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Oct 4, 2008

Australia's "Gazza" scores for Celtic

Australian striker Scott McDonald made a gallant return to Celtic's starting side, scoring in the 4-0 romp of Hamilton at Park head.

In a positive sign for Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek ahead of the October 15 World Cup qualifier against Qatar, McDonald made his first Scottish Premier League start in three weeks, netting his third goal of the season in the 76th minute as Celtic replaced Rangers at the top.

The 25-year-old had received negative press in recent times, with concerns over his weight and match fitness.

But Celtic manager Gordon Strachan dismissed the criticisms, saying McDonald's stocky physique meant people often jumped to conclusions - in a similar way to how former England great Paul Gascoigne was treated.

"Unfortunately, Scott's a bit like Gascoigne," Strachan told reporters.

"When Gascoigne played well he was strong and physical but when he didn't play well he was fat - that's the way he was perceived.

"Scott has been looking better in every training session and it's amazing how a lack of a wee bit of self-confidence affects your speed. I've been there myself and you can over-analyse it."

In another boost for Verbeek, towering striker Josh Kennedy played 80 minutes in Karlsruhe's 2-1 Bundesliga win against Bielefeld.

Verbeek said during the week that Kennedy was a slight injury worry but it appears certain he will be okay for the Socceroos' clash at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

In England, Brett Emerton put in another strong display for Blackburn Rovers, but his side were over-run by champions Manchester United 2-0 at Ewood Park.

Emerton's Rovers and Australia teammate Vince Grella did not feature but has returned to full training following a calf injury and should be available for Verbeek.

In some negative news for the Dutch coach, David Carney and Mile Sterjovski were again overlooked for their respective English Championship sides Sheffield United and Derby.

Carney was not in the squad list at all while Sterjovski was an unused substitute.

Verbeek has qualms with the pair, saying they are on the verge of being dropped from the national team because of their lack of game time.

To further intensify Verbeek's concerns, striker Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar) and midfielder Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven) were also unused bench players for their Dutch club sides over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Galatasaray playmaker Harry Kewell is a major doubt for the club's trip to Bursapor in the Turkish Super Lig but Verbeek will be hoping another week and half will be enough time for the Socceroos star to overcome a groin injury he sustained last week.

The Socceroos squad will assemble in Brisbane on Wednesday.

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