Scottish football: All eyes will be on Tannadice this lunchtime where new Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara takes charge for the first time against Rangers, who have controversially refused their entire allocation of tickets.
McNamara, an ex-Celtic defender, has taken over the reigns after Peter Houston left the Tayside club on Monday. The 39-year-old was previously in charge of Partick Thistle.
He admitted the atmosphere for the Scottish Cup fifth round clash “will be strange” without the travelling Ibrox support, but has called on his players to have “belief they can win these games.”
The boycott relates to the period last summer when a financially broken Rangers were refused readmission to the top flight, with chief executive Charles Green describing some clubs as “effectively engaged in trying to harm” the Govan outfit.
An additional gripe concerns an abandoned game at Tannadice three years ago, when Rangers fans were charged full price again for the rearranged fixture.
Dundee United will have Johnny Russell available after the Tangerines turned down a late transfer window bid from Sheffield United for the striker’s services. Russell has bagged 14 goals this season and will be eager to continue that form against the Light Blues’ rearguard.
Rangers have named Lee Wallace as stand-in captain for the match against United. Wallace, who was called up to the Scotland squad this week, will deputise for the injured skipper Lee McCulloch.
Celtic travel to Fife on Sunday to face Raith Rovers who memorably beat the Hoops on penalties in the final of the 1994 League Cup.
The tie at Stark’s Park is an 8,000 sell-out and Rovers boss Grant Murray believes his men can upset the odds yet again.
“There’s no point in going into the game if we don’t believe we can win it,” he said. “We’re up against Celtic and no matter what team they put out they are a quality side.”
Neil Lennon’s men will be keen to keep the momentum going after a convincing victory over Kilmarnock in midweek, a result which helped ease the pain of their League Cup semi-final exit against St Mirren the previous weekend.
Reflecting on the transfer window the Celtic boss said he was “delighted to have kept our main players” — notably Gary Hooper who was the subject of several bids from Norwich City.
One newcomer to Parkhead — the Australian playmaker Tom Rogic — has said he is unlikely to feature against Raith, but hopes to make the starting line up soon and “contribute in any way possible.”
There are just three all-SPL ties with Hibernian taking on Aberdeen at Easter Road, Kilmarnock hosting Inverness Caledonain Thistle, while St Johnstone travel to Paisley to take on St Mirren.
Elsewhere it’s Dunfermline versus Hamilton, Falkirk against Forfar and Dundee are at home to Morton.
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