A bit of nostalgic schadenfreude – Part 2

The Express:

Eck will tighten his grip Express, The (London, England)

July 29, 2005

Author: CHARLIE NICHOLAS

RANGERS for the league championship and I’m not basing that forecast on Celtic’s Euro humiliation in Bratislava. I made up my mind Alex McLeish would get the better of his old Aberdeen and Scotland mate Gordon Strachan to keep hold of the crown two weeks ago when I took time out on holiday to put the SPL in focus.

And the gap on prize-giving day could be several points. It will certainly be more than the slender winning lead Celtic handed to Rangers on the final day of last season.

I still don’t rate Big Eck’s side as world-beaters, or capable of making a serious impact on Europe, but they will be too strong both mentally and physically for Celtic.

Today, Gordon finds himself in the same position Alex was in only a few months ago seemingly unwanted and pondering about his future.

And that’s after only one game in charge of the Celts!

I have little doubt Alex would have been on his way if chairman David Murray had persuaded Graeme Souness to return to Ibrox.

Alex appeared to be in an impossible position, with a stop-go, patched-up side trying desperately to hang on to Celtic’s coat-tails.

McLeish is made of stern stuff, though, and turned Rangers around through sheer grit and determination. He was well rewarded.

Now I have been far more impressed with McLeish’s signings when compared directly with the players Strachan has recruited for Celtic.  Huge question marks hang over every single new Celt, even Japanese Bhoy Shunsuke Nakamura.

And, right now, the likes of Paul Telfer, Mo Camara, Jeremie Aliadiere and Maciej Zurawski are not Celtic class. They may be in time, of course, but on the other hand, they may not.

Zurawski rejoices in the nick-name of Magic and he showed in Bratislava how he could disappear – just like that.

McLeish identified the players he wanted and went out and nailed them.

Frankly, I like the look of Rangers new boys Jose Pierre-Fanfan and Federico Nieto, while Brahim Hemdani could be the perfect midfield partner for new skipper Barry Ferguson.

And we all know the capabilities of Ian Murray, now he has left Easter Road for Ibrox.

The Express: EXPRESS SPORT’S TOP TEAM MAKE THEIR PREDICTIONS

Express, The (London, England) July 29, 2005

ANDY McINNES CHAMPIONS: If Rangers can steal the title by default from Celtic last time, then with the same luck and added quality they can wash the floor with them this season.

JIM McLEAN CHAMPIONS: Rangers will edge out Celtic. Alex McLeish’s side look better equipped in terms of quality of player, allied to more strength in depth.

GARY KEOWN CHAMPIONS: Rangers. Ibrox boss Alex McLeish rebuilt the core of his team last season and that element of continuity should give his team the edge over Celtic.

GRAHAM CLARK CHAMPIONS: Rangers. The Ibrox side look for the first time in ages to be the slightly better equipped of the Old Firm and new signing Jose Pierre-Fanfan looks the part.

The Daily Record: Spread betting: Rangers stick-on for
glory

Daily Record, The (Glasgow, Scotland)

July 30, 2005

Author: SAM SPREAD (COLIN DUNCAN)

RANGERS have yet to kick a competitive ball in anger but Celtic’s Euro shocker has handed them a huge boost ahead of the start of the SPL campaign.

Throw into the mix what happened on the final day of last season at Fir Park and it will take something special for Celtic’s ageing side to recover sufficiently to mount a serious title challenge.

Punters have been piling into Rangers to retain their crown after Celtic’s 5-0 hammering against Artmedia and they are now 4-6 on the fixed odds.

However, Rangers still represent decent value on the spreads.  Alex McLeish appears to have a much stronger squad than his former Aberdeen team-mate Gordon Strachan – and there is the promise of two more new signings.

Injury to Chris Sutton, arguably Celtic’s best player, is another blow for Strachan and all the more reason for backing Rangers.

Sporting have an Old Firm title index which offers 10 points for the champions and a further three points for every point either team finishes clear of their rivals.

Buy Rangers at 12 with the Ibrox men needing to finish a point in front of Celtic next May to be in profit. I think the margin of victory will be a lot more than that.

The Daily Record: Football: RANGERS

Daily Record, The (Glasgow, Scotland)

July 30, 2005

Author: Jim McLean

AFTER Celtic’s flop in Europe, I can say with certainty that Rangers will end the season with another SPL crown.

Judging by the way Celtic went about their business against Artmedia Bratislava, you’d take the Ibrox men to win it at a canter.

But I don’t expect Gordon Strachan’s team to play as badly again and if they improve the championship could still be close.

The biggest problem at Parkhead is the lack of spirit and the vibes coming from there have been negative all summer.

On top of that, Rangers look far stronger than 12 months ago so I definitely can’t see past Alex McLeish and his players.

We look like having a competitive top flight and I don’t believe Hearts and Hibs will be fighting out a two-way battle for third place.

Dundee United will be there or thereabouts and Aberdeen are also capable of claiming third spot – but I’m not sure we’re going to be watching a lot of brilliant games.

Only Rangers and Dundee United have impressed me with what they’ve done in the transfer market and I can’t claim to be smacking my lips in anticipation1st – Rangers. Definitely. McLeish’s signings since January have been excellent and getting Barry Ferguson back has given them a boost.They may have won a watch with Jose Pierre-Fanfan, who could turn out to be as good as Jean-Alain Boumsong.

Even before I watched Celtic on Wednesday I fancied Rangers to win the title but now I’m sure of it.

Evening Times: WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY

Evening Times (Glasgow, Scotland)

July 30, 2005

ALAN DAVIDSON

Champions: Rangers Alex McLeish’s side have the strength and experience to retain the title, while Celtic’s chemistry is yet to be established.

DARRELL KING

Champions: Rangers Eight of the players who won the title at Easter Road are likely to start tomorrow, so the spine is there and confidence can only have grown.

MATTHEW LINDSAY

Champions: Rangers. New Celtic boss Gordon Strachan’s summer acquisitions look to fall some way below the high standard needed at the Parkhead club.

ALISON McCONNELL

Champions: Rangers There is actually very little between Celtic and Rangers, but Celtic’s tendency to selfdestruct could be costly.

BERT MITCHELL

Champions: Rangers Big Eck has utilised the Bosman market to bring performers of proven Euro pedigree to Ibrox and, while that is no guarantee of success, it represents ace against king value when compared to Coca-Cola championship plundering.

 

The Racing Post: FOOTBALL: GET SET FOR TITLE ROMP

Racing Post, The (England)

July 30, 2005

Author: Stuart Carruthers

RANGERS have a great chance to end the sequence of alternating champions in the SPL – and they could really turn this season’s title race into a procession, writes Stuart Carruthers. While the Gers won the league last season only because of Celtic’s selfdestruction in the final two minutes of the campaign, they are fast progressing forward while the Bhoys have hit reverse.

The side Alex McLeish put together last summer was always going to take time to bed together and they started so badly that they almost cost Big Eck his job.

But they turned things around and, following some more shrewd signings in the close season, the power in Glasgow has surely switched to the West End of the city.

Brahim Hemdani and Jose PierreFanfan have moved from France, Ian Murray has joined from Hibernian and the Gers have also snapped up promising young striker Federico Nieto from Argentinian club Almagro. . .

While Rangers have moved forward over the summer, Celtic are going through a transition period and have taken a massive leap backwards.

It would be no surprise to see the Gers do what the Bhoys did to them two years ago and win the league by a massive margin.

The Daily Record: Football: RANGERS
Daily Record, The (Glasgow, Scotland)

July 30, 2005

Author: Ally McCoist

The betting man in me has formulated a picture of how the final league table will look and this is how I see it next May1st – Rangers.Big Alex will win the title
with a slightly more comfortable margin than last season’s finale from fantasyland.

He’s strengthened his side with the arrival of Jose Pierre-Fanfan and Barry Ferguson will revel in his first full season back from Blackburn Rovers.

Take in the goals from Dado Prso and Nacho Novo and you have the champions elect.

Season preview

The Sunday Herald: RANGERS

Herald and the Sunday Herald, The (Glasgow, Scotland)

July 24, 2005

Man with the plan

Alex McLeish. The Rangers coach rode out an early-season challenge to his position last time around, and with the title in his bag and seven trophies under his belt, comes into the new season in his strongest position yet. Fully acclimatised to Old Firm pressure.

Strengths and weaknesses

Spine of the team appears increasingly strong. Two top-class goalkeepers – Stefan Klos and Ronald Waterreus – vie for action between the sticks. Jose-Karl Pierre-Fanfan looks capable of striking a solid partnership with Marvin Andrews. Brahim Hemdani’s presence should allow a resurgent Barry Ferguson and sharp Thomas Buffel to worry most teams. Dado Prso and Nacho Novo complement each other well further forward, even before the intriguing addition of Federico Nieto. Certain areas of the squad still feel thin. Central defensive uncertainty remains and there are still issues on the left side of midfield, where McLeish will surely be reluctant to rely on Peter Lovenkrands.

Finances

David Murray’s underwriting of a recent share issue not only kept the wolf from the door, it allowed the club to look forward again.

Goalscorer

Dado Prso. Surprisingly overlooked for the player-of-the-year awards, but the big Croatian scored 21 goals last season, and set up many more.

Creator

Thomas Buffel. The Belgian had a storming latter half to the season and his pre-season performances suggest there may be even more in the locker this time.

Cruncher

Barry Ferguson. Having a converted central defender, Hemdani, alongside him should allow him to attack more, but it is captain Ferguson who will be called upon to win most midfield battles.

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