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Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Thursday, 16 April 2009 09:05 UK

Rangers pair given comeback hope

Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor
Ferguson and McGregor are to resume training with the first team

Manager Walter Smith has opened the door for Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor to make a Rangers return.

Smith fined and suspended the duo for a fortnight after their high-profile misdemeanours while on Scotland duty.

He later indicated that his captain and goalkeeper would never play for the Ibrox club again.

However, Smith concedes he may have been "harsh" after reviewing the way the situation was handled by the Scottish Football Association.

The pair were also banished from international football after a late-night drinking incident and for making gestures made while on the substitutes' bench at Hampden.

The Rangers boss announced the club fine and ban but has admitted to having his doubts about the duo's future at Ibrox.

"I did say in an off-the-record briefing to journalists that they would not play for the club again," he revealed.

I do feel Rangers are the only people who are suffering and I'm penalising them if I stand by my previous statement which was made in anger

Walter Smith

"Since then I have had a think about it and I have looked at the way it has been handled by the SFA. The president said the issue, the original problem, was not handled properly, then (Scotland manager) George Burley said it had not been handled properly.

"So I ask myself: if the SFA admit they did not handle it properly, am I being harsh? If people in charge are saying it was not handled well, then I feel I have got to give them some leeway."

Former Scotland boss Smith added: "I have the right to change my mind but what I am doing is making them available for selection again, not saying they will play."

Smith also criticised the SFA's initial handling of the drinking session when six players breached rules but only Ferguson and McGregor were punished.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

He said: "There were six players involved and two end up getting the majority of the blame.

"The SFA have started a new trend in criminality - if you leave the scene of a crime early, you are not guilty."

Rangers visit Hibernian on Sunday but that game may come too early for the players who have not trained since 20 March.

Smith later issued a statement on the club website, saying: "From the club's point of view, I feel we had to act because the image they portrayed was a really poor one.

"When I met the players in the aftermath, I was disappointed by their actions on both occasions when they were away with the national team.

"The SFA are not to blame for the situation. The players who were involved are to blame for that. It only lies with them and they are totally responsible for their actions.

Some Rangers fans back Smith turnaround

"Both players apologised to the club and they said sorry for the image they put across of themselves and the club they represent."

After conceding his initial reaction had been severe, he added: "I do feel Rangers are the only people who are suffering and I'm penalising them if I stand by my previous statement which was made in anger."

Meanwhile, the SFA says it has no intention of re-examining its own ban on Ferguson and McGregor.

"The SFA board considered the matter last week," said a spokesman. "We now consider it closed."



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see also
Scots fans may forgive Gers pair
12 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Burley distances himself from ban
12 Apr 09 |  Internationals
No way back for Scots duo - Smith
09 Apr 09 |  Internationals
I had to set an example - Burley
05 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Union blasts SFA over gesture row
04 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Smith defiant on Rangers morale
04 Apr 09 |  Rangers
Scots end Gers pair's cap career
03 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Weir concern at loss of axed pair
03 Apr 09 |  Rangers
Peat demands Scots drinks probe
03 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Pair let Scots down - Jefferies
01 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Scotland's hall of shame
01 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Scotland 2-1 Iceland
01 Apr 09 |  Internationals


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