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Winning Title Is Tough, Retaining It Is Harder


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NEIL McCANN will never forget his first SPL championship.

He will also always recall the thrill of landing his third title in a nerve-shredding last day shootout.

But the former Rangers wing king has a special place in his heart - and his trophy cabinet - for his second league crown.

It was captured under Dutch boss Dick Advocaat a decade ago and is Gers' last two-in-a-row triumph.

McCann says there's nothing tougher than retaining a title with EVERY other team gunning for you.

And he feels the completion of back-to-back flags for Walter Smith's men this weekend would prove they are true champs.

McCann said: "For me, the first title in 1999 was something that could never be taken away from me.

"I will never forget the dramatic circumstances of my third one back in 2003 either.

"But the second one was so special because everyone knows how difficult it is to retain the championship.

"Any sportsman will tell you that winning a title is hard enough but retaining it is even tougher.

"That's what made the championship in 2000 so special as everyone was trying so much harder to knock us off the pedestal."

McCann, now a Sky Sports pundit, reckons Celtic pulled out all the stops to try to halt Gers this season.

They brought in Tony Mowbray as gaffer and handed him a transfer war-chest with the intention of wresting back power from Ibrox.

They spent £3.8million on Marco-Antoine Fortune, £1m on Danny Fox and more cash on Landry N'Guemo.

They also brought in mid-winter reinforcements including £65,000-a- week Robbie Keane.

But Gers still stand just 90 minutes away from their first back-to-back titles in a decade.

McCann believes boss Smith deserves special praise for the achievement.

He added: "After you've won one title, the rest definitely shoot at you more. Everyone is gunning for you, especially your oldest rivals.

"The Old Firm is just about winning at all costs. The expectation on both sides is to win the title and the cups.

"If you win them - and we won all three trophies in 1999 - you know it'll be tougher the following season.

"Celtic tried to make it a lot tougher by bringing in Tony and spending reasonably big.

"They increased their wage bill again when they brought in Keane - and without his goals, you wonder how big the gap would have been.

"They knew they had to add something this season to try to get the title back - and all of that just makes Rangers retaining the title even more remarkable."

Smith has led Gers to the brink of the championship with the same side which celebrated last-day glory a year ago.

Victory over Hibs at Easter Road on Sunday will guarantee the trophy stays in Govan.

If Celts drop points at Tannadice earlier in the day, the title race will be over before Gers even kick off.

And McCann is proud to have predicted the championship outcome almost before a ball was kicked.

He recalled: "I remember doing a Sky interview with David Tanner at the start of the season.

"He asked who I thought would win the league and I said Rangers would do enough to retain it.

"I didn't think for a minute they would create an 11-point gap with four games to go. I expected Celtic to come hard at them.

"But I just felt Rangers had a squad which had been over the course and was being led by a man who knew that course.

"I felt that would be enough for them to edge it.

"It has made a massive difference that they've been able to play with a settled squad. Those players know what it takes to grind out ugly results and win titles.

"Not many would've done a better job than Walter given the budget Rangers have."

Alex McLeish landed two championships in 2003 and 2005 but Celts stormed back the following seasons with title wins under Martin O'Neill and Gordon Strachan.

And McCann believes Gers' only regret this term will be falling short of the Treble they achieved under Advocaat in '99 and Big Eck in '03.

He said: "Looking back to 2003 and 2005 only reiterates my point about how tough it is to retain the title.

"I've heard and read lots of stories about how poor this Rangers team is compared to the nine-in-a-row side, but if they win this title what they'll have achieved is magnificent.

"The only thing that will have possibly tinged it with some disappointment will be the fact they're not in the Scottish Cup Final next month."

The Hoops came out fighting after Gers last claimed back-to-back titles. O'Neill was lured north from Leicester and handed the biggest budget in the club's history.

He splashed out £6m fees on Chris Sutton, SunSport columnist John Hartson and current Hoops caretaker boss Neil Lennon.

McCann expects a similar Parkhead backlash as they try to stop three in a row.

He said: "Dermot Desmond will regroup next season and he will go at it hard. Rangers won't expect anything less from Celtic.

"If it's Neil Lennon who is boss, he'll be in the exact same situation he was in as a Celtic player ten years ago. He'll know what's needed and what's at stake.

"And it might be even tougher for the champions if a third team comes out of the pack next term and makes a real challenge."

Read more: http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/sport/spl/2942534/Winning-the-title-is-tough-enough-the-really-hard-bit-is-doing-it-again.html#ixzz0lmlmaCXX


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He is doing really well as a pundit he only struggles when he is with that blonde lassie she is a shite pundit. Cracking player as well.

Ach, he's trying his best to help sexy Ali.

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