"Code of conduct"

Scots hope to prevent booze shame repeat

April 2, 2009

Scotland players will be issued with a ''code of conduct'' to prevent a repeat of the drinking incident which led to Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor being dropped for the World Cup qualifying win over Iceland.

Rangers duo Ferguson and McGregor arrived back from Saturday's 3-0 defeat in Holland in the early hours of Sunday morning and began a drinking session at Cameron House Hotel in Loch Lomond that reportedly lasted until lunchtime.

Both players had their names booed by the Tartan Army at Hampden on Wednesday night as first international goals for Ross McCormack and Steven Fletcher earned Scotland a 2-1 win and three vital points in qualifying Group Nine.

Afterwards, manager George Burley claimed Ferguson would continue as captain and McGregor would still be in his goalkeeping plans for the next competitive game against Norway in August.

In a statement released this afternoon, Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith backed Burley but put in place plans to avoid further embarrassment in the future.

Smith said: ''I have met with George Burley today and we have spoken about the events of the past few days. I fully support George's decision, which was obviously taken with the best interests of the team and the country in mind. ''He knew how vital it was to win on Wednesday and the action he took was deigned to ensure that we got the three points. What is clear, though, is that this type of incident must not be allowed to happen again.

''George, like any other manager, relies on his players to act in a responsible manner while they are representing their country. We will be issuing players with a code of conduct and will be tightening up arrangements within the team hotel.

''Where any player does not meet the standards required of a Scotland international, they will be dealt with swiftly and effectively. Everyone is right behind George and the team as they aim to take us to the World Cup.

''The incidents leading up to the Iceland game were unfortunate and could have been a distraction ahead of the match. Thankfully, it was dealt with quickly and the players were able to concentrate on the task at hand and secure the win.

''We now consider this matter to be closed.''

That is doubtful, with Smith's statement failing to address several issues that have arisen since news of the incident emerged on Wednesday morning.

One report claimed five other players stayed up with Ferguson and McGregor before returning to their rooms.

Reports also claim both men were initially due to be sent home by Burley but a delegation of players persuaded the Scotland boss to change his mind and keep them with the squad.

The Scotland players to a man claimed the the incident had been blown out of proportion.

Darren Fletcher insisted the Rangers pair had their team-mates' support. He said: ''Allan and Barry are valuable members of our squad and it's great to have them in the squad, and they will be big players for Scotland in the future.

''That's the unanimous view. Barry's a great captain and he has got our backing.''

Craig Gordon, who reclaimed his number one spot from McGregor after being left out against Holland, said: ''The players were aware of the incident; we hoped it would not come out but, in football, it's hard to keep these things quiet.

''The players and management dealt with it and hopefully it's behind us now. I don't think there is any problem. He (Barry) accepts it was the wrong thing to do and he had his punishment and we move on from here.

''But there is absolutely no doubt that they should be in the next squad. You need your best players and, without doubt, those two should be in every squad; they are our best players.''

Burley has been no stranger to controversy involving Rangers players since he took over as Scotland boss in January, 2008.

Between the opening World Cup ties against Macedonia and Iceland, Ibrox midfielder Lee McCulloch retired from international football.

Then Kris Boyd announced he would never again play for his country while Burley was in charge after being left on the bench against Norway in October.