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Steven Naismith agrees to cut wages in half to save jobs at Hearts amid coronavirus shutdown

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Hearts captain Steven Naismith has agreed to cut his wages by 50 percent in order to keep the relegation-bound club afloat amid the coronavirus shutdown.

The 33-year-old attacking midfielder, who played for Everton and Norwich City, announced the decision after Hearts owner Ann Budge asked for all employees to cut their wages in half until play resumes. One of the highest earners on the team, Naismith joins manager Daniel Stendel, who has agreed to work for no pay, in taking serious initiative to better Hearts’ cash-flow crisis.

“Like my team-mates, I’ve been thinking a lot about the request from Hearts to reduce our wages by 50 per cent to help the club and protect as many jobs as possible during this uncertain period,” Naismith said. “I have discussed it at great length with my family.

“The current circumstances put everyone in a very difficult position, but this isn’t a problem of Hearts’ making. My family and I feel that, through a long career, football has been very good to us. Therefore, I personally feel that I can and should accept the 50 per cent reduction in wages.

“I hope this can contribute in some way to the long-term survival of the club at a challenging time and save jobs, especially those that are the lowest earners and hence those who will be struggling the most at this time,” he added.

After finishing sixth in the 2018-19 campaign, Hearts currently sit dead last in the table (23 points), four points behind second-worst Hamilton with three matches to go in the Scottish Premiership.

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Gerrard’s Rangers clinch place in Europa League Round of 16

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Steven Gerrard put another bullet line on his managerial resume with a place in the Europa League Round of 16.

Rangers kept an away clean sheet at Sporting Braga to win 1-0 on Wednesday, 4-2 on aggregate.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Former Liverpool youth Ryan Kent was the goal scorer, giving him 13 goals and 13 assists in his two seasons in Glasgow.

“This is no fluke,” Gerrard preened. “This has come from sheer hard graft. We knew there was an opportunity. We need to enjoy tonight. We’ll be really proud when the draw is made.”

Gerrard admitted that the goal was to cede possession to the hosts, but keep the ball with their back five. Braga had 69 percent of the ball and a 13-9 edge in shots, but Rangers put five of nine shots on target.

Rangers reach the Round of 16 for the first time since 2011, when it lost to PSV Eindhoven 1-0 over two legs. The last time it went farther was the 2008 UEFA Cup Final loss to Zenit Saint-Petersburg.

Rangers are 12 points off Celtic with a match-in-hand in the race for the Scottish Premiership. Celtic will bid to move to the Round of 16 when they host Copenhagen on Thursday following a 1-1 draw in Denmark.

Gerrard slams Rangers’ mentality as title hopes slip away

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The good news: Steven Gerrard appears set to take Rangers to back-to-back second-place finishes in the Scottish Premiership in his first two seasons in charge.

[ MORE: The race for Premier League promotion is red-hot ]

The bad news: While that’s an improvement on the back-to-back third-place finishes which preceded Gerrard’s appointment in the summer of 2018, the distance which Rangers still have to close between themselves and eight-time defending champions, and hated rivals, Celtic is still quite large.

As recently as Jan. 24, Rangers trailed Celtic by just two points and had a game in hand which could have sent them top of the league. Since that point, Rangers have dropped eight points from five games and trail by 10 points (still with a game in hand).

Gerrard is very displeased by these recent results and picked Wednesday, after losing 2-1 away to seventh-place Kilmarnock, to make it known — quotes from the BBC:

“I thought we had the mentality and the characters to sustain a push, but on the evidence of the last four to five weeks, I’m getting proven wrong.

“But having said that, it’s me as well because I’m responsible for that group of players.”

“Very, very tough. You’ve got to look at the form of other people that are relentless right now.

“But we keep going and try to change the situation that we put ourselves in. There’s no denying they’re obviously in the driving seat”

[ MORE: Report: Chelsea closing in on Hakim Ziyech deal ]

Gerrard is widely perceived to have done well at Rangers, which will almost certainly lead to his name being linked with any mid-table-to-bottom-half Premier League jobs beginning either this summer or the next one. His window to unseat Celtic is probably small, as is that of Rangers based on the evidence of the last few weeks.

Scottish manager reports himself for breaching gambling rules

Scottish manager breaches gambling rules
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GLASGOW, Scotland — A manager in Scotland’s top division reported himself to the country’s soccer federation for breaching gambling rules.

Hamilton Academical manager Brian Rice has struggled with a gambling addiction in the past, and said Monday: “My disease has returned.”

Rice was charged by the Scottish Football Association for breaching rules in each of the past five seasons and faces a hearing on Jan 30.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

“I have apologized to those at the club in whom I have sought counsel,” Rice said, “and I apologize today to the players, fans and colleagues I have let down through my gambling addiction.”

Rice, who has coached Hamilton since last January, said he reported himself “to remove the stigma attached to this horrible, isolating disease, in the hope that those involved in Scottish football who are similarly in its grasp feel they can seek help.”

“After committing to recovery, I cannot believe that I have found myself back in the grip of gambling addiction but this disease is not cured with a finite course of treatment,” he said. “You are an addict for life and through my commitment to the 12-step recovery program, I am confident I can stay on top of this disease one day at a time.”

Hamilton is in 11th place in the 12-team Scottish Premiership.

Rangers beat Celtic to take charge of title race

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Rangers beat bitter rivals Celtic 2-1 in the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park on Sunday as Steven Gerrard‘s side now have the chance to jump ahead of their Glasgow rivals and move to the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Rangers took the lead in the first half after Alan McGregor saved a penalty kick from Ryan Christie as Ryan Kent then made it 1-0 three minutes later, but Odsonne Edouard equalized for Celtic just before the break in a typically tight, feisty encounter.

Nikola Katic scored the winner for Rangers who had top goalscorer Alfredo Morales sent off late on, as Gerrard and his players celebrated wildly at the final whistle.

After losing the Scottish League Cup final in extra time to 10-man Celtic earlier this month after missing a penalty kick, this victory would have tasted sweet for Gerrard and Co.

Celtic have won the Scottish title for the last eight seasons on the trot but they are now two points ahead of Rangers but the latter have a game in hand.

Could this be the year Rangers finally break Celtic’s stranglehold on the Scottish title? The ‘Gers last won the title in 2011 and since then they’ve been relegated to the fourth tier, promoted back to the top-flight and now they seem to be serious contenders for Celtic.

With both teams in the knockout round of the UEFA Europa League in the second half of this season it will be intriguing to see who handles the domestic and European games better.