Football: Celtic's prospects rise

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The Independent Online
WITH just two wins from seven attempts at Parkhead this season, it was less than surprising to hear Celtic's manager, Lou Macari, admitting yesterday that winning the Premier title 'hasn't entered my mind'.

The fact remains, nevertheless, that six points from three home fixtures over the next eight days - Hearts today, second-placed Motherwell on Wednesday and stragglers Raith next Saturday - could prompt Macari to think anew.

Unbeaten in their last seven League outings, Celtic can derive further encouragement from a diminishing casualty list. Paul McStay, flown home from Malta because of a hamstring injury, has been restored to the squad alongside John Collins, Gary Gillespie, Gerry Creaney, Paul Byrne and Tony Mowbray, whose projected move to Middlesbrough fell through. Mo Johnston can anticipate a less than generous reception on his return to Celtic Park.

The setting for Paul Sturrock's initiation as the Premier Division's newest and youngest manager could scarcely be more appropriate. Sturrock, who spent 19 years with Dundee United as player and coach before succeeding John McClelland as manager of struggling St Johnstone on Wednesday, begins his task at Dens Park. 'With three teams going down this season the next six months are all going to be about hard work,' he conceded.

At Easter Road, Hibernian will aim to settle a score against their League Cup final vanquishers, Rangers. Dundee United's Billy McKinlay, who scored his first international goal in Malta, is likely to miss the visit to Motherwell because of a knee injury, while the leaders, Aberdeen, travel to Raith with Eoin Jess and Alex McLeish recovered from injury and flu respectively.