Strachan dodges Keane question to keep up a quiet life

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The Independent Football

Six wins - four on the bounce - and only one defeat this season (in the Old Firm derby) keep them in Hearts' slipstream but free from quite the usual intensity of the spotlight. Gordon Strachan, after a rocky start, likes it that way, and as he prepared his side yesterday for a trip to bottom-placed Livingston this afternoon, the Celtic manager certainly was not going to say anything to draw the attention back his way. And definitely not about Roy Keane.

"I've never spoken about anybody else at any other club," Strachan said. "And I'm not going to change it now. It's not fair on the player or the club. It's as simple as that."

Celtic's stand-in goalkeeper, David Marshall, rather spoiled the blackout by saying that "it would be great to have Keane up here" but added there was no talk of such a move on the training ground, where the Livingston match was taking precedence.

Strachan will still be missing his captain, Neil Lennon, suspended, and Alan Thompson, who has an ankle injury, but the recent return of Chris Sutton and Didier Agathe to a team gaining in confidence is evidence that Celtic are well-equipped for a title challenge.

Hearts' George Burley, who picked up his second successive Manager of the Month award yesterday, has said several times that his squad lacks strength in depth. How he copes with the absence through injury of striker Roman Bednar tomorrow at Falkirk will be a first real test of that.

Rangers have stumbled through their domestic campaign so far while performing better in Europe. Their 3-2 Champions' League win over Porto was followed by a midweek 1-0 defeat at Internazionale that was much less comprehensive than feared.

The Rangers' captain, Barry Ferguson, admitted yesterday that his side must now find a way to win in the League, starting at home against Dunfermline today. "Crucial is not the word for this game," he said. "It is up to the boys to go out on the pitch and start showing the hunger and desire to get back up that League table.

"There has been a lot of chopping and changing recently," Ferguson added, "and it has been difficult for the gaffer to get a settled side. Hopefully, we can get a bit of consistency now and go on a good run."