O'Neill keeps striking options open as Bellamy awaits debut

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill, the Celtic manager, has a striking dilemma for the Premier League visit to Inverness Caledonian Thistle tomorrow.

Martin O'Neill, the Celtic manager, has a striking dilemma for the Premier League visit to Inverness Caledonian Thistle tomorrow.

The recent loan signing Craig Bellamy, who was not risked on the Dunfermline plastic pitch last week, is pushing to make his debut after two goals for Wales in midweek. But O'Neill admitted it was difficult to split up the partnership of John Hartson and Chris Sutton after they scored three goals between them against the Pars.

"They played very well, no doubt about it," O'Neill said. "The two of them are getting on game by game and look better than ever before so it is a dilemma. But that's if everybody's fit. We'll see how we get on. I'm not giving it a great deal of consideration at the minute."

O'Neill also drew a line under the row with the Dunfermline chairman, John Yorkston, over the East End Park pitch. "I'm not going to make any comments about plastic pitches ever again in this country," he said.

His Rangers counterpart, Alex McLeish, said he would be delighted if Hibernian fulfil their pre-match promise to attack at Ibrox today. Tony Mowbray's young side have developed an impressive attacking style, their young forwards Garry O'Connor and Derek Riordan earning Scotland call-ups as a result.

Mowbray, the former Celtic defender, has announced his intention to have a go at Rangers, insisting it was the duty of all teams in the Scottish Premier League not to be timid against the Old Firm. And McLeish, who was in charge at Easter Road the last time Hibs mounted a serious challenge, said he preferred it that way.

"I hope they do [attack] because I think it is refreshing," he said. "But equally we are on form as well. We have good confidence in the players, we are at Ibrox and have a good record there that we would like to preserve. I would like to think it will be my players taking the game to Hibs right from the start."

Hibs are likely to be captained by Ian Murray, a player McLeish is trying to sign. The Scotland international's contract expires in the summer and Rangers have been in touch. But McLeish said: "I think it is every footballer's duty to give 100 per cent in terms of capabilities in any game - and he is a guy who always gives 100 per cent anyway."

McLeish is able to welcome the forwards Shota Arveladze and Peter Lovenkrands back from injury, but the defender Maurice Ross may have to wait to play his 100th game after taking a knock in training. A number of first-teamers were on international duty in midweek, including the Trinidad and Tobago international centre-back Marvin Andrews, but none has reported back with problems.