BARRY FERGUSON admitted he ordered his Alloa players to “get in a few faces and bite at a few ankles” before his side’s 2-1 Scottish Cup loss to Celtic at the weekend.
The struggling third-tier team turned the encounter into a bruising battle with THREE Hoops players left injured after a 90-minute roughhouse.
Skipper Callum McGregor took a facial knock following a ferocious challenge from Adam King and will miss tomorrow night’s Premiership visit to Tynecastle to take on Hearts and could be out for a lengthy period although Ange Posetcoglou was making some positive noises, as CQN reported earlier today.
Japanese new Bhoy Yosuke Ideguchi, making his first start for the club since his Hogmanay arrival, had to be helped off after an over-the-top tackle from Muhamed Niang which brought the Senegalese international a yellow card when a red looked more appropriate.
OVER THE TOP…Yosuke Ideguchi’s left ankle takes the full force of the follow-through from Muhamed Niang.
GAME OVER…Yosuke Ideguchi receives treatment before hobbling off.
Sixteen minutes earlier, the same player had left Liel Abada in a heap and it was game over for the Israeli winger who hit what turned out to be the winning goal on the stroke of half-time.
The Parkhead team were left to count the cost of the victory that set up a fifth round home meeting with Raith Rovers next month.
Striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, who scored the opening goal, claimed the inedequate opponents had been “too dangerous”, an accusation that riled former Ibrox and Scotland midfielder Ferguson who was unhappy at the remarks that insisted his part-timers were a bunch of hammer-throwers.
The Alloa gaffer said: “It’s absolute nonsense for him or anyone else to suggest I had a game plan to go out and hurt Celtic’s players. I’m actually angry when I see comments like that.
“No way can I stand back and allow people to take a pop at my players. They are not dangerous – they’re just fully committed.
“That’s what I asked them to be because if you sit off a team of Celtic’s quality then they’ll destroy you. So I told my players I needed them to be fully committed and aggressive. But not over aggressive.
GAME OVER…Liel Abada gets treatment with a concerned Tom Rogic looking on.
“If I felt any of them were out there deliberately trying to hurt an opponent then they wouldn’t be on the pitch. They wouldn’t even be in my squad. I wouldn’t tolerate it – I’d be the first one to pull them up for it if I thought they had it in their make-up, but they don’t.
Ferguson, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “What they are is an honest group of players who give 100 per cent – they don’t ever look to endanger an opponent – and I’m disappointed to see what’s been said.
“What were they supposed to do? Roll over for Celtic and give them an easy time?
“No, I asked them to go out there, get in a few faces and bite at a few ankles. Anyone who knows me knows that’s what I was like as a player myself, but at no point would it even have crossed my mind to go out there and deliberately hurt another player.”
Ideguchi limped off following a reckless tackle by Niang and Ferguson added: “I’ve seen a lot of people saying it should have been a red card and, yes, having watched it back, he does catch Ideguchi on the follow-through.
“But he also very clearly wins the ball first.
GAME OVER…Callum McGregor is left grounded after sustaining a facial knock.
“I feel I’ve got to stick up for Niang here because he’s a lovely big guy with a brilliant attitude. He’s a humble kid who wants to learn and improve. You could see from the game against Celtic that he works hard to win tackles and get in peoples’ faces.
“That’s exactly what I asked him to do. To make it uncomfortable as possible for them and rile them up a wee bit.
“But – and I can’t believe I’m even having to say this – at no stage do I want any player endangering an opponent. So I’ve got to defend Niang because it’s just not right to accuse him of trying to hurt anyone.
“As for the injury to Callum McGregor, no-one likes to see something like that happen.
“But Kingy hasn’t gone in to hurt Callum. I don’t think anyone could argue otherwise. It was just an unfortunate coming together. These things happen in football.
“Unfortunately it looked like a serious injury but there was absolutely no intent or malice on Kingy’s part. The boy doesn’t have a bad bone in his body.
“It was just a case of freak bad luck that Callum turned into his shoulder. To suggest anything else is ridiculous.”