PAUL Lambert believes the reprehensible behaviour of defender Bilel Mohsni in the immediate aftermath of Rangers’ 6-1 play-off humiliation against Motherwell has tarnished the club’s reputation.
The former Aston Villa manager has also questioned whether any checks on the temperamental Tunisian were done before he joined Ibrox in 2013.
Motherwell striker Lee Erwin shoved Mohsni after the 27-year-old had refused to shake hands following Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at Fir Park. Mohsni responded by kicking his opponent and punching him in the face and then became embroiled in a spat with Motherwell substitute Fraser Kerr. All three players were later retrospectively dismissed by referee Craig Thomson.
The BBC claims that Mohsni’s agent admits the player has no future in the United Kingdom, and Lambert, asked how he would handle the situation, said: “He’s out of contract, so you let him go: that’s how you deal with it. He wasn’t representing just any football club and there were kids watching that.
“That’s the problem you have. Youngsters will see that and it’s not good for the game in general or Rangers in particular. Did he want to have a fight with him afterwards as well? How can you get away with that?
“There’s no place for it in the game. Just think of all the great players Rangers have had through their doors. I don’t think they would conduct themselves in that way.
“Youngsters will see that… it’s not good for the game or Rangers in particular”Paul Lambert
“As a manager – touch wood – I’ve always conducted checks into the background of players I’ve been going to sign. I want to know what they’re like off the park as well as on it and I’ve never encountered anything like that. There’s been the odd skirmish in training, obviously, but it never spilled over into anything worse.”
When Charles Green’s Rangers were relaunched in 2012 in the wake of the old club descending into liquidation, most pundits assumed that their progress to the top tier would be accomplished within the minimum three-year timescale.
Yet, the club with the second-biggest wage bill in Scotland has ended the season as the country’s 15th best team, looking on enviously as Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St Johnstone prepare to play in Europe.
It could get worse, says Lambert, back in Glasgow to promote the Tesco Bank Football Challenge at Hampden, because there is no guarantee Rangers will win promotion in 2016.
While attempting to gain control of the club last year, new chairman Dave King spoke about quadrupling the wage bill in order to compete with Celtic, a claim he has recently attempted to deny.
However, between having 11 first-team players out of contract, an early decision required on the management team and stadium repairs, money must be found in order for Rangers to simply stand still, never mind progress.
“It could take them longer than another season, but they have to earn the right to be there,” said Lambert. “Whether that takes spending money to rebuild the team, the support is there and always will be.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward. I think that everybody thought they’d automatically go bounce, bounce, bounce through the divisions.
“But Motherwell were already in the Premiership and they were used to playing at a higher level of football. Rangers weren’t and, in those two games, Motherwell earned the right to stay in the league.
“It’s maybe not good for Glasgow or Scotland because the city needs a strong Rangers as well. But Motherwell were the better team over those two legs.”
Lambert believes that the agnitude of Motherwell’s victory underlines how far away Rangers are from where they want to be. “Yes, there is a gap,” he said. “But I think everybody recognises that. Stuart McCall recognised it: everybody does. It’s not the same as it was. But it is what it is, they have to earn the right to get back up.”
Given the opportunity to make a fresh start three years ago, many believe that Rangers have failed to take full advantage. Lambert, though, is not so sure. “It’s hard to say that because there has been so much disarray. So many things have happened, people blaming each other, and then the authorities getting involved.
“They had to get a team that would win on the pitch and if they were winning – going from league to league to league – that would have masked a lot of things. But because they’ve hit a wall at the minute and they are not coming up, the question is being asked: ‘Where do they go [now]?’ ”