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Wright accuses Ciftci of 'hiding' after Tayside rivals trade blows

FRAZER WRIGHT and Nadir Ciftci took their private war of attrition from the William Hill Scottish Cup final into extra-time with a fresh round of off-the-pitch barbs over gamesmanship, elbowing and foul language.

Frazer Wright accused Nadir Ciftci of being overly physical during the cup final. Picture: SNS
Frazer Wright accused Nadir Ciftci of being overly physical during the cup final. Picture: SNS

Each man nipped at the other, like rhino beetles in a Bangkok gambling den, throughout St Johnstone's historic 2-0 triumph, with temperatures being raised early in the second half when the victors' central defender, Wright, complained he was elbowed in the face by the Dundee United forward.

Ciftci missed with an apparent attempt to connect with Wright again minutes later as they challenged for a high ball and that instigated a verbal exchange between the pair.

Wright has confessed that he set out to get under the skin of the Turkish striker, whom he also accused of foul play against his team-mate Steven Anderson, from the very beginning of the encounter at Celtic Park and insisted that indulging in some fairly intense mind games was a factor in the result going St Johnstone's way.

"I was in Ciftci's ear a bit, winding him up, because I don't think he plays as well when he gets worked-up," said the 34-year-old.

"The manager said to me to do it if I can wind him up. I know that he will do me for pace every time, so I just thought to myself that I would get in his ear.

"He is one of United's best players and things tick for them when they go through him. It started a few weeks ago at Perth when I was in his ear and I just kept it going.

"He caught me in the face in the second half, but it was nothing. He caught Steven Anderson right at the end as well and I think he got booked for it.

"He was quiet at the end, though. I didn't see him after the game because he had his face in his shirt like [Luis] Suarez. He was hiding."

Ciftci refused to go into specifics on the degree of psychological warfare he encountered from Wright during the match, but chose to return fire in relatively subtle fashion by claiming he had picked up some valuable experience of what lengths certain opponents will go to in an attempt to stop talented players from flourishing.

"I've learned something good," he said. "The bad players on the pitch will always look for the best players on the other team to swear at them.

"You give everything to win the game, but I think there has to be a bit of respect as well. I don't need to go into the details about what he said to me in the game.

"It's football and you will get that. I don't want to go into details. They won the game and congratulations to St Johnstone."

When asked about whether he had caught Wright and Anderson with flying elbows, the United player replied: "Not that I remember. I apologise if I did, but I would have to see it back."

It seems inevitable that Wright will spend many a happy hour sitting through re-runs of the crowning moment of his career.

A former car mechanic who started out with Stranraer, he received a late invitation to senior football from Kilmarnock, aged 25, and is a fine example of the rewards that hard work and perseverance can bring. "Ten years ago, I was celebrating winning the Third Division and working with my father-in-law and brother-in-law," he smiled. "I can't fix cars any more, but I might be able to change your tyre. It is surreal winning the cup, but there were a lot of omens.

"There was 'May 17', it was the gaffer's 50th game and it was my 100th game. You just had this feeling that we were going to win it.

"United hit the post and crossbar and we scored pretty much the same goal we scored against them two weeks beforehand to open the scoring. When these things happen, you do think it's going to be your day.

"Everything went for us. On another day, the Ryan Dow shot that hit the post goes in or the Ciftci free-kick comes down from the crossbar, hits Alan Mannus on the back and goes in. It was our time."

Wright has had to handle moments in his career, however, where it was most certainly not his time. "The hardest time I had was the first six months at Kilmarnock when I was struggling to get into the team," he recalled. "During pre-season, I was out on my feet and thinking: 'What have I done?'

"Did I feel out of my depth as well? It was maybe a bit of both, but I stuck at it and hard work got me through. You have to remember, I was playing against the likes of Kris Boyd having just come from the Second Division. It was a big step up, but I got my head down and got my rewards.

"I'm amazed with my career. When I was 25, I thought that maybe I'd never have the chance to go full-time, but I am just thankful Jim Jefferies gave me the chance."

Ciftci remains similarly thankful he was given the opportunity to relaunch his career at Tannadice following several seasons spent trawling around Europe. Still just 22, he may be the subject of interest from elsewhere along with a number of his team-mates, but he hopes his chairman, Stephen Thompson, can stick to his word and keep the nucleus of the side in place.

"I hope we stay together," he stated. "An experience like this is something we have to use to be stronger next season. I hope we can come back and lift the trophy next time. It wasn't just my free kick that hit the bar during the match, there was also Dow's first-half effort on to the post. The ball just didn't want to go in."

Ciftci worked hard as United's lone frontman with his side's major difficulties coming in midfield where the likes of Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong struggled to make any kind of impression.

Armstrong looked distraught as he left the stadium, refusing to talk to the waiting media and rushing onto the team bus.

"I think Stuart worked really hard," said Ciftci. "It was not the easiest game for us, but I can't say anyone didn't do their best. I don't think I can blame anyone in the team for the result."

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