Rangers can take heart from Union's indifferent away form

It's a seismic week for Rangers in the Champions League. A tie against Belgian side Union St-Gilloise in the third qualifying round was perceived to be a tricky yet infinitely winnable game that would set up a play-off encounter to be staged over the next fortnight against the considerably more challenging Monaco or PSV Eindhoven.

Instead they are fighting for their lives against a team that, while impressive last week, are not in the same league as some of the teams Rangers beat on their way to the Europa League final. But the price to pay for failing to secure the direct entry to the Champions League that victory against Eintracht Frankfurt in May would have brought has been a heavy one and Rangers have found themselves stuck in the kind of limbo that Celtic so often did – without the guaranteed money group stage participation brings, transfer ambitions are curtailed accordingly.

Of course, losing 2-0 in Belgium was not meant to be part of the plan and much of the blame for the defeat could be laid at the door of the manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst who failed to start with the kind of midfielder that would play the necessary forward passes to hurt Union.

The good news for Rangers is that Union will have rarely experienced a night like the one which awaits them in Glasgow tomorrow evening. The combined might of Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Braga, Sparta Prague, Galatasaray and RB Leipzig have discovered that a heaving Ibrox is not a place for the fainthearted in recent European campaigns but while Van Bronckhorst will have taken some heart from Union's away form in what has been a mixed start to their domestic season. They lost 3-0 against Mechelen on Saturday while their opening game of the campaign at Sint Truiden ended in a 1-1 draw. Meanwhile, as they chucked away the Belgian title last season, they won just one of their three final away games.

But the Dutchman will also know that Union's head coach Karel Geraerts will be unlikely to tinker with his starting line-up as he did on Saturday.

Eight of the side that started last Tuesday night's first leg played in the defeat at Mechelen but while Geraerts gave his players a stinging rebuke in public he also hinted that the three changes – with three right-sided players Ross Sykes, Simon Adingra and Senne Lynen, all sitting the game out – might have been enough to disrupt the carefully constructed patterns of play that have been drilled into his players.

“If you start rotating and you bring in three-four other players, you know you're missing automatisms,” said Geraerts. “The players don't throw a stone in that area. They did their best.”

Lazzerini makes good on his promise

Sean Lazzerini is no stranger to the sports pages of the Herald and Times stable of newspapers. As a one-time Six To Watch in the Sunday Herald prior to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games he documented his journey from the 12-year-old who “used to get hidings all the time” at Bellahouston Boxing Club to medal contender in Australia four years ago.

The light-heavyweight had won Commonwealth Youth Games gold and the European Youth Championship bronze in 2015 and was expected to do something similar in 2018 but it didn't quite go to plan for the 25-year-old in Gold Coast when he was paired with one of the favourites – and eventual bronze medallist – Clay Waterman early in the draw and lost.

But the Birmingham Games have been a different story and any lingering disappointment from his defeat in 2018 was extinguished yesterday, when Lazzerini – who only returned to the ring in February after a hand injury robbed him of two and a half years of competitive action – made good on the promise he showed in those earliest days at Bellahouston by edging out Taylor Bevan to take gold.

The trend for asking players to describe their current managers is a curious one

Imagine being contacted by the press or a programme maker to describe what you really thought of your boss. Would you be honest? Twice in the past couple of days there have been interviews with English Premier League stars who have been asked to explain what makes their managers so good. First up was Granit Xhaka on Amazon's All Or Nothing documentary which charted Arsenal's 2021/22 season. The bungling Swiss midfielder waxed lyrical about Mikel Arteta saying “He is a freak in a positive way,” then without a hint of irony added “Without him, I would not be at this football club any more.” It's a statement that could be read one of many ways but let's assume Xhaka is praising Arteta rather than passing judgment on his own playing abilities. Then there was Tom Cairney talking about his Fulham manager Marco Silva. Of course, the Scotland midfielder gushed about his boss' attention to detail, his passion and his willingness to take responsibility.

All of which is no doubt the case but here's a thought: like any office or place of work, there are those in the dressing room who think the manager is good, some who think he is okay and some who think he is rubbish. Almost all will say the same thing in public: “The manager is brilliant.”

Lazzerini not the only competitor to find redemption after a comeback

Ross Murdoch's return to the pool following his last year was one of the stories of the Games and he rightly got the plaudits he deserved after a haul of three medals in Birmingham brought the curtain down on his glittering career.

For every Murdoch, though, there is a Craig Benson, a fellow breaststroker, who has never much been blessed with luck and who often seemed to be there or thereabouts without ever quite reaching the heights of Murdoch. Benson was a talented swimmer and once beat the great Michael Phelps at the US Open Championships but often he just missed out as he did when he swam in the heats but not the final for the team that won gold at the 2016 European Championship in the 100m mixed medley relay.

So it was just as pleasing to see him leave the Games with a bronze in the 4x100m medley relay as it was to witness Murdoch's success.

Argos Aberdeen v Currys Celtic

The Monday kick-off wonders sometimes about the ways in which Scottish football clubs could go about generating increased revenue for themselves. A recent phenomenon of the last decade or so has been to sell the names of the stadium to sponsors. This is particularly irksome for the humble sub-editor who attempts in vain to abbreviate – to name but one - The Fountain of Youth Stadium in order to make it fit into a scoreline box. But what if clubs succumbed to the tendency that has infiltrated European football increasingly in recent seasons whereby traditional team names have been part-bartered away in return for filthy lucre.

Check out the Austrian Bundesliga, for example, where famous old clubs now carry horrendous appendages such as Puntigamer Sturm Graz, Guntamatic Ried, Flyeralarm Admira and CASHPOINT Altach which make a skip through the league table feel as if you are reading about the new additions to the retail park on the outskirts of town. We've already started to see it in Scottish football with Open Goal Broomhill in the Lowland League so is it only a matter of time? Would a chunk of money each season be enough for a Kentucky Fried Motherwell or Halfords Hamilton Academical to ever make it acceptable?


The number of years that have elapsed since Hampden Park hosted the greatest European Cup final of all time between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt. The two teams meet in Helsinki on Wednesday for the first time since that historic contest to battle for the European Super Cup.