Rangers slam kick-off time, Celtic explanation, 'bullied' Aberdeen, Hibs loan cut short - football news

All the latest from the pre-match press conferences ahead of the weekend’s Premiership action

Managers and players have been speaking to the press ahead of the weekend’s football – here’s what they have been saying:

Rangers unhappy with Benfica kick-off time

Rangers have been handed a prize Europa League last 16 draw against Benfica – although the home leg on March 14 will kick off at 5.45pm, much to the displeasure of the Ibrox club. Rangers had hoped for a traditional 8pm start time for the second leg against the Portuguese cracks and say the matter is outwith their control. A statement read: “Rangers, on behalf of our supporters, are disappointed to have learned our Round of 16 Europa League home match with Benfica, on Thursday March 14, will kick-off at 17:45. Despite a robust case being made to UEFA for the fixture to be played in the traditional 20:00 slot, it is instead to begin significantly earlier, primarily due to broadcaster commitments, and thus likely cause significant inconvenience and disruption to our supporters. The club fully sympathises with our loyal supporters for the additional sacrifices they may need to make to attend the match, with this issue falling totally outside of our control.”

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Owen Bevan, left, failed to make an appearance at Hibs due to injury.Owen Bevan, left, failed to make an appearance at Hibs due to injury.
Owen Bevan, left, failed to make an appearance at Hibs due to injury.

Hart explains his retirement

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart has lifted the lid on his decision to retire at the end of the season. Hart said: “I have loved every moment of being here, myself and my family, it’s been everything and more than I wanted it to be, and I will be forever proud that I represented this club. The most pleasing thing for me is a lot of the people here respect that I come and I give my all. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. I’m sure there’s a lot of times when people wanted me in, wanted me out, but that’s the life of a goalkeeper. But ultimately you are respected as a person, and welcomed into a really special club. I will be 37 at the end of this season. What direction the club wants to go, whether I fitted into that, I wasn’t too sure. We didn’t even have that conversation. I certainly wasn’t interested in going and trying to play anywhere else.”

Warnock tells Dons to stand up to Killie

Aberdeen manager Neil Warnock has told his players to stand up to the challenge of Kilmarnock after watching footage of them being “bullied” on their previous visit to Rugby Park. The Dons have lost twice to former manager Derek McInnes’ side this season, including a 2-0 defeat on the artificial surface in Ayrshire in October. Warnock said: “Obviously I watched our last game (at Kilmarnock) and one or two people have commented how poor we were. I just hope we can give a better account of ourselves. I don’t want to go down there and put the white flag up because our supporters will be travelling down in numbers."

Naismith takes heart from recent Glasgow trips

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith will lean on their recent performances in Glasgow as he looks for his players to show the strong mentality they will need to upset Rangers. Rangers went top of the table last weekend but Hearts have actually outshone them over each side’s past 10 league matches, collecting 28 points to their hosts’ 27. That run started with a 2-0 victory at Celtic Park and former Kilmarnock, Rangers and Hearts forward Naismith will draw on that experience as his side bid for a ninth consecutive victory in all competitions. “It helps but I think it’s part of the progression we have had,” he said. “In my playing days here, we very rarely went to Celtic Park or Ibrox and got a result and you probably went into games never having a feeling that you were going to. Up to this point, we have managed to change that. Last season we got a 2-2 at Ibrox, we won at Celtic Park this year, we were close at Ibrox this season. So we are managing to deal with the situation and the occasion much better. So we lean on all that."

Hibs loanee Bevan sent back to Cherries

Owen Bevan’s loan deal at Hibs has been terminated due to injury. The 20-year-old defender joined from Bournemouth last month but failed to make an appearance, with the Welshman now doing his rehab with the English Premier League club. “We can confirm that Owen Bevan has returned to AFC Bournemouth following a further injury,” a Hibs statement read. “The young centre-half joined Hibs on loan on Deadline Day with the plan to link up with Nick Montgomery’s First Team squad on Monday 5 February, 2024. Unfortunately, Owen had an injury setback during his rehabilitation programme, which means he will remain with the Cherries until the end of the 2023/24 campaign. Everyone at Hibernian FC wishes Owen all the best with his recovery.”

Robinson not sorry for being passionate after spat with St Mirren fan

Stephen Robinson will not apologise for being “passionate” about St Mirren after last week’s bust-up with a supporter was smoothed over. The Buddies boss became embroiled in an argument with one of his own fans following the 1-0 cinch Premiership defeat by Livingston in West Lothian. Robinson, who this week celebrated two years in charge of the Paisley club, would not confirm that the origin of the spat was the fan questioning the heart of the players, as suggested by assistant Diarmuid O’Carroll after the game. However, ahead of the home game against St Johnstone on Saturday, he reflected on the incident and said: “A frustrated manager and a frustrated fan. I have spoken to the fan since. There is no issue whatsoever. We both want the same thing. I disagreed with his analysis of the game. I am very protective of my players, like my kids, maybe too protective at times. But that is my job, to take the pressure off them. I get criticism every week in various forms, some more abusive than others, and that wasn’t the case on Saturday. It was someone expressing an opinion that I didn’t agree with. He reached out to me and apologised and that apology was accepted. It was just two frustrated people. We have spoken several times. He is a good guy, a big St Mirren supporter and he will be there on Saturday. I won’t apologise for being passionate and emotional. I am an emotional person, I have put a lot of work into this football club."