Football / World Cup: McStay's Ibrox trial: McCoist chases scoring record - Phil Shaw reports from Glasgow

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The Independent Online
PAUL McSTAY will have the unique experience of being a Celtic player captaining the home side on Rangers' turf tomorrow, when he leads Scotland against Portugal in their World Cup qualifying match at Ibrox Stadium.

The prospect may be enough to turn some Rangers followers, those who burned scarves and season-tickets when Mo Johnston crossed Glasgow's religious divide, blue in the face. However, the promotion to vice-captain of Ally McCoist, a Rangers man down to his toenails, will doubtless appease all but the real wild men.

In the absence of Richard Gough, who is suspended and injured, McStay takes over the armband for the second time in 62 internationals. On the first occasion, to honour his 50th cap two years ago, Scotland beat Romania to launch their European Championship campaign on a positive note.

After a disappointing start to their Group One schedule in Switzerland last month, when Gough was sent off in a 3-1 defeat, Scotland urgently require a repeat of their victory that night at Hampden. The historic old ground is undergoing overdue renovation, but McStay hopes the noisy hostility he usually encounters in Govan will for once work in his favour.

After yesterday's training session at McDiarmid Park in Perth, where the multi-coloured seats beneath cantilever stands have led to its being dubbed a 'wee Ibrox', the Celtic captain admitted: 'Ibrox is an intimidating place from my experience of being with the away side, but if you settle down early you can give a good performance.'

McCoist, who has neither won a toss nor lost a game as Gough's stand-in at club level, listened respectfully until he heard the words 'good performance' but could not resist the playful interjection: 'That's some memory you've got.'

While McStay will equal Danny McGrain's record as Celtic's most capped player, McCoist needs one goal to become Rangers' leading scorer with Scotland. 'Playing at Ibrox will be a personal advantage for me,' he said. 'But it will give all our players a boost. It's a magnificent stadium, with a superb surface, and even if the game's not a sell-out the atmosphere will be terrific.'

Portugal have brought an experienced squad, including two players in their mid-30s. It is designed, according to Andy Roxburgh, to dig in for a draw. The Scotland coach last night gave his players the run-down on certain individuals, notably the former Porto forward Paulo Futre, who in four years at Atletico Madrid has seen off 12 managers, among them Ron Atkinson.

Roxburgh's knowledge even extended to knowing what kind of car Futre drives. McStay and McCoist, who listened in awe, are united in their determination that in the land of the blue and the green, the man with the yellow Porsche will not be king.

Kevin Bain, the Dundee defender, wins his first cap for Scotland Under-21s against Portugal at McDiarmid Park tonight.

SCOTLAND UNDER-21 (v Portugal, Uefa Under-21 Championship, Perth, tonight): Reid (Hibernian); Wright (Aberdeen), Salton (Luton), Bain (Dundee), Roddie (Aberdeen), O'Neil (Celtic), Bernard (Oldham), Johnson (Dundee Utd), Burley (Chelsea), Dailly (Dundee Utd), Hagen (Rangers).

(Photograph omitted)