Football: McStay believes Celtic can bounce back

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The former Celtic midfielder Paul McStay believes the Scottish title race could be the closest run in years. Hearts lead the way at the moment, with Rangers, Celtic and Dundee United in the chasing pack.

The Old Firm come together at Parkhead tonight in the second round of their four-match league programme with Celtic eager to bounce back.

They followed up their defeat at Ibrox 10 days ago by losing at home to Motherwell on Saturday, raising doubts about their ability to sustain a championship challenge.

But McStay, forced to quit the game last season at 32 because of an ankle injury, said: "I think there is definitely enough quality in the Celtic side for them to be bidding for the title but it's not just about Rangers and Celtic this season. Hearts are leading the way at the moment, and Dundee United are flying.

"I don't think it will just be a two-horse race at the end, and it could be one of the hardest titles to win in recent years."

Looking to tonight's game he said: "Celtic have had a wee hiccup, that's all. Ibrox is a daunting place to visit, and that game was maybe a learning process for some of the players.

"These games are always a battle and sometimes faster than you are used to. They have a great chance of bouncing back, and having the home support behind them should be a big help."

Celtic's central defender Marc Rieper certainly remains full of optimism. "We didn't do ourselves justice in the first game against Rangers," he said.

"Now we need to have the supporters behind us and give them what they deserve. We are very focused on what we need to achieve.

"The players are all fired up, and we know if we keep trying to break Rangers down we'll get the support."

Manchester United aim to make shares in the club available to more people in a proposal to go before Thursday's annual meeting at Old Trafford.

Shareholders will be asked to approve a proposal to issue three shares for every one held as the club increase their share capital by 337.5 per cent to pounds 35million.

This will create 270m ordinary shares and the move will see a drop in price for each individual share, although the overall value of an investment will not be affected.

It is the second time United have increased the number of shares in the club since their flotation in 1991.

A supporter who invested the minimum pounds 192.50 in 50 shares in 1991 had their holding increased to 250 in December 1994 and at today's price that is worth pounds 1,606.25, a growth of more than 800 per cent.

Coventry City yesterday announced that they intend to fund a proposed pounds 80m stadium and entertainment centre by joining the growing football presence on the Stock Market.

A flotation between now and the millennium is planned to help meet the costs of the new 45,000-seater stadium, which will be based at a former gasworks at Foleshill and should be operating by the start of the 2001- 2 season.

Preliminary talks have already taken place with financial advisors and the club's chairman, Bryan Richardson, said: "I would imagine we would float in two or three years' time, a year before the stadium opens.

"Our view is that the future of such a big development will require a more sustained form of funding than just football income."

Plans for the Foleshill site, which is close to the M6, M1 and M40, have already been submitted to Coventry City Council, but it is likely the development will be the subject of a public inquiry.

The club have played at their 23,500-capacity Highfield Road ground in the city centre for more than 100 years, but Richardson claims supporters are overwhelmingly in favour of the scheme for a new stadium, which he insists would not be endangered if the club were to lose their place in the Premiership.

The stadium will feature a retractable roof, while the centre will include two hotels, restaurants and a retail park.

"It will be more than possible to play Liverpool in the afternoon and see Tina Turner perform a couple of hours later," Richardson said.