Dundee’s Nick Ross insists that Gary Harkins won’t shrink under fierce criticism from Rangers supporters – and that he has taken some of the heat off former Celtic skipper Darren O’Dea.
Harkins caused an almighty stir at the weekend by taunting the Ibrox outfit, branding them a “new club” during an interview with journalists. The Dundee midfielder was speaking ahead of tonight’s Scottish Cup fifth-round replay against Dumbarton, with the winners set to face Rangers at Ibrox in the quarter-finals next month.
Rangers have always maintained that they are the same club despite liquidation in 2012, and so Harkins sparked a social media frenzy when, after being asked by the media about a potential cup trip to Govan, he said: “They’re just a new club. I’ve not played them before, so I’m looking forward to that. It should be good.”
The player later stated on his Twitter account that it was: “Just a wee joke took too far.”
Yesterday, Dundee manager Paul Hartley refused to get drawn on Harkins’ comments but said he will “have a chat” with his midfielder.
When pressed, Hartley said: “I don’t have any thoughts on it. I haven’t seen them. I have been told about the headlines but it is not something that I like to get into or want to get into it. I didn’t even know he had said anything until this morning so we will have a chat with Gary.”
His team-mate Ross did discuss the furore with the press yesterday, insisting that Harkins will take any abuse he receives in his stride.
“I saw it on Twitter and the reaction to it,” said Ross. “Gary is like that. He’s always trying to wind people up and he’s done a good job there.
“He’s been getting a lot of abuse on Twitter, but I don’t think I can repeat what’s been said! It won’t bother him. He can handle it. That’s why he did it. He loves to wind people up and know that if you give it out you have to take it back.
“Everyone gets it from him. He doesn’t let anyone in the dressing room rest for a minute.
“In this case, I don’t think you realise how big a deal it will be until it’s said and then you get the reaction from it in the papers and on social media. That escalates it.
“If we get through to play Rangers he’ll get abuse but it won’t affect him too much.”
Ross believes the Harkins controversy may actually have served to do Dens defender Darren O’Dea a favour after the Republic of Ireland defender also publicly criticised Rangers over their financial affairs.
O’Dea, who joined Dundee recently until the end of the season, labelled Rangers “cheats” for winning so many titles while breaking
tax rules, and Ross believes that the Dubliner will be let off the hook somewhat should Dundee seal a place in the last eight.
“Darren O’Dea is happy because he would be getting booed so Gary will take some of the heat off him,” added Ross. “He’ll handle it no problem. If you give it out you have to take it back.
“Maybe because the games with Rangers haven’t been regular, you forget how big these things can get. The manager didn’t say much about it to us, he probably spoke to Gary privately.”
Ross also insisted that Harkins’ comments would not distract Dundee from the task in hand at Dens Park this evening. “All of the focus has been on what Gary said rather than the game, but we have got our minds on Dumbarton,” he insisted.
“It was a tough game down there in bad conditions. It didn’t help either team. If we can play to our strengths here, in front of our home fans, then we can get the win we need.
“If we get through it will be a great tie, one of the ties of the round and it might be picked up by television.
“I have played against Rangers a few times at Ibrox, I remember drawing 1-1 and they were always tight games.
“It’s always a good game and a great atmosphere when you go there.”