DESPITE an unbeaten record as Celtic's caretaker manager, 100% backing

from the dressing room, and an unquestionable dedication to the club,

Frank Connor insisted yesterday that the new man, presumably Lou Macari,

will have every right to make his own judgment about staff, even if that

means an exit for himself.

''If I was going to a club, I would expect that myself,'' he said.

''He will want to look at it closely and make up his own mind what he

wants to do.''

Connor has had no assurances from the Celtic board that his position,

either as reserve team coach or any other role, is secure, and nor would

he expect one.

''Obviously, I want to be involved in the game at the highest level

and would dearly love to be part of the Celtic set-up. But I am also

realistic and I know what could happen.''

Connor was asked to look after the side after first Liam Brady, and

then Joe Jordan resigned. He has been in charge for three games, a win

over Dundee -- the club's first league win of the season at Parkhead, a

draw with premier division leaders Hibs at Easter Road, and a 1-0

victory over Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Cup at home on Wednesday night.

It might all have happened anyway, but he is entitled to be given

credit for engineering a decent hat trick in what cannot have been the

easiest of circumstances, with constant speculation about the next

manager, and boardroom power struggles.

The fact that he has been a long time in the business has been a vital

asset in Connor's situation. He had two spells as a player at Parkhead

and this is his second stint in the management department -- he was

assistant to David Hay. Connor said that he had been encouraged by the

board to keep working as he has always done and when the time comes,

they will speak to him.

In the end his future will depend on Macari, who began talks with

Celtic yesterday, but who may not be installed for a few days yet.

Connor does not know the former Celtic man well, but pointed out that

that did not hinder Jock Wallace and Joe Jordan appointing him as their

assistants with Motherwell and Hearts respectively.

''I don't really want to talk in depth about my position,'' said

Connor. ''I have managed up to now to stay involved in the game and I'd

like to think I will carry on that way.

''You do what you've got to do and people judge you. I will take it

from there.''

Rangers' leader Walter Smith enjoyed a couple of bonuses of his own

this week with the return to action of John Brown after lengthy injury

and the continuing progress towards match fitness of striker Ally

McCoist. Brown will not be a starter for the League Cup final against

Hibs on Sunday at Parkhead, but McCoist will be very much a key figure.