Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football

Le Guen insists Ferguson tried to 'undermine me'

By Nick Harris

There were no major fireworks in Scotland for Hogmanay due to terrible weather but Rangers have produced little else since 2007 began, on and off the pitch.

It continued yesterday as they snatched an undeserved win in a helter-skelter game of controversy, punch-ups and red cards at Fir Park to move back to second place in the Scottish Premier League and buy Paul Le Guen more time in charge. The only goal was a dubious penalty, won by Dado Prso and converted by Kris Boyd.

For all that drama, the game and everything in Scottish sport remains overshadowed this morning by Le Guen's extraordinary decision to strip Barry Ferguson of the captaincy and of his place in the team. The Frenchman explained why in candid fashion after yesterday's game, not that it prevented calls for his head and vitriolic abuse from fans as he boarded the team coach afterwards.

In short, Le Guen suggested Ferguson had been agitator in chief against his regime, had failed to do what was asked on the pitch, had a bad attitude and needed to be removed. "He needs a new way of behaving," Le Guen said of the Scotland midfielder. "He has had too much [negative] influence in the dressing room. The fans might not understand, but I know this. When people undermine you, you have to act."

Such words will be taken as virtual heresy by supporters who admire Ferguson's kiss-the-badge, heart-on-sleeve approach - and who have forgotten his unsuccessful but lucrative decampment to Blackburn. Le Guen's stance represents the biggest gamble of his Ibrox career, which has now come to le crunch in a quite astonishing manner.

North of the border, this story is every bit as big as the Beckham boot saga at Manchester United, and has equally wide implications for all concerned. If Le Guen's team continue to falter, he will be sacked, and soon, and Ferguson will become the martyr. If they rally now, without Ferguson, these days could be seen as pivotal in a genuinely radical re-shaping of the sad story Rangers have become in the past two years.

Le Guen said he did not know if Ferguson will ever play for Rangers again. Asked to confirm the player was on the transfer list, he added: "It remains to be seen. My own position, which is precarious, may have an influence on that."

Ferguson was not unduly missed on the pitch, or rather Rangers did not suddenly become much worse than they have been of late. Both sides had chances, the best of them to Motherwell, before the goal arrived on 69 minutes.

Prso ran wide right of the 'keeper and then appeared to fling himself forward. If there was contact it was negligible but the referee gave a penalty. Boyd slotted home. Three minutes later, with Motherwell trying to force the ball across the line in a crowded box, a wild mêlée ensued, involving 20 players, most of them in the net. Punches were thrown. Red cards followed for the hosts' Marc Fitzgerald (for an apparent punch on Allan McGregor) and for Prso.

Le Guen spent his entire press conference explaining his Ferguson decision, not the game, but that was not his decision.

The player himself had earlier provided one of the most extraordinary, hyperbolic set of quotes of this or any other year, baring his soul on his plight. Readers of a nauseous disposition should look away now. Ferguson told yesterday's Scottish Sun: "I will be cremated in the jersey I wore the night I was first made captain of Rangers. I have already decided that I will be clothed in that light blue shirt with my captain's armband on when they send me to that big dressing room in the sky.

"Morbid? Maybe, but the truth is that the arrangements for what I wear in my coffin are already made. That is the last will and testament of Barry Ferguson and it has been settled for a while now."

The reality is he's already toast, and looking for a club in England. Unless Le Guen's own number comes up first.

Motherwell (4-4-2): Smith; Corrigan, Craigan, Reynolds, Paterson (Murphy, h-t); McGarry (Connolly, 71), Kerr, Fitzpatrick, Clarkson (Keegan, 82); McDonald, Foran. Substitutes not used: Meldrum (gk), Molloy, Quinn, Smith.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Svensson, Hemdani, Murray; Sionko (Novo, 26), Rae, Clement, Burke (Sebo, 87); Prso, Boyd (Rodriguez, 81). Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Adam, Stanger, Lowing.

Referee: M McCurry (Scotland).

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph