After brave battle, Rangers’ top-flight return can help Scotland prosper

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After four years in exile, Rangers returned to the top-flight of Scottish soccer on Tuesday with a win over Dumbarton in front of nearly 50,000 fans at their famous Ibrox Stadium.

Now, a new journey begins.

[ MORE: Rangers finish long trip back to the top ]

After being demoted to the fourth and lowest tier of Scottish soccer in 2012 after going into administration and then liquidation, the great Scottish club was reduced to ruins amid severe mismanagement from Craig Whyte and Charles Green who are both currently embroiled in a criminal investigation with regards to alleged fraudulent acquisition of the club in 2012.

The Rangers Football Club PLC were liquidated and a new club rose from the ashes: The Rangers Football Club Ltd.

After three promotions in the last four years, they are now back where they belong after overcoming severe financial restrictions and battling their way through the lower leagues of the Scottish pyramid. There have been plenty of mistakes made along the way and tough times off the pitch still lie ahead when it comes to finances, but this is a fresh start for Rangers. 

We are talking about a team who has more league titles (54) than any team in Scottish history and were perennially in the UEFA Champions League alongside bitter rivals Glasgow Celtic. It’s like demoting Real Madrid or Barcelona to the fourth tier of Spanish soccer, then tying one arm behind their back.

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The fact that the Old Firm rivalry will return to Scottish Premiership next season is another reason for celebration, but Rangers’ return to the big time will also help the whole of Scotland.

Celtic have won the Premiership title in each of the four seasons Rangers were out of the top-flight but now they’ll have a real rival again as Aberdeen, Motherwell and Hearts have failed to provide sustained resistance. Under Mark Warburton, Rangers will be very competitive in their first season back in the top-flight and already their players are focusing on challenging for the title next season.

Anyone who has ever visited Ibrox will tell you how passionate their fanbase is and their fans will expect instant success back in the top tier of Scottish soccer.

But a word on the fans: they’ve been alongside their team all along.

PETERHEAD, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 11: A view into the stadium during the IRN-BRU Scottish Third Division match between Peterhead and Glasgow Rangers at Balmoor Stadium on August 11, 2012 in Peterhead, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Since Peterhead away in the fourth tier in 2012 in their first league game after the humiliating demotion, to last night at Ibrox against Dumbarton, Rangers’ fans have traveled the length and breadth of Scotland supporting their team. They’ve rolled into tiny coastal towns in their thousands and must be commended for the way most of them have shrugged their shoulders and got on with the punishment handed out to them by the Scottish Football Association.

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You’d rarely hear Rangers fans, players or management complain about the situation they found themselves in. Many times they’ve had financial hiccups along the way with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley investing in the parent company who owns Rangers and plenty of other financial travails, but the fans stuck by the team and rather enjoyed traveling to Montrose, Stenhousemuir and Alloa Athletic. Their loyalty should be rewarded in the coming years.

Rangers’ return to the top-flight restores order in Scotland. With Gordon Strachan leading the Scottish national team in the right direction and Rangers back in the Premiership, a brighter future awaits.

Assuming Rangers challenge Celtic for the title next season, potentially having two teams challenging in Europe will be a great thing for Scotland. Celtic didn’t even make the UCL last season and crashed out of the Europa League at the group stage. The lack of proper competition in Scotland’s top-flight has hurt them. After losing their two UEFA Champions League spots due to poor performances in European club competitions, with a strong Celtic and Rangers — that will happen now as Celtic can’t take things for granted and Rangers will be desperate to usurp their crosstown rivals immediately — there’s a chance Scotland’s coefficient will climb and they’ll at least grab two UCL qualification spots back.

Right now they only have three Europa League spots and one UCL spot for the champions as they sit 25th in UEFA’s coefficient rankings and need to get into the top 15 to gain a second UCL spot.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 5 : Rangers players celebrate on the pitch as Rangers beat Dumbarton 1-0 to clinch the Scottish Championship title during the match between Glasgow Rangers FC and Dumbarton FC at Ibrox Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

It will take time for Scotland to get anywhere close to replicating the heady days of Celtic and Rangers being in the Champions League together plus managers — Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Kenny Dalglish to name a few — and players starring in the Premier League and elsewhere in Europe, but Rangers’ arrival back in the top-flight should open up a new chapter for the passionate soccer nation of just over five million people.

Next season Rangers will be hoping they can continue their climb back to the summit of Scottish soccer by winning the Premiership title.

For now, they should revel in the tough climb they had up through the league’s in the last four years. After consecutive promotions from the fourth and third tiers, they’ve taken two years to get out of the second tier so maybe we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and presume they’ll be challenging for the title next season. That said, it’s Rangers. It is what we expect.

Speaking as someone who has spent time in Scotland slugging away in the lower leagues, what they’ve achieved is no mean feat. They’ve gone through three management teams, countless players and had many ups and downs as financial turmoil threatened to derail the club once again in 2014.

Captain Lee Wallace has been part of this journey throughout and he’s best equipped to explain exactly what this promotion means to Rangers.

“The fact of the matter is, we are back where we belong,” Wallace said. “Every singe player associated with Rangers, every single fan can be proud of what we have done over the last four years and we are finally there.”

Picking the Copa America knockout stage

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The Copa America has eliminated four nations, including the two Asian visitors, and now the stage is set for the final eight teams to battle for the title.

The field is wide open as the traditional powers Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and even perfect Colombia and Uruguay have all struggled at times in the competition. With that in mind, here are the picks for our PST writers, and as you can imagine, it’s all over the place in what promises to be an entertaining and exciting final eight. A potential Brazil v. Argentina semifinal matchup would be mouth-watering, while Colombia and Chile meet in the quarters in a matchup that tells you just how brutal this competition can be.

Who do you have going all the way in the South American tournament? Will Lionel Messi carry Argentina to his first major international title? Will James Rodriguez or Alexis Sanchez reignite their career? Can Luis Suarez best his Barcelona teammate and help Edinson Cavani to the crown?


Kyle Bonn

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Venezuela def. Argentina

Chile def. Colombia
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Brazil def. Venezuela
Chile def. Uruguay

Final:
Brazil def. Chile


Joe Prince-Wright

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Argentina def. Venezuela

Chile def. Colombia
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Brazil def. Argentina
Chile def. Uruguay

Final:
Brazil def. Chile


Daniel Karell

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Venezuela def. Argentina

Colombia def. Chile
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Venezuela def. Brazil
Uruguay def. Colombia

Final:
Uruguay def. Venezuela


Nick Mendola

Quarterfinals:
Brazil def. Paraguay
Argentina def. Venezuela

Colombia def. Chile
Uruguay def. Peru

Semifinals:
Argentina def. Brazil
Uruguay def. Colombia

Final:
Argentina def. Uruguay

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs snag Clarke, Arsenal eyeing French youngster

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According to a number of reports across England, Tottenham may have secured its first new player signing in 511 days, rumored to have completed a deal for Leeds United winger Jack Clarke.

The BBC reports that Clarke has flown south to London for a medical and that the $12.7 million deal is finalized. The report states there are further, unspecified add-ons to that base payment should they trigger.

The 18-year-old made 25 appearances for the Leeds first-team last season, scoring two goals assisting two more as they reached the playoff semifinal. Clarke’s arrival will mark the first Tottenham signing since Lucas Moura joined in January of 2018, famously failing to sign a player last summer to much criticism, before making a run to the Champions League final during the season.


Arsenal is reportedly after a pair of transfer targets, one on either end of the pitch.

First, more concretely, reports indicate that the Gunners are set to bat the signature of young French defender William Saliba. The 18-year-old currently plays for St. Etienne and saw significant playing time last season, bagging 16 league appearances good for over 1,200 minutes as he helped the club secure a Champions League place with a fourth-place finish, aided by the third-best defensive record in the league.

According to an ESPNFC report by Julien Laurens, the two clubs have reached an agreement for Saliba in the range of $28 million, with the Gunners beating Tottenham and PSG to the punch. Saliba will stay at St. Etienne on loan next season as he looks to continue developing at his boyhood club.

The Gunners are reportedly also following Monaco winger Keita Balde, with the Senegal international currently on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Inter, where he racked up 24 Serie A appearances – mostly off the bench – scoring five goals and assisting three more.

Reports in Italy indicate that while Inter had the option to buy at the end of the loan spell, they declined as they believed the $38 million price to be too expensive. With Monaco struggling mightily this past season and in serious flux, it’s likely that Balde could move on and help the French club gain funds to reinvest.

Balde found the back of the net in Senegal’s opening AFCON match, a 2-0 win over Tanzania, marking his fourth international goal in 24 caps.


Another African on international duty is Kalidou Koulibaly, whose future is still under serious speculation.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said Wednesday – completely joking, mind you – that he won’t even return from his vacation in Canada if the club sells Koulibaly. That won’t stop the two Manchester clubs from having a go, and to this point Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has held firm that only a bid that reaches his $154 million release clause will pry him from the Italian side.

Koulibaly wouldn’t be drawn into speculation about his future when approached at the tournament in Africa, saying, “I don’t know [if I’ll still be at Napoli next year], I think so, but I have to play the AFCON and then after that I’ll go back to Napoli.”

Manchester United has been much closely linked with Koulibaly than Manchester City, but it may be difficult to convince him to switch with the Red Devils not participating in the Champions League next season.


Everton is reportedly in the hunt for Juventus striker Moise Kean according to the Liverpool Echo, with the 19-year-old breaking out last season with The Old Lady. He scored six goals in 13 appearances down the stretch of the season, coming into the squad after the club had all but secured the league title.

While he is a big strike prospect for Juventus, the club is somewhat crowded at the position with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Mario Mandzukic at the position. The club surely could take its time bringing him along, but apparently a disciplinary issue while with the Italy U-21 team at the Euros this summer has added to the club’s concern, along with his hesitation at signing a new contract. Kean’s current deal expires next summer, so this would be the time to cash in on his high-rising stock.

The report states it would cost around $34 million to land the youngster and Ajax is also in the mix.

Women’s World Cup mascot costume stolen from Parc des Prince

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According to reports in France, first by news outlet LCI, the World Cup mascot Ettie had its mascot stolen from Parc des Princes in the early morning hours of last Friday, June 21.

L’Equipe reports the mascot costume has subsequently been recovered and police are investigating.

The reports state that a group of five somehow entered the Paris stadium between 4 and 5 a.m. local time, proceeding to walk around and even play a game on the Parc des Princes pitch before leaving the stadium carrying two large bags that contained the mascot costume. After missing for the weekend, the costume was reportedly returned to a lawyer’s office in Paris on Tuesday in anonymous fashion.

Thankfully, since the costume has been returned, Ettie will be able to make an appearance while the United States takes on host nation France at Parc des Princes in a highly anticipated quarterfinal match on Friday.

The L’Equipe report says that very little was been discernible on the Parc des Princes security camera footage, and police have appealed to the public for assistance. FIFA describes Ettie as “a young chicken with a passion for life and football.” Ettie is the daughter of Footix, the rooster mascot of the 1998 World Cup also held in France.

Toni Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid

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After signing a contract extension in May that runs through 2023, which he said at the time is “probably my last big contract,” Toni Kroos doubled down on that statement, saying he’d like to retire at Real Madrid and will not move to another club as his career winds down.

Speaking to German publication Bild about a new film that documents his life, Kroos said that the end of his current contract is hopefully going to be the end of his career, on his own terms.

“When I am aged 33, that would be a good age to retire,” Kroos told Bild’s subscription service Bild+, as quoted by Marca. “My contract duration was chosen consciously. At 33, that would be a good age to hang up the boots. I will have the opportunity at that moment to choose if I want to do something after that.”

Obviously, it’s possible that something out of his control will take place forcing him to finish his career elsewhere, but he expresses his admiration for Los Blancos and says that he hopes his career will last long enough to ride out his contract and hang up his boots at the club he loves. “Signing for Real Madrid is the best thing I could have done, I will never play in the United States, China or Qatar.”

Kroos also emitted a typical athlete mentality, saying he hoped to make Bayern regret selling him in 2014, something he believes he’s been successful doing. “For me, it was already clear at the time of the transfer that Bayern made a mistake with my sale,” he said. “It’s true that [Bayern president] Uli Hoeness has made it public of late – and it’s a testament to his greatness that he addresses it that way.”

Kroos has won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid as well as a La Liga title since moving to the Bernabeu.