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Don’t hand Celtic title at Ibrox

By Steven Beacom

Former Rangers hero John McClelland says that if his old team are to win only one more game this season it has to be tomorrow's clash with champions elect Celtic at Ibrox.

The meeting of the Glasgow giants is the first Old Firm game since Rangers went into administration and offers Celtic the opportunity to win the Scottish Premier League title.

Rangers fans may not think things can get any worse after enduring a desperate time of late, seeing their club lunge from one financial crisis to another, but watching their bitter rivals claim the SPL crown at Ibrox would do it.

For that to happen Kenny Shiels' Kilmarnock side, who beat Celtic in the Scottish League Cup final last weekend, must avoid defeat at home to third placed Motherwell today and then the Hoops need to overcome Rangers.

It's been clear ever since Rangers were deducted 10 points for entering administration that Neil Lennon's Celtic would win the league. The only question remains when, with Gers fans desperately hoping the answer does not come tomorrow.

For Lurgan man Lennon victory over his fiercest rivals would help ease the disappointment of a defeat to Kilmarnock at Hampden which ended his dreams of a treble.

Ex-Northern Ireland star McClelland believes Rangers boss Ally McCoist will have his team fired up for the derby, though adds that a home victory may be difficult to achieve.

“The Rangers players are playing for pride now and have been since the club went into administration because the deduction of those points meant they had no chance in the title race,” says McClelland, who played at the heart of defence for the Ibrox side in the early 80s.

“Results haven't been good lately which is perhaps understandable with all that has been going on at the club, but I'm sure the players will be up for this one. Ally McCoist will make sure about that.

“The supporters have been through a lot and it would be another slap in the face if Celtic won at Ibrox and got to celebrate the title.

“I would say that if Rangers are to win only one more game this season, the Old Firm match on Sunday at Ibrox has to be it.

“It's going to be really difficult though because if the Motherwell result goes their way, Celtic will have the incentive of winning the SPL and they will want to get over the Cup final defeat against Kilmarnock.

“The Celtic players will be very keen to make up for that and what better way than to become champions at the home of your biggest opponents.”

McClelland says that he feels sympathy for the Rangers players, including Northern Ireland quartet Steve Davis, Kyle Lafferty, David Healy and Andrew Little, and commends them for taking a 75 per cent pay cut which helped save jobs at the club.

“That was a good gesture,” said the 56-year-old.

“You have to give the players credit for that. No-one knows how all this is going to play out with the takeover bids and the tax bill facing the club, but the players have shown dignity and I'm sure the fans appreciate that. I feel there will be a great sense of togetherness amongst Rangers fans and players on Sunday. They will need it.”

McClelland, who acts as a tour guide for another of his old clubs Leeds United, keeps a

close eye on events in Scotland and has been impressed by the management skills of countryman Lennon.

“I know him and Coisty had that big fall-out on the touchline at Parkhead last season, but overall I think Neil Lennon has stayed very calm as Celtic boss and now he is poised to become a title winning manager,” said McClelland, who earned 53 caps for Northern Ireland.

“I think he’s done well. It's not easy being manager of an Old Firm side but he's handled it.”

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