Niemi Can Be Gers' No.1 Says Richard Muller Nielsen

Article excerpt

FINLAND boss Richard Moller Nielsen last night urged Dick Advocaat to stick by Antti Niemi.

The former FC Copenhagen man is back in goal for Rangers after Frenchman Lionel Charbonnier was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

A number of replacements have been linked with the number one spot - including Dundee's Robert Douglas - but Nielsen says there is no need to panic.

For the experienced coach, who led Denmark to European Championship glory in 1992, reckons Niemi will prove himself to be one of the finest keepers in Europe over the next few years.

Nielsen said: "An opportunity has now come for Antti and I hope he does well for Rangers. Although I have never had any doubts about his ability.

"When Lionel Charbonnier was in goals for Rangers, Niemi was playing very well for the Finnish side.

"Only recently we beat Turkey in Istanbul and he played extremely well. In football you are only as good as your last game - but I know how much he will be looking to take this opportunity.

"Antti has been in the game so long now, yet in recent times has just played reserve football, so he must be ready to step into the Scottish scene again.

"And the more he is playing for Rangers then the better he will be for me!"

Nielsen - father of Gers coach Tommy - heaped the biggest praise possible on Niemi when he said he can become one of the continent's finest.

Only yesterday the player hit back at suggestions he is unhappy at the club - and Nielsen knows what his possibilities are if given a lengthy run.

He added: "To be honest with you, Antti has the ability to become one of the finest keepers in Europe. I've said that before.

"This is a fine opportunity he must take. Of course, it is terrible news for Lionel Charbonnier and I wish him a good recovery but I have no doubts about Antti.

"He had a slow start to his Rangers career having such a niggling finger injury. Then Rangers signed another keeper, but he has kept well.

"I will make a point of watching him for Rangers, this is a good opportunity to see him in action again, so I think I will be at a game soon."

Niemi believes he has what it takes to dissuade Ibrox gaffer Advocaat from making another expensive buy.

The 26-year-old conceded a goal against the Germans at Ibrox as a second- half UEFA Cup substitute but was untroubled in the 7-0 victory at St Johnstone last Sunday.

Niemi said: "It has been difficult to come straight back in because I have had so few games in the last six months and most of those have been with Finland.

"But I think I have still done quite well so far and I am confident I can do a good job and I am certainly up for it.

"I am happy to be back and as long as I am there I will enjoy it. If the manager wishes me to remain keeper then great, if not there will be no complaints."

But Niemi, speaking in this week's Rangers News, was quick to pay tribute to sidelined Charbonnier, who made an impressive start to his career in Scotland following his pounds 1. …