Scottish Cup: Thomson and Collum to referee Rangers and Celtic

Craig Thomson will be in the middle for Rangers against Motherwell at Ibrox, while Willie Collum has been appointed to Celtic’s fourth-round tie at Albion Rovers.

craig-thomson-and-willie-collum
Centre stage: Thomson (left) and Collum have attracted controversy in the past but have represented Scotland well on the European and international scene (Pictures from Sky Sports)

The heavyweights will be out in force as the match official appointments for the fourth round of the Scottish Cup have been announced.

Craig Thomson will take charge of the first tie of the weekend as Rangers face another Premiership side in Motherwell at Ibrox on Saturday (KO 12:30 GMT).

And fellow elite official Willie Collum will be in the middle for Celtic’s trip to League One Albion Rovers on Sunday – also live on Sky Sports – with kick-off at 15:00 GMT.

The other TV game will see John Beaton oversee Hearts’ match at Championship outfit Raith Rovers in front of the BBC Scotland cameras earlier on Sunday (KO 13:05 GMT).


Thomson makes Ibrox return

Craig Thomson referee
Veteran: Thomson is the longest-serving of the current crop of Scottish officials having refereed his first top-flight match in May 2002 (Picture from Sky Sports)

It will be the fourth time Thomson will encounter Rangers this season but his first trip to Ibrox for a year since giving them two penalties in their 4-1 win over Livingston on the way to the Championship title.

The vastly-experienced whistler handled their 2-1 win at Dundee in August, 1-0 loss to Celtic in the Old Firm League Cup semi-final, and 2-0 defeat at Hearts in November.

His only Motherwell matches were their 2-1 victory at Kilmarnock on the opening weekend and 1-1 draw at Partick Thistle in September.

Overall, the trained lawyer from Renfrewshire has brandished 95 yellow cards, sent off seven players and awarded six penalties in 24 games in all competitions.

Thomson has previously officiated three Scottish Cup Finals – including Rangers’ 1-0 victory over Falkirk in the 2009 showpiece at Hampden.

He will be assisted by Alan Mulvanny and Andrew McWilliam, with Stephen Finnie on fourth official duties.

Earlier this season, Thomson was involved in a bitter spat with pundit Chris Sutton, who called him a ‘bottler’ after opting not to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence in their 2-1 success at Dens Park.

He was also branded ‘the Scottish butcher’ by angry Besiktas players after a controversial performance in their pivotal 6-0 defeat at Dynamo Kiev during the Champions League group stages.


Collum reunited with Celtic

willie-collum-with-erik-sviatchenko-v-hamilton-24th-dec-2016
Spotlight: Collum has largely stayed under the radar after being dropped for a period last term following a number of contentious decisions (Picture from Sky Sports)

Collum usually officiates Celtic on a monthly basis but it will only be the third occasion he will oversee the champions so far this term.

The 2015 Uefa Super Cup and Euro 2016 referee put in a fine display in their 5-1 thumping of Rangers at Parkhead in September.

But he was criticised by Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers for sending off Calum McGregor in their 1-1 draw at Hamilton on Christmas Eve.

It will be the first time the Religious Education teacher will be in the middle for an Albion Rovers game, which will be staged at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium to allow extra fans to watch – a stone’s throw from where he resides in North Lanarkshire.

In 27 matches across six competitions this season, Glasgow-born Collum has dished out 89 bookings, issued five red cards and pointed to the penalty spot nine times.

The 37-year-old has handled two Scottish Cup Finals – the first of which was Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hibernian in 2013.

He will be assisted by Michael Banks and John McCrossan, while Gavin Duncan will act as the fourth official.

To his credit, the notoriously card-happy Collum has rarely attracted controversy this term.

The only notable occasion came when he was slated by fans on social media after harshly penalising Jamie MacDonald for a perceived foul on James Maddison, which led to Aberdeen’s opening goal in their 4-0 win at Kilmarnock in October.

You can see the rest of the Scottish Cup match official appointments here.

Scottish Premiership: Celtic take New Year honours in Old Firm derby

Scott Sinclair scores the winner as Celtic claim the New Year honours in Glasgow by coming from behind to beat Rangers at Ibrox and earn a 15th successive league win.

  •  Old Firm derby on Hogmanay at packed Ibrox
  •  Miller puts Rangers ahead early on
  •  Dembele and Sinclair turn it around for Celtic
  •  Hoops maintain unbeaten domestic record
players-tunnel
Adversaries: Celtic and Rangers went head to head for the 404th time in a competitive game – and the first at Ibrox since March 2012 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic claimed the New Year honours in Glasgow, coming from behind to beat Rangers and record a 15th successive league win in the first Old Firm derby at Ibrox in almost five years. 

Veteran striker Kenny Miller rewarded Rangers’ early enterprise by firing them into the lead from close range against his former club.

With their first shot on target, Moussa Dembele drew the Hoops level with a spectacular finish for his fifth goal against Rangers this season.

Celtic upped the ante in the second half and showed their powers of recovery, as Scott Sinclair scored the winner with 20 minutes remaining.

As 2017 approaches, Brendan Rodgers’ men open up a 19-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership, with a game in hand to come against St Johnstone next month, heading into the winter break – the biggest ever advantage at this stage of a top-flight season.

The champions, seeking a sixth successive league title and first under Rodgers, have a hat-trick of derby wins this term after September’s 5-1 demolition at Celtic Park and the League Cup semi-final success the following month.

Rangers can take plenty of positives, with Barrie McKay excellent as an attacking force, but Mark Warburton’s side, who are now only two points ahead of third-placed Aberdeen, face a battle to secure the runners-up spot after suffering a first home defeat in 34 games.

Lining up with a back three, the hosts hit the front by pressing Celtic in wide areas from the outset.

It paid dividends in the 12th minute when Josh Windass released James Tavernier to cross low for Miller – wearing the captain’s armband in the injured Lee Wallace‘s absence – who finished well inside the six yard box for his 10th Old Firm goal.

But in the aftermath, fellow forward Joe Garner had to be stretchered off and was replaced by Martyn Waghorn.

Rangers continued to look menacing and ask questions of the Celtic defence but, after Sinclair struck the post and Clint Hill put the rebound behind for a corner, the visitors responded.

Stuart Armstrong’s deep delivery picked out Dembele, who had escaped the attentions of Danny Wilson, and the Frenchman instantly brought the ball under control before unleashing a powerful left-foot volley into the roof of the net for goal number 19 this season.

Celtic came out stronger in the second period to take a firm grip of proceedings, with Wes Foderingham in the Rangers goal the much busier keeper.

Armstrong and James Forrest brought good saves from the ex-Swindon man before Dembele hit the frame of the goal with a mishit effort after good work from Calum McGregor – returning after a one-match ban.

Rangers continued to offer a threat as McKay’s long-range effort and a Wilson header tested Celtic stopper Craig Gordon – celebrating his 34th birthday.

But the visitors struck the decisive blow to complete the turnaround in front of their delighted supporters as substitute Patrick Roberts found Armstrong in space and his inviting cross was touched in by Sinclair for his ninth of the campaign.

rodgers
Worse for wear: Rodgers appeared to injure himself whilst celebrating Sinclair’s goal (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic could have gone further ahead in the closing stages as Armstrong, Sinclair and sub Nir Bitton produced more saves from Foderingham.

And Rangers might have snatched a late leveller through Miller, who hit the base of the post from a well-weighted centre by Andy Halliday.

However, as referee Steven McLean – excellent on his Old Firm derby debut – blew the final whistle, the hosts could only reflect on an encouraging display despite their best efforts.

Meanwhile, Celtic ensured they signed off for 2016 by maintaining their domestic bliss after proving once again why they are looking such an unstoppable force this season.


TEAMS:

rangers-xi

Substitutes: Waghorn (on for Garner 16′), Dodoo (on for Windass 65′) and Forrester (on for Holt 83′).
Not used: Gilks (GK), Hodson, Crooks, O’Halloran.
Booked: Hill, Tavernier, Windass
Goals: Miller (12′)

 

celtic-xi

Substitutes: Roberts (on for Forrest 68′) and Bitton (on for McGregor 86′).
Not used: De Vries (GK), Toure, Gamboa, Mackay-Steven, Griffiths.
Booked: Simunovic, Lustig, Brown
Goals: Dembele (33′), Sinclair (70′)


MATCH OFFICIALS:

Steven McLean referee

Referee: Steven McLean – 9/10
Assistant referees: Douglas Ross and Frank Connor
Fourth official: John Beaton

Scottish Premiership: Steven McLean to referee Old Firm derby

Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of his first ever Old Firm derby when the two fierce Glasgow rivals meet on Hogmanay at Ibrox.

  •  First Old Firm derby for Renfrewshire whistler McLean
  •  First derby not officiated by Collum or Thomson since 2012
  •  Second league meeting of the season
  •  Celtic boss Rodgers’ first trip to Ibrox
Steven McLean referee
On the rise: McLean is regarded as one of the up and coming officials in Scottish football and on the international stage (Picture from Sky Sports)

Steven McLean will referee his first ever Old Firm derby in the televised New Year’s Eve lunchtime showdown, the Scottish FA has confirmed. 

The highly-rated Fifa official has been given the difficult task of administering law and order in the Hogmanay meeting of bitter Glasgow rivals Rangers and Celtic (KO 12:15 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted at Ibrox by Frank Connor and Douglas Ross – who were also the linesmen for September’s Celtic Park derby – while John Beaton will be keeping the peace in the dugout as the fourth official.

Both meetings this term – Celtic’s 5-1 league win and 1-0 League Cup semi-final victory at Hampden – were officiated by seasoned campaigners Willie Collum and Craig Thomson respectively.

Collum and Thomson – Scotland’s only Uefa Elite Category officials – are the only referees among the current crop in the country who have previously experienced what is one of the most thankless tasks in world football.

So there is a certain level of responsibility on the shoulders of McLean, who has seemingly beaten off competition from Beaton and Bobby Madden to be appointed, in order to show that other officials are capable of rising to this particular challenge.

Only in an interview at the start of the season did McLean confidently insist the country’s whistlers can cope with the return of the unique Old Firm environment and there is enough strength in depth in terms of the number of leading match officials.

The 35-year-old has shown he can handle high-profile occasions in the 2014 League Cup Final at Celtic Park and last season’s dramatic Scottish Cup Final involving Rangers, after which he and his fellow match officials were caught up in an unsavoury pitch invasion.

steven-mclean-in-action-inverness-v-ross-county-27th-oct-2015
Regular: McLean will take charge of his 11th Scottish Premiership game of the season at Ibrox (Picture from BBC Scotland)

McLean has been fourth official for two Old Firm derbies before but nothing can quite prepare him for his debut in the middle, with the Scottish Premiership’s top two desperate to sign off in 2016 with a winning feeling and bragging rights to boot.

The East Renfrewshire whistler endured an eventful afternoon in Rangers’ home win over Aberdeen at the start of the month, dishing out nine yellow cards and sending off both Gers defender Clint Hill and Dons skipper Ryan Jack in stoppage time.

Incidentally, McLean last encountered Celtic in a league match against the Dons at Pittodrie in October but many Hoops fans felt he allowed Aberdeen to apply too much rough treatment despite only brandishing five bookings in their side’s 1-0 victory.

They were the only occasions he has officiated either side in the league this term although McLean oversaw Rangers’ first competitive game of the campaign, in their 2-0 win at Motherwell in July in the Betfred Cup.

Celtic supporters will also remember McLean as the referee who oversaw their controversial Scottish Cup semi-final defeat against Inverness in 2015.

The officials – including an additional assistant referee positioned behind the goal – failed to spot a clear handball by Josh Meekings on the line before Hoops keeper Craig Gordon conceded a penalty and was sent off.

Celtic boss Ronny Deila was furious after the game with the first-half decision, which happened when his side led 1-0, and the club subsequently wrote to the Scottish FA but nothing came of their complaints.

McLean has since handled five matches involving the champions without any major controversy but incurred the wrath of then Hearts boss Robbie Neilson for failing to protect his players against Hamilton in November.

Steven McLean points for goalkick (Hearts v St Johnstone - 2nd August 2015)
Fresh: McLean hasn’t officiated a game since Hibernian’s 1-1 draw at Greenock Morton in the Championship on December 17 (Picture from BT Sport)

Overall, he has brandished 95 yellow cards, sent off four players (three in the Premiership and all for second bookable offences) and awarded four penalties in 21 games in all competitions so far this season.

McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – is the older brother of former Ross County and Dundee United defender Brian McLean.

A qualified fitness instructor and physiotherapist, he is now employed full-time by the SFA as a referee recruitment and education officer.

Elsewhere, Willie Collum will be in the middle for Hearts against Aberdeen on Friday night as third and fourth in the table lock horns at Tynecastle.

You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.


‘Horrendous and horrible’ – Fans react:

As is normally the case before any derby encounter, there is a lot of division among fans on social media – but most supporters of both teams have been largely united in being unimpressed with the choice of referee.


State of play:

Mark Warburton’s Rangers will be desperate to make home advantage count as they seek to record a first league win over their arch nemesis since a memorable 3-2 win over nine-man Celtic at Ibrox in March 2012.

But Celtic will have other ideas in their bid to increase their lead at the summit to a massive 19 points and simultaneously maintain their unbeaten domestic record this season under Brendan Rodgers.

Both sides had mixed fortunes on Wednesday night, with Rangers failing to get the better of St Johnstone in a 1-1 draw at McDiarmid Park while goals from Erik Sviatchenko and Stuart Armstrong gave Celtic a routine 2-0 victory over Ross County at Parkhead.

Attention can now fully turn to the 404th meeting in one of world football’s oldest rivalries. Rangers know only a fifth league win in six games would be enough to keep alive their slim hopes of toppling Celtic, who have scored 11 goals in their last three away league games.

Scottish League Cup: John Beaton to referee Rangers v Stranraer

The Fifa referee from Lanarkshire will oversee the Betfred Cup tie on his first Ibrox trip since August 2014.

John Beaton referee (Hibs v Dundee Utd - 16th April 2016)
Different role: Beaton was an additional assistant referee as part of Willie Collum’s team of officials for two group matches at Euro 2016 (Picture from BBC Scotland)

JOHN Beaton will be the referee for Rangers’ fourth Scottish League Cup first-round group game against Stranraer on Monday night.

The 34-year-old from Lanarkshire takes charge of the televised tie as Mark Warburton’s men seek to maintain their 100% record in the revamped competition against the League One outfit at Ibrox (KO 19:45 BST, live on BT Sport).

He will be ably assisted for the Group F encounter by Alasdair Ross and Daniel McFarlaine, with Gavin Ross in control of fourth official duties.

It’s a second trip to Glasgow in three days for Beaton, who handled Celtic’s 1-1 friendly draw with Leicester City in the International Champions Cup on Saturday evening at Parkhead.

But he hasn’t visited the home of the Gers since they beat Hibernian 2-1 in the Challenge Cup first round almost two years ago – in which Hibs forward Danny Handling was contentiously sent off for a challenge on David Templeton.

Beaton has overseen two League Cup matches so far – Kilmarnock’s 2-1 win over Clyde and St Mirren’s 1-0 victory against Ayr. He has brandished five yellow cards and awarded a penalty in each but is yet to send a player off.

John Beaton stats
Statistics: Beaton’s overall record and in every competition during the 2015-16 campaign (Picture from Transfermarkt.com)

The Motherwell whistler – who first became a referee in 1997 – has officiated the 2015 Ramsdens Cup Final, two League Cup semi-finals, two Scottish Cup semis including one last season, and been an additional assistant referee for two Scottish Cup Finals.

A Category One official since 2009, he has established himself as a regular in the Scottish Premiership since his first game in 2012 and is one of seven Scottish referees on Fifa’s international list.

Beaton, whose cousin Steven Nicholls is also a referee, hit the headlines last year when he was headbutted during a volatile derby in Saudi Arabia between Al Hilal and Al Nasr – during which he issued three red cards.

He didn’t visit Ibrox at all last season and oversaw both sides just once each – Rangers’ 2-1 defeat at Hibernian in November and Stranraer’s 5-2 win over Livingston in their Championship play-off semi-final first leg.

Outside of football, Beaton is a communications officer at the University of Strathclyde and had aspirations to be a journalist, including a three-year stint in Public Relations at Strathclyde Police.

Rangers’ previous League Cup ties were refereed by Steven McLean (Motherwell), Euan Anderson (Annan Athletic) and Crawford Allan (East Stirlingshire).

Brian’s Reid Stranraer, who lost out to Ayr United on penalties in the Championship play-off final last season, have beaten both Annan and East Stirling so far.

John Beaton referee (Hibernian v Rangers - 1st November 2015)
Card-happy: Beaton’s average number of cards has increased since his SPL debut in Dundee United’s 3-0 win over Dunfermline in March 2012 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Click here for a full list of match official appointments for Tuesday and Wednesday’s League Cup games.

Rangers held to Scottish Cup replay by stubborn Kilmarnock

Rangers will face a Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Rugby Park after interim boss Lee McCulloch guided Kilmarnock to a goalless draw on his return to Ibrox.

  •  Rangers fail to score for first time in 32 games this season 
  •  Former Gers skipper McCulloch in interim charge of Killie for first time
  •  Championship side dominant against Premiership strugglers 
  •  Both sides in Monday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final draw 
Lee McCulloch on the sidelines
Familiar territory: McCulloch, 37, returned to Ibrox where he left last summer having won eight major honours in eight seasons (Picture from Sky Sports)

RANGERS failed to score for the first time this season as Lee McCulloch earned a Scottish Cup fifth-round replay on his Ibrox return.

The Championship leaders created a host of opportunities as James Tavernier hit the post in the first half and Danny Wilson headed against the crossbar after the break.

Lee Wallace and Andy Halliday were also denied by visiting keeper Jamie MacDonald but the Gers could not secure an eighth successive win in all competitions.

Premiership strugglers Kilmarnock – under interim boss McCulloch for the first time – withstood large swathes of pressure and survived the late dismissal of substitute Kallum Higginbotham for a high challenge on Tavernier.

Higginbotham challenge on Tavernier
Foul: Higginbotham caught Tavernier high with his studs when competing for the ball in front of the linesman (Picture from Sky Sports)

Ex-Gers captain McCulloch – in temporary charge after Gary Locke resigned last weekend – was “delighted” and “proud” of his side’s resilience to earn only a fourth clean sheet of the season after back-to-back defeats by Hamilton and Dundee United which had “damaged confidence”.

Mark Warburton’s men, however, could not beat top-flight opponents for the second time this term following their 3-1 League Cup defeat against St Johnstone in November.

Rangers swept aside Killie 3-0 to reach this stage of the competition last season but found the East Ayrshire outfit a more difficult obstacle this time around.

O'Halloran in the stands
Cup-tied: O’Halloran (centre) and Billy King (right) watched from the stands having already played in the competition for St Johnstone and Hearts respectively (Picture from Sky Sports)

McCulloch made five changes from the 1-0 reverse against Hamilton which left Killie second-bottom in the top-flight, handing debuts to deadline day signings Gary Dicker and Lee Hodson.

Amid a frenetic opening at both ends, Killie’s 10-goal top scorer Josh Magennis nodded Greg Kiltie’s cross narrowly wide.

Inevitably, Rangers full-backs Tavernier and Wallace – with 17 goals between them this season – were in menacing mood going forward and both came close in the early exchanges.

MacDonald parried Wallace’s fierce shot after a clever slide-rule pass from Barrie McKay before Tavernier’s stinging drive from 18 yards rebounded off the right-hand post minutes later.

The unchanged hosts saw the lion’s share of possession but Killie waited to pounce on unforced errors – Tope Obadeyi’s effort from distance tested Wes Foderingham following a quick break.

Craig Slater could have put the visitors ahead close to half-time after checking inside as keeper Foderingham stood tall to block the shot with his head.

Slater chance 45 mins
One-sided: All of Kilmarnock’s clear-cut opportunities came in the first half (Picture from Sky Sports)

Rangers were previously the only Scottish team to notch in every match this season, yet they were continually frustrated by a much-changed Killie backline and their own end product.

Halliday – the match-winner at Raith Rovers in midweek – looked to have found the bottom corner with a curling shot before MacDonald’s last-gasp intervention.

Seeking some additional guile from midfield, Warburton introduced Harry Forrester and the fit-again Jason Holt on the hour in place of Championship player of the month Kenny Miller and the disappointing Gedion Zelalem.

Kenny Miller before kick-off
Landmark: The 36-year-old – who five goals in six games last month – made his 600th appearance in British football (Picture from Sky Sports)

Former Killie loanee Forrester almost made an instant impact, sending a low daisycutter past the post after picking up a loose ball on the edge of the box.

With Rangers the only team offering a second-half threat, a Tavernier free-kick drifted inches wide before Wilson looped a header from Forrester’s corner on to the woodwork from six yards.

Martyn Waghorn looked certain to score but couldn’t bring McKay’s pass under his spell when free in the box as the groans around the stadium grew in volume.

Mark Warburton on sidelines
Scoreless: Warburton’s side have scored 92 goals this season but failed to score for the first time in their 32nd game (Picture from Sky Sports)

Killie ended the game a man light after referee Bobby Madden gave Higginbotham his marching orders with 90 seconds of normal time remaining for a lunge on Tavernier near the touchline.

The visitors desperately threw their bodies on the line – quite literally in the case of Magennis to get in the way of Waghorn’s shot.

But despite their best efforts, Rangers could not find a breakthrough and face a tricky test on the artificial pitch at Rugby Park on February 16.

Although talks have opened with Billy Davies and Lee Clark over the managerial vacancy, McCulloch did his case of keeping the job no harm at all and could still be in charge for the replay a week on Tuesday.

FT match facts
Statistics: Rangers bossed the number of attempts while Kilmarnock committed more fouls and received more cards (Picture from Sky Sports)

TEAMS:

Rangers XI (v Kilmarnock)
Unchanged: Rangers fielded the same XI as Tuesday’s 1-0 win at Raith Rovers (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Forrester (on for Miller 60′), Holt (on for Zelalem 61′) and Law (on for Kiernan 74′).

Not used:  Bell (GK), Thompson, Shiels, Clark.

Booked:  Holt (68′)

 

Kilmarnock XI
Five changes: Hodson, Findlay, Smith, Dicker and Obadeyi came in for Syme, Ashcroft, McHattie, Robinson and Boyd (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  O’Hara (on for Dicker 65′) and Higginbotham (on for Obadeyi 74′).

Not used:  Brennan (GK), Ashcroft, Frizzell, Hamill, Boyd.

Booked:  Smith (29′), Slater (73′)

Sent-off:  Higginbotham (89′)

 

Bobby Madden in charge
In control: The Fifa official handled proceedings well, kept up with play and correctly sent off Higginbotham late on (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee:  Bobby Madden (Scotland) – 8/10
Attendance:  33,581


SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION:

Rangers boss McCoist offers to resign

ALLY McCoist has tendered his resignation as manager of Scottish Championship side Rangers with immediate effect.

Rangers manager Ally McCoist (on Sky Sports interview)
Icon: The former St Johnstone and Sunderland striker won 19 major honours with Rangers during a 15-year spell in his playing career

UNDER-FIRE Rangers manager Ally McCoist has tendered his resignation but the Ibrox club are set to reject his offer.

The 52-year-old had come under intense pressure in recent weeks with his side nine points adrift of Scottish Championship leaders Hearts and out of the Ramsdens Cup after spurning a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against part-timers Alloa Athletic in the semi-finals.

The Glasgow outfit have declined to comment on the position of the former Scotland international, who has a 12-month rolling contract.

McCoist is understood to have become increasingly concerned and saddened by ground staff and administration losing their jobs. He will serve out the 12-month notice period, unless the board settle his contract or put him on gardening leave.

The Gers are scheduled to play Queen of the South at Palmerston Park this evening and McCoist – who gave no signal of his intentions during Thursday’s pre-match media conference – will still take charge of the team.

He told broadcasters BT Sport prior to Friday’s game in Dumfries: “I’ve been completely focused on the game tonight.

“I have no idea if this will be my last match in charge. I hope not.

“My job is to get a team ready. I can assure the Rangers fans I’m 100% committed to getting Rangers into the top flight.

“I’ll continue in my job and hopefully get them back into the top flight. We firmly believe we can put pressure on Hearts.”

The news first broke on Twitter at around 1:40pm from Scottish newspaper The Daily Record.

“I think it is a sad day for the club,” former Rangers keeper Andy Goram told Sky Sports News HQ. “The abuse he has taken is sickening and vile.

“I think he will see out the end of his contract unless Rangers want to pay him off. Some Gers fans would have got what they wanted with Coisty going.

“I don’t think any other manager in British football has had to put up with what he has had to put up with.”

Andy Gorman former Rangers goalkeeper on Sky Sports News HQ - 12th Dec 2014

Former Rangers striker Derek Johnstone – who also played alongside McCoist – added: “I think something horrific has happened over the past 14 or 15 hours since the press conference yesterday [Thursday].

“He was looking forward to taking Rangers back to where they belong in the Premiership so it has hit me very badly today.”

Another former Gers forward – St Mirren’s Steven Thompson – told the BBC: “I’m shocked. I know there has been a lot of criticism of Ally but I think the job that he has done in the last couple of years has been sensational in the face of unbelievable adversity.

“I know people criticise the way Rangers play but it’s very difficult to play attractive football when teams come and park the bus.”

There is no doubt that McCoist has presided over the Ibrox hotseat during – arguably – the most turbulent time in the club’s 142-year history.

McCoist – who earned legendary status at the club as a player and is their record topscorer – was promoted from assistant manager at the start of the 2010-11 campaign after Walter Smith stood down when the Gers were in the Scottish top-flight.

In his first season in charge, his side blew a 15-point lead to surrender the title to Celtic while, in domestic competition, Rangers’ loss at Falkirk in the Scottish League Cup and defeat by Dundee United in the Scottish Cup meant a first managerial season without silverware for McCoist.

The club were then plunged into administration and expelled to the fourth tier in the summer of 2012.

Rangers assistant manager Kenny McDowall
Right-hand man: Kenny McDowall has been by Ally McCoist’s side during his tenure

The Govan outfit achieved back-to-back promotions including an undefeated league campaign last term in League One but they lost to Raith Rovers in extra-time in the Challenge Cup final.

Despite taking the Gers to within one division from the Premiership, McCoist has been criticised by the club’s supporters for his transfer policy, tactical decisions and record in cup competitions while attendances have fallen dramatically.

As of 12 December 2014, McCoist has won 94 of his 125 matches in charge, overseeing 18 draws and 13 defeats with a win rate of 75%.

The Gers have won 10 of their 15 Championship matches so far this season and lie in second place in the second tier.

Here is how journalists reacted to the news on social media:

Gers supporters and fans of rival clubs, though, were inevitably divided:

https://twitter.com/galtybhoy/status/543405947230883841

https://twitter.com/owenod/status/543408297672716289

Strachan satisfied as Scots see off stubborn Georgia

GORDON Strachan hailed Scotland’s “best hour” of his managerial reign as they claimed their first Euro 2016 qualification win against Georgia at Ibrox.

Support band: Almost 40,000 Scotland fans flocked into Ibrox to see their country in action against Georgia
Support band: Almost 40,000 Scotland fans flocked into Ibrox to see their country in action against Georgia (Picture from Matt Bland, Twitter)

GORDON Strachan hailed Scotland’s “best hour” of his managerial reign as they claimed their first Euro 2016 qualification win against Georgia at Ibrox.

The Tartan Army were worthy winners for a dominant display but only had a first-half own goal from Akaki Khubutia to show for their efforts.

After a spirited showing against world champions Germany went without reward in their opening Group D qualifier, victory was a must for the Scots to kick-start their campaign ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Warsaw to face a resurgent Poland.

But the fluidity and tempo of the performance for long periods was the most pleasing aspect for Strachan.

“That’s the best hour, 65 minutes, that we’ve had as a football team since I’ve been here,” hailed the 57-year-old, who succeeded Craig Levein in January 2013.

“I didn’t know the players could play that type of free-flowing football, with such ease, and break down a good side.”

Temuri Ketsbaia’s Georgia, ranked 110th in the world, suffered defeat to the Republic of Ireland last month and were seeking their first competitive away win in eight years.

But Scotland, backed by the majority of the 40,000 fans in west Glasgow, were the potent force from the outset despite struggling to break down the well-organised visitors.

Strachan made four changes from the defeat in Dortmund – which ended their six-match unbeaten run – as Scott Brown returned as captain ahead of Darren Fletcher, Shaun Maloney was preferred to Barry Bannan, fit-again Andy Robertson ousted Steven Whittaker and Steven Fletcher replaced the suspended Charlie Mulgrew.

Hull City left-back Robertson – on his competitive senior international debut – was a promising outlet down the left flank and regular provider for Sunderland striker Fletcher, who ended a 10-month goal drought last weekend with a double against Stoke.

Chances, though, were few and far between with James Morrison sending a volley over the crossbar from 30 yards after Shaun Maloney’s corner was cleared.

The Scots, playing at the home of Rangers in a competitive match for the first time in 15 years, patiently probed with the lions’ share of possession and their pressure eventually paid off just short of the half-hour mark.

Wigan’s Maloney, on his first competitive Scotland start since scoring the winner against Macedonia in September 2013, crashed a powerful half-volley towards goal and keeper Giorgi Loria could only push the ball against defender Khubutia with the ball spinning into the net.

The frustration was relieved as the merited breakthrough gave Scotland a platform to progress but Strachan’s side could not capitalise on several openings before half-time.

In-form Everton forward Steven Naismith took a heavy touch when played in on goal by Fletcher before Brown’s curling effort from the edge of the box was deflected inches wide and a teasing Robertson cross was headed over by Fletcher six yards out.

Their quest for a two-goal cushion continued to prove elusive after the interval with Fletcher and Naismith seeing efforts kept out by Loria.

Watford’s Ikechi Anya then had a half-hearted penalty shout ignored when claiming he was tripped by Murtaz Daushvili.

The nerve-shredding tension increased around Ibrox as Naismith and Robertson pulled shots harmlessly wide, much to the anguish of Strachan.

“For the first 25 minutes of the second half we were making chances again and their goalkeeper’s made some good saves,” he added.

“We got into areas we were pleased with and maybe just a little rusty with some of our shots, could’ve got them off earlier; maybe trying to walk the ball into the back of the net.”

And after failing to convert several opportunities – with Morrison the latest to be denied by Loria from eight yards – Scotland were forced to adopt a cautious approach to protect their lead in the closing stages.

Georgia’s skipper Jaba Kankava whistled a long-distance shot wide before the hosts escaped when Irakli Dzaria dragged wide on the half volley from 18 yards with the goal gaping.

“I don’t care who you are: if you’re only 1-0 up with 5/10 minutes to go, then it starts getting a bit hairy,” Strachan explained. “They’re throwing people forward. And, to that extent, I thought our two centre halves were absolutely fantastic.”

But Scotland stayed firm to hold on as their first home tie of the 10-game campaign ended in a slender victory, which ought to have been more emphatic.

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Substitutes:  McArthur (for Naismith ’80), C Martin (for S Fletcher ’90)

Booked:  Morrison (33), Maloney (67)

Goals:  Khubutia (28 og)

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Substitutes:  Okriashvili (for Kvirkvelia ’45), Dzaria (for Papava ’70), Chanturia (for Kazaishvili ’80)

Booked:  Grigalava (48), Daushvili (53)

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Referee:  Miroslav Zelinka (Czech Republic) – 7/10
Attendance:  40,000