Smith remains tight-lipped
Walter Smith is remaining tight-lipped as to whether Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor will figure at the weekend.
Last Updated: 17/04/09 4:28pm
Rangers boss Walter Smith is remaining tight-lipped as to whether disgraced duo Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor will be involved against Hibernian on Sunday.
The former Scotland boss performed a U-turn this week when he confirmed the pair could have futures at Ibrox, having previously told journalists that their careers in Glasgow were over.
Both players have been informed they will not play for Scotland again as a result of their behaviour while away on international duty last month.
The pair were banished to the substitutes' bench for a World Cup qualifier against Iceland, as a result of their indulging in a lengthy drinking session after returning to Scotland following an away fixture in Holland.
It was their behaviour on the bench during the Iceland game that exacerbated the situation though, as they both made V-signs in an incident that inflamed the furore considerably.
Ferguson and McGregor were both back at Murray Park on Friday, although the former did not join in training with the rest of his Rangers team-mates.
Dead and buried
"The topic is dead and buried," Smith said.
"The players are back and are available for selection. Whether they will be selected or not is down to me. You'll have to wait and see.
"They have actually been out for a bit longer than a fortnight because they didn't play in the international game on the Wednesday.
"They haven't had any action so they will need a few days training. It's not a major problem with fitness but they certainly need a top up."
Rangers have taken maximum points from games against Falkirk, St Mirren and Motherwell in the pair's absence but Smith dismissed any suggestions the team is just as strong without the influential duo.
"They have played all season and one was the captain and the other was the permanent goalkeeper so you can't say that we were stronger," he said.
"We played three games without them and managed to win the three games but you can't say that we were stronger by the fact that we lost them."
Rangers head into the weekend action trailing Celtic by a single point in the title race.
And, asked whether his change of heart was motivated by points or principle,
Smith replied: "There is a bit of both involved in the decision.
"I never made it public in the first place that they would never play for Rangers again.
"What I did do was say it off the record, which led the press to speculate.
"That prompted me, after a week or 10 days or so and having seen what happened, to say that it was something I would think about again.
"The players suffer embarrassment because of what they have done but it's Rangers who suffer.
"One of the things that made me think again was that the SFA were quick to say it wasn't their fault for any aspect of it.
"And, while they are not responsible for the players' actions, their reaction to it is something - they have admitted themselves - that they didn't handle properly.
"That was one of the things that made me think again but there were a number of aspects I had to take into consideration.
"I have stressed that the SFA are not at fault. The situation was wholly the fault of the players and we took action on it and then we were left with the aftermath.
"It seemed to me that Rangers were the only ones who were suffering and it happened when they were not in our own control."
While it has been well-documented that other players were involved in the drinking session which sparked the whole furore, Smith refused to brand Ferguson and McGregor scapegoats.
"I don't think there was anything unfair about it," he said. "They did what they did and they've got to accept that."