Weir happy with 'big boots' of Bougherra

Veteran acclaims Algerian for filling sizeable shoes of departed defender Cuellar
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The Independent Online

David Weir has paid tribute to fellow Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra for successfully filling the void left by Carlos Cuellar. Fans were furious when Cuellar was sold to Aston Villa for £7.8m in August, fearing his departure would have a detrimental effect on Rangers' title hopes. But the Spanish centre-half has all but been forgotten at Ibrox just a few months later thanks to the form of Bougherra at the heart of defence.

Bougherra was recruited from Charlton in the summer and the Algerian has not put a foot wrong since. "Replacing Carlos was going to be hard for whoever was asked to do that and they have been big boots to fill," said veteran defender Weir. "But Madjid has come in and taken to things straight away. It's a big compliment to him that he has made the fans forget about Carlos very quickly. That was a big ask but he has done it. He keeps things simple and that is the nature of being a defender. He has good habits and has been a good addition."

Bougherra was absent from last week's win over St Mirren but looks set to return for the visit of Aberdeen in the Scottish Premier League this weekend.

For Weir, the visit of the Dons prompts memories of a disallowed DaMarcus Beasley goal at Pittodrie in August, which television footage showed should have stood. Referee Craig Thomson's decision to follow the advice of his assistant Billy Baxter meant Rangers had to settle for a 1-1 draw but Weir insists there is no point dwelling on what might have been.

"We should have won back then and would have deserved to," he said. "That was the case at Motherwell last week as well. Sadly we can't do anything about those results now and it's for other people to speculate and talk about what might have been. We just need to make every game we play from now until the end of the season count for something instead."

Aberdeen suffered an indifferent start to the season, largely due to their home form, but have managed to claw themselves into the top half of the table ahead of the visit to Ibrox.

But Weir believe Jimmy Calderwood's men would pose a major threat to Rangers regardless of form or league status. He said: "Aberdeen always raise their game when they play Rangers. We know we will have to match their desire to win and we have to compete with them on that level.

"They have had a difficult start to the season but they've recovered and are pushing on and looking for a European place. Aberdeen are one of the league's bigger clubs and it's traditional that they challenge at the top end so we know they'll come here looking for something but we're hopeful."

In the green half of Glasgow, Paul Hartley has backed Celtic to finally overcome their travel sickness in the Champions League when they face Danish outfit Aalborg next week. The Scottish champions have never registered a win in the tournament and know that unwanted record will have to end to have any hope of remaining in the competition this season.

"We're still in with a chance," insisted the midfielder. "We have to rely on Manchester United beating Villarreal but anything is possible and I'm confident we can win our two games. We know ourselves what we have to do. Everybody keeps going on about our away form but we know the situation. It's not through a lack of effort. We try as hard as we can when we go abroad but there are no easy games in the Champions League. It won't be easy in Denmark but we'll give it our all."

Closer to home, Hartley is also keenly aware of the importance of maintaining their form in the League when they face St Mirren this weekend. Celtic have recovered from losing to Rangers in the first Old Firm derby of the season by winning 10 SPL games in a row following that 4-2 reverse.

"Losing the derby game in August was a disappointment but we put it behind us and responded in the right way," said Hartley.

"We wanted to go on a good run and we have done that. It was the perfect way to bounce back but we need to keep that winning mentality."

496

Number of league appearances made by David Weir during his career with four different teams.

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