Football: Doctor's prescription not going down well

SCOTTISH ROUND-UP
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The Independent Online
DR VENGLOS has been around Scottish football long enough to know better. His comments following the 1-1 draw with Dundee United are unlikely to go down well with Celtic supporters who have watched aghast as the feel-good factor of last season's championship victory has been dismantled.

Before Christmas has arrived, Celtic trail Rangers by seven points and that is expected to become 10 when Rangers play their extra game, yet the doctor, who is used to more competitive leagues, remains confident Celtic can retain their title.

"I will always believe my side is capable of catching anyone," he said, "but we must learn to take one game at a time. It's far too soon to speak about what may or may not happen at the end of the season. There is enough spirit in the squad to maintain a real challenge."

The coach's optimism glosses over the fact that Celtic have won just once away from home and on Saturday they had to come from behind to earn their point. More crucially perhaps, the doctor has not yet grasped the unique duopoly that is the Scottish league. Celtic versus Rangers, Rangers versus Celtic, whichever way you call it, the Glasgow clubs are misplaced giants in a land of pygmies. While their home games attract more than 50,000 supporters, the other clubs have to survive on gates of around 10,000.

The rest can challenge, and indeed they raise their game whenever they play the old firm, but more than 100 years of history have shown that Rangers and Celtic will win the huge majority of the games they play and a 10-point gap between the two can be a yawning chasm.

The Celtic supporters, meanwhile, are yet to be convinced things can improve and while they have been hampered by injury, they do not have any real spark about their play, with the exception of Henrik Larsson, the Swede who has shown fine form this season and scored the equaliser on Saturday.

"It was not a top class performance against Dundee United but frankly I cannot criticise the players. They at least had the character to come from behind to earn a point," Venglos said.

Celtic might have made their point but Rangers were collecting three with a 1-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Ibrox to put them three points ahead of the Ayrshire club. This was a Rangers side below its best form, but, importantly, they managed a victory.

Aberdeen, who are thought to have targeted Jim Jefferies, the Hearts manager, as a replacement for Alex Miller, defeated the Edinburgh side 2-0 to take them off the bottom of the division. That dubious honour has fallen to Dunfermline, who managed a 1-1 draw with Motherwell with 10 men.

Motherwell continued to be inspired by the form of John Spencer, who has set Fir Park alight since his arrival from Everton. He scored Motherwell's goal and his overall performance made it clear to see why the Scottish club are keen to extend his stay.

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