Celtic semi-final a benchmark for Rangers, says John Brown

By David CurrieReporting Scotland presenter
Former Rangers defender John Brown
John Brown played for Rangers in the 1980s and 90s

The Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic will be a yardstick for Rangers ahead of next season, according to multiple title winner John Brown.

The former Ibrox defender believes Rangers will go into the game in much better fettle than they did losing to Celtic in last season's League Cup.

"Now the club is unified, looking to set a benchmark for next season and get an idea of what they'll face next year.

"Because they will win the Championship this season," said Brown, 54.

Brown, who was with Rangers during their run of nine titles in a row from 1988 to 1997, feels the Ibrox side have improved considerably over the past year.

Premiership leaders Celtic, meanwhile, are bidding for a fifth straight top-flight title.

Celtic's Paul McStay and Rangers' John Brown
John Brown (right) played in many derbies against Celtic

"Rangers have a new regime, a new board with guys who are interested in football," said Brown.

"At the time of the last game [last season's semi-final], fans were looking to oust the previous board and that affects players.

"Mark Warburton, the manager, has the fans right behind him."

Cool heads needed

Brown feels it could be the team that stays calm under pressure that will win through to the Scottish Cup final.

"If you lose the head and get caught up in the moment, you'll lose the game," he said.

"It's the team with cool heads on the day, with the right commitment and who want it more who will win.

"Both squads have real quality. It's how you manage that and it is all down to confidence.

"Mark Warburton has the team passing the ball with good movement and the players know the system.

"He'll have learned from matches against St Johnstone, Kilmarnock and Dundee in cup competitions, but it'll be interesting to see how the players handle playing against a team who've been playing regularly at the highest level and in European competitions."

Chris Sutton and John Brown on Rangers-Celtic cup semi

And Brown, who was speaking at a charity event at Glasgow's Royal Hospital for Children along with former Celtic striker Chris Sutton, expects a semi-final full of skill.

"I don't think it'll be a very physical game," he added. "I look at the players in both teams and think they are technical players, so I think it'll be a football game.

''It's a learning curve for Rangers, but the pressure is more on Celtic.

"Celtic have set the benchmark - they've won titles and done well in cup competitions.

"They set high standards and, if it dips a bit, they get it in the ear from fans and the press.

"It could be that both clubs have won their leagues before the semi-final, which would set it up nicely as winner takes all."