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Blue to the core ... but not today

BARRY Ferguson has five stars tattooed on the inside of his left forearm, he still holds a season ticket at Ibrox and will fight Rangers' corner in an argument until he's blue in the face.

And yet fate has decreed that his first public outing at his old stamping-ground - which he left under something of a cloud a little over five years ago - will be in the opposition technical area tomorrow night, when he leads Clyde against his former club.

The irony is not lost on Rangers manager Ally McCoist, who will find it a strange experience to lock horns with Ferguson in a second-round tie in the Petrofac Training Cup.

McCoist has known Ferguson since the latter was a kid with a smart mouth, and watched him blossom into one of the great Rangers players of modern times.

He was also part of the Rangers management team that felt bitterly let down over Ferguson's part in the infamous Boozegate scandal in 2009 which brought about an ignominious end to Ferguson's international career and expedited his departure from Rangers.

However, McCoist - no stranger to the odd infraction during his playing career - insists Ferguson should be given a raucous and warm reception at his spiritual home, and his indiscretions at Cameron House Hotel and subsequent lack of contrition should not tarnish his standing.

McCoist said: "It's amazing how fate throws up these fixtures, with Barry coming back to Ibrox as a manager for a cup tie.

"It will be a bit bizarre seeing him in the away dug-out but it'll be great to see him and big Bob Malcolm back. Both were great servants to the club and are very well-respected. It's a chance for supporters to welcome them back and the fans will do that - we all will.

"Barry was a fantastic captain for this club who won numerous trophies. He played in great Rangers teams and got to a Uefa Cup final. He is rightly held in fantastic esteem by the supporters. He's right up there with the greatest Rangers captains because of his achievements.

"Barry was a leader here. When he played he led by example. He'd never ask his team-mates to do something that he wasn't willing to do himself. He made one or two mistakes but we all have. It should never take away from the fact that he was a terrific captain and great Rangers player.

"I don't think he left on a sour note. It certainly shouldn't tarnish his time here, as far as I'm concerned, not at all. I'd hate to think that anyone thought it marred his performances at Rangers. That would be totally wrong.

"We had a few meetings with the Barry at the time of the Boozegate incident. It was an episode that, looking back, we could all have done without.

"But I would urge everyone not to tarnish Barry over that one episode. That would be grossly unfair - we've all done things in our careers that we regret.

"I can safely say that was one of Allan McGregor and Barry's. But at the same time you have to move on and we shouldn't hold that against Barry. We certainly shouldn't judge a whole career on one mistake.

"If he wants to have a career in management, he'll have to deal with those types of things himself. He's been on the other side of the fence, like me, so you appreciate that mistakes will be made."

Ferguson, who had a short spell in charge of Blackpool last season after the dismissal of Paul Ince and Alex Rae, surprised many by opting to re-start his managerial career in the bottom tier in Scotland at a part-time club with a tiny fan-base and limited resources.

However, he is relishing the responsibility and believes it can be the making of him in the coaching side of the game.

He said: "It's not about me going back to Ibrox. The most important thing is it's about the players, the fans and the club going to Ibrox.

"I've been asked the question a few times about going into the away dressing room but I know how to get there. I was there for a few years so I know my way about Ibrox.

"I've been away nearly six years now so it won't be as strange if I'd been away a year or two. Obviously it's a bit different taking a team to Ibrox as a manager but it would be a better decision to tell you how it was after the game."

So can the prodigal son cause an upset? "I have to be positive and I told all my players at training that if they have any doubt there is no point in turning up."

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