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Steve Clarke: I was warned off Rangers move in 1980s over sectarian issues

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke was subjected to abuse at Ibrox on Wednesday (Jane Barlow/PA)
Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke was subjected to abuse at Ibrox on Wednesday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Steve Clarke revealed he was warned off a move to Rangers as a player because of their sectarian issues.

More than three decades on the Catholic-raised Kilmarnock manager was subjected to abuse by religious bigots during his side's William Hill Scottish Cup defeat at Ibrox on Wednesday.

Instead of accepting the hatred as some sort of twisted norm, Clarke has again spoken out in a bid to prompt better action from authorities.

Appearing at a media conference alongside club captain Kris Boyd, who was subjected to sectarian abuse by Celtic fans days earlier, the 55-year-old reiterated that Rangers assured him religion would not be an issue when they made a move for him last year.

Clarke was called a "Fenian b******" by a section of the Ibrox crowd this week, prompting him to accuse them of living in the "Dark Ages" and express relief his children did not grow up in such a culture.

The former Chelsea defender and coach, who returned to Scotland in 2017, said: "I've had a fantastic reaction to what I said.

"Great support from everybody, a lot of good people, a lot of good messages, all very supportive. A good message from Rangers, a good message from the SFA, a good message from the Scottish Government, so everybody is speaking well.

"I hope the publicity and the good words that have come out manifest itself into good policy, better policy and hopefully a better society in the future."

Clarke believes there were major advances during his time out of the country.

"When I was a player going back to 1984, '85, '86, Rangers didn't sign Catholic players," he said.

"When I was at St Mirren there was an enquiry when Graeme Souness took over about me going to Rangers. I remember at the time the manager, Alex Smith, said: 'No, you couldn't do that son.'

"And it wasn't because there was any racism or sectarianism from Alex, he was just protecting me as a person. Not long afterwards Maurice Johnston went there as the first headline Catholic to sign for Rangers, so there's been massive advances."

Former Rangers striker Boyd described his reaction to being called a "fat Orange b******" by Celtic fans as "water off a duck's back" but Clarke was visibly affected by his Ibrox abuse.

"Maybe Old Firm players, people who have been connected with the Old Firm, accept it a little bit more or understand it a little bit more," Clarke said.

"I know that Neil Lennon touched on the subject earlier in the season and maybe it disappeared quite quickly because it was Neil.

"I have no connection with Celtic or Rangers. The only part I can see is that I was brought up as a Catholic on the west coast of Scotland. That shouldn't be an issue in this day and age. Why is that an issue? I'm definitely not a Fenian.

"I've had so many messages of support from people in England saying 'I saw you on the telly, I hope you're OK, what was the reason?'

"They don't understand, they don't understand what we're talking about up here. I think that's a sad reflection on us as a society."

Clarke dismissed fears among Killie fans that the incident could drive him out of Scotland.

"No, I came back to Scotland to work for Kilmarnock," he said. "I will continue to do that. The club have been good for me.

"What happened this week is hopefully one isolated incident that will lead to better things in the future."

And he rejected accusations that he had ignored the abuse Boyd suffered.

"When I did the (post-match) press, and there's people in here that will back me up on this, I didn't know that Kris had been hit by a coin, I didn't know that there had been chanting against him," he said.

"When I did the press (on Tuesday), I spoke about the majority have to speak up and shout down the minority, so I think that's addressing it."

PA

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