Ally McCoist admits any friendship between Rangers boss Michael Beale and Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers will be put on hold for the duration of the upcoming season.
Beale and Rodgers have previously crossed paths at Chelsea and Liverpool but will lock horns for the cinch Premiership title in the 2023-24 campaign.
McCoist talked up the importance of respect between managers of the Old Firm, having memorably clashed with Neil Lennon in a 2011 derby, and is in no doubt that will be there in abundance.
But TNT Sports pundit McCoist said: “No, the friendship has not got to be over but it has to be put on pause.
“One thing you’ve got to do is have a healthy relationship, you genuinely do, and respect for the opposition manager in the Old Firm.
“It has always been the case. Of course you have incidents, myself and Neil Lennon had a wee incident and Walter (Smith) had incidents, you have incidents but there has to be a healthy reaction and relationship between the clubs.
“I don’t have any doubt that Michael and Brendan will have that and continue it. They have been friends for a while and it will stay the same.”
Both Rangers and Celtic have overseen summers of change with Allan McGregor, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos among those to move on from Ibrox while eight players have been signed with Los Angeles’ Jose Cifuentes expected to be the ninth addition with a pre-contract agreement in place, according to Beale.
Celtic, meanwhile, saw Ange Postecoglou move down south to take charge of Tottenham in June and ex-boss Rodgers return for his second spell at Parkhead.
Rangers begin their league campaign with a trip to Kilmarnock on Saturday night while Celtic kick off with the lunchtime visit of Ross County.
“This is the first year in a long, long time where I genuinely don’t know who wins it,” McCoist admitted.
“Celtic have lost one or two, lost Jota but I wouldn’t say Brendan left under a cloud. I think there was a section of the Celtic support who weren’t happy because he left at that time and went Leicester and I get that, but you can’t please everyone all the time.
“One thing that is undeniable is that he is an excellent coach and knows how to set up a team. I thought he was a little bit unlucky and harshly treated at Leicester because I don’t think he got the money to spend to replace the real quality that needed replacement.
“Just in my opinion, I think he was cut a bit short there. They’ll back him at Celtic.
“Over at our place, I think Michael Beale has brought in nine players. I watched them against Newcastle in pre-season, did OK. I watched them against Olympiacos, didn’t look great. Didn’t look good in the first half against Hoffenheim and then looked great in the second half against Hoffenheim.
“So, I don’t really know but of course Rangers and Celtic have got to hit the ground running, particularly Rangers with the (Champions League) qualifier coming up.
“It is a tough one to call. I don’t know how Rangers’ players will settle in. They brought them in quickly.”
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