Ally McCoist, the Rangers assistant manager, asked detractors of the Old Firm to “cut the players some slack” following the criticism of the goalless derby at Parkhead.
Celtic emerged from Sunday’s remarkably drab encounter in the east end of Glasgow still two points clear of Rangers at the top of the Premier League but the quality of football on show was slated by pundits and supporters of both clubs.
The former Rangers striker McCoist, who will take charge of the side for tonight’s Scottish Cup trip to Forfar Athletic, asked for the game to be put in to context.
“It wasn’t a good game but I can’t remember the last 0-0 draw,” he said. “I think it was the second 0-0 Old Firm game in around 10 years. And although I might be wrong, I don’t think I played in one – and I played in more than 50 of them.
“So why don’t we just cut the players a bit of slack in this one, eh? I think the criticism has been a wee bit over the top. In Old Firm games in recent years, you’ve had a 4-2 and a 3-2.
“I agree it wasn’t a great game but I’m not going overboard in saying how poor it was. In an ideal world, you would hope it is a great game with goals flying in left, right and centre and with great pieces of skill. Make no mistake about it, we want to play entertaining teams and entertaining football, that’s the second most important thing to winning for me.”
The striker Steven Naismith, who came on as a second-half substitute on Sunday, admits it was only after he watched the game on television that he realised how poor it had been.
However, the former Kilmarnock player also called for the critics to give the players some leeway. He said: “During the game, you are too busy looking at what your own team are doing, so you are not concentrating on how the game in general is going. So it wasn’t until I watched the highlights that I noticed it wasn’t the greatest of games.
“But every game can’t be a 3-3 draw; they all can’t be brilliant. The last two Old Firm games have not been the greatest of games but every other one has been entertaining. There was a 3-0 at Ibrox, which was entertaining, and a couple at Parkhead towards the end of last season were entertaining. It’s all about getting results. We would take boring 1-0 wins all season. You obviously want to put a good performance on but you can’t do that on every time.”
Rangers will get the chance to rack up the goals against Forfar when they take on the Third Division side at Station Park. However, McCoist insists it is the fear of being on the wrong end of a cup shock which – would match the 1967 defeat at Berwick Rangers – that will inspire the Ibrox players.
He said: “This is what playing for the Old Firm is all about, going to places like this in the Cup. Make no mistake about it, you are playing for your pride because you are a scalp, a massive, massive scalp to those boys. And if they get you, you don’t forget it for the rest of your life.”