Xavi the man Rangers might have to be wary of

One thing that Rangers' run to the final of the Europa League – and across previous seasons in the competition – demonstrated is that they are not afraid of the reputations of their much-vaunted opponents. Over the course of their travels, Rangers have seen off some big names, albeit those in the second tier of the continent's very best, with perhaps the exception of Porto and Borussia Dortmund.

PSV Eindhoven are a team that falls into a similar category as those named above. Porto were not the force of old when the sides met in 2019 and when Dortmund took on Rangers back in late February, they were without the services of Erling Haaland – how might history have been changed had the Norwegian been available to the German side for those two Round of 32 matches.

Similarly, there is enough to suggest that PSV can be vanquished in similar fashion. Certainly history favours Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side. Rangers have never lost to their Dutch counterparts in the Champions League/European Cup although in their most recent meeting in the 2010/11 Europa League, a Jeremain Lens goal in the second leg at Ibrox was enough to send PSV through to the quarter-finals.

How do this iteration PSV, runners-up in the Eredivisie last season, compare to that side? Favourably it seems. It is side packed with a healthy mix of seasoned pros and up-and-coming youngsters such as Cody Gakpo, currently the object of Manchester United's desires, cunning English winger Noni Madueke and languid midfielder Ibrahim Sangare.

But perhaps the most intriguing of the young talents at their disposal is Xavi Simons. The 19-year-old is a graduate of La Masia and was, during his time at the famed Barcelona academy, spoken about in the same manner in which Lionel Messi used to be touted. Somewhere along the journey the diminutive Simons lost his way, was badly advised and ended up at Paris St-Germain chasing euros. He made just seven appearances in the first team.

His start at PSV, however, has been promising. The attacking midfielder scored twice in Saturday's 5-2 win over Go Ahead Eagles to add to the goal he scored against Ajax in the Johan Cruyff Shield at the start of the season and while these are early days, Simons has long been tipped as the long-term successor to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Scottish football fans might get a glimpse at whether that claim is fanciful or not over the course of the next week.

Sky's the limit

Back when Rangers were imploding at the start of the last decade, Herald Sport ran a feature about the historic value of the TV deal and whether the SPL – as it was then – received bang for its buck. The article concluded that the league's hierarchy had undersold the deal. Admittedly, it was at a time when all and sundry were screaming armageddon over the imminent demise of Rangers and what it might mean for broadcast rights.

Ever since those days, it appears Neil Doncaster and those figures at what became the SPL's replacement, the SPFL, have feared a similar cataclysmic event and have been prepared to accept whichever low-ball offer came the league's way as evidenced by news that the SPFL and Sky Sports are in talks about renewing the deal for a paltry £30m. Accepting a pittance for Scottish football rights (not least when the number of games available has been increased and the rest of the schedule has been ring fenced) was understandable during a time of great uncertainty but it is an undeniable reality that Scottish football's stock is far greater now than it was then. Rather than having to defend the product or paint away negatives, the SPFL is in a position of strength: Celtic and Rangers matches are a thing again, the latter reached a major European final and, as a result of Brexit, big English clubs – and increasingly those from Italy – now do their shopping and scouting in Scotland as they look for young talent to hone for themselves.

Maybe it's time to start accentuating that rather than fearing a tomorrow that might never come but one which is much more likely to materialise when the product is repeatedly sold short by those who are meant to promote it.

Midtjylland and Kennedy a perfect match

John Kennedy was often a scapegoat for Celtic supporters who derided him during his time as Neil Lennon's assistant in the instantly forgettable 2020/21 season when the 10 in a row dream died.

It was grossly unfair on Kennedy who the current Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou described last week as “outstanding”. Certainly, that's what the recruitment company, OneNexus, employed by Midtjylland have concluded after being asked to conduct a trawl of the best men to replace their recently departed head coach Bo Henriksen.

If Kennedy is being targeted by the Danes then he must be doing something right. The club is one of the best run in Scandinavia and recruitment is central to a success story that has brought six trophies in 24 years since the club's formation in 1999. This is where Kennedy comes in. Svend Graversen, the Midtjylland sports director, told Herald Sport last year that the club's recruitment strategy had now extended beyond measuring whether the individual in question was not just suitable based on talent but also on whether their personality was a fit with the club's ethos.

“The key problem in many scouting processes is that the person does not fit the values and the way you work in the clubs. That is the hard part to get around and this something that we are looking into. How we interact together is essential.”

Golf's murky goldfish bowl

There was much hullabaloo about Scottie Scheffler's decision to march across the line of Cam Smith's putt at the FedEx St Jude Championship last week. Was this a sign that Scheffler was flipping the bird to the Australian who has refused to confirm or deny reports that he is about to defect to the Saudi Arabian LIV Series? Scheffler was called out repeatedly on social media for the act – apparently a more egregious crime in golfing circles, than, you know, accepting millions of pounds from a state that indulges in the murder of journalists, the persecution of critics, the oppression of women and the complete denial of LGBT rights.

It says much about the goldfish bowl that golfers and assorted aficionados lurk in when actual human rights violations are considered less of an offence than Scheffler making a point – if indeed, that's what he was even attempting to do. Or, indeed, when the Saudis are cosying up to Donald Trump, a man who has just had his house raided by the FBI because he is under investigation for potential violations of the Espionage Act.

Ojabo back on his feet again

News from the NFL: David Ojabo has featured in the Monday kick-off more than once in the past so it only seems right to give a progress update on his recovery from injury.

Last time we checked in on the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who grew up in Aberdeen, he had just torn his Achilles during his pro-day. The former Michigan stand-out had been slotted to go in the first round of the NFL draft but the injury sustained that day meant he ended up sliding all the way to the second round. It complicated his contract negotiations – he stood to earn a pay day in the 10s of millions – to such an extent that he ended up being the last of the league's entire draft class to sign his deal. It sounds as if it will be worth the wait for the Ravens whose head coach John Harbaugh said last week that Ojabo was ahead of schedule on his return: "He swears he's going to be back midseason at the latest. I told him, 'All right, time to get in the weight room. We've got to get rid of those beach legs and get some football legs back underneath you.'"


The number of points Celtic have dropped at so-called 'tricky' Rugby Park over the past 10 years. The bulk of those lost points (six) came during Scotland manager Steve Clarke's time as Kilmarnock boss