From Treble to troubles for McLeish

Five Rangers fans were arrested in Stuttgart on Wednesday for trying to spend forged Euro banknotes. Just a few hours later, Alex McLeish was also being accused of using fakes. The harsh assessment came from supporters back home who saw their Champions' League dream come to an end. McLeish may have won the Treble last season, but the value of that achievement is slipping.

There is a growing disenchantment among Ibrox fans at the manager's cut-price recruits who have failed to fill the shoes of Barry Ferguson, Lorenzo Amoruso and Neil McCann, who were cashed in by a club keen to reduce their £68m debt. Nuno Capucho, Paolo Vanoli and Egil Ostenstad all failed to lift Rangers as they succumbed to Stutt-gart's class and their own mounting injury list.

Today the trio face another test of their credentials. Rangers travel to Edinburgh to face Hibernian almost two years after McLeish left Easter Road for Ibrox. Life might be about to turn full circle. If Rangers lose, and allow Celtic to widen the gap at the top of the Scottish Premier League, McLeish will be in the sort of corner that prompted Dick Advocaat to quit in December 2001: facing a forlorn pursuit of Martin O'Neill and only the Uefa Cup to offer respite.

Rangers are not even assured of the latter. McLeish pointed out in the wake of the Stuttgart defeat that Panathinaikos could yet steal the consolation of a Uefa Cup place. Capucho, ironically, won that very trophy last May with Porto and his status as Celtic's nemesis in Seville guaranteed him a hero's welcome when he joined Rangers for £670,000 in the summer. But the Portuguese winger has worn out the welcome: fans have condemned his lazy approach - former Rangers winger Brian Laudrup said "I don't see anything there" - and McLeish had dropped him until his recent injury crisis prompted a recall.

Vanoli played in Serie A but is nothing more than a journeyman defender while the former Blackburn Rovers striker Ostenstad has been anonymous. Throw in an unimpressive start from McLeish's other signing, the Brazilian midfielder Emerson, and the tension is visible around Ibrox. "Alex has brought in players, but if we had the money, he would have gone for others," said the former Rangers hero, Ally McCoist. "Alex is still the right man for the job. He has had a hard task, to take over when there is so much debt."

Of the summer signings, only Henning Berg is in credit. The Norwegian defender insists that Rangers fans should not get despondent. "This was Rangers' first Champions' League campaign in three years and everyone thought it would be tough when the draw was made.

"Finishing third in the group is not a disaster. We could go into the Uefa Cup and get a run going there. We have not achieved anything yet. We will need a draw against the Greeks to get the Uefa Cup spot. However, it is also important that we keep winning domestically. The game with Hibernian is vital. We simply cannot allow Celtic to get any further ahead in the League.

"Rangers have competed in some tough European games over the last two months and had tough League games in between. If Rangers don't win a couple of matches it constitutes a crisis. That is fair enough, as we all know the pressure and the demands at Ibrox. If we cannot live with that, we should not be here."

That, however, is exactly why some Ibrox fans feel it is time to cash in the under- performing Euro trio of Capucho, Vanoli and Ostenstad.

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