McLeish plots domestic miracle

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The Independent Online

Alex McLeish was understated yesterday in saying it had been an "eventful week" at Rangers, and added that "the only way to put everything behind us is to keep winning". It would have been more accurate to say "start winning".

While the midweek Champions' League draw against Internazionale must have felt like victory - it was sufficient, after all, to save McLeish from the sack - the harsher truth is that Rangers have not tasted victory in any competition for 10 games.

Tomorrow's trip to Kilmarnock offers the latest in a long line of chances to put their season back on track domestically. It is also another potential banana skin. Killie start the weekend fourth in the SPL table, a place and two points above Rangers, who find themselves 17 points adrift of the leaders, Celtic, 16 behind Hearts and 10 behind third-placed Hibernian.

Celtic host Hibs today, while Hearts, with a 100 per cent home record so far, play at Tynecastle against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

McLeish said he was relieved to have kept his job, but insisted the future is the only important issue now. "You cannot ever expect not to lose your job in a precarious game such as this," he said. "And especially with expectation levels at a club such as this. I would just like to get on with the football side just now."

Asked whether he would still be Rangers' manager had he not taken the club into the last 16 of the Champions' League, McLeish said: "It's hypothetical. It may have been different, but it's not and we go forward."

Rangers are the first Scottish club to reach the knock-out phase, and the Rangers chairman, David Murray, has said he is fully behind McLeish and prepared to spend in January to show it. "We have been working very hard behind the scenes and we will make an announcement at the turn of the year about investment and I'm sure it will be very interesting," he said.

Rangers will be boosted tomorrow by the return of striker Nacho Novo, who has not played since 24 September after breaking a bone in his foot. His fellow forward Dado Prso is still out, injured, as are defenders Olivier Bernard and Julien Rodriguez, and midfielder Brahim Hemdani.

Celtic have no new injury worries for the visit of Hibs, for whom every great display by their promising youngsters brings fresh, unwanted attention from Premiership clubs. Tottenham are the latest side to be linked to their players, with midfielders Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson reportedly of interest.

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