ANY meeting between Celtic and Rangers is always preceded by intense scrutiny of who will come out on top in the individual duels across the pitch. Will Christopher Jullien be able to nullify the threat posed by Alfredo Morelos? Can Mikey Johnston get the better of James Tavernier? Could Scott Brown struggle against Steven Davis?

Invariably, the much-anticipated match-ups fail to amount to anything due to players being deployed in different positions or left out of the starting line-up altogether and the game is won and lost elsewhere.

But who fares better in the roles they have been appointed to this week, Celtic director of football operations Nicky Hammond or Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson, will go a long way towards determining whether their respective clubs emerge victorious not just in future encounters between the Glasgow rivals, but in the battle for Scottish supremacy.


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Hammond, the former Reading and West Bromwich Albion talent spotter, will have greater funds at his disposal and less need to improve the overall quality of the current squad than Wilson, who has worked at Falkirk, Watford, Huddersfield and Southampton in the past, does.

However, if Wilson is able to unearth a rough diamond or two who can improve Steven Gerrard’s team and Hammond is unable to bring in reinforcements who do the same for Neil Lennon’s side then spending power will ultimately become irrelevant.

The gulf between Celtic and Rangers on and off the park is narrower than it has been in seven years So what does Hammond need to do to keep the treble treble winners on top? And how can Wilson help to topple them off their perch? These are the key areas they have to succeed in going forward to achieve their objectives.

Get value for money

Major clubs can afford to take a scattergun approach to their recruitment when the transfer fees they are paying aren’t exorbitant. If one £500,000 acquisition comes good he can be sold on for a multi-million sum a few years down the line. If another is unsuccessful then the loss if offset by the profit made on the sale of their club mate.

Celtic have done brilliantly in that regard in the past decade and look, in Odsonne Edouard, to have another individual who will bank them a pretty penny in the not-too-distant future. Rangers, too, will eventually cash in on Alfredo Morelos and then some. Signing successful project players, then, will be important for both men.

At the same time, Hammond and Wilson have to ensure there are no big money blunders, like Marvin Compper or Eros Grezda, who sit in the stand pocketing hefty salaries while contributing nothing.


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Think ahead

Celtic’s failure to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League this season was due, in part, to Boli Bolingoli, their £3.5 million summer signing, not having settled. Lennon felt unable to start him at left back in a qualifier against Cluj in the East End due to his erratic display in Romania a week earlier. He fielded Callum McGregor out of position and his team failed to perform at their best in a catastrophic 4-3 reverse.

But why were the Scottish champions bedding somebody into that specialist position going into those crucial matches? Why was there no adequate replacement? Every fan knew that Emilio Izaguirre needed replaced. Many anticipated that Kieran Tierney would be sold. A little forward planning would have been invaluable.

A good sporting director is looking six months, 18 months even, in advance. Hammond and Wilson must anticipate the requirements of their managers a season or more ahead to avoid such unnecessary and costly failures.

Use their contacts

Both Hammond and Wilson have extensive contacts down south, where they have both worked for many years, and further afield and must, together with their scouting teams, utilise them to the full. Players who are surplus to requirements at Premier League clubs, like Mohamed Elyounoussi or Ryan Kent, can still be key players north of the border.


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Clear out the dead wood

Gerrard was keen to have at least two decent options in every position on the park after his first season and he now has that following the summer strengthening work. His opposite number Lennon, too, has little to fear if a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder or forward gets injured. That said, there are still individuals who could be moved to free up invaluable wages at both Ibrox and Parkhead. Having unhappy players who are resentful of their lack of game time can contaminate a squad and have a detrimental impact on morale.

Bring through the kids

Celtic have, for all their domestic success in the past eight years, done well developing their own players. James Forrest, Mikey Johnston, Callum McGregor and Kieran Tierney have all come through the youth ranks at Lennoxtown and established themselves. Rangers, despite being in the lower leagues for several years, have not done nearly so well in comparison.

Hammond must ensure the best prospects continue to get their chance and retain the Scottish spine to the Celtic team while Wilson must strive, along with the existing coaching staff, to get more of them into the Rangers side.