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Page last updated at 19:56 GMT, Sunday, 2 August 2009 20:56 UK

Fleck omission 'not over bust-up'

By Clive Lindsay

John Fleck and Ally McCoist in training
Fleck and McCoist had a training-ground altercation

Rangers manager Walter Smith says he took the decision to drop teenager John Fleck to the reserves for reasons other than a training-ground bust-up.

The 17-year-old swore at Ally McCoist after the assistant boss criticised Fleck for missing a chance while being training-ground five-a-side team-mates.

Fleck thereafter missed out on Rangers' games in this weekend's Emirates Cup.

"It has nothing to do with that," said Smith after a 3-0 defeat by Arsenal. "I left him out for another reason."

Privately, Rangers are suggesting that Smith, who claims to have made the decision without knowing of the training-ground spat, has concerns about Fleck's general attitude.

So, while the first-team were losing to an Arsenal side inspired by two-goal 17-year-old Jack Wilshere, Rangers' own teenage protege was in Northern Ireland playing in a 2-1 defeat by Glentoran with the Scottish champions' second string.

Referee Brian Turkington forced Fleck to be substituted rather than brandishing a red or yellow card during that match.

But the attacking midfielder had been the star man, scoring two goals and setting up two others, as Rangers' reserves defeated Portadown 6-1 on Thursday.

And, on Friday, McCoist told Rangers' website that Fleck was sent with the reserves "for his own benefit" because he needed more game time.

"The situation is that we want John to get games and that's why he has been given to the reserves," the assistant told Rangers' website.

"We felt it was more beneficial for him to do that rather than come to London and maybe only get short periods."

Fleck, the jewel in the crown of the talent emerging from Rangers' Murray Park training facility, made his first-team debut as a 16-year-old in a Scottish Cup tie against East Stirlingshire in January 2008.

Although he made his Scotland Under-21 debut in March this year, Fleck has to date made only 13 appearances, six from the substitutes' bench, for Rangers and has become frustrated at not yet having become a first-team regular.

And he was particularly disappointed not to feature last month against Nuremberg while Charlie Adam, whose future at Ibrox looks to be coming to an end, played in the pre-season friendly.

Fleck had rejected the overtures of Manchester United and other major European clubs to sign for his beloved Rangers, so there is little possibility of his dissatisfaction leading to a transfer request.


Instead, he will view Smith's decision to relegate him to the reserves as part of a steep learning curve and it is understood that he will return to the first-team set-up on his return from Northern Ireland.

Sent to Ulster along with Fleck was fellow forward Alan Gow, who it was decided also needed game time.

Gow has made just two first-team appearances for Rangers since moving from Falkirk in 2005 and ended last season on loan to Norwich City as they were relegated from the Championship in England.

Meanwhile, Adam could be poised to complete his protracted £500,000 move to Blackpool, the Championship side for which he played on loan last term.

The 23-year-old was also missing from the Rangers squad for Saturday's 1-0 win over Paris St Germain.

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see also
Arsenal are benchmark for Smith
02 Aug 09 |  Rangers
Blumstein scores again for Gers
02 Aug 09 |  Rangers
Adam completes move to Blackpool
04 Aug 09 |  Rangers
Smith not drawn on keeper choice
01 Aug 09 |  Rangers
Ross warns Fleck of Glasgow life
12 Feb 09 |  Rangers
Fleck not like Rooney - McCoist
06 Feb 09 |  Rangers
Fleck backed to be Rangers star
18 Jan 09 |  Rangers

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