle and Ireland. He is the sort of keeper team-mates, and journalists, dream about.

He lived his boyhood dream and set high standards for Ireland for 16 years. Sadly, Euro 2012 were not at those standards. Given knew it, we all did, and he is still feeling it. At 36, when those aches and strains start to kick in, he has decided something has to give to continue meeting his standards, injury-free, for Aston Villa.

Top performer: Given has had an outstanding career

Top performer: Given has had an outstanding career

More from Colin Young…

Northern Exposure: European adventure always welcome at St James' Park… and it is still St James' Park
07/08/12

Northern Exposure: O'Neill delves into his Clough memories in bid to lift Sunderland
31/07/12

Northern Exposure: All quiet in the north east… but things are about to get busy
24/07/12

Northern Exposure: The north east team of the 2011-12 season
15/05/12

Northern Exposure: Trapattoni can help Sunderland winger McClean be a Euro star
08/05/12

Northern Exposure: North East duo hold key to Manchester's title race
01/05/12

Northern Exposure: Middlesbrough have 90 minutes to keep Premier League dream alive… or face the consequences
27/04/12

Northern Exposure: Newcastle and Sunderland face battle to keep hold of their best players
17/04/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

It must have been such a heart-wrenching decision for a proud Irishman who simply loves playing for his country and has always embraced every single moment of it. Poland was a painful experience, not pleasurable, and like many of his age and experience, he feels it is time to let the next generation try to get Ireland in Brazil.

But he will be sorely missed. And I’m so glad he left the door open to return for emergencies.

His decision to step down after three bad games in 125 leaves Westwood as Ireland’s obvious No 1, with untried competition coming from Millwall’s David Forde and Motherwell’s Darron Randolph.

He will play his 11th game for his country in Serbia on Wednesday, and unless Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane return, the squad will be the 23-and-a-bit, who will start the World Cup 2014 campaign in Kazakhstan next month.

With Germany, Sweden, Austria and the Faroe Islands also in their group, Giovanni Trapattoni will have his work cut out justifying his 2million-a-year salary as the coach of a cash-strapped FA and his stubborn decision to stay on after the Euros debacle.

Any campaign without Shay Given would be difficult for Ireland, such is his presence from the moment the squad descends on Dublin and Trapattoni needs a goalkeeper who is performing regularly at the top level to be ready for the road to Rio.

Which brings us back to Keiren Westwood and Sunderland, Martin O’Neill, Simon Mignolet and the team sheet which Lee Cattermole hands over in the referee’s room at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Like Westwood, Mignolet, who returns from international duty with Belgium, will be expecting the nod.

Which is a fascinating one for O’Neill to handle, with so many other issues to ponder after a lousy summer.

Who does he choose How does he announce it And when

Scott Brown fired up by chance to lead Celtic into the group stages of Champions League

Brown fired up by chance to lead Celtic into the group stages of Champions League

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UPDATED:

23:17 GMT, 19 July 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Even now, seven years on, their name
still hangs heavy in the air. Artmedia Bratislava were only meant to
catch Celtic's eye for a few days before sheepishly fading into the
distance. Instead, they became a permanent point of reference.

The night Gordon Strachan's ill- prepared side shipped five to the little known Slovakians was the moment everything changed.

In the new Europe, new names could no
longer be considered no-hopers purely for the reason that little was
known about them. There are no longer any gimmes in the game. Writing
off little-known sides from what are blithely referred to as backwaters
is the sport of fools.

Celtic captain Scott Brown

Celtic captain Scott Brown

As Celtic await the draw for the third qualifying round of this year's Champions League, the prospect of a fall at the first hurdle in this year of all years is surely unthinkable. Even manager Neil Lennon admitted yesterday his transfer plans hinge on a place in the group stages.

Unlike the Artmedia debacle, there is the safety net of another bite at the cherry in the Europa League were the worst to happen over the next three weeks. No one has the appetite for that, though.

Lennon's side should get through and probably face up to a tougher challenge in the play-off round.

A list of potential opponents that include HJK Helsinki and AEL Limassol should have no one trembling at the knees. But we've been here before haven't we

For Scott Brown, the prospect of skippering the side in the competition proper is one to set the blood pumping. Equally, the notion that the dream could end in infamy long before then is utterly chilling.

'It would mean a lot to me to take the club into the Champions League,' he said.

'Myself and a couple of the lads have played in it before, so we know how special it is.

'If we get in – which hopefully we do – it would be a great experience.

'I watched the games like anyone else. I always wanted to be in this situation, but there's a lot of work to be done.

'We've got two qualifiers before we do anything, so we have to see where we are in the next couple of weeks.

'We've definitely got the quality. Once we know who we're playing against, we'll definitely give it everything we've got.

Celtic were knocked out by Artmedia Bratislava

Shock: Celtic were knocked out by Artmedia Bratislava

'There are no easy teams any more. A few teams have been done with that thinking in the past.

'We could face teams who are halfway through their season, while this will be our first competitive game. It's up to us to get the season off to a flyer.'

Celtic's European campaign last year was a bizarre episode. Initially shown the door from the Europa League, Lennon's men were then ushered back through it by UEFA on account of Switzerland's Sion failing to comply with a transfer embargo.

Presented with something akin to a free hit, the Parkhead side did not look out of place in a strong group containing Rennes, Udinese and Atletico Madrid, only missing out on a spot in the knock-out stages after a draw in Italy in the last game.

'We have to take a lot of pride from the Europa League group last year,' Brown added. 'The competition seemed to kick-start our season.

'We got better and better with every game. We went 15 points behind in the league but still showed we had the character to come back from it.

'I think that Europa League group was the making of this squad. We had a lot of new faces but the lads have gelled well. There's no excuses now.'

If Celtic were to fail to clear the two hurdles that stand in their way, it will not be for the lack of preparation. There have been no long-haul flights this summer. The short hop to Bavaria has been agreeable, as have the training facilities and the standard of opposition in their tests against Augsburg, Stuttgart Kickers and VfR Aalen.

Now it's time to step things up a notch or two. Celtic will move to Holland today ahead of their game against Ajax tomorrow. Norwich City and Inter Milan are the final appetisers before the Champions League is served up.

Harry Redknapp puzzled by FA delay in appointing Roy Hodgson

What a drag! Harry puzzled by FA delay in appointing England boy Roy

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UPDATED:

23:40 GMT, 4 May 2012

Harry Redknapp confessed the appointment of Roy Hodgson as England manager came as a ‘relief’ but also questioned why the process took the FA nearly three months to complete.

‘It did drag on,’ said Redknapp. ‘I don’t know why they didn’t do it six weeks ago. What was the problem West Brom weren’t going to go down.’

Tottenham boss Redknapp, whose side are away to Aston Villa on Sunday, refutes suggestions that results suffered because of speculation that he was Fabio Capello’s chosen successor. But his assistant, Kevin Bond, was among those who feared it was having an impact.

Drag: Harry Redknapp does not understand why the FA took so long to appoint Hodgson

Drag: Harry Redknapp does not understand why the FA took so long to appoint Hodgson

‘Kevin thought there was a change,’ said Redknapp. ‘He was talking about how Southampton went after Gordon Strachan said he was going to leave and Manchester United after Fergie said he was going to retire.’

Asked whether Spurs chairman Daniel Levy thought it had damaged the club’s campaign, the manager replied: ‘I think he thinks it might have done. It was non-stop speculation but I didn’t lie in bed wondering what my England team was going to be. I only ever thought of Tottenham.’

Redknapp also hit back at claims about why the FA overlooked him in favour of Hodgson, such as the idea his wife Sandra did not like the idea of him working from the National Football Centre in Burton-on-Trent or that he was reluctant to nurture the next generation of talent.

‘Nobody watches more games than me, kids’ football and everything else, so that’s not a fact at all,’ said Redknapp. ‘I read my wife didn’t want me going to Burton every day but she doesn’t know where Burton is. She just says: ‘‘Whatever you do, Harry, is fine by me”.’

Our man: Roy Hodgson (right) will stay at West Brom until the end of the season

Our man: Roy Hodgson (right) will stay at West Brom until the end of the season

The FA’s approach to Hodgson was confirmed on Sunday, a couple of hours after Tottenham’s win over Blackburn. ‘I was quite relieved when I woke up on Monday and it was all out of the way,’ said Redknapp.

‘I didn’t have a decision to make and it wouldn’t have been an easy decision. I’ve got a great job. I’m managing a fantastic club with good players. I love going to places like Anfield, Old Trafford, Chelsea and the Emirates. I enjoy being with the players every day.

‘It would have been a different way of life. I’m not really one for being careful about every word I say. It took that decision away from me.’