Rangers' Jordan Jones is one of two Rangers players who won't be able to play until at least December 30 

Credit: PA

George Edmundson and Jordan Jones will not be able to play for Rangers until New Year after both were handed a seven-game ban by the Scottish Football Association for blatant breaches of Covid-19 rules. Whether they will, in fact, ever appear for the club again remains to be seen, but their prospects are scarcely bright, given the length of absence enforced by the latest sanction.

The pair attended a party in Glasgow’s west end after Rangers’ 1-0 win at Kilmarnock on November 1 and were amongst 10 participants issued with fixed penalty tickets after police arrived in the early hours of the morning to break up a gathering which delighted the tabloids by including an unspecified number of what were described as ‘glamorous girls’.

After an investigation by the SFA, the players were found to have breached the governing body’s rules in respect of Covid-19 protocols and to have acted against the interests of the sport. Rangers made no immediate comment on the development but the club’s managing director, Stewart Robertson, described their conduct as ‘totally unacceptable’.

The earliest game for which either can be selected is the St Mirren vs Rangers on December 30 but they are unlikely candidates. Jones has made four appearances this season and Edmundson has featured twice, most recently against Motherwell at Fir Park on September 27 when he scored an own goal in a 5-1 victory.      

The severity of their punishment partly reflects the SFA’s need to be seen to crack down on breaches of Covid rules after two instances early in the season prompted Nicola Sturgeon to warn that the game in Scotland was on a ‘yellow card’ warning after eight Aberdeen players dined out in the city centre following a home defeat by Rangers. Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli was included in the First Minister’s denunciation after he made an overnight trip to Spain without telling anyone at the club or observing quarantine.

Celtic are hoping Odsonne Edouard can find last season's fine form 

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While Rangers considered how to deal with their errant duo, there were happier prospects for Neil Lennon as the Celtic manager welcomed the end of the international break and the opportunity to regain the undivided concentration of Odsonne Edouard. The 22-year-old French striker scored 28 goals in 45 appearances last season and attracted a good deal of transfer speculation during the lockdown period.

Edouard has frequently looked as though his attention has wandered during the current campaign, in which his yield has been six goals from 14 outings, with three of those scored on the opening day at home to Hamilton. 

“There has been a lot of interest or speculation – whatever you want to call it – and there’s no question that it affected him and his performances,” Lennon said.

“He’s been away with France now and maybe that gave him a little time at home as well. We’ll sit down, have a good discussion and, hopefully, he’ll kick on and get back to his best.      

“What we have with Odsonne is an outstanding, talented player and it’s up to us now to try and get the best out of him again. Of course, it’s also in his own best interests to knuckle down and get back to playing the way he can.”      

The next few weeks will be crucial to Celtic’s wellbeing, with the second half of their stuttering Europa League group campaign followed by the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen on December 20 and the second Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox on January 2.

“There are huge games coming up, ones in which he can inspire the team,” Lennon said. “We saw that last season when he had a stellar year. He knows he’s loved here – by his team-mates, the backroom staff and the fans – and he can get back to doing what he does best and that is playing some remarkable football.

“That’s a massive boost because he’s been sensational for us, absolutely tremendous with the impact he’s had already.

“I’ll be delighted to have him, [Leigh] Griffiths and [Patryk] Klimala because they’re all different kinds of strikers and they all bring a lot of quality to the team but [Albian] Ajeti also has shown his class and what he brings to the table. We’re looking for a big season from him.”