Steven Gerrard says he hopes Kyle Lafferty can save his international career even although the Irish FA is denying him the chance to use the striker against Hamilton in what could be a pivotal weekend in the Premiership.
Lafferty fell foul of Irish FA standards the way he withdrew from the Northern Ireland squad for the matches with Austria and Bosnia Herzegovina and as a result officials demanded his removal from the Hamilton game under Fifa’s five-day rule.
While it is a punishment for Lafferty, it is also punitive for Gerrard as he seeks his first away win of the season.
If he is angry with Michael O’Neill, the Northern Ireland manager, and Lafferty, he hid it well yesterday. The Rangers boss said: “As a manager you want your best players available and Kyle would have been involved against Hamilton.
“He’s come and spoken to me and he’s apologised. He’s in dialogue with Michael O’Neill about his international football but he’s made it clear he wants to carry on.
“He loves playing for Northern Ireland. Hopefully once the weekend is done that matter will be closed.
“We want all our players to do as well as they can for their respective countries. We feel proud when the players get international recognition. It’s good for the club. We support all our international players.
“Kyle has got this one wrong and the best punishment for any player is to take football away from them.
“He’s regretting it now because he’s not available for Sunday. In terms of the actual detail as to what happened, I don’t know. He and Michael are in conversation and I know Gary McAllister spoke with Michael too.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s done. The punishment is there, he won’t play on Sunday but we move on.”
With Hibs going to Celtic Park today and Hearts hosting Aberdeen, Rangers will have the opportunity to make ground whatever the results are – as long as they win tomorrow. Gerrard said: “It is a big three points and our focus is all on Hamilton and not really what happens anywhere else.
“Of course, we will look in on Saturday and see how those games go and we will see where we lie in the league when kick-off comes.
“But it won’t change our plan or the way we are going about things. Before those games are played we are going there for three points and that doesn’t change.”
Rangers have drawn away to Aberdeen and Motherwell and lost at Celtic Park and the Tony Macaroni Arena.
But midfielder Andy Halliday feels they are ready to secure a crucial away win in what will be a testing week, with Spartak Moscow coming to Ibrox next Thursday and then the League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen three days later.
Halliday said: “There have been a lot of improvements this year. One of the only disappointments we have had has been the away form, but I think that is something we can rectify on Sunday.
“We have had a couple of big performances and big results in recent weeks. It’s hard, but you want to keep that momentum going.”
While Gerrard seemed placid on the Lafferty situation, he spoke passionately about the treatment of Paul Gascoigne in lieu of the announcement of his induction into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame and subsequent withdrawal.
He said: “I was gutted for him and for me it’s the wrong decision, he should be in there.
“Hopefully one day they see sense and it gets resurrected.
“He was my England hero growing up. If the people who made the decision are football people, they would have enjoyed watching Paul Gascoigne and they would appreciate the man as a footballer.”
Gerrard also revealed that Graham Dorrans has suffered a setback and will go back to see a surgeon next week regarding his ankle problem.