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Sunday, January 13, 2008
Gers Cup tie called off, Old Firm game postponed

SPL to meet regarding Gers fixtures pile-up

The Scottish Premier League will bid to sort out Rangers' ever-increasing fixture backlog tomorrow after torrential rain washed out their second fixture in a week.

The Scottish Cup fourth-round tie with East Stirlingshire was postponed after the Ibrox pitch was found to be waterlogged during an early inspection.

The match was soon rearranged for January 23 - the date provisionally pencilled in for the Old Firm clash at Celtic Park.

That has left the SPL seeking new dates for the Glasgow derby and Rangers' visit to St Mirren, which was called off on Tuesday.

However, Rangers have only one free midweek before March because of their involvement in both domestic cups and the UEFA Cup.

And that week, the first in February, is set aside for international commitments with the SFA hoping to arrange a training camp for the new Scotland manager.

The SPL will seek to reschedule the games at a meeting in the morning but secretary Iain Blair admits it will not be easy to fit the games in.

'We are going to look at it first thing tomorrow and see what we can do,' Blair said.

'Obviously there is serious fixture congestion involving Rangers at the moment.

'We would like to get the whole thing sorted out as soon as possible.

'But Rangers and Celtic are both heavily involved in a number of competitions. It is quite challenging to fit everything in.'

The next scheduled Old Firm derby will take place at Ibrox on March 29 and the second postponement of the Parkhead fixture means there could be two within a matter of days.

The first two midweeks in March may be ruled out as Celtic face Barcelona in the Champions League on March 4 and Rangers may be playing in the UEFA Cup the following week.

The Ibrox men's March schedule will not become clearer until their last-32 contest with Panathinaikos is decided next month.

Blair added: 'We will make the best decision we can with the information available to us, but obviously some circumstances are outwith our control.'

Scotland are likely to have a friendly - possibly against Poland - on March 26, ruling out another week.

The league splits after April 5, when Rangers face Dundee United at Tannadice, leaving few opportunities for the outstanding games to be played.

And there will be another postponement ahead for Rangers if they beat Hearts in the CIS Insurance Cup semi-final later this month, as their SPL match at Motherwell on March 15 would make way for the final the following day.

The outstanding games against Celtic and St Mirren have both now been postponed twice.

The Love Street contest was called off in November to help Scotland prepare for their Euro 2008 clash against Italy and the Old Firm game was put back from January 2 following the death of Motherwell skipper Phil O'Donnell.

Rangers will face Gretna at Fir Park on Wednesday in another rearranged SPL match.

Manager Walter Smith succeeded in a bid to postpone that game in December to prevent his side picking up injuries before their Champions League group decider against Lyon, which they lost 3-0.

Smith will need to call on his full squad amid the heavy schedule but he hopes to have two players back in contention soon.

Defenders Stevie Smith and Andy Webster are continuing their rehabilitation from long-term injuries. Smith, who has also confirmed his interest in Everton striker James McFadden, said: 'Stevie is training with the squad and would be ready to play a reserve game at this stage.

'However, the reserve league doesn't restart for another couple of weeks.

'But he is fine and I'm hoping he will be back in contention for the first team by the end of the month. The same applies to Andy Webster.

'We have quite a big group of players and the pair of them will make us even stronger.'




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