The Scotland fiasco and the lessons that were ignored
And lets not mince our words here. Allan McGregor and Barry Ferguson disgraced themselves, not just by over-indulging in a boozy session in a posh hotel, but by belittling their initial apology to an angry nation with a show of schoolboy stupidity. We're told that another 5 players were involved in the bevvy session, including our own Steven Whittaker and Celtic's Broon 0.9, and that has naturally led some to feel that the Rangers pair have been treated harshly. We don't know the full circumstances of the others' involvement and probably never will but it was Ferguson and McGregor who were caught, Ferguson and McGregor who were punished and Ferguson and McGregor who sat making childish gestures to anybody who's gaze happened to pass in their direction.
More importantly both McGregor and Ferguson disgraced us. I'm no fan of international football and feel no loyalty to the Tartan Trannys and their frankly cringe worthy antics but I am concerned that, whilst on international duty, every Rangers player is representing the image of their club as well as their country.
When Bougherra turns out for Algeria, he does so as a Rangers defender. When Edu plays for the USA he's a representative of both America and our own club. The biggest stage is a place for players to show their talents and, by natural association, reflects on their club sides. McGregor was given a golden chance after displaying decent form for club that he could be relied upon to be national number 1. He blew it spectacularly and not by the goals Scotland lost in Holland, at least 2 of which he could do absolutely nothing about. Ferguson's indiscretion is compounded even further by the fact that he was both club and national captain.
People who criticise Ferguson are accused of having an agenda whilst those who defend him are written off as blind. The truth is somewhere in the middle - he was a massively talented youngster who, through a combination of injury and indiscipline, has ultimately failed to live up to his real potential in what should be the prime of his career. To captain your club is a massive honour. To be in the position where ordinary people give up their hard-earned cash to watch you display your God-given talents is something most of us will never know. To throw all of that away with a display of cheap petulance is unforgivable.
I'm not sure where the players go from here. Rangers may publicly state that neither will feature for the club again but should we find ourselves going into the final old firm game of the season tied on points with an equally struggling Celtic, the temptation will surely be there for Smith to call upon his biggest players. Like it or not Ferguson certainly fits that criteria even if performances have rarely merited it. McGregor has flirted with the press on numerous occasions by way of cheap and tacky affairs with cheap and tacky women. Its difficult to say that he has no excuse but his behaviour is in keeping with many for whom the instant pleasures of a night on the tiles and a quick liaison mean more than the dedicated commitment to work. Its not just a Scottish problem either as some have suggested. Antonio Cassano - the bad-boy of Italian football - threw away a chance of success at Real Madrid because he was unwilling to dedicate himself to his career. Working class kids given money and adoration don't always cope and for every clean-cut Lineker there's an alcohol-ravaged Gascoigne.
But with Ferguson its so much more painful. Barry isn't the first Ferguson to break through at Rangers with the potential to become a truly great player. His brother Derek was a bright prospect, so I'm told, who should have been the mainstay of our midfield for much of the late 80s and early 90s. That he wasn't isn't the sad part: many youngsters fail to cope with the pressure of making it at the biggest clubs. Its the manner of his fall from grace that causes so much anger. All his talent wasted by a billy big baws attitude, a lack of basic professional discipline an indulgence of the booze and burds culture that is so tempting for any young man. Ferguson can have no greater teacher as to how not to ruin a career than his big brother. That he's shown the same indiscipline and self-indulgence that destroyed Derek's career is the most frustrating part of this whole sorry episode. Ferguson had the honour of being Rangers captain - of representing every Gers fan around the world and fulfilling our childhood dreams - and he's thrown it away in an even more spectacular fashion than his brother did before him.
My own opinion is that neither should have a future at Ibrox. In McGregor's case its simply that Alexander is an able goalkeeper and the sale of McGregor will bring in some much-needed cash, although just how much must now be questioned. With Ferguson its a combination of a series of poor performances that in no way justify a £30,000 weekly contract and the fact that he had absolutely no regard for the dignity of his role as Rangers captain. The more important lesson that we must all learn however is that whilst the temptations of alcohol and the problems of indiscipline are far from being a Scottish problem, our footballers must change their mentality. For those who play in public parks its a game. For those lucky enough to earn their living from football its a profession that merits the highest levels of discipline and commitment. That's something that both McGregor and Ferguson have sadly been found to lack.