CELTIC yesterday sacked assistant coach Murdo MacLeod, paving the way for a new managerial regime to be put in place at Parkhead over the next few days.

However, last night the Norwegian Nils Arne Eggen dismissed suggestions he was to be appointed at Parkhead at the weekend as the race for the managerial chair enters its final stages.

Other names in the frame for the job are Norway's manager Egil Olsen, Holland coach Guus Hiddink, Martin O'Neill of Leicester, Nevio Scala from Italy, and Artur Jorge from Portugal.

Celtic supporters were angry at the sacking of MacLeod, although it seemed inevitable following the departure of Wim Jansen. Many believe the former Scotland international midfielder has paid the price for being ''too loyal'' to the departed Dutchman with whom who he had forged a close working relationship.

He was credited with providing Jansen with the insight into the Scottish game that helped to guide Celtic to the Coca-Cola Cup and league championship last season. He was also popular with the Parkhead players, who were keen for him to stay on to provide some continuity in the wake of Jansen's resignation two days after having clinched the title.

MacLeod was called to the ground yesterday afternoon to learn of his fate after previously having stated he would be interested in taking over from the Dutchman.

Later, he said he had no immediate plans. ''The important thing for me now is to just to settle down and get my thoughts together,'' he said. General manager Jock Brown's only comment when announcing the departure was a brief thank-you for MacLeod's efforts. ''On behalf of the club, I would like to thank Murdo for his contribution to Celtic and wish him all the best for the future,'' he said.

Peter Rafferty, the secretary of the Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters Clubs said: ''We thought if nothing else Murdo would remain a good acquisition for the club and bring some continuity under a new coach.''

Celtic striker Simon Donnelly, preparing to leave for France with Scotland tomorrow, admitted the news had come as a blow to the players. He said: ''Murdo and Wim both did a great job and I am sorry to see him go as well, but things like that happen in football, and when there is a change in management, people tend to bring in their own men.''|

Midfielder Craig Burley said he was disappointed to see MacLeod go and praised him for his work with Wim Jansen in bringing success to the club.

''I feel it is a little bit harsh considering the success he helped bring the club but I don't make the decisions,'' said Burley. ''Reading between the lines it was clear he wasn't going to get the manager's job and I am disappointed for him because of the hard work that he put in.''

Striker Darren Jackson said it was now up to the players to try to remain positive. He said they would not use the turmoil off the field as some sort of excuse if things didn't go right for them early in the new season.

Meanwhile former Hibernian and Dundee manager Jim Duffy is back in football as youth team coach at Chelsea. Duffy was sacked by the Easter Road club four months ago and his move south will see him pair up again with Stamford Bridge coach Graham Rix.

Ex-Arsenal and England player Rix spent a season with Dundee before heading back to London to fill the same job that Duffy will now take over. Duffy said: ''It really is wonderful to be back again, especially with such a club as Chelsea.''