Carter-Vickers would be wise to stick around at Celtic

Cameron Carter-Vickers was out on a limb last summer. The Tottenham Hotspur defender, a staple of pre-season outings under Mauricio Pochettino, José Mourinho and now Nuno Espírito Santo, knew that his forthcoming season would be spent – as it had been for the previous four campaigns – away from the North London club.

He was once hailed in reverential tones by those in the know at Spurs, some even putting his performances at youth team level in the same bracket as those of Ledley King at a similar age. Carter-Vickers seemed to confirm those glowing reports with a debut for the United States Under-20s, aged 17, long before he had even got a sniff of the Tottenham first team. But it never quite happened for the centre-half. Undersized, and ponderous on the ball at times, a succession of loan moves to the Championship and League 1 followed, and until this undoubtedly excellent season at Celtic that looked the limit to his abilities.

A dreadful mistake in Spurs' Europa Conference League qualifier against Pacos de Ferreira did little to convince management or supporters that Carter-Vickers was a late developer in the manner that Harry Kane had been at the other end of the pitch for Tottenham. At Celtic, though, Carter-Vickers has look composed and commanding and has been a menace in the opposition penalty area as his four goals will testify.

Now 24, the defender has a decision to make. The noise coming out of Celtic – delivered by manager Ange Postecoglou at Friday's press conference – is that he will make it as early as this week. In the aftermath of Saturday's 6-0 win over Dundee United, the player was asked by Sky's Luke Shanley if his future lies at Parkhead with Celtic holding an option on the player to sign for £6m, somewhat ominously he replied: "I'm just enjoying today at the moment. We'll see."

With Newcastle rumoured to be interested in taking the defender to St James' Park (he previously spent a season on loan at Bournemouth under Eddie Howe) it would be a shock if he opted to make Celtic his home next season. But a return to the Premier League might not be the best option for the player. As good as Carter-Vickers has been this season, he is perhaps just short of being elite. At Celtic there is the chance to grow and a good way to test that theory would be Champions League group stage football. Shine on that stage and he will have no shortage of takers next summer.

What is World Rugby thinking?

This columnist has never quite understood the foibles of rugby administration. Back in the not-too-distant past the SRU once decided that it might be a jolly good idea to run a cup final and league match into one, for example, just to ease fixture congestion as if this was some kind of solution to the problem. It's the kind of cack-handed thinking that helps in part to explain the new global rugby tournament that World Rugby has just scribbled out on the back of a very tatty fag paper.

The early sketchings suggest the global tournament – which will start in four years and include the northern and southern hemisphere teams plus Fiji and Japan – will look uncannily similar to the World Cup and thus in 2026, 2027, and 2028, there will be competitions to determine which team is the best on the planet.

Not according to World Rugby, of course. Here's the chief executive Alan Gilpin attempting a Simone Biles style triple-double of verbal gymnastics: “We’ll try and persuade people who are listening that world champions isn’t the right name,” he said of a tournament that will pit all of World Rugby's nations against each other. Yes, he really said that.

This all sounds very much like FIFA's much-derided (but so-far-spurned) idea to host a World Cup every two years but with one crucial difference – it's going to happen annually with all the potential for injuries, additional travel, fatigue and fat TV deals that that will bring.

World Rugby has made plenty of noise in recent years about ensuring player welfare is of paramount importance – but clearly it is of no such thing to the governing body.

Heckingbottom's second chance at United

As Hibernian sifted through the applications for a new manager and alighted on the name of Lee Johnson last week, minds might have turned to the last boss the Edinburgh side appointed from English football's lower reaches.

Tomorrow evening, Paul Heckingbottom takes his Sheffield United side to Nottingham Forest for the second leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals trailing 2-1 from the first leg - but by no means out of the contest. It follows a season in which he has transformed the fortunes of a team that was struggling to adapt to the hammer blow of relegation from the Premier League last season.

Since his appointment following the sacking of Slavisa Jokanovic in November, United went on a run until the end of February during which they lost just one match.

Heckingbottom guided Hibs to a fifth-place finish having succeeded Neil Lennon in February 2019 before a poor start to the following campaign and he left with the Edinburgh side stuck in 10th albeit after just 11 games. It perhaps raises the question about whether Hibs were too hasty in ridding themselves of the Englishman just as they were with Jack Ross earlier this season.

It's a big week for Rangers

There has been an inevitability about Rangers' progress to the Europa League final that has been a wonder to behold. Just as it became obvious that Leicester City were going to defy the odds to win the Premier League in 2016, so too Rangers have continued to put teams to the sword who have appeared better equipped and better resourced than they are throughout the course of a thrilling European adventure. Of course, at no point were Rangers 5000/1 to win the Europa League – they could be backed at a much more conservative 50/1 back in September.

To anyone who has been present at Ibrox on a European night in recent years it was clear that this had been building for some time. Rangers have been a different beast in Europe's second competition notwithstanding last year's Premiership title win. What started as impressive form under Steven Gerrard – with roof-raising wins over Porto, Feyenoord, Braga and Galatasaray – has been built upon and further invigorated by Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Indeed, he has probably elevated them beyond what Gerrard would have been capable of.

But not even the most ardent Rangers fan at the outset of this campaign could have imagined it possible that they could stand on the brink of a second European trophy for a win which would take Scotland to ninth outright on the all-time list of continental club trophies won. Whatever happens in Seville on Wednesday night, it has been some ride.

Dry deserves a chance to shine

You can't knock Mark Dry's indefatigable spirit as he bids for a third Commonwealth Games medal in a row after bronze in the hammer in Glasgow and Gold Coast. The 34-year-old who served a controversial 28-month ban imposed on him by the United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency, was recently recalled to the Scotland team for the Loughborough international meeting at the Paula Radcliffe stadium later this month.

Shorn of British Athletics funding some time ago, Dry has been putting in the hard yards not just in the throwing circle but also away from the athletics track as he seeks to fund his latest tilt at a medal in Birmingham.

Dry says he would dearly love some financial support as his busy schedule is starting to take its toll and fears that injury caused by the strain he is putting himself under – he has worked as a sports therapist, scaffolder and joiner in recent times – might scupper his hopes of achieving his dream.

“I’m positive, but I am also frustrated that I am so fatigued,” he said. “I’m just working flat out and trying to build up enough money that I can take some time off before the Commonwealths. But I also need to put myself in the position to make the team. I’ve been working seven days a week for the last three weeks or so and I’m just exhausted. I’m healthy but I’m borderline on running that exhaustion line of burning that candle at both ends. Will I end up picking injuries in that zone? That’s somewhere I don’t want to be.”


The number of points accrued by Dundee in 13 games since Mark McGhee's appointment. The relegated Dens Park outfit averaged 0.84 points per game (21 from 25 games) under James McPake, the man McGhee replaced in February. McGhee's average was just 0.61.