BIG DROP FOR POOR SCOTS: There’s bad news for any Scotland fans who actually care about where FIFA rank our wee nation’s fitbaw team in the world. Gordon Strachan’s men have dropped 10 places to 67 in FIFA’s latest rankings leaving them stranded between the great footballing nations of Benin and Guinea-Bissau (give yourself a pat on the back if you can name any of their players). The Scots haven’t had the best year, having missed out on Euro 2016 the national team has won just three and drawn one of their eight games in the calendar year, finishing off with a disappointing 3-0 loss against England at Wembley earlier this month.
I’m sure it won’t bother Gordon Strachan though, who’s still got a job thanks to the SFA’s decision last week to keep him in the post.
NAGBE’S IN A NO GO: Celtic have been warned by MLS outfit Portland Timbers that attacking midfielder Darlington Nagbe is not for sale. The US international was at Celtic Park last night to watch the Hoops’ loss to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League and was blown away by the atmosphere at the ground.
It had been rumoured that the 26-year-old would be available for around £1.5million, however, the Timbers believe that value is well below their estimation of the player, who is contracted to the 2015 MLS Cup winners until 2019.
NO ROOM FOR JUAN MORE: Hearts boss Robbie Neilson is adamant there is no need for striker Juanma to be recalled from his loan spell with Murcia despite the Edinburgh club’s current attackers struggling to find the net so far this season. Tony Watt, Robbie Muirhead, Conor Sammon and Bjorn Johnsen have only mustered four goals between them this campaign with full-back and Scotland international, Callum Paterson leading the scoring charts for the Tynecastle club with five goals.
Neilson said: “Juanma is there until the end of the season so we will deal with that at the close of season.
“It is up to the club that he moved as to what happens next but the situation at the moment is that I feel we have better strikers here than that (bringing him back) would offer us.”
GUESS WHO’S BACK…MAYBE: Maybe it was silly of me to think that Joey Barton leaving Rangers would be the last we’d hear of the man whose drama-filled Ibrox career went up in flames. But the fiery 34-year-old is back training with his old side Burnley in order to keep himself fit. The midfielder, who left Burnley for Rangers in the summer, was awarded the Claret’s Player of the Year last season having helped them gain promotion from the Championship to the Premiership.
But Burnley manager Sean Dyche is keeping his cards close to his chest on if the club will re-sign Barton:”He’d had an indifferent time with being away from the club and different things going on in Scotland, so it’s about getting him fit and sharp.
“That’s good for him, who knows about us? We’ll take that on when I see fit.”
“Hopefully that will be in the highlights reel come the end of my career. When you do it against a superstar like Suarez it’s always going to get talked about more.
“It’s something that we actually worked on during the week – the speed against goal. It’s how Barcelona get a lot of their goals so my goalkeeping coach had me well prepped for that kind of thing to happen.
“We were doing similar exercises for a few days leading up to it. I didn’t make too many saves in training but I got the one that mattered.” (Despite suffering a 2-0 loss to Barcelona that knocked them out of Europe, Hoops’ keeper Craig Gordon upbeat about efforts to deny Suarez from close range)
“Without giving it a lot of thought, there are two points come to mind. One is, a fundamental part of our model here is producing young players to move on to maintain the club. To guarantee the long-term survival of the club, we need to do that, we need to be allowed to do that.
“And the second one is, I would challenge any team in the top division in Scotland to show that they are playing more young players coming through their academy than we are. We are putting our money where our mouth is, we are putting players in the team.
“And if our ability to do that is affected in any way by any new change of tiers or whatever, then I think it will be a disgrace.” (Motherwell gaffer Mark McGhee isn’t a fan of the SFA’s new plans for a two-tier youth league that will include an eight-team ‘elite league’)