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How a stronger Rangers would help Celtic in Europe, explains Republic of Ireland boss O'Neill

Celtic 2-2 Rep of Ireland


Old Bhoy: Martin O'Neill watches the match at Parkhead yesterday

Old Bhoy: Martin O'Neill watches the match at Parkhead yesterday

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Old Bhoy: Martin O'Neill watches the match at Parkhead yesterday

Martin O'Neill believes Celtic's European ambitions would benefit from a "strong Rangers" side.

The former Celtic boss, who took the Hoops to the 2003 Uefa Cup final in Seville where they lost 3-2 to Porto, returned to Parkhead with his Republic of Ireland side for Scott Brown's testimonial game.

After the 2-2 draw, the Celtic skipper was able to pose in front of all three domestic trophies for an unprecedented second successive year and under manager Brendan Rodgers, following Saturday's 2-0 William Hill Scottish Cup final win over Motherwell at Hampden.

O'Neill, who won the treble with Celtic in 2001, said afterwards: "It is extremely difficult. Even the great Jock Stein had difficulty with it as well, but of course the 1967 side (which won the European Cup) eclipsed everything.

"It is a great achievement. To do it is very good, to do it twice on the trot is excellent and they deserve it too.

"You would be hoping now that if Rangers are going to get stronger that can only be good.

"I have said that for weeks, months, years now; Rangers getting stronger would only benefit this football club as well too, to try to get stronger in Europe.

"There doesn't seem to be any resting on laurels here domestically, but if that competition gets stronger then Celtic will rise to it. If Rangers are in a position to delve into a transfer market and get some decent players then that will be a little reminder to Celtic.

"Celtic are dominating the league. There has not been any casualness as you see with the six competitions they have won but I think he (Rodgers) would welcome that, perhaps I'm wrong."

The Ibrox club will go into next season under the guidance of new boss Steven Gerrard, an appointment which finds favour with O'Neill. He said: "Personally I think it's a really good appointment. I do.

"I know there is always a viewpoint in terms of inexperience.

"But he's bringing Gary McAllister along who has loads and loads of experience, so the combination should be good.

"But yeah, I think (the appointment) should be really good for Rangers.

"Obviously he was a brilliant, brilliant player but that doesn't always materialise into being a brilliant manager.

"However, I think he's got all the attributes and he wants to have a go. And why not?"

Monday is the 15th anniversary of Seville but O'Neill believes another European journey for Celtic is not out of the question.

His 2003 side failed in their only Champions League qualifier to drop down to the UEFA Cup while Rodgers' side have four qualifiers next season to get into the group stages of Europe's premier competition with the Europa League a possible safety net.

The Irishman said: "I think it can be done again."

Belfast Telegraph