Had Gordon Smith been Joey Barton’s agent, he would have made no secret of the fact that there was one piece of advice the loquacious midfielder simply had to follow when he arrived at Rangers in the summer: don’t make any comment whatsoever about Celtic.
Precisely the opposite of what the 32-year-old appears have decided is his mission in Scotland, courtesy of comically cutting claims about the club’s manager Brendan Rodgers, their captain Scott Brown and their Champions League progress.
Such teasing is considered counter-productive by former SFA chief executive Smith, who proved himself a conscientious player representative following a playing career that brought memorable moments when donning Rangers colours in derby encounters against Celtic – not least a double in his 1977 debut win.
With the Ibrox side operating at a level below the Rodgers team that will host them tomorrow, the fixture could bring a fierce blowback for the self-confessed blowhard Barton.
“He made a mistake and put himself under pressure [by saying Brown wasn’t in his league], said Smith, pictured above.
“In the first game I played, if I’d said I was going to score a hat-trick that day and scored two I’d have been criticised because I’d under-achieved from what I said I would do. Joey has said he will outplay Scott Brown and he is far better. If Rangers are underdogs for the game, Scott Brown is underdog for that battle because Joey has boosted himself up. I think to a certain degree [he doesn’t know what he has let himself in for].
“He has played at a high level in England but I don’t know if he realises the consequences of what he says. He is the type of guy that just talks and gives his opinion and is a bright guy but he has not quite taken everything into account. He is going to be judged on Saturday and he has to perform. If he does perform and does well then everyone will say, ‘he forecast that, all credit to him’. it is the hardest thing in football to predict how you are going to do.
“I think he is finding his feet but he is under pressure because this is the biggest game Rangers have got, it is at Celtic Park and he is against someone that he has already downplayed and criticised, albeit tongue in cheek.
“I remember Jock Wallace even gave me a row once. I said I felt Celtic should have won the game and were the better team and I got a row. To say something in advance of a game, you have to be careful. He [Barton] might have thought he’d get away with it because he was seen as a Celtic man and he was boosting himself with Rangers fans. It was tongue in cheek but you don’t get tongue in cheek with Rangers and Celtic.”