PHILIPPE Clement has revealed he was unaware that Rangers were going to ask the SFA to keep referee Willie Collum away from their matches - and stressed that no such request will be made in future without his knowledge following talks with senior club officials.

Collum will take charge of a game involving the Ibrox club in Govan tonight for the first time since the cinch Premiership fixture against Celtic at Parkhead back in December when he oversees their Scottish Cup tie with Ayr United at home.

Fans of the Glasgow club were incensed when VAR official Collum ruled that Celtic right back Alistair Johnston had not, despite clearly punching the ball out of play, committed a handball offence inside his own penalty box in the first half of a league match the visitors ended up losing 2-1.

Rangers chief executive James Bisgrove and head of football operations Creag Robertson held a meeting with SFA head of refereeing Crawford Allan the following week and asked that Collum not be involved in their matches going forward – an appeal which was immediately rejected.

However, Clement stated yesterday that he has no issues with Collum being appointed for the Ayr game and expressed hope the Old Firm controversy could be consigned to the past. 

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“I’m happy, to be honest,” he said. “When there’s one moment that I think a referee is not neutral then I would directly quit my job. I’m happy we can leave the past behind us.

“Then we can leave this story behind us. For me there was a fault made. It was a clear handball. But I am also not without fault. I make faults probably every day. So I don’t look at people if they make a mistake that they are like that for life or whatever. This is a new game and a new situation.

The Herald: Rangers manager Philippe Clement oversees training at Auchenhowie“It’s important when we speak about this game, not to live in the past. That’s important in life as well. I don’t want my players to be living in the past about the last few weeks, months or the beginning of the season. It’s about the next game and performing there. If we make mistakes then you expect to get new chances to prove you can come back.”

Asked if he had been consulted about the Collum request, Clement said: “No. That’s something for in the club that we have talked about. That will happen in the future.”

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Meanwhile, the Belgian stressed he accepted the decision by the SFA disciplinary panel to reject Rangers’ appeal against the red card which Dujon Sterling was shown towards the end of the Premiership win over Aberdeen at Ibrox on Tuesday night. 

“You don’t want to lose players but you need to accept decisions,” he said. “Referees are here to stick to rules and see the game is a good game. It’s important for managers, players and fans that there’s clarity.

“This situation was not so clear, otherwise there would be no VAR intervention to look at the images. Okay the decision is made and we accept it. There’s no other choice.

“We’ve seen other tackles in other games where it was a yellow card. But that’s the thing about football. It’s never black and white. There is a grey area and it’s a difficult job as a referee in that grey area. I think that’s one of the charms of football. I don’t feel that sometimes when it goes against you. But there’s always a lot of discussions.

“Clarity is really important, but there will always be a grey part and that’s maybe the mistake everyone had when VAR came into the game, that the grey zone would disappear. That’s impossible. There are so many nuances in every action. This was a grey zone. It went against us. We have to accept it.”