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Bill Leckie; From Minsk to M-Ince.

Not a bad week all round, really.

Sunday, watched Scotland do the bizzo in Minsk. Chuffed to bits for Gaz McAz - can you believe it's a year since Wembley? Me neither.

Don't want to speak too soon, but I'd say we can start thinking about France next summer thanks to our reserves showing so much bottle in Belarus.

Once we get Hendry, Calderwood, Collins, McGinlay and the rest back we should be well on for turning them at home and then topping it off with a win over Latvia.

But then I'm the bloke who stood on the terraces in Monte Carlo confidently predicting that we'd score any minute.

Sunday night, swam in the glorious warm waters of Brazil v Italy.

Wonderful. You watch Zagalo's team getting nearer and nearer the Class of 1970 and you just can't wait to go down the park and practice your keepy-uppy.

They should have played extra-time, a day and a half of it, then next goal's the winner, but headers and fancies only. One to watch over and over, if you hadn't been a plank and forgotten to set the vid.

Still, there was always another day and that day was Tuesday. Went and bought a 1970 Brazil No.10 shirt for the occasion, then remembered - tsk, tsk, silly old me - that I was going to watch the game in a boozer full of E**lishmen.

Honestly, I'd forget my head if the knuckle-scrapers didn't want to kick it off for me. Shouted a lot that night, mainly things like "Ole" and "Oh no, looks like a goal by Romario". All good clean fun.

One nifty bit of marker pen artwork later, "10" became "1-0" and by the time I explained my theory that, just as Rik in the Young Ones was spelled with a silent P, Paul Ince's surname actually had a silent M, it was turning into an evening to remember.

And then there was Thursday and the news that the finest player I have ever seen in Scottish football wasn't doing a runner after all.

All I can say is, massive respect is due to Rangers - and Muz in particular - for keeping Brian Laudrup in the game.

And before all you Celtic fans - including the one standing over me with a rolling pin as I write this - start giving it the there-ye-go-ah-always- knew-he-was-wanna-them paranoia, remember one thing.

Rangers also beat you when Laudrup WASN'T playing.

This time last week I was all set to write a piece on how they had finally, eventually, taken the leap forward they've threatened for so long; but then the news broke that their greatest asset was leaving.

Suddenly all the summer's advances - the arrival of a foreign coach, the signing of Thern and two top-drawer defenders, the daring bid for Ronaldo - lost their sheen.

You wondered just what a downer there would be on the day their Great Dane went walkies for good.

A couple of seasons ago, last summer even, you wouldn't have bet tuppence on Muz being able to talk the boy round. But something has happened at Ibrox, something you can't put your finger on, which seems to have propelled them into a different orbit.

And so, as Ajax sat back waiting with a spacecake and an Oranjeboom and Fergie came out gloating that the player was his, Muz quietly got down to the business of making Laudrup stay.

Were I a Celtic man, I would be so afraid. No manager, no sign of a manager, two biggest names threatening to do a bunk, no sign of new blood, season ticket holders in a major huff.

Call me picky, but things do not look good. And hell mend them.

I cannot believe how quickly and how far Fergus McCann has allowed things to slip, especially after Tommy Burns took them so close.

It is easy to say now that Burns was a failure, but what is nearer to the truth is that he was a very good manager with the wrong club.

The closer he got to toppling Rangers, the more his emotional attachment to Celtic overtook the rational thinking his job required.

Others would disagree, but I reckon Burns will go on to be a huge success elsewhere, starting in King Kenny's bootroom at the Toon.

What is not up for argument, though, is that Celtic are in a far worse state without him than they were with him. Rangers are leaving them further and further behind with every passing day and there is no white smoke from the Parkhead chimney to signal a comeback.

The Ibrox men are, I reckon, one more signing away from finally leaving their greatest rivals - and, therefore, the rest of us - so far behind them they will be no more than a dancing dot on the horizon.

Who is that signing? I'd go for Batistuta - though Muz says no - but whoever they end up with he will be big time and he will be here soon.

It's enough to make any Celtic fan hide behind the couch. Sorry? Oh, you already are ...
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Leckie, Bill
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 13, 1997
Words:848
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