RANGERS’ team for Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round clash with Raith Rovers will make interesting reading after caretaker boss Kenny McDowall said he was obliged to play the five players on loan from Newcastle in his side - only for that to be denied by chief executive Derek Llambias.
McDowall clearly stated in his weekly pre-match media conference that he was duty-bound to start the quintet, who joined on loan from Newcastle on Monday, in every match they were fit to play in - before Llambias later appeared to dismiss the claims.
Gael Bigirimana, Remie Streete, Haris Vuckic, Shane Ferguson and Kevin Mbabu have all joined the Scottish Championship club until the end of the campaign.
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The first three are in line for their debuts in Sunday’s Ibrox clash, with the latter two carrying injuries which will delay their arrivals for several weeks.
The signings came amid the backdrop of a power struggle between Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, who has an 8.92 per cent stake in the Scottish Championship club, and other shareholders, including Dave King, whose requisition for a general meeting to oust the board must be answered by the club on Friday.
Ashley and the club face hearings before the Scottish Football Association in March over the Sports Direct owner’s possible breaches of dual interest rules - and that issue appeared more than pertinent at Thursday’s press conference at Murray Park.
McDowall said: “On Monday night I got a call from Derek saying he had secured five players on loan. Three of them arrived and two of them will be coming the next three or four weeks, they are injured.
“When I was given the job I was told players incoming and outgoing wouldn’t be my responsibility.
“I take the team and coach the team and I am more than happy to get on with it.”
Asked if he was obliged to play the five, he replied: “Yes”.
McDowall, who himself is working a 12-month notice period, was then asked if he had to play every one of them every week.
“Yes,” he replied. “I have been told what to do and I have told them I am more than happy to carry out what they have told me, so I don’t have a problem with it at all.
“They are obviously good players, they play for Newcastle, but I will carry on and do what I am told to do.”
Llambias later issued a short statement to Sky Sports News HQ, which read: “There’s no way the board is picking the team.
“The basis of any loan deal is that the players who arrive bolster the side and give the squad more depth. That’s exactly what is happening here.”
Rangers then put a story on their official website at 6pm which quoted McDowall as saying there was no certainty that Bigirimana, Vuckic and Streete would play against Raith, with the latter reported to have worked separately with the physio following a “slight injury”.
McDowall was quoted as saying: “All of the new boys are in the squad for Sunday and at the moment it’s too early to say if any would be involved in the game. As ever, we’ll have a look at the end of the week and see who is fully fit and who is not.”