Football: Rangers fans back Gascoigne

Scottish round-up
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The Independent Online
By David McKinney

THE collective will of the Rangers' support could be enough to turn the head of Paul Gascoigne and convince him to stay at Ibrox until the end of the season.

With the Scottish champions willing to sell the midfielder, the 50,000 Rangers fans at Ibrox on Saturday made clear their feelings by urging their hero to stay for an attempt on a 10th league title. With Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough waiting in the wings with pounds 3m bids accepted, the feeling is that Gascoigne might reject the opportunity to move.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, shed little light on the situation on Saturday with his remarks. "Both bids have been accepted and now the ball is with Paul and his adviser," he said.

Gascoigne came on for the final 20 minutes of the game with St Johnstone and produced a 60-yard run which had the home fans roaring their approval.

But the sight of Gascoigne in full flow has been rare this season; he has started 16 domestic games after 26 starts last season and his goals tally does not begin to compare - three this time down from 13.

Those statistics give an idea of why Rangers are prepared to allow the volatile midfielder to leave. The club will also recoup most of the pounds 4.3m they paid Lazio for Gascoigne at a time when they will lose the services of Brian Laudrup for no return. Bryan Robson, at Middlesbrough, is presumably confident that he can bring out the talent that has this season submerged under an increasing weight of front page headlines. Time will tell

Rangers' victory over St Johnstone kept them in touch with the league leaders, Celtic, who learned from experience as they beat Aberdeen 1- 0. Last week, as they chased a second goal, they conceded an equaliser to Dundee United, but at Pittodrie, after Craig Burley had scored from the spot, Celtic closed ranks to assure all three points. If the end result was less than pretty, few of their supporters were complaining.

Heart of Midlothian continued to tag along, two points behind Celtic, following their 1-0 win against Dundee United and, with the top two teams meeting in Glasgow on Saturday, the title race could be set for yet another twist.