Football: Rest for McCoist

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The Independent Online
CAN there be a good way to prepare for a European tie these days when a profusion of games is beginning to take its toll on players and spectators alike? Rangers, Celtic and Hearts did what they needed by picking up maximum points from their weekend endeavours but their key players have been involved in almost constant midweek action since the season began.

The wearing-down process was evident at Ibrox on Saturday where Ally McCoist and Stuart McCall, who both played for Scotland against Portugal at the same ground on Wednesday night, were named as substitutes against Hibernian, while David McPherson, who missed the international through injury, again sat out. All three will have benefited from some kind of rest before the European Cup tie against Leeds on Wednesday.

It is almost incidental that McCoist came on and scored the only goal against Hibs with nine minutes remaining to preserve Rangers' five-point lead in the Premier Division.

But the sight of a half-empty Ibrox stadium last Wednesday fuels the belief that the supporters are choosing their games carefully in these recessionary times: there was a crowd of over 40,000 watching Rangers on Saturday in contrast to just 22,000 at the Scotland game.

Sadly for Andy Roxburgh, the Scotland coach, his players will be involved in more big games, including the Skol Cup final and an Old Firm derby before Italy visit Glasgow in November for a vital World Cup match.

Celtic beat Motherwell 3-1 at Fir Park with two of their goals coming from Mike Galloway, who is suspended from Tuesday's Uefa cup tie against Borussia Dortmund, and Peter Grant, who is operating on a month-to-month contract, while Hearts, who face Standard Liege at Tynecastle also in the Uefa Cup, beat Dundee United 1-0.