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Rangers and Gerrard hit out at ‘Dark Ages’ sectarianism

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard

By Jim Gracey

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard insists the club are determined to stamp out the “unacceptable behaviour” from the stands that overshadowed their 5-0 Scottish Cup fifth round replay win over Kilmarnock.

Killie manager Steve Clarke likened the sectarian abuse he said he was subjected to at Ibrox to living in the ‘Dark Ages’.

The emotional former Scotland defender, who spent 30 years in England after leaving St Mirren in 1987, claimed he woke up each day and thanked Chelsea for taking him away from the west of Scotland because his children do not understand the sectarian culture he described.

The Ibrox club issued a statement after Clarke’s comments which read: “Rangers wish to make it clear unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated at Ibrox. Everything will be done to eradicate this kind of behaviour.”

Gerrard was keen to talk about the football but he backed the club’s position.

When asked about his former Liverpool coach’s comments, Gerrard said: “I only saw the interview when I got home. I wasn’t aware of the interview or how Steve felt.

“He came into my room after the match and he was pretty normal, we had a beer together and talked about football in general. It never got mentioned.

“But the club have made a statement on it and it’s a statement that I support. We don’t support any kind of unacceptable behaviour from the terraces and that’s the way it will always be at Rangers.”

When pressed on how he felt listening to the abuse Clarke received, Gerrard said: “I have just answered that question for you.

“I have just said that myself,  and everyone at this club, don’t support any kind of unacceptable behaviour from the terraces.

“We want to try and stamp it out of the game in general so we are always talking about the football. That’s all I have got to say on it.”

Gerrard insisted the controversy had not taken a shine off his team’s victory, which sets up a quarter-final trip to Aberdeen.

“Not for me because I am delighted with my players, a 5-0 win,” he said.

“I thought we started the game very strong, I thought the atmosphere in the stadium was superb.

“The fans again were right behind the team, 40,000 to come out on a cold Wednesday night and get behind the team after a disappointing result at the weekend (a 0-0 home draw against St Johnstone).

“It was the reaction I wanted, I’m delighted with the players and now we want to take that level of performance into Hamilton (the Scottish Premiership game on Sunday).”

Hearts boss Craig Levein yesterday praised Clarke for refusing to accept the sectarian flak.

He said: “The fact that you’re a manager of an opposition football club gives nobody the licence to do those sorts of things.

“I’ve talked about this in the past and I think it’s a societal problem. How do we stop it? I don’t know. The unfortunate thing is that it is people who are doing this and it’s football that’s getting tarnished. It’s not just sectarian abuse. There are other things shouted at matches that are just horrendous. Maybe it’s the crowd mentality and they think they won’t get caught.”

Conceding to being abused himself, Levein added: “Every manager gets abuse. Just because I’ve got a double XL top on doesn’t mean you’re allowed to shout names at me, which has happened in the past a lot of times. A lot of the times you just wear the abuse but Steve has got to the point where he is fed up with it and he’s quite right to come out and talk about it.

“But I honestly don’t know the answer to how we stop it.”

The Scottish FA say they will seek further discussions with government and police in light of recent incidents.

Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell said the parent body “condemns in the strongest possible terms the spate of incidents this season involving unacceptable conduct”.

“We have witnessed match officials and players hit by coins, sectarian singing at matches and abusive and threatening behaviour towards match officials, players, managers and coaching staff,” he said. “Football has a responsibility to take action. We must do all that we can under our current rules and engage with clubs to seek to eradicate such behaviour.

“This issue, however, is not one that football can solve on its own.”

Former Celtic and Hibernian boss Neil Lennon said he was “fed up of laughing off racism” after he was hit by a coin during an Edinburgh derby last October.

David Scott, campaign director for anti-sectarian charity Nil by Mouth, believes Scottish football “has failed for generations to tackle sectarian abuse”.

Belfast Telegraph

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