Keane let off the leash for Celtic Park 'debut'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Keane will get a first taste of being on the pitch in front of a capacity Celtic Park crowd when he is introduced to fans ahead of this afternoon's home game with Livingston. His first match is likely to be on 8 January, at Clyde, in the Tennent's Scottish Cup.

Boyd, 22, whose 15 SPL goals for Kilmarnock this season put him top of the Scottish scoring charts before his £400,000 move to Ibrox last week, will be part of the Rangers party travelling to Dunfermline. He should lace up his boots for the first time for the club he has followed since boyhood in the Cup against Peterhead on 7 January.

The temptation to look beyond today's games into the New Year brings with it questions about the only two other clubs who have a prayer of being in the title shake-up come the spring: Heart of Midlothian and their Edinburgh rivals Hibernian.

Celtic are top of the table this morning, four points ahead of Hearts, eight ahead of Hibs, and 15 ahead of Rangers. While Celtic look like a side with the title in their grasp and Rangers are rallying after a traumatic few months, the sides from the Scottish capital appear susceptible.

Hearts' incredible season looks in danger of becoming a turkey of a campaign. They have won only one match in five since Graham Rix took over as manager, and host Falkirk today low on confidence, having lost their 100 per cent home record in their last match at Tynecastle.

Hibs, meanwhile, whose admirable start keeps them in contention for a European place at least, travel to Inverness Caledonian Thistle knowing that several major clubs are waiting to pick through the bones of their Yuletide games and then scavenge what they can in the January transfer window.

Several of Hibs manager Tony Mowbray's talented, home-grown youngsters will be targeted, by Tottenham Hotspur among others, while Rangers are preparing a bid for midfielder Scott Brown.

Brown is unlikely to be alone in moving to Ibrox. Alex McLeish, the Rangers manager, wants to add at least three players to his squad in addition to Boyd, and has been promised funds to strengthen the side. In the meantime, he might be able to recall the injured Nacho Novo today for a first start since September but remains without Dado Prso, Fernando Ricksen, Brahim Hemdani, Julien Rodriguez, Olivier Bernard, Alan Hutton, Gavin Rae and Alex Rae, all through injury.

"It has been a good end to the year, making the last 16 in the Champions' League and then winning a couple of league games back-to-back," McLeish said. "So even with six or seven players out, we will go into the game with a lot of confidence."

At Celtic Park, Keane will get a first chance to watch his new club play live for the first time since signing. He already knows their magnitude: only Manchester United and Bayern Munich have higher average gates in the whole of Europe, while Celtic join those two and a select group of others in being virtually certain most seasons of Champions' League football.

Keane may not yet be aware but, on the current season's evidence, nobody takes wins for granted in Scotland these days, as Celtic's 1-1 draw at Inverness last week showed.

The type of frailties which Celtic showed in that match are precisely the kind that Keane can help to eradicate. After two games on the sidelines, he should get his chance.

Comments