London Hearts Supporters Club

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Joe Jordan <-auth Ian Paul auth-> AW Waddell
[K Wright 26]
1 of 002 John Robertson 4 L Premier A

Old Firm can live up to tag: Both teams have the ability and desire to serve up a classic

Ian Paul

2 Nov 1991

ONLY on the odd occasion through the years have the Old Firm been able to produce a game which has come remotely close to the tag once bestowed by some hyperbolic observer, "the best derby match in the world," but the suspicion is that today's latest version at Ibrox might at least warrant a mark higher than the great majority of such confrontations.

This daring suggestion is based on a few facts, the most salient one being that it is one of the few clashes between Celtic and Rangers which cannot, under any circumstances, be considered so important as to make breathing a debatable priority.

There is also the indisputable statistic that neither team is top of the league and if you also accept the desire of both managers to play creative football, the possibility is that the packed house at Ibrox will enjoy an afternoon of some splendid entertainment.

Celtic manager Liam Brady has every reason to hope that his team show their more acceptable face, the one that has hoisted them to the top of the British scoring charts, rather than the other, which makes them appear vulnerable to the most unimpressive of opponents.

"I hope we express ourselves and play to our strengths," he said.

"That is making passes, creating chances, and taking them.

If we forget the Neuchatel game -- and I am trying hard -- we have lost only one league game in the last two months, against Falkirk, and there were excuses for that."

Brady acknowledges that his task is to discover the kind of consistency that has made Rangers champions for the past three years but of more immediate concern is the hope that his players do not repeat their relatively mild reaction if Rangers take the lead, as they did at Parkhead in the first meeting between the teams this season.

"I was not bitterly disappointed by that, but I would expect more of a reaction from them now in the same circumstances."

He bases that on the improvement in form since then and also the change in personnel in his side compared with then.

Joe Miller, Brian O'Neil, Paul McStay, and Mike Galloway all were absent from the team then and, bearing in mind the contributions of each since, the manager is entitled to his wish that the team will play without inhibition.

The line-up almost certainly will be the same as beat St Johnstone, which means that O'Neil and Mark McNally will be experiencing the Glasgow derby atmosphere for the first time.

Brady has no qualms about either.

"Both of these lads recently signed long-term contacts and hopefully they will be important players for this club for many years to come.

The sooner they get these games under their belt, the better."

The Celtic manager has a healthy respect for Rangers, pointing out that their strike force, whatever its format, will need much attention.

He knows that his defence, which has been known to make the odd error, must be well organised.

He might well bolster that defence before long, as he admits to being in the process of preparing an official bid for Middlesbrough's Tony Mowbray.

"I have a had a chat with their manager, Lennie Lawrence, and I will be going back to him over the weekend.

After that I'll probably make a firm bid and see what happens."

Rangers, incidentally, have not made any moves for Arsenal's striker Paul Merston, as had been reported, and manager Walter Smith was more interested in discussing his hopes for an improved performance form the current squad.

"We will have to do better against Celtic than we have done in our last couple of games," he said.

"We have lost three goals in these games, which have been down to bad defending.

That won't do against Celtic, whose strength is in scoring goals."

Smith does not subscribe to the general view that Rangers won the opening meeting between the teams easily and, as his own lot have managed only one point in their past two games, he is naturally eager to play down any undue optimism.

He does accept that his choice between strikers Maurice Johnston, Ally McCoist, and Mark Hateley, is one of any manager's more pleasant tasks.

"The only problem is if you lose a game after leaving one of them out."

Richard Gough will be back in the defence and it is likely that McCoist and Hateley will form the initial front line, with Johnston ready to come on.

While the Glasgow clubs, as ever, will dominate sports headlines throughout the country, they will be chased hard by the Edinburgh clubs, Hibernian and Hearts, who meet in a specially fascinating capital derby.

With Hearts vying for the premier-division leadership and Hibs having won the Skol Cup, the sides have big reputations to maintain.

Hibs expect Hearts to be at full steam ahead, in light of the publicity the Easter Road team have enjoyed this week following their win over Dunfermline at Hampden last Sunday, but manager Alex Miller probably will send out his cup-winning heroes intact to combat enthusiasm.

Hearts, who will give Scott Crabbe and Gary Mackay fitness tests, are without Craig Levein and Tosh McKinlay but striker Ian Baird is set to return.

Aberdeen striker Hans Gillhaus meets up with a former team-mate at Den Bosch, Dundee United goalkeeper Guido van Kamp, when the teams meet at Pittodrie today.

Both were with the Dutch side for six years, but Gillhaus promises to keep the old pals' act on ice until after the game, which could be crucial for both teams' title ambitions.

Brian Grant and Robert Connor are still absentees from the Aberdeen team, while United add Victor Ferreyra and Mixu Paatelainen to the squad which overcame Rangers in midweek.

Dunfermline, still seeking their first premier win, will bring in John Reilly, out of the game for two years after an Achilles tendon injury, against St Johnstone.

The 29-year-old former Dundee United and Motherwell striker, manager Jocky Scott's first signing for Dunfermline three weeks ago, has scored four goals in as many reserve games.

Hamish French, the £150,000 buy from Dundee United, also makes his debut.

The Fifers are in the midst of doing a deal with Dundee which will bring full back Rab Shannon to East End Park and send Ian McCall and Eddie Gallacher to Dens.

Saints will have Gary McGinnis back after suspension but still are struggling, with seven injured players out.

Airdrie are the next team who will try to stop the impressive Falkirk side, while St Mirren, fresh from their fighting 0-0 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle, could make life difficult for Motherwell at Love Street.

Taken from the Herald

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