Durie steps in for McCoist

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The Independent Online
On the day that Rangers landed a Portuguese man o' war, one of Ibrox's old soldiers suffered a setback to his hopes of spearheading Scotland's attack in the European Championship.

Walter Smith, manager of the Scottish double-winners, returned from Lisbon last night having completed the pounds 3m signing of Fernando Couto, Parma's former Benfica defender.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Ally McCoist welcomed the news as a respite from his struggle against the calf injury which kept him out of last weekend's Scottish Cup final.

On medical advice, McCoist will sit out Sunday's friendly against the United States at New Britain. The match is the last before Uefa rules oblige Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, to name his squad for England. The Scots' final warm-up fixture is against Colombia in Miami next Wednesday.

"The doctor has told us we should leave out McCoist and Billy McKinlay, who has a very similar injury, though he sees no real problems for either in terms of Euro 96," Brown said. "Obviously, they could break down against Colombia, which is a chance we have to take. But the doctor is confident, and there's still the fall-back option of asking Uefa to sanction a replacement."

Ironically, the main beneficiary of McCoist's misfortune could be his club-mate Gordon Durie. After two years in the international wilderness, the only Scot to run Pierre van Hooijdonk close in the Premier Division scoring stakes now has a chance to re-establish himself in the national side. Confirming that Durie would start against the US, Brown said he would decide today whether to pair him with Kevin Gallacher, Scott Booth or John Spencer.

McCoist has cause to remember Couto, with whom he became acquainted after Scotland's 5-0 defeat in Portugal three years ago. "I was lying on the treatment table with a broken leg when he came in to swap shirts and wish me well," he said. "It's a signing that would show the club isn't standing still. He's a fantastic defender, very strong, and with more grit and aggression than most Portuguese players. He'll fit into our game perfectly."

n Gordon Marshall, whose goalkeeping was one of the reasons Celtic pushed Rangers so hard for the Premier Division title last season, has signed a new two-year contract with the club.

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