Football: Jackson has no fear of the drop

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DARREN JACKSON has finally completed his protracted switch from Celtic to Hearts for an initial fee of pounds 300,000. The Tynecastle club could yet pay a further pounds 150,000 for the striker depending upon appearances.

The Edinburgh club are bottom of the Scottish Premier League, but the Scotland international has no fears about relegation. "This is a great opportunity to get back playing first-team football," he said. "When I spoke to Jim Jefferies everything he said was positive. I know if I get back playing well Craig Brown could pick me, but just now the main thing is the next nine games for Hearts."

David Weir, another former Tynecastle player, believes being at Everton is sharpening his game because of the constant threat of being exposed if he loses concentration.

Weir is optimistic his transfer will show its benefits on the international stage - starting with next Wednesday's Euro 2000 qualifier against the Czech Republic at Parkhead. He was in line to play against Bosnia at Ibrox today but that game was postponed owing to the Balkans conflict.

Speaking before the formal announcement of the postponement, Weir said: "I've been moved around at Everton through the defence and even midfield but I'll play anywhere just to get a game.

"I've actually enjoyed adapting to the challenge and I have the same attitude for Scotland - the most important thing is being part of the team. At Everton I'm playing against international quality players every week. You always need to be on top of your game, and hopefully that's sharpening my game. It's for others to judge but it is my aim to improve myself as a player because you always want to do that."

The St Mirren youngster Burton O'Brien yesterday attacked the Old Firm for ignoring homegrown talent in favour of the expensive European stars who are currently on parade at Rangers and Celtic.

O'Brien, who will join Blackburn in the summer along with his team-mate David McNamee, is baffled by the decision of Scotland's big two to let such talent pass them by, preferring instead to look abroad.

The Scotland Under-21 player is convinced the lack of interest from the Glasgow rivals has been a big factor in his brisk jump from the Scottish First Division to the English Premiership.

The 17-year-old O'Brien said: "It's surprising to think I've made this jump at such a young age, in the past young Scottish players would have been snapped up by one of the Old Firm, but that doesn't seem to be happening any more.

"I don't know why, but it seems Celtic and Rangers are always in heated competition and are always trying to get ahead of one another.

"Therefore, it makes more sense to the managers at Ibrox and Parkhead to perhaps spend money than take time to blood youngsters as you can't just throw in young players.

"With the fans demanding instant success they know that - so they have little choice but to bring in foreign players instead because they are desperate to win trophies and do well in Europe."