Le Guen, la différence et la guillotine

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The Independent Football

Sometimes a good linguist does not even have to utter a word to get his point across. Jean-Jacques Chapalain resembled Marcel Marceau when he walked in behind Paul Le Guen to conduct a press conference at Rangers' training complex in midweek.

The Frenchman, who has acted as translator during the Ibrox manager's first six months, gave one look up above the door and then pretended to dodge a guillotine. One tabloid has Le Guen mocked up in a weekly assessment by Le Chopometer, depending on how his team have played.

Two weeks ago, the blade was being sharpened after Falkirk inflicted a fifth defeat in the Scottish Premier League for Rangers. A win against Hibernian last week brought a slight reprieve, but if Celtic win at Ibrox today then they will open up a 19-point gap over their Old Firm rivals and provoke intense debate about Le Guen's future.

Chapalain's return to the press conference scene in recent weeks is an indication that Le Guen is not truly comfortable fielding all questions without back-up, even if his English is better than everyone else's French. Or perhaps the translator is simply another victim of the indecision that has hallmarked Le Guen's capricious team selection.

Rangers progressed into the last 32 of the Uefa Cup on Thursday by defeating a feeble Partizan Belgrade to set up an encounter with Hapoel Tel Aviv. Success in Europe has stemmed revolt among the Ibrox support, but another Old Firm defeat may hasten the notion in France that Le Guen is ready to come home, with at least Uefa Cup progress to prove that Rangers and the Scottish game dragged him down rather than the other way around.

Le Guen denied reports from his homeland that he would quit in January. "I have no plans to do that," he declared. "I don't want to talk about it, because if I begin to say what I think about what is being written, then it goes on.

"We just want to win the game. The [title] gap is nothing to do with that. To win the game it is a question of pride. I would like the fans to be proud of the players."

Losing one's head is not a novelty in a Glasgow derby. Celtic's Mark Wilson can still vividly recall an encounter with Roy Keane's fiery side when both players made their Old Firm baptism last season. "Roy gave me a real hammering after just a couple of minutes," Wilson recalled.

"I was not tight enough to someone and they got a shot in. Roy was right. I had to learn from that and settle down, and I went on to have a good game. We may have a lead in the title, but there is pressure in every game at Celtic and we do not want to lose to our biggest rivals."

The Celtic right-back has just returned after suffering a broken foot in a tackle by Manchester United's Mikaël Silvestre in the Champions' League game at Old Trafford in September, and being drawn against Milan in the last 16 is a perfect reward. "Milan will motivate us," he said. "I think all of us will be desperate to play at San Siro in one of the best stadiums in the world. We all know now that we have to play well to be involved in this tie, and that should help the manager to get good performances every week."