V-sign pair unfairly vilified, says Scotland international

Hearts' Michael Stewart believes outrage at Rangers duo was over the top
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The Independent Football

Scotland international Michael Stewart believes Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor have been wrongly vilified following their drinking session and subsequent crude gestures while on Scotland duty. The Heart of Midlothian player feels they have been victims of a similar witch-hunt to the former bank chief Sir Fred Goodwin. Ferguson and McGregor were told they would no longer be selected by Scotland for making V-signs on the Hampden bench, after a drinking session cost them their place in the World Cup qualifying win over Iceland. But Stewart has called for the public and media to lay off both Rangers players, who were also suspended by their club.

He hopes they are reinstated by the Scottish Football Association when the furore dies down. "Stranger things have happened than the two lads getting back into the Scotland set-up, so I hope it's not the end of their careers," said Stewart. "Everyone makes mistakes, and we shouldn't be too quick to vilify people. I'm sure if we look at ourselves we have done things, maybe not of the same ilk, but we have all made mistakes. I think the two players are of benefit to the country – and if there's a way to get around it, we should do."

Stewart, who has four Scotland caps, compared their situation to that of former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Goodwin, who is collecting a pension worth around £700,000 a year after presiding over the largest annual loss in UK corporate history. "In this country, we're far too quick to jump on the bandwagon and vilify people," the 28-year-old said. "All you need to do is look at Fred Goodwin as well. He is vilified to the hilt, but people seem to forget the billions he brought into the economy prior to everything crashing. That's not to say that what's happened isn't an issue; it's just we shouldn't get too carried away with the momentum of things in any walk of life. I hope in due course we can look at things objectively and make decisions then."

The former Rangers manager, Dick Advocaat, has told Ferguson to forget about joining him at Zenit St Petersburg this summer. Ferguson's Ibrox future is in doubt after he was stripped of the club captaincy and suspended without pay for two weeks.

Advocaat, who made Ferguson his captain during his spell in Scotland, remains an admirer of the 31-year-old midfielder but does not plan to bid for him. "I was asked if I would be interested in signing Barry if he is leaving Rangers in the summer," the Dutchman said. "If I did not have a player for that position then Ferguson would have been one of my choices – but I don't need a player for that position. [Anatoliy] Tymoschuk has done an excellent job and is a real quality player. So I have no need for Barry."

Commenting on the Ferguson saga, the former Netherlands manager Advocaat added: "I find what happened strange. But then, I believe Barry has been at the club for too long. It is better for him to leave Rangers and get a new motivation. I think he is still a great player but not for Rangers any more. Walter Smith will realise this because he is a very bright man."

Meanwhile, the Rangers striker Kris Boyd has reiterated his desire to play for Scotland again should George Burley lose his job as manager. In October, Boyd controversially claimed he would never play for Scotland again while Burley remained in charge after being repeatedly overlooked by him.

"Maybe in 20 years' time I will look back and say: 'I wish I hadn't done that'. I've never said I'll not play for Scotland again. Hopefully I can be a better striker for Scotland if they need me. I said at the time I wanted to play for my country again at some stage and that has not changed."

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