Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes has told his players they will be a success story for the second year running if they avoid the drop as he prepares for a major relegation battle at Tannadice.

Killie sit 10th in the cinch Premiership and there are multiple connotations ahead of their clash with bottom club Dundee United on Wednesday night.

The Ayrshire side could potentially relegate their opponents, make themselves safe, remain in a three-way battle to avoid the drop and the play-offs, or even find themselves bottom after the game.

McInnes led Killie to the Championship title last season after hauling back long-time leaders Arbroath and clinching the trophy in a head-to-head battle with their rivals at Rugby Park, and Wednesday’s encounter has a similar vibe.

“For weeks going into the last game of the season last year, we still weren’t odds-on to win the title,” he said. “It was Arbroath’s league and we still had it all to do.

“We are arguably maybe in a worse position than we were then and the prize is the same. We don’t get a trophy for staying in the league but the prize is being a Premiership team next season.

“We have tried to reinforce that to the players – that we can still succeed in what we set out to do this season.

“There’s been a lot of disappointment and frustration and I’m not going to try and dress that up, but we can still succeed in what we intended to do and that’s important we work towards that.”

McInnes accepts that nerves could play their part at Tannadice.

“I think it’s natural for that,” the former Aberdeen manager said. “There is always pressure when you are involved in football and I want to be there to help my players limit those nerves and just go and play the game.

“That can be difficult because everyone is well aware of the situation but it’s the same for all the teams round about us.

“We have played teams who maybe didn’t have quite the same pressure and now we are playing teams who have the same anxieties, fears and responsibility.

“We feel that responsibility and it’s my job and the staff’s job to try and allay those nerves and just deal with the game and concentrate more on the performance.

“There’s loads of different ways you can do that. You try and give confidence anyway. It’s our job as a staff to give confidence to the players.

“Equally it’s difficult to shut out the noise and the situation we are in. You wouldn’t want to. We are in a serious situation, as all the teams are.

“But we just want them to concentrate on trying to play without fear, play with courage and confidence.”

Kieran Cotter is looking forward to taking on the colts with Matilda Picotte when his 1000 Guineas third drops back to six furlongs at Haydock on Saturday.

The daughter of Sioux Nation had never raced over further than seven furlongs before striding out onto the Rowley Mile for the opening fillies’ Classic of the year, but gave a fine account when attempting to make all and kept on gamely for a spot on the podium.

Now she will drop back to the distance both her career victories have come at for the Betfred Nifty Fifty Sandy Lane Stakes where the opposition could include the likes of Aidan O’Brien’s Little Big Bear and last year’s Coventry Stakes winner Bradsell.

The outcome of her trip to Lancashire could determine whether Matilda Picotte then takes up her entry in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot or has another crack at seven furlongs in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville in early July.

“We’re the only filly in the race, but she has taken them (colts and geldings) on before,” said Cotter.

“I know we get 3lb, which is probably not a whole lot, but we don’t see anything there to be totally afraid of. Of course we respect them but we’re not afraid of them.

“She has proper six furlong pace so we’ll just see where the land lies with her before the decision has to be made whether she goes for the Commonwealth Cup or not as she could go for the Prix Jean Prat in France.”

Reflecting on Matilda Picotte’s 1000 Guineas endeavours, Cotter was thrilled with how his charge once again was able to outrun her odds to mix it with the very best.

He added: “The mile at Newmarket is probably the only mile we would have run her over. She had form at the track and we knew she would handle it very well.

“Not a lot of people know this, but the fillies race was almost four seconds faster than the colts and her time for the mile was faster than the winner of the 2000 Guineas the day before. Her second furlong was I think 11 seconds so she did phenomenally well to hold on for third.

“She’s competed at the highest level of company throughout her career and has acquitted herself exceptionally well every single time.”

St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson faces their biggest game of the season with no experienced strikers available after Curtis Main picked up a knock at Celtic.

Main hit the post after netting a double in St Mirren’s 2-2 draw against the champions but is a doubt for Wednesday’s trip to face one of his former clubs, Aberdeen.

Tony Watt and Jonah Ayunga were already ruled out for the season while Alex Greive is struggling with a niggle and was not expected to feature again.

Lewis Jamieson, 21, and 19-year-old Kieran Offord could be in line to make their first Premiership starts of the season.

“Curtis Main has not trained since the game,” Saints manager Robinson said. “He has taken a knock but he had an X-ray and there is no break, but he is unlikely to train.

“I think he likes scoring against Aberdeen, he enjoyed his goals the last time, so he will do everything in his power to be fit.

“Alex Greive is with the physio running. We are just going to have to assess those two at the last minute.

“We have no senior fit strikers. We have young LJ and Kieran, who are very, very good young players, who may have to come into the fold, depending on where we are. We will have a session in the morning and see where we are.

“I have no qualms in throwing the two young boys in. As much as I want our senior strikers fit, especially after Curtis’s performance on Saturday, we will go with real belief whoever is in the team.”

Saints have been disappointed to lose leads against Hearts and Celtic in their last two matches but are only two points behind Hibernian with two games left in the battle for fifth and a possible European place.

Robinson is backing his side to play without fear and believes all the pressure is on Barry Robson’s Aberdeen following their defeat by Hearts on Saturday.

“We over-thought it at Hibs as a group, not to get beat, and didn’t play with our usual fluency, we didn’t press with our usual fluency, and we have just put that to bed,” he said.

“We spoke as a group and backed what we do: pressing teams how and when we want to press them, and getting on the ball and playing, and enjoying the occasion.

“We are under no pressure whatsoever. Nobody expected us to be here. Everyone expects Aberdeen to be third, everybody expects a fight between them and Hearts and Hibs.

“We shouldn’t be there in people’s eyes but we are, deservedly. We go there with no pressure but a real appetite to get a result.

“Barry’s done a tremendous job there but the expectations at Aberdeen are they should be in the top three.

“So that’s the pressures they have to live with. We will go there with a free mind and an energy to match them, because we will need to as they are a very good side.

“There can’t be any fear. We have everything to gain and Aberdeen have everything to lose.”

Morgan Knowles has been told to tighten up his discipline or risk costing St Helens their shot at an unprecedented fifth consecutive Super League Grand Final win.

Knowles picked up his fifth ban in eight months on Friday for a late tackle on Tom Inman in the final minutes of Saints’ 26-6 win over Championship side Halifax in the sixth round of the Challenge Cup.

The 26-year-old, who was making his return from his latest five-match ban at The Shay, will now miss a further two matches, starting with Friday night’s Super League clash with Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.

Saints boss Paul Wellens insists he would not swap England star Knowles for any other forward in the competition but says he must learn his lessons in a season in which disciplinary issues have begun to cost Saints dear.

“I spoke to Morgan individually and obviously he’s disappointed and frustrated,” said Wellens.

“Morgan is probably the best middle forward in the competition and I wouldn’t want to swap him for anybody, but at the same time there are certain aspects of his game that he needs to improve on.

“His challenge is to keep his identity, because what has made him one of the best players in the competition is the fact that he can play tough and physical, but I’ve sat down with him and defined the areas where he’s probably over-stepped the mark.”

Wellens knows that Knowles is not the only Saints player who has let himself down in terms of discipline at times this season, in which they struggled to shake off the after-effects of their pre-season world title win in Australia, and sit in seventh place approaching the midway point of the season.

“We have got a number of players who like to play the game physically and on the edge, but if you are one of those players then discipline is the most important thing for you, and too many times this year we’ve gone way over the line,” added Wellens.

“I’ve used the incidents from last week and previously to draw a line in the sand in terms of what I expect of the players moving forward. There’s a certain moderation of behaviour required if you are going to play the game that way.

“If we’d handled a few areas differently in terms of discipline we’d probably be sitting second or third. That’s how important it is to get it right because decisions like that can affect you pretty badly.”

Saints travel to face Leeds on Friday in the first meeting between the two sides since Leeds’ thrilling 25-24 win at the Totally Wicked Stadium in March.

It was another night in which Wellens’ side were hampered by disciplinary issues, with Konrad Hurrell sent off and both Sione Mata’utia and Curtis Sironen also subsequently banned for incidents during the game.

“We learned from that night that you have got to stay disciplined,” said Wellens.

“At some point in that game we were looking really comfortable, but if you drop your standards against Leeds they will punish you. It is a genuinely big game and a really big challenge for us again this week.”

Vadeni will line up in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh on Sunday after being supplemented at a cost of €45,000.

The four-year-old son of Churchill, who is owned and was bred by the Aga Khan, is trained in Pau, France, by Jean-Claude Rouget.

He won the Prix de Guiche, the Prix du Jockey Club and the Coral-Eclipse last season, having also been supplemented for the latter.

The bay was then third to Luxembourg in the Irish Champion Stakes and second by half a length to Alpinista in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, after which he began his season this time around in the Prix Ganay at ParisLongchamp and finished fourth of seven runners.

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes has been mentioned as a target for the first half of the colt’s season and as the Tattersalls Gold Cup falls neatly between the Ganay and the Royal meeting he has been added to the Group One at the Kildare track.

Georges Rimaud, the Aga Khan’s racing and breeding manager in France, said of the timing of the Curragh race: “There’s a logic to going and running in this race, that’s why we’ve chosen this one.

“Hopefully it will make good sense and he will perform well, I hear there’s no rain planned and we’re not really worried about the type of ground he is going to run on anyway. He has, in the past, liked this sort of fast-ish ground so he should be fine.

“The horse is doing well, he has improved from his last race. We are hoping for a good run from him, the ground should suit him.”

Vadeni is likely to face a familiar rival in Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg, with Sir Michael Stoute’s Bay Bridge, who finished in front of him in the Ganay, also entered.

“It should be a good race, it often is, but this is Vadeni and he is a Group One horse and should be campaigned at that level,” Rimaud said.

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes remains Vadeni’s target come June, though naturally the Irish trip needs to be considered a success for that plan to be pursued.

Rimaud said: “We’ll go a step at a time, that is part of the plan but each part of the plan needs to go well so we’ll see after the race.”

Vadeni’s entry at the Curragh makes matters easier regarding the next steps of last season’s Prix Daniel Wildenstein winner Erevann, who will go to the Prix d’Ispahan now it is not on the agenda for his stablemate.

Rimaud confirmed: “That is the plan, he’s going to run in the Prix d’Ispahan.”

Steve Hansen applauds the Rugby Football Union’s decision to raise the pride flag above Twickenham on Sunday after acknowledging his selection of Israel Folau for the World XV is controversial.

Folau, a Christian fundamentalist, will face Eddie Jones’ Barbarians on Sunday four years after he was sacked by Rugby Australia for publishing a series of anti-gay posts on social media.

The 34-year-old has switched national allegiance and will represent Tonga at the World Cup this autumn having returned to rugby union following an aborted spell in league, the code that launched his career.

The RFU has signalled it will respond to the presence of Folau at Twickenham with a show of support for the LGBTQ+ community by flying the rainbow flag.Hansen, the mastermind of New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup triumph, welcomes the move but insists Folau deserves to be involved in the invitational fixture on the strength of his ability as a player.

“I think it’s great. It’s a consequence of Folau’s selection and I think it’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to show support to that flag. I don’t have a problem with it,” Hansen said.

“There wouldn’t be one there if Israel wasn’t playing so whenever we can bring attention to people who are suffering in a positive way, that’s good.

“They deserve to be loved and cared for as much as anybody else. If we all did that it’d be a happy place, wouldn’t it.

“Israel Folau is a very good rugby player. He’s world class. And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt. And I get that.

“However, I want those people to understand that Israel’s belief and views are not ours. And we don’t agree with them.

“But he’s a rugby player first and foremost and he’s been sanctioned. Those sanctions have finished, he’s playing rugby, he’s probably going to go to the World Cup so my job is to pick the best team I can pick and that’s what I’ve done.”

Hansen will attempt to lift some of the gloom surrounding rugby union by ordering his star-studded World XV side to “put on a show” against the Barbarians.

But the 64-year-old Kiwi still retains misgivings about the drive to stamp out dangerous play that he believes is counter-productive and has brought a “dourness” to the game.

“We see a lot of red cards and while I understand that I just don’t understand why we ruin the game with them,” Hansen said.

“Fans want to see a contest – one of the biggest principles of the game is a fair contest – and we’re giving people red cards for unintentional accidents and calling it foul play.

“If you keep giving red cards out people will think the game’s dirty so it’s imploding upon itself.

“It’s easy for me to sit here and have all the answers, but somehow we’ve got to bring a more common-sense approach to finding a solution rather than just a penalty.

“I wonder if we do this because we want to be able to say ‘well at least we’ve done that’ if we then go to a court hearing?

“That’s pretty cynical of me to think like that, but I can’t help it because sending players off is not fixing the problem.

“Is the data saying we are getting less head knocks by doing what we are doing at the moment? I don’t think so.”

A Group One gap on James Tate’s training CV could be filled this year by Royal Aclaim, who is set to return to action in Saturday’s Betfred Temple Stakes at Haydock.

The filly was sent off 5-2 favourite to provide Tate with a breakthrough success in the Nunthorpe last season, but finished sixth behind Highfield Princess.

On her only outing afterwards she was third in a French Group Three – but, as the Nunthorpe winner showed, sprinters tend to improve with racing and with just five runs under her belt, Royal Aclaim has plenty of scope for improvement.

“The sprinting division is often open at this stage of the year and we don’t know what will turn out to be best. Stars always emerge in the sprinting division and we are hoping she will be one of them,” said Tate.

“She is a bit bigger and a bit stronger, but she is really well in herself at the moment and is moving really well.

“We are really hopeful she can pick up where she left off and improve a little bit. She has only had five races in her life so surely she is going to improve.”

Tate has trained other Group-winning sprinters, like Invincible Army and Far Above, but feels Royal Aclaim could be the one to take him to the next level.

“In natural talent at home she is right at the top, but it is about what they can do on the track and she needs to just be a little bit more streetwise and get those sprinting muscles,” he said.

“Sadly I haven’t got a Group One on the CV yet. She has definitely got the talent, but she has obviously only got five runs to her belt. We are hoping she can add the other weapons to her armoury and do it for us.”

Celtic have been handed a pre-Hampden boost after Alistair Johnston returned to training.

Johnston has been out since taking a heavy knock to his lower leg during Celtic’s Scottish Cup semi-final win over Rangers on April 30.

The Canada right-back will not feature in Wednesday’s cinch Premiership encounter with Hibernian at Easter Road but is in line to return against Aberdeen on Saturday, seven days before the cup final against Inverness.

Johnston was back in training on Tuesday morning and came through the session with no problems.

Manager Ange Postecoglou said: “All things being equal, if he gets through the rest of the week’s training he should be available for the weekend’s game.

“We will hopefully get him some game time at the weekend and assess it from there.

“He has worked really hard to get back with the cup final in mind. He has got back really well and worked hard with the medical team and looked after himself really well.

“It was good to see him training and good to see him part of it because he has obviously been a big part of the second half of the year.”

Celtic have only taken a point in two games since clinching the title and face a Hibs side who are still battling for a European place.

Postecoglou said: “We just go out there and try to play our football but we know the league is done.

“We can’t lose the league now, unless someone has brought in a new rule. The players are aware of that so I can’t go about pretending, trying to create some alternative universe where they are trying to achieve something they have already achieved.

“But we still want to enjoy our games and prepare for the cup final and the best way to do that is play our football and take each challenge as it comes.

“The players are training well and we want to finish the season strongly.”

Meanwhile, Postecoglou was completely unmoved by news from Rangers that several experienced players will be leaving Ibrox this summer including Allan McGregor and Scott Arfield.

When asked if he expected a tougher title challenge from their rivals next season, he said: “I don’t know why that would even concern me to be honest.

“This time last year Rangers were in a Europa League final and a Scottish Cup final, and they strengthened after the season didn’t they?

“So does anybody really care? Like, seriously. We didn’t start favourites in my first year and probably weren’t overwhelming favourites this year, so people will say what they want, mate. Everyone has got a plan until they are punched on the nose and then you kind of reassess from there.

“When we start next year, when the games start, everyone will see who is really strong and who isn’t strong and all that sort of stuff.

“Right now, league-wise anyway, it’s the equivalent of junk-time, mate, so we just get on with it.”

West Indies have been drawn alongside the Netherlands, Nepal, United States, and hosts Zimbabwe in Group A of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament.

The ICC has unveiled the two groups, match schedules and venues for the 10-team tournament from 18 June to 9 July. All matches will start at 9am local time (3am Eastern Caribbean Time/2am Jamaica Time). Group B features Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland, Oman and United Arab Emirates (UAE). The ten teams will be competing for the two remaining places at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup which will be played in India in October and November later this year.

West Indies face the USA in the opening Group A fixture on Sunday 18 June at Takashinga Cricket Club, followed by Nepal on Thursday 22 June at Harare Sports Club. West Indies meet hosts Zimbabwe on Saturday 24 June at Harare Sports Club. The fourth preliminary match will be against the Netherlands on Monday 26 June.

Each side will play the other teams in their group once with the top three from the groups progressing to the Super Six stage from Thursday 29 June to Friday 7 July. The teams each play three Super Six matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage.

All points won in the groups will be carried over to the Super Six stage apart from those gained against the bottom two from each group. The final will be played at Harare Sports Club on Sunday 9 July. The two finalists will both progress to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.

West Indies Head Coach Daren Sammy said: “We know what’s at stake and the singular focus is to secure one of the two spots for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023. We trust in our preparation and, now that we know the matchups, we will plan accordingly. These are exciting times ahead for this confident bunch of young men. Our duty is to also make our fans proud and we intend to do exactly that.”

FULL SQUAD: Shai Hope (captain), Rovman Powell (vice captain), Shamarh Brooks, Yannic Cariah, Keacy Carty, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Gudakesh Motie, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd

MATCH SCHEDULE

All matches start at 9am local time (3am Eastern Caribbean/2am Jamaica)

Sunday 18 June
​Zimbabwe v Nepal, Harare Sports Club
​West Indies v USA, Takashinga Cricket Club

Monday 19 June
​Sri Lanka v UAE, Queen’s Sports Club
​Ireland v Oman, Bulawayo Athletic Club

Tuesday 20 June
​Zimbabwe v Netherlands, Harare Sports Club
​Nepal v USA, Takashinga Cricket Club

Wednesday 21 June
​Ireland v Scotland, Queen’s Sports Club
​Oman v UAE, Bulawayo Athletic Club

Thursday 22 June
​West Indies v Nepal, Harare Sports Club
​Netherlands v USA, Takashinga Cricket Club

Friday 23 June
​Sri Lanka v Oman, Queen’s Sports Club
​Scotland v UAE, Bulawayo Athletic Club

Saturday 24 June
​Zimbabwe v West Indies, Harare Sports Club
​Netherlands v Nepal, Takashinga Cricket Club

Sunday 25 June
​Sri Lanka v Ireland, Queen’s Sports Club
​Scotland v Oman, Bulawayo Athletic Club

Monday 26 June
​Zimbabwe v USA, Harare Sports Club
​West Indies v Netherlands, Takashinga Cricket Club

Tuesday 27 June
​Sri Lanka v Scotland, Queen’s Sports Club
​Ireland v UAE, Bulawayo Athletic Club

Thursday 29 June
​Super 6: A2 v B2, Queen’s Sports Club

Friday 30 June
​Super 6: A3 v B1, Queen’s Sports Club
​Playoff: A5 v B4, Takashinga Cricket Club

Saturday 1 July
​Super 6: A1 v B3, Harare Sports Club

Sunday 2 July
​Super 6: A2 v B1, Queen’s Sports Club
​Playoff: A4 v B5, Takashinga Cricket Club

Monday 3 July
​Super 6: A3 v B2, Harare Sports Club

Tuesday 4 July
​Super 6: A2 v B3, Queen’s Sports Club
​Playoff: 7th v 8th Takashinga Cricket Club

Wednesday 5 July
​Super Six: A1 v B2, Harare Sports Club

Thursday 6 July
​Super 6: A3 v B3, Queen’s Sports Club
​Playoff: 9th v 10th Takashinga Cricket Club

Friday 7 July
​Super 6: A1 v B1, Harare Sports Club

Sunday 9 July
​Final, Harare Sports Club

Richard Gould has forecast a “very long and successful future for The Hundred” despite the impending departure of one of its chief masterminds at the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Even before its inception into the domestic calendar two years ago, the 100-ball competition has polarised opinion while its position at the peak of summer – the third season will take place from August 1-27 – has attracted intense debate.

Reports last month claimed the ECB was open to reviewing The Hundred, which is still only played in the UK, with one alternative being a T20 format of two divisions featuring promotion and relegation.

More scrutiny on its long-term future came on Tuesday as Sanjay Patel, who led The Hundred’s creation and is its managing director, announced he will leave the ECB at the end of the 2023 competition.

After paying tribute to Patel, ECB chief executive Gould said in a statement: “There’s no doubt that The Hundred has been a success, helping cricket reach new audiences, bringing in important revenue and propelling the game forwards.

“It plays an important role in our game and I’m looking forward to a very long and successful future for The Hundred.”

Gould and ECB chair Richard Thompson were prominent critics when The Hundred was first broached during their time at Surrey, but the pair have reversed that stance in their new positions.

Any major changes to The Hundred are unlikely to be introduced in the short-term given the ECB’s broadcast partnership that runs until 2028 with Sky, one of the tournament’s major champions, while the BBC’s free-to-air arrangement covers at least the next two editions.

The increased exposure the women’s game has had in the first couple of seasons is regularly highlighted as an unqualified success while there is evidence that the scheduling, marketing and ticket pricing have helped attract new fans and a broader demographic to cricket grounds.

A report from Worcestershire chair Fanos Hira, a chartered accountant, attaches a £9million loss to the first two seasons but the ECB argues that it turned a profit of £11.8m.

Patel, who first joined the ECB in 2015, said: “I will miss this job and the people immensely but once we’ve completed the third season of The Hundred I believe the time will be right for me to look for a new adventure.”

Livingston will have to pull out all the stops to deal with Motherwell goal machine Kevin van Veen on Wednesday night, according to assistant boss Neil Hastings.

The 31-year-old Dutchman scored in a ninth consecutive game when he netted a penalty in the ninth minute of stoppage time against Ross County on Saturday to seal three points.

Van Veen took his tally for the season to 27, form which earned him a nomination for the PFA cinch Premiership and Scottish Football Writers Association player of the year award.

Livingston are one point behind Well in eighth place and Hastings knows if they are to leapfrog the visiting Steelmen then they have to get everything right in dealing with Motherwell’s talisman.

He said: “Van Veen is a fantastic player and he has had a great season with the tail end of that being better than the start.

“Individually we will have to be as good as we can be, collectively as a group, will need to be on the money.

“Our goalkeeper will need to have a brilliant game. The whole team will have to be at the top of their game.

“We need to stop the source of balls into him, we have to deal with him individually, we need that little bit of luck.

“Hopefully he doesn’t have his shooting boots on and fingers crossed we can keep him quiet on the night.

“The remarkable thing is, for a team struggling for points over the season, for someone to get the return he has got is testament to him and also testament to the group of players he is playing with because they have to provide him.

“We will try to deal with him as best as we can on Wednesday night.

“Motherwell have been brilliant. A fantastic end to the season since Stuart Kettlewell took charge.

“First and foremost we will go through what we can do better from Saturday and look at areas where we did well but will treat the game completely different. It is a massive challenge.”

Hastings was referring to Livingston’s 2-1 win over bottom side Dundee United 2-1 on Saturday, their first win in four games.

He said: “We had a difficult couple of weeks not getting the results we were after but we have a very honest group and we had a lot of conversations and delighted to get back to winning ways on Saturday in front of the home fans.

“We will always look back with a bit of frustration and disappointment (at not making top-six) but we are always looking to survive and delighted to stay in the league for another year.”

Michael Beale admitted Scott Arfield’s departure “pulls at the heartstrings” as he paid tribute to a quintet of Rangers players leaving Ibrox this summer.

Colombia striker Alfredo Morelos, winger Ryan Kent, veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor and long-term injured defender Filip Helander will also depart at the ends of their contracts.

The Govan club also announced that veteran midfielder Steven Davis – another player soon to be out of contract – “remains in discussions to continue working with the club’s medical team to support his return to full fitness following a long-term ACL injury suffered in December 2022”.

Midfielder Arfield, 34, has become a fans’ favourite since signing from Burnley in 2018, although he has found regular starts hard to come by recently.

Ahead of the final home cinch Premiership game of the season against Hearts on Wednesday night, where the players leaving will be given the chance to say their goodbyes, Beale spoke about Arfield in the most glowing terms.

“Scotty Arfield – it pulls on the heartstrings, big time,” he said. “As a man and as a person, he has been absolutely fantastic around the place.

“He is adored by the fans as well, not only (by) his team-mates and staff.

“That was a real amicable conversation between the two of us over the last couple of months around playing time, how the squad will look and what Scott needs moving forward as well.

“You have to live the reality. He is a key player and gives a lot of energy to the building and his team-mates, but he needs to feel he will be involved and play from the start or have a significant involvement, and I can’t promise him that.

“A difficult decision to come to, but I think it is right for all parties.”

Beale, who took over from Giovanni van Bronckhorst in November, promised a revamp of the Rangers squad for next season, having once again missed out on the Premiership title to Celtic, and admitted that, “as a group, we are losing a lot of experience and a lot of quality”.

McGregor, 41, is in his second spell at the club while 30-year-old Sweden defender Helander has not played since April 2022 due to a foot problem.

Morelos, 26, was signed from HJK Helsinki in 2017 for a reported fee of £1million while Kent, 26, joined from Liverpool permanently in September 2019 after an initial loan spell, with the fee reportedly around £6.5m.

Beale, former assistant coach at Ibrox under Steven Gerrard, said: “McGregor, Hall of Fame member, has been a fantastic servant for the club in two periods and has had many fantastic moments for this club where he has shown his class.

“We have not had Helander available for a long time through injury but his partnership with Connor Goldson was probably the foundation for the league-winning season in 2021 when we were invincible.

“Ryan Kent’s contribution has been fantastic, certainly in big matches, Europe and domestically.

“This season has not gone the way Ryan would like to go but an excellent player for Rangers.

“And Alfredo, for the outlay to what we got back, he has made an outstanding contribution to the club. Top goalscorer in Europe for Rangers and was player of the year last year.

“Their contributions to Rangers were huge.

“It is a sad day in many ways and I am sure the fans will show their appreciation (on Wednesday) night in the last home game.

“They have all made big contributions to the club but it is a sign that there will be change to the club this summer. You will start to see some announcements.”

After Sunday’s 3-1 win over Hibernian at Easter Road, Beale has Morelos, Borna Barisic, Glen Kamara, Scott Wright, Rabbi Matondo and Antonio Colak all back in training and will rotate his squad for the visit of Hearts.

He said: “We are unbeaten at home in the league this season. There is one game to go and we want to make sure we keep it like that.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expects an inevitable drop off in intensity from his players now the Premier League has been retained but warned them that major challenges still lie in wait.

A fifth title in six years was attained following Arsenal’s defeat at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, which essentially gave City three ‘free’ games until the end of the domestic campaign.

They have already dispensed with Chelsea and Brighton follow on Wednesday before Brentford on the final day, but the bigger picture is the FA Cup final against Manchester United and the Champions League final against Inter Milan.

“They have the party after the (Chelsea) game. I don’t know how they feel,” said Guardiola.

“They have to be ready to run a lot. The best way to prepare for the final is be ready. The players set the standards, they have to maintain it.

“It’s normal the energy would drop. Arsenal play for just the Premier League, we have FA Cup, Champions League, the energy we spend is massive.

“It’s normal you drop, you have to avoid it or don’t drop much otherwise the two teams (Brighton and Brentford) can hurt us.

“Play our game, adapt the way we play, arrive to United and Inter in the best condition possible.”

Guardiola has plenty of options at his disposal in terms of being able to keep his players fresh, so there should be no excuse for a huge drop off in performance.

Against Chelsea he made nine changes, allowing him to be able to bring on the likes of 52-goal striker Erling Haaland, playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and John Stones while not even using Jack Grealish or the in-form Ilkay Gundogan.

That meant a first Premier League start for Kalvin Phillips, who has had a difficult debut season since arriving from Leeds for £42million.

Guardiola insists all his squad still have a part to play.

“Everyone can have influence, sometimes five minutes is as important as the rest,” he added.

“Everyone has been important, everyone has been involved in the fact we are where we are.”

The City boss, however, remains wary of Brighton, who are riding the crest of a wave having qualified for Europe for the first time in their history.

Guardiola is a huge fan of the work done by Roberto De Zerbi since taking over from Graham Potter.

“Congratulations for Brighton for this incredible achievement for the Europa League,” he said.

“Pay attention to what I’m going to say. I’m pretty convinced I’m right in what I’m saying: I think Roberto is one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years.

“There is no team playing the way they play, it’s unique. I have the feeling when he arrived the impact he would have in the Premier League would be great – I didn’t expect them to do it in this short space of time.

“If you don’t play at a high level he can do whatever he wants against you. They deserve completely the compliments and the success they have, one of the teams I try to learn a lot from.

“Brighton is the master of passing the ball to the man free, but also when to pass to the free man.

“They move at the right time, this is the best at the world, for the right tempo and the free man.”

Royal Scotsman has been supplemented for the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday.

Trained by Paul and Oliver Cole, the Gleneagles colt had a busy time at two, winning the Richmond Stakes and finishing second in the Dewhurst to Chaldean.

He once again found Andrew Balding’s charge too good in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket when a fine third after racing keenly in the early stages.

Alex Cole, racing manager for Fitri Hay, who owns Royal Scotsman, confirmed: “We have supplemented him, so fingers crossed.

“He seems in good form so we thought we’d roll the dice again.”

One place in front of Royal Scotsman at Newmarket was Kevin Ryan’s 125-1 outsider Hi Royal and the two are on course to clash again.

The fourth, Galeron, is also on target along with eighth-placed Charyn, while Knight could represent Simon and Ed Crisford.

Aidan O’Brien has three contenders, headed by Paddington, who could be joined by Cairo and Age Of Kings.

Donnacha O’Brien’s Group One-winning two-year-old Proud And Regal is also among the 12 contenders.

In the Greenlands Stakes, Charlie Hills’ Garrus could aim to follow up his Abernant win at Newmarket, with potential rivals including Michael O’Callaghan’s Twilight Jet in a field of nine.

In the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas on Sunday, Dermot Weld holds a very strong hand in his attempt to follow up the victory of Homeless Songs last year.

He could field Tahiyra, a narrow second at Newmarket, and Tarawa, second in a Group Three on her return to action.

“We’ll make a decision about Tahiyra in the next day or two, but she’s most likely to run,” said Weld.

“It’s just like any other horse, you just want to check all the parameters out and if we’re happy with everything when the time comes, she runs. And right now, she’s most likely to run.

“The same applies with Tarawa. A decision will be made on her, if not tomorrow, then on Thursday. but she’s quite a possibility to run as well.

“We’re very happy with both fillies.”

Aidan O’Brien has four of the 11, headed by Breeders’ Cup winner Meditate. She could be joined by Dower House, Never Ending Story and the supplemented Jackie Oh.

Fozzy Stack also has a couple of options in Aspen Grove and You Send Me, while John Quinn’s Breege is a possible British raider.

Jean-Claude Rouget has supplemented Vadeni for the Tattersalls Gold Cup, in which he could face Irish Champion Stakes winner Luxembourg, who is looking to bounce back from a disappointing seasonal return.

Point Lonsdale is another Coolmore possible while Bay Bridge has been left in by Sir Michael Stoute and Anmaat is another UK-based contender.

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