RANGERS manager Ally McCoist has ridiculed the plea from Alan Stubbs, his counterpart at Hibernian, for a strong referee for the match between the teams at Ibrox on Monday.
Calum Murray will be in charge of that Championship clash and McCoist gave him a ringing endorsement.
Stubbs was unhappy with the performance of referee John Beaton, who harshly displayed a straight red card to Danny Handling for what appeared to be no more than a bookable challenge on David Templeton in the Petrofac Training Cup tie at Ibrox last month.
The scores were tied but Hibs were on top when Handling was dismissed in the 79th minute. Rangers went on to win 2-1 after extra-time.
Stubbs also highlighted the failure of Alan Muir to award Falkirk a late penalty kick when Bilel Mohsni handled a shot from Rory Loy in Tuesday’s League Cup tie. Rangers were 2-1 ahead when play was allowed to continue and eventually added a third goal in stoppage time.
McCoist, however, believes that the rookie manager, having lost four of the opening six league fixtures, would do better to expend his energy on transforming the fortunes of his own club.
“I don’t have a problem if he wants to referee the game himself,” said McCoist. “Or, if he wants to pick someone else to referee it, I don’t have a problem with that. I thought some of his comments were laughable, to be quite honest.
“He was even commenting on our game against Falkirk on Tuesday night. I don’t know why he’s getting himself involved in that. We’ve all got enough problems with our own teams.
“Contrary to what Stubbsy is saying, I’m delighted with the referee. He’s one of the best ones. He’ll make mistakes on Monday but we all will. We just have to get on with it.
“[Stubbs] mentioned [the earlier match at Ibrox] as well and they did have a player harshly sent off. But listen, I remember a decision up at Raith Rovers in 1996 that I was really despondent with!
“How far back do you want to go? We just need to get on with it. I don’t know if his remarks have been taken out of context but commenting about Peter Houston’s comments after the game the other night.... I mean, come on, let’s get on with football.”
McCoist, will not take Hibs lightly, however, even though they have made an even poorer start to the current campaign than they managed under Pat Fenlon last year.
“I think it says more about the opposition and the standard in this division than anything else,” he said. “I’m certainly not going to be critical of Hibs who have played better football against us than probably anyone else this season.
“They played exceptionally well at times in that tie. We’ve known all along that going to places like Alloa and Queen of the South is extremely difficult as these teams, if they play well, can surprise anyone in the country.”
Rangers won League 1 by 39 points last season and took the Third Division title by 24 points the year before. Now, though, they find themselves three points adrift of leaders Hearts as they attempt to reach the Premiership.
“It’s not something that’s a shock to us,” said McCoist. “We knew the league would be a massive step up from the previous two seasons and, when you lose the first game to Hearts, chances are you will be chasing them for a wee while anyway.
“We’re six games into it so the campaign has not really started. There are lots of points to be won and dropped. Hearts drew at Dumbarton and I felt the same way last week after the Alloa game – that it might turn out to be a good point rather than two dropped.
“Hearts are at the top and consistently playing very well. They had a good second half against Cowdenbeath last weekend.
“For the first time in a couple of years we are looking above us but it’s not something we’re overly concerned with this early in the season.”
Rangers will be without injured quartet Kenny Miller, Nicky Clark, Lewis Macleod and Cammy Bell on Monday.
The prospect of playing against Rangers in front of tens of thousands of fans at Ibrox on Monday night does not faze Hibs goalkeeper Mark Oxley in the slightest. Having played there at the beginning of August when Hibs narrowly lost the Petrofac Training Cup match in front of 18,000 spectators, Oxley has become a fan of the famous stadium.
“I loved it,’ said the Yorkshireman, who celebrates his 24th birthday tomorrow. “There weren’t that many there that night. There were a fair few, but there will be more for the league game, I assume.
“I like it because some of the new grounds the fans are miles away from the pitch but it’s pretty tight in at Ibrox which can’t be said at a lot of big grounds. The tighter grounds where you can hear what every fan is saying, I love that as much as the big grounds, so I’m loving it here.”
Former Hull City player Oxley compares Ibrox favourably to the biggest stadium he had played in beforehand, namely Liverpool’s Anfield.
He added: “I actually said when we went on the pitch before the game that it reminds me a bit of Anfield, it’s not overpowering but it is a nice old-fashioned kind of stadium.
“I played at Anfield when I was on loan at Oldham. We lost 2-0. It was a sell-out and I think there was 45,000 there. It was a fantastic atmosphere.”
Paradoxically, there may be fewer Rangers fans at Ibrox on Monday night because of the threatened supporters’ boycott, and the fact that the match is televised. If Hibs can threaten early, the remaining Rangers support might just go off their heroes, as Oxley explained. “I think it is a good chance for us to play there at a time when the fans are getting a bit uptight,” he said. “We can use that as a tool to get our fans behind us.
“We are going there with the view to get a result, we are not going there just to make up the numbers. It won’t bother us if there’s 10,000 or 35,000 there, though that would be a better experience, but either way we’ll go there and try and put on a performance and get a result.”