Joey Barton has been suspended by Rangers following an angry training ground confrontation with team-mates which has left him with an uncertain future at the Ibrox club.
The 34-year-old midfielder was sent home by manager Mark Warburton after the bust-up which is understood to have taken place on Tuesday this week.
Barton, whose career has been littered with controversial incidents on and off the pitch, will not be involved in Rangers’ Premiership fixture against Ross County at Ibrox tomorrow.
He has been instructed to return to training next Monday but it is still unclear what the longer term implications of this week’s incident will be.
It is believed no blows were struck in Tuesday’s training ground clash involving Barton and several of his team-mates, which saw the most heated exchange occur between him and Andy Halliday, but the strength of feeling involved was sufficient to prompt action by Warburton.
Barton took to Twitter last night to give his version of events and offer an apology of sorts.
“Obviously after Old Firm game on Saturday everybody was hurting and in training on Tuesday there was a full and frank discussion about the result and the reasons for the loss,” Barton wrote.
“I, like everyone else, care deeply about the task in hand which is to restore Rangers to the top of Scottish football.
“The discussion we had involved some sharp disagreement about the game and some harsh words were said. There were only words involved in the disageement, nothing else. Nevertheless some of the words used did overstep the mark.
“As someone who communicates directly, I accept that some of the things I said were inappropriate and for that I apologise unreservedly.
“I cannot, however, apologise for caring deeply about winning and for wanting to perform better myself and for Rangers to do much better.
“The manager felt my words were inappropriate and asked that I take some time out to reflect on what was said. He judged that it was best if I didn’t report for training again until Monday. Whilst I don’t feel that this was necessary I fully respect the manager’s decision.”
Barton signed a two-year contract when he moved to Rangers on a free transfer from Burnley this summer. Any early termination of his deal, which is understood to earn him a weekly wage of around £20,000, would entail significant financial considerations. Rangers were making no official comment on the matter last night.
Former Manchester City, Newcastle and England player Barton was the highest profile of the 11 new players Rangers signed during the summer in preparation for their return to top-flight football.
But he has struggled so far to make a positive impact on the pitch in a faltering start to the season which most recently saw Rangers slump to a 5-1 defeat at Celtic Park last Saturday.