Clarke hints at Killie farewell

Steve Clarke appeared to say goodbye to Kilmarnock fans following their final day victory over Rangers at Rugby Park.

Clarke has been heavily touted as the man to replace Alex McLeish as Scotland manager and he looks set to depart his role at the Scottish Premiership side now.

Killie's 2-1 win over Rangers guaranteed them a Europa League spot next season, but their 55-year-old boss dropped a heavy hint he might not be in the dugout when they return to European competition for the first time in 18 years.

"The most important thing in any football club anywhere in the world is the supporters, and when I came here we didn't have so many," Clarke said.

"We had a disconnect between the support, the board, the players. There was nothing, no togetherness, I said this when I came in: together we are stronger.

"In my time at Kilmarnock Football Club, I'm sorry I didn't win you a trophy."

Clarke has won the Scottish Premiership's Manager of the Season award as well as PFA Scotland and Scottish Football Writers' Manager of the Season awards having guided his club to third place behind champions Celtic and Rangers.

He says supporters of the Ayrshire club should be proud of what they now have.

"This is Kilmarnock, this belongs to you. And the most important thing, I said no trophy – for me, I take this. This is my trophy, thank you," said Clarke, pointing at the cheering supporters.

Celtic meanwhile are 4/11 to win Saturday's Scottish Cup final against Hearts. The Jambos are 15/2 while the draw is 15/4 for their Hampden Park showdown.

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Gerrard plays down Mexer links

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has played down his chances of signing Mozambique international defender Mexer from Rennes this summer.

The 30-year-old centre-back was recently watched by Gerrard as Rennes took on Monaco, but the Gers chief says he has been given a strong indication that the player will remain in France next season.

Gerrard told reporters ahead of the Old Firm clash with Celtic at Ibrox on Sunday: "I think you've probably seen the picture in the public domain. I went to watch Rennes v Monaco to analyse a lot of players on the pitch, bumped into numerous players after the game and was asked for a picture.

"I think people are putting a lot of speculation out there.

"We are looking for centre-backs and Mexer is a good player who we admire, but what I'm led to believe is that he'll be playing his football in France next year.

"Don't take that as fact, that's just what I'm hearing through the grapevine."

Mexer has been with Rennes since the summer of 2014 and was a member of the side who defeated Paris Saint-Germain on penalties in the final of the Coupe de France last month.

The defender netted the equaliser which completed a comeback from two goals behind, with Les Rouges et Noirs going on to prevail 6-5 in a penalty shootout to lift the trophy for the first time since 1971.

Rennes are in Ligue 1 action on Sunday when they host Guingamp, with the home side 10/11 to win the game and 15/2 to do so by a 2-1 scoreline.

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Forrest revels Ibrox defeat motivation

James Forrest claims Celtic's 1-0 defeat to Rangers back in December's Old Firm clash served as an inspiration for the remainder of the campaign.

Since the start of 2019, the only defeats Celtic have suffered have come in the Europa League, as they continued to dominate on a domestic front to be crowned Premiership champions and reach the Scottish Cup final.

Forrest feels the turning point in the campaign was a 1-0 loss to Rangers at Ibrox just before the winter break.

Ahead of their return on Sunday to the home of the Light Blues, Forest told Football Scotland: "I think what made us play so well when we came back from Dubai was the fact that everyone was still really hurting from that game.

"We left after such a bad result and such a poor performance. And I am sure when it comes to Ibrox the boys will no doubt be thinking about the last time we went there.

"There's no doubt the boys were hurting for a good few weeks and longer from that game. Whoever is in the squad this time – and whoever plays that game – will want to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Celtic are 11/8 to win, 9/4 to draw and 2/1 to lose to Gers on Sunday.

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Bhoys win ill-tempered clash

Celtic survived a second half fightback, in more ways than one, from Rangers as they sneaked a late 2-1 win at Parkhead to inch close to another Scottish Premiership title.

The Home side bossed the first half and went ahead when Odsonne Edouard took a pass from James Forrest on half-way and danced away before beating Allan McGregor.

The same combination linked up to provide the winner four minutes from the end, Forrest ice-cool with his low finish after a mistake from 'Gers skipper James Tavernier handed Celtic the initiative.

But that barely scratched the surface of what was a tempestuous Old Firm occasion.

Alfredo Morelos earned his fifth red card of the season when he swung an elbow at Scott Brown before half-time. Rangers rallied with ten men and deservedly levelled when Ryan Kent skipped away from the Hoops cover on 63 minutes.

It became ten against ten when Dedryck Boyata went off injured after Neil Lennon had used all his substitutions and Ryan Jack spurned a glorious chance to put Rangers ahead with a quarter of an hour left.

As it was, Forrest was the match-winner and Rangers goalscorer Kent was fortunate not to see red when he appeared to punch Brown before the game restarted.

There were further ugly scenes at the end, Brown this time being involved in an altercation with Andy Halliday as he celebrated Celtic's win.

Lennon paid tribute to French youngster Edouard, Celtic's record signing last summer.

"Rangers' goal made everyone a little anxious. We should have been on the front foot but it was all or nothing for them (Rangers) today," he said.

"At 1-0 the game's always in the balance even against 10 men. We looked a little naive at times but we re-galvanised and scored a great goal to win.

"I thought Odsonne Edouard was the best player on the pitch by a country mile."

For Gerrard there was frustration that his leading goalscorer once again failed to keep a lid on his temper.

"Obviously he's been provoked in the first place but it's happened on too many occasions now and I've gone above and beyond – I've backed Alfredo more than enough and I can't defend him anymore. He'll be punished internally for it and we'll move forward," said the Light Blues boss.

Celtic are 1/6 to win at St Mirren on Wednesday evening, with Rangers 11/20 to bounce back by defeating Hearts at Ibrox.

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Gerrard calls for big effort

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard accepts that his players will have to be mentally strong if they are to have any chance of beating Celtic on Sunday.

Both sides have won 1-0 in their home games in the two derby meetings this season and Celtic are 11/2 to continue that trend by winning Sunday's match 1-0 while a Rangers victory is available at 4/1.

Celtic are currently 10 points above their second-placed Glasgow rivals although both teams have lost four of their 30 league games this season.

Gerrard said: "It's an opportunity for the players to show our own supporters that they are out there playing for them.

"Of course the atmosphere is going to be good and it's all going to be with Celtic, and every cheer, every throw-in, every tackle is going to be on their side.

"But we can't think 'we haven't got many fans here, no-one's cheering us'. The players have got to stick together, pull each other along.

"There's going to be moments when we're under it, but we have to have the mentality and show leadership and communication out there because, once the game has started, it's very difficult to get information on.

"If you go in with a weak mentality and fear this game and fear this atmosphere, you won't get the result that you want."

McLeish rocked by McGregor retirement

Scotland manager Alex McLeish has admitted that goalkeeper Allan McGregor's international retirement is a blow though not a surprise.

The Rangers keeper is 37 and announced the news ahead of Scotland's forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino later this month.

McGregor leaves the international scene having made 42 appearances for Scotland in 12 years and was first choice in their Nations League campaign last season.

McLeish said he was disappointed by McGregor's retirement but understood the reasons why.

He said: "I kind of knew this day would come. I have kept in touch with Allan for a year now, since he came back into the fold.

"He knows his body now. He obviously wants to play as much club football as he can and try and keep himself right for that but he is suffering in certain parts of his body at this stage of his life."

McLeish was speaking as he named his squad for the games against Kazakhstan and San Marino with Celtic's Scott Bain, Jordan Archer of Millwall and Sunderland's John McLaughlin named as keepers.

The game against Kazakhstan is on an artificial pitch and the Scotland boss confirmed that Cardiff's Callum Peterson and Bournemouth's Ryan Fraser will not be involved after an agreement with their clubs.

The squad also includes Hibernian striker Marc McNulty for the first time after scoring five goals in six appearances while on loan from Reading.

Scotland are 4/5 to win the game in Kazakhstan who are 15/4 with the draw 12/5.

England are 7/1 to win Euro 2020 with France 4/1 and Germany 8/1.

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Rodgers eases title pressure

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has played down the effect of his side facing being under pressure in their bid to win an eight consecutive Scottish league title.

The Bhoys are six points clear at the top of the table, having maintained their advantage thanks to a 2-0 win at home to Hibernian on Wednesday evening, which was their fifth successive SPFL victory.

And Rodgers is calm about the prospects for the coming weeks, with Rangers still hoping to overhaul their rivals to be crowned Scottish champions for the first time since 2011.

He told reporters: "I have always tried to get my team to play without pressure and you can see that now because they are playing well.

"People talk about pressure, but we didn't concede a goal, we played very well and, while there are items we can look at, we are just enjoying our football.

"We can only focus on ourselves. There is a perception created around a challenge for the title that it's tight, but all you can do is focus on our own performance and play good football.

"If we do that, then we know there is a good chance we'll win."

Celtic are 1/7 to win the SPFL title, with Rangers priced at 5/1, while the Bhoys are 11/10 to win the Scottish Cup for a third season in a row.

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Gerrard rules out Morelos move

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has insisted that striker Alfredo Morelos will not be leaving the club during this transfer window.

The Ibrox boss says 'every player' in his squad has a price, and while he's not ruling that Morelos could be sold in the summer, the club's leading scorer won't be moving on in the coming days.

Ligue 1 outfit Nice, currently managed by Patrick Vieira, are reportedly weighing up an £8m approach for the Colombian forward.

Morelos joined Rangers in the summer of 2017 from Finnish outfit HJK Helsinki for a fee in the region of £1m. He has notched a dozen goals in 19 Scottish Premiership appearances this season, propelling Gerrard's side into a closely-fought title race with Celtic in doing so.

Rangers drew level on points with the champions when they defeated Brendan Rodgers' men at Ibrox before New Year, though the Bhoys have played a game less.

Gerrard's team return to competitive action on Wednesday evening when they go to Rugby Park to take on third placed Kilmarnock and their manager says nobody will be leaving during this window.

"There's been nothing concrete [from Nice]," said Gerrard.

"At the moment in this window, Alfredo won't be going anywhere. But every one of our players has got a price, I'm not naive enough to sit here and say they haven't.

"But none of my players will be going out the door, certainly in this window, so anyone who is preparing a bid or thinking of a bid will be wasting their time."

Rangers are 8/13 to win at Kilmarnock on Wednesday. Steve Clarke's side, one point behind their visitors, are 17/4 while the draw is 3/1.

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Ibrox return for Davis

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard is thrilled to have been able to tempt Northern Ireland international Steven Davis back to Ibrox.

The influential midfielder moves to the Gers from Southampton on a six-month loan agreement, subject to international clearance.

Davis, who has made 226 appearances for Saints, has represented his country on 107 occasions and captained them at Euro 2016.

Gerrard said: "Steven is yet another fantastic addition to our squad and we are delighted to welcome him back to the club.

"He is vastly experienced at both club and international level and knows the club, the fans and the demands that come with wearing the Rangers jersey very well.

"He has previously captained the club and been captain for his country and Southampton, so we welcome yet another leader into our dressing room."

Davis moved to Ibrox, initially on a loan deal, in January 2008, and won a host of trophies with the club before moving to Southampton in the summer of 2012.

Meanwhile, former England international striker Jermain Defoe has joined Rangers on an 18-month loan from Bournemouth.

Defoe played for Charlton, West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Toronto FC and Sunderland before joining the Cherries 18 months ago.

Gerrard said of the veteran forward: "I'm delighted to be able to welcome Jermain to Rangers. He is an exceptionally talented striker and vastly experienced footballer who has scored goals at every club he has played for."

Rangers, 13/5 to win the Scotland Premiership this season, can be backed at 8/11 to beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on 23rd January.

Defoe nearing Ibrox switch

Jermain Defoe is closing on a move to Rangers, having agreed personal terms on an 18-month loan deal with the Glasgow outfit.

The 36-year-old striker is set to join up with former England teammate Steven Gerrard, now the manager at Ibrox.

The deal, reported to be agreed by various sources, is subject to Defoe passing a medical this weekend before he can join the Light Blues on their warm-weather training camp in Tenerife.

Defoe has yet to start a league game for Bournemouth this season and has recently voiced his desire to get first-team football elsewhere, with Eddie Howe seemingly content to allow him move on.

Under the terms of the deal Bournemouth are said to have two recall options – this summer and in January 2020 – on their player.

The former West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth and Sunderland striker is amongst the Premier League's all-time top ten leading goalscorers.

Gerrard has steered Rangers into a position to challenge city rivals Celtic for the Scottish Premiership title this season.

The Old Firm rivals are level on points going into the winter break, with Celtic top on goal difference and also having played one game less than Rangers.

On Saturday, Ryan Jack scored the only goal at Ibrox as Rangers ended a six-year wait for a league win over the Hoops, the first time Brendan Rodgers has lost a Glasgow derby fixture.

Rangers are now 7/2 to win the Scottish Premiership this season, with Celtic 1/5 to make it successive titles.

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