Spokesman: 'Ferguson return to fray will split Tartan Army'

Midfielder's talk of possible Scotland comeback after 'Boozegate' scandal fails to impress supporters
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The Independent Football

Scotland supporters will not welcome back Barry Ferguson "with open arms", according to a Tartan Army spokesman, Tam Ferry.

The Birmingham midfielder, 32, has not played for the national team since his part, with Allan McGregor, in the "Boozegate" scandal, involving a drinking session at the Scotland team hotel, 18 months ago.

In July, after six months of consideration, Ferguson rejected an olive branch from the Scotland manager, Craig Levein, who recalled McGregor as well as Kris Boyd and Lee McCulloch, both of whom had withdrawn their services during the tenure of Levein's predecessor, George Burley.

However, Ferguson this week opened up the prospect of a dramatic return when, during a conciliatory interview with BBC Scotland, he said, "you can never say never in football". The prospect of him returning became all the more likely yesterday when Levein reiterated his desire to have the former Rangers player back in his squad.

Pre-empting some controversy if he did return for the two Euro 2012 qualifiers next month against the Czech Republic away and Spain at Hampden, the former Rangers captain claimed: "I don't have a fear of going out and being booed."

But east of Scotland Tartan Army spokesman Ferry insisted an appearance by Ferguson would split the Scotland support. "It's awful nice of him to consider helping us out," Ferry told the Press Association, "but I'm not sure he is going to be welcomed back with open arms. The timing is a bit strange. Does he just want to play against Spain? Is he coming back because he thinks we can qualify for the finals of a major tournament?

"I'm not sure of the percentage of people who would not welcome him back but it's going to be tough for him. You can tell me if I'm wrong but he never issued an apology for the whole Boozegate debacle. At least McGregor showed some contrition and it was worse for Ferguson, he was the Scotland captain.

"Added to that is that he didn't say 'yes' right away to Craig Levein. He sat on his decision for months. What gives him the right to mull things over – and for him to then say no?

"There were mutterings against Boyd and McGregor in the Liechtenstein game at Hampden the other week. They are not forgiven by 100 per cent of the fans. There will be some fans who will say we could do with Ferguson back in the team, especially after our recent performances, and it is right that Levein should be able to pick any player he chooses, but there will be fans who will not want it to happen."

Ferguson had claimed he wanted to concentrate on his club career and spend time with his family, but on Wednesday his position appeared to change. "Craig came down to see me in the summer and we had a great chat," Ferguson explained. "He's a guy I have a lot of respect for. He wanted an answer before the Sweden game and my answer was no. Craig knows I will speak to him. His words were: 'The door will never be shut.'

"You always want to represent your country. Watching the games, you want to be out there helping Scotland get to a major European finals. It does hurt not being part of it."

Levein said: "The situation has been ongoing and I have been upfront in saying I would like him to be part of the set-up. If there is any update to the situation, we will keep everyone informed."

Ferguson's return to Scotland would be unlikely to go down well with his club manager, Alex McLeish. When his 45-times capped midfielder turned down Levein, the former Scotland manager said: "It's good news for Birmingham because of the physical demands of the Premier League. At Barry's age, there are a lot of demands on his body and he has to consider it very carefully. If he comes back from internationals, he may have to be rested."

After making his decision to retire from international football, Ferguson signed a one-year extension to his contract which keeps him at Birmingham until 2012 and has started the season in fine form.

Levein could simply name Ferguson in his next squad but it is understood he will wait for a call from the player confirming his desire to be part of the Scotland set-up again.

Celtic have agreed a deal to sign the United States Under-20 striker Adrian Ruelas, according to his Mexican club. The 19-year-old will initially join Celtic on loan from top-flight side Santos Laguna and could sign a permanent deal after the end of the season.

Santos Laguna's website stated: "As part of the co-operation agreement recently agreed between Santos Laguna and Glasgow Celtic, a temporary transfer of our player Adrian Ruelas to the Scottish team has been confirmed, with the option to purchase."

The California-born teenager represented Mexico at youth levels before switching to the land of his birth.