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‘BREATH OF FRESH AIR,’ McCOIST SALUTES CELTS, GERS

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FORMER Rangers player and boss Ally McCoist reckons his old club and Celtic deserve great credit for their performances in the Europa League this season.

Neil Lennon’s Hoops outfit have already secured a place in the competition’s knock-out stages next year following their historic 2-1 triumph over Lazio in Rome ealier this month.

They can win their group when they face Rennes at Parkhead tomorrow night which will be crucial in the seedings for the last-32 draw.

Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox men could join them with just a point away to former manager Dick Advocaat’s Feyenoord in Rotterdam, depending on results elsewhere.

Impressive European results have been picked up in the midst of a dramatic Premiership title race while the Glasgow rivals will also lock horns in the Betfred League Cup Final at Hampden a week on Sunday.

McCoist believes both clubs deserve a round of applause for the way they have played in Europe this season, with results ensuring a welcome improvement to Scotland’s UEFA coefficient rating.

The Gers legend, speaking to Sky Sports, said: “It’s a very important part of the season and it has been a breath of fresh air watching both clubs in Europe. In terms of the coefficient for Scotland moving forward, both clubs’ performances have been a breath of fresh air and it has genuinely been great to see.

“Who would have thought Rangers versus Porto and Celtic versus Lazio, home and away, would have seen three victories and a draw. It’s great. Scottish football at this moment in time absolutely needs a boost and I think Rangers and Celtic on the European scene have been doing their bit.

“Rangers and Celtic deserve enormous credit for their European performances, but, again, you just cannot take your foot off the pedal. I’m looking at Rangers’ fixtures, they have to go up to Aberdeen, play a Cup Final, a European tie and Celtic will be the exact same.

“Big, big games, but looking back on my time as a player, you just loved it. You didn’t think about it, you didn’t think about Wednesday-Saturday or Thursday-Sunday, whatever it may be, you just wanted to play in all these big games and if you are playing in big games then you are clearly doing well and both sides are doing well.”

McCoist was assistant to Walter Smith when Rangers got to the UEFA Cup Final in Manchester in 2008 where they were beaten 2-0 by Zenit St Petersburg, while Celtic’s most recent European Final came in the same competition when they lost 3-2 in extra-time to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in Seville in 2003.

McCoist, though, is not sure if either side can progress that far again this time around.

He added: “You never know. I think when some of the bigger boys come down from the Champions League you would have to say the chances of Rangers and Celtic reaching another European Final wouldn’t be great.

“Celtic did it with Martin O’Neill against Porto and Rangers did it with Walter Smith against Zenit. Great days and it was a fantastic achievement. Will it happen again? Possibly, but it will be very, very difficult – more difficult.

 

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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