Rangers last night sparked a war of words with Third Division rivals Annan Athletic after claiming that the ankle injury sustained by winger David Templeton in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Galabank may have been caused by the artificial playing surface.
The allegation was strenuously denied by the Dumfriesshire club.
Templeton, signed for £800,000 from Hearts on transfer deadline day last month, collapsed nine minutes into the match with the ball elsewhere and no opponent within yards of him.
Manager Ally McCoist claimed that medical staff had assured him that the plastic pitch was responsible for the damage, the full extent of which has yet to be revealed but it is likely to rule the 23-year-old out of action for the next few months.
McCoist doesn’t believe that Annan’s 3G surface should be used for senior matches and claims that he has banned his senior professionals from using the ones at Murray Park.
“The ankle is not broken but it is pretty bad,” he said. “He has ligament damage and only time will tell if that’s worse [than a break] or not. At least with a break you know where you are. We will just have to monitor him because he will have another scan to see how severe the damage is when the swelling goes down.
“I have no idea what timescale we are looking at. I would probably settle for a month but I think it will be longer. Their player was nowhere near him: he just got his studs caught in the surface. It’s a shame because he started so well for us. Our doctor did say the pitch definitely played a part in it, but I don’t know how much.
“As those surfaces go it looked all right, but whether we should be playing on them is a different argument.
“I’m not going to start an anti-plastic pitch campaign because we have four teams in our league who use them. It doesn’t matter a toss what I think about them because we’re playing on them. That’s the way it is. We have two artificial facilities here, one outdoors and one indoors, and I don’t ask my older players to use them. That would give you an indication as to what my views are on it. But, at the same time, I fully appreciate why clubs use them because of the use to the wider community.”
Annan secretary Alan Irving, though, rejected any suggestion that the synthetic surface could be at fault for Templeton’s injury.
“These surfaces are now used in Champions League matches and cup finals and our surface is state-of-the-art,” he said. “Not counting youth-team games, we must have played a dozen times on that surface without any problems. One of the things which has become apparent, though, is that you need to wear the right footwear to play on it.
“I’m sad that David Templeton has been injured but I find it incredible that our pitch is being blamed for it. He’d gone into a tackle shortly before he went down and I wonder if perhaps he was suffering a delayed reaction to that.”
Tonight Rangers face Queen of the South for a place in the semi-finals of the Ramsdens Cup at Ibrox and Spanish striker Francisco Sandaza believes that home advantage should see the tournament favourites through. He also explained the club’s failure to win any of their three away matches in the fourth tier by claiming that their opponents didn’t play football.
“I think everybody expects more from us now but every team needs time to get settled and get into a rhythm,” he said.
“Everybody is expecting 4-0 and 5-0 but the teams are playing the game of their lives, very sharp, very aggressive, no space. The Third Division is not football, at least away from home. It’s more physical, more hard tackles. There much more of the play is balls over the top.
“It’s more like a war, at least it was on Saturday. We have to win these wars and we must do that. We are Rangers and we must win every game.
“It wasn’t football the way it is at Ibrox or in SPL games. But we have to realise this is where we are right now, these are our present circumstances. It’s not easy to settle as quickly and we need to be patient in the matches. The games so far haven’t been more competitve at home, we’ve done well at home. We pass the ball, we create chances.
“But away it’s been more difficult. However, we’ve played only three games away. Three draws isn’t ideal but it’s still September and we’re unbeaten.
“Obviously, if the results are not going well, critics are going to turn on new players like me, Ian Black and Dean Shiels but I’m sure we’re doing the right job and working hard. Eventually we will start achieving the results away from home everyone expects from us.”