MIDFIELDER Kyle Hutton admits it is difficult to stay focused after finding his place in the Rangers team threatened by the arrival of five Newcastle players.
Magpies owner Mike Ashley sent Haris Vuckic, Gael Bigirimana, Remie Streete, Shane Ferguson and Kevin Mbabu north on transfer deadline day, with caretaker boss Kenny McDowall claiming he has been ordered to play the Magpies youngsters whenever fit.
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Ibrox chief executive Derek Llambias hit back to say the interim manager has got it wrong - insisting he has been given no team orders.
But Hutton says the row has left him struggling to focus.
Asked if it was difficult to deal with the fact that performances in training might not be rewarded with a start because of the alleged selection instructions handed to McDowall, he said: “We all need to be professional but this is the situation we are in.
“It’s hard not to lose the head but you just need keep concentrating and focused on being professional.”
He added: “We just concentrate on working hard in training, we leave that side [who is picking the team] out of it. It’s just down to ourselves really and everybody being professional to prepare properly for every game.
“Whatever has happened with the Newcastle players is another matter, but if you are not playing - as I know from the start of the season - you can sort of get misled a wee bit but you just need to focus, keeping being professional and keep working hard.”
With Bigirimana, Streete, Ferguson and Mbabu all injured, only Vuckic - who netted in last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Raith Rovers - will face Hibernian on Friday night as Rangers aim to keep hold of second place in the Scottish Championship.
But Hutton bears the Newcastle five no hard feelings as individuals.
“They have come in and been brand new,” he said. “The lot of them are good guys. They have got on well and settled in nicely.
“They are all good players so they are going to come in to bolster the squad and help the team. It’s only Haris who is fit now but I’m sure when the rest of them are fit they will give an extra spark to the team.
“Haris scoring at the weekend will give him confidence and hopefully he can take that into tomorrow night.”
Gers assistant boss Gordon Durie addressed the media in place of McDowall but insisted last week’s row with Llambias had nothing to do with the caretaker boss’ no-show.
He said: “There’s nothing in it - just a wee change, a different voice.”
But he refused to get involved in the disagreement over whether the St James’ Park loanees were meant to play in every match when fitness permitted.
“I can’t comment on that - that’s between Kenny and the board,” said former Ibrox hitman Durie.
Rangers now trail leaders Hearts by 19 points - although the do have three games in hand.
But the Light Blues are now looking over their shoulders to worry about Hibernian, who have moved to within a point of the Ibrox side having also played three games more.
“Every game is vital now,” admitted Durie. “Hibs are only a point behind us and even though we have got three games in hand, it’s vital we take it game by game. We need to get the three points tomorrow night.
“We need to build up some momentum and confidence. The last two results have been very disappointing.
“Hibs are brimming with confidence. I think they have only lost one game in their last 21.
“I would probably say they are the best football team we have played against this year, especially when you look at the game at Easter Road we lost 4-0. We never gave ourselves a chance after losing two early goals.
“But we need to get out with the sleeves rolled up and give it a right go.”
Hutton is one of 12 Gers players whose contracts expire in the summer but the 24-year-old insists uncertainty over the squad’s future is not increasing the tension in the Ibrox ranks.
“The contract thing is not adding any pressure,” he said. “This is where we are right now and we just need to leave all the contract stuff until the end of the season and worry about it then.
“We’re not letting that interfere with games right now. Whatever happens at the end of the season will be.”