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Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 16:43 UK

Smith is cagey over returning duo

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Smith draws line under 'boozegate'

Rangers manager Walter Smith has refused to be drawn on whether Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor will be involved against Hibernian on Sunday.

Smith this week relented on his earlier indications that the pair would not play for the club again after their misbehaviour while with Scotland.

On Friday, they were back at Murray Park, although Ferguson trained alone.

"Whether they will be selected or not is down to me," said Smith. "You'll have to wait and see."

Midfielder Ferguson and goalkeeper McGregor were dropped by Scotland because of a drinking session that followed the World Cup qualifying defeat in Netherlands.

And Smith reacted furiously to V-signs made by the pair while sitting on the bench during the match that followed against Iceland at Hampden.

The pair have returned to Rangers after a two-week club suspension, although Sunday's trip to Easter Road could come too early for them to be involved.

The players suffer embarrassment because of what they have done, but it's Rangers who suffer

Rangers manager Walter Smith

"They haven't had any action so they will need a few days training," said Smith.

"It's not a major problem with fitness, but they certainly need a top up."

Rangers have taken maximum points from games against Falkirk, St Mirren and Motherwell in the pair's absence, but Smith dismissed any suggestions the team had shown they could do without the influential duo.

"They have played all season and one was the captain and the other was the permanent goalkeeper, so you can't say that we were stronger," he said.

Rangers head into the weekend action trailing Celtic by a single point in the title race.

And, asked whether his change of heart was motivated by points or principle, Smith replied: "There is a bit of both involved in the decision.

"I never made it public in the first place that they would never play for Rangers again.

"What I did do was say it off the record, which led the press to speculate.

"That prompted me, after a week or 10 days or so, and having seen what happened, to say that it was something I would think about again.

"The players suffer embarrassment because of what they have done, but it's Rangers who suffer."

Smith appears to be unhappy at the Scottish FA's handling of the affair.

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"One of the things that made me think again was that the SFA were quick to say it wasn't their fault for any aspect of it," he said.

"And, while they are not responsible for the players' actions, their reaction to it is something - they have admitted themselves - that they didn't handle properly.

"That was one of the things that made me think again, but there were a number of aspects I had to take into consideration.

"I have stressed that the SFA are not at fault. The situation was wholly the fault of the players and we took action on it and then we were left with the aftermath."

Other players were involved in the drinking session that sparked the whole furore.

But an SFA investigation concluded that their behaviour did not warrant disciplinary action and Smith refused to brand Ferguson and McGregor as scapegoats.

"I don't think there was anything unfair about it," he said. "They did what they did and they've got to accept that."



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see also
Law could have helped Ibrox pair
17 Apr 09 |  Rangers
Hibernian v Rangers
17 Apr 09 |  Scottish Premier
Rangers welcome duo back to fold
16 Apr 09 |  Rangers
Rangers pair given comeback hope
16 Apr 09 |  Rangers
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


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