MARK Hateley has revealed he has still not spoken to Ally McCoist in the wake of claims he had actively undermined his former Rangers strike partner shortly before he resigned as manager and was placed on gardening leave by the Ibrox club last month.
Reports at the time suggested Hateley was operating behind the scenes in alliance with the Rangers board as they looked to oust McCoist. Hateley angrily denied the allegation at the time, while McCoist said he would speak to the former England international in a bid to clarify the situation.
But Hateley, appearing yesterday at a promotional event for online betting company 666BET.com ahead of Sunday’s League Cup semi-final between Rangers and Celtic, says the pair have yet to discuss it. “I’m not here to answer that one,” was Hateley’s terse response when asked how his relationship now is with McCoist. “This is about an Old Firm game. I don’t know where the story came from but it was a load of absolute rubbish.
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“That’s all I’m going to say on that. I’ve not spoken to him (McCoist). He tried to call me and that’s where we are with it.”
Hateley was more forthcoming when asked to assess Rangers’ struggles on the pitch this season, where inconsistency and a series of unconvincing displays have left them trailing well behind Hearts in the Championship title race.
It leaves Rangers as massive underdogs going into the first Old Firm fixture for almost three years and Hateley is in no doubt as to their biggest weakness at the moment. “You need leadership,” he said. “The great teams all have great leaders. If you have four or five great leaders, you have a pretty goddamn good side.
“In a lot of the games, Rangers have been looking at one individual to get the performance going – rather than everyone rolling their sleeves up and getting on with it. You can’t just look for someone else to do it. On Sunday, it will take a collective effort to win. Five, six, seven, eight or nine great performances within the team.
“The underdog has to be competitive. You have to be high tempo and get defenders running towards their own goal. You have to do all the little things very well. It’s as simple as that, but it hasn’t been simple to get those performances out of the Rangers players this season. There have been too many defeats, but then you could say the same about Celtic with the squad they have. You would have expected them to cruise the Premiership this year. It’s all about desire and discipline when you face a good side and Celtic are a better side than Rangers.
“It would be an incredible achievement for Rangers to win at the weekend. There is a bit of a dark cloud over the club at the moment. The fans have not had a lot to sing about and this would be a bright light of a campaign that has not gone as many expected it should have.”
Hateley scored nine goals in 22 Old Firm appearances during his Rangers career. While the Ibrox club enjoyed ascendancy over their great rivals for most of his time with them, he also experienced defeats on occasions when Celtic were dogged by off-the-field problems prior to Fergus McCann’s takeover.
“The shoe is on the other foot from the early 1990s,” he said. “Celtic are definitely the stronger footballing unit and probably one of the biggest favourites in a long time. It’s fair to say there has never been such a big gap between the clubs in terms of standard of the playing squads. But you wouldn’t rule anything out. Look at what happened in the FA Cup at the weekend.”