RANGERS manager Ally McCoist insists that his former players Steven Naismith and Kyle Lafferty only have themselves to blame if they are not welcome back at the Ibrox club.
The past week has seen both Naismith and Lafferty lament their status as villains of the piece in the eyes of Rangers supporters for the manner in which they moved on during the summer.
The duo were among those players who refused to have their contracts switched from the oldco Rangers in administration to the newco created by Charles Green’s purchase of the club’s business and assets.
Scotland forward Naismith signed for Everton, while Northern Ireland striker Lafferty joined Swiss club Sion, with Rangers missing out on potential transfer fees. Both players, who grew up as Rangers supporters, have expressed their sadness that their presence at Ibrox would now be met with hostility.
But there was precious little sympathy for them from McCoist, who has backed the stance of Rangers fans on the issue and claimed that Naismith and Lafferty would have been better advised to follow the lead of Maurice Edu, the American international who allowed his contract to be transferred to the newco and subsequently earned the Ibrox club a fee when he joined Stoke City.
“They (Naismith and Lafferty) made a decision and there’s no use moaning about it now,” said McCoist. “They had plenty of time to make the decision and the fans have made their own decision on it. I can understand the players’ hurt, of course I can. It would certainly hurt me if I thought I wouldn’t be welcome back at Rangers. But for 140 years, our fans have made up their own minds on things and that will continue to be the case.
“They probably look at somebody like Maurice Edu, for example. He didn’t claim to be a Rangers fan or say he wanted to come and watch Rangers play until he was 110 or whatever. But what he did do was move his contract over under TUPE and Rangers got money for him. I can understand the two players’ decision but I can also totally understand somebody like Maurice Edu, who didn’t want to play in SFL3 but wanted to see the club get a few quid. I think that’s how the vast majority of the Rangers support are looking at it.
“I can see where they’re coming from. It’s not as if the fans are doing anything wrong, or that it’s the fans’ fault.
“I don’t think they (Naismith and Lafferty) can complain. They might complain if they thought they had made a mistake, but I don’t think they would think they’ve made a mistake. They might say ‘I wish I hadn’t done that, I wish I’d stayed and got the club a few quid’. But they obviously didn’t think that, which is fine. We are where we are and I deal with the aftermath.
“They made their decision and they have to live with that. They were being advised and took the decision they thought was best for them. As I say, if I wasn’t welcome at Rangers, it would be heartbreaking. I can understand their disappointment.
“But that disappointment has been created by their choice, which I don’t have a problem with. To say it’s anybody else’s fault, or problem, is totally wrong. I’m aware that there’s real resentment out there amongst the fans, I’m very aware of that. But if you think I’m going to sit here and say to the fans that they are wrong, I’m sorry. I won’t. Our fans never forget their heroes or the players who did them a turn and that will always be the case.
“It’s the easiest thing in the world for me to sit here and tell you I would have done it differently. But, and we have spoken about it at length, (first-team coach) Ian Durrant and I would have done it differently if we were players in that situation.”
McCoist also expressed his bewilderment at PFA Scotland’s Protective Award legal claim against Rangers for the failure to consult their members over transfer of their contracts from oldco to newco.
Several Rangers players, including captain Lee McCulloch, were quick to distance themselves from the action which was detailed in the club’s share prospectus document. PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart released a statement confirming that the action had been raised in the union’s own name and would be withdrawn in the event of Rangers chief executive Green dropping his own SFA breach of contract proceedings against several players.
“Somebody’s going to have to explain that one to me,” said McCoist. “I’m a union man myself, but is it the union’s place to inform their members that there’s a possible court action against their employers, or is their employer’s place to inform their employees about the union? I find it strange. Why would you not tell somebody like Lee McCulloch, especially if it puts somebody like him in a position where the fans could turn against him?”