I didn't mean to injure Kayal, says McCulloch

 

Rangers midfielder Lee McCulloch yesterday insisted there was no malice in the tackle that ended Old Firm rival Beram Kayal's season.

The Celtic midfielder's fears over the ankle injury sustained in a challenge with his Rangers counterpart during the Glasgow derby at Celtic Park on 28 December were confirmed on Tuesday after surgery.

McCulloch denied deliberately trying to injure the Israel international and wished him a speedy recovery.

The Ibrox midfielder said: "It wasn't as bad a challenge as some people are trying to make out. We were both committed to winning the ball and I think television replays have proved that.

"I have never gone out to purposely injure a fellow professional and I never will. We both went for the ball and unfortunately for Beram he picked up this injury. My thoughts are with him and I am sure he will come back stronger for it. I sincerely wish him all the best."

McCulloch came in for criticism from Hoops fans in the wake of Kayal's injury but last week Celtic manager Neil Lennon cleared the 33-year-old of blame. McCulloch added: "Some of the things being said are over the top. To suggest it was intentional is ridiculous.

"I was delighted to see Neil Lennon say it was a committed tackle between two players. He has played the game and knows what can happen during it.

"I have to thank Neil for what he said as some people are determined to make more of the issue."

Kayal vowed to come back stronger – and sooner than expected. He said: "The doctor and the specialist met with me and told me it [ the surgery] went well. In the past, I have returned stronger than before and I believe this will happen now too.

"I can't wait to start the rehabilitation process and to get back playing quicker than people think I will be back."

Andy Little, meanwhile, is determined to grab what could be his last chance to rescue his Rangers career.

The Northern Ireland international played in his first match in 11 weeks on Tuesday as the Light Blues beat Kilmarnock 4-1 in a friendly at the club's Murray Park training ground. The 22-year-old was back in action following his recovery from a medial knee ligament injury which cut short his loan spell at English League Two side Port Vale last year.

Little described 2011 as the worst year of his life, as he also recounted operations to both hips, but it is injuries to fellow Ulsterman Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith, and uncertainty over the future of top scorer Nikica Jelavic, that have opened the door.

Little, whose contract is up in the summer, declared himself ready to answer the call of manager Ally McCoist, who finds himself short of firepower with no guarantee that he will be able to replenish his squad before the transfer window closes.

"It was my first game back for a few months and fitness-wise I felt good," Little said. "I played 70 minutes and I could have gone for 90 but maybe the coaches wanted to be safe.

"I feel I am match fit now and I feel full of confidence. My aim is to force my way into the team. There are places up for grabs further forward which is where I want to play.

"I have messed about a bit in the past, playing at right-back. That was no one's fault but I want to start as striker.

"I don't know if I will be in the squad for the St Johnstone game at the weekend but there is a bounce game next Tuesday and I hope I can play there.

"I spoke to the manager just before Christmas and he was pretty positive, he wanted to see more of me.

"My contract is up in May and I hope to know if I am getting a new contract in the next couple of weeks.

"I want my future sorted out but at the same time, with all the uncertainty around the club, I can understand the manager's position. If it was my last game then I can take that and get myself ready for a fresh start."

McCoist has admitted his interest in Real Valladolid striker Javi Guerra. The manager confirmed reports he had been watching the 29-year-old, who has scored 37 goals in 60 games for his club during the past two seasons, but he was coy over the likelihood of a January move for the player.

McCoist told the club's Blues News: "I don't like discussing other team's players but he's very good. We've been watching a lot of games. Valladolid are going well in the second tier in Spanish football just now and he has been battering in all sorts of goals.

"He is someone else's player and it wouldn't be fair of me to say much more than that, but he is a top player."

Asked if he would be interested in signing the forward if he became available, McCoist said: "Quite possibly. He is a very good player and, if the opportunity arose, yes."

Motherwell and the Scottish Football Association have spoken of their shock and sadness following the death of Bill Dickie, who served the boards of both organisations.

Dickie was chairman of Motherwell from 2003 to 2008 and was on the Fir Park board for more than 30 years, serving as vice-chairman until he died on Tuesday night. The architect, who was in his 80s, was instrumental in the redevelopment of Fir Park in the 1990s, when he also served as president of the SFA.

The Motherwell chief executive, Leeann Dempster, said: "Everyone is absolutely devastated by Bill's sudden passing. It has come as a great shock to everyone at Fir Park."

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