Rangers manager Michael Beale has played down any notion that he was being disrespectful to Celtic by referring to the Parkhead side as “the other team”.
The new Ibrox boss was discussing the title race and the nine-point gap at the top of the Premiership last week but didn’t refer to Celtic by name when talking about his title rivals.
Speaking on Monday, he said he was aware that some people thought that was deliberate and lacking respect, going on to make it clear that was not his intent.
Beale said: “The other day I used the term ‘other team’. I’m new back into the country but I didn’t get where I am being disrespectful to anybody.
“I was asked the question about being nine points behind and my answer was that we have to win and the other team has to lose. That wasn’t in anyway disrespectful and I want to cut that short.
“I’ve got no issue with naming other team’s names – Celtic, Aberdeen, Hibs or whoever it is – no way am I going to be disrespectful.
“Between now and the end of the season we have to win every game, including three Old Firms, and pick up goal difference to get in front. We know it’s a tough ask but the bigger thing around that is can we get them team playing how I think football should look. Can the players look like they’re happy playing for the shirt, being together?
“That bit the other day, I don’t like that because that’s not who I am.
“It was a very innocent comment, that has been taken too far.
“I am a coach who respects the fact I can come back into this league, I enjoy it. There are very good managers in this league.”
Beale will pit his side against Celtic on January 2 but Rangers have plenty to do before then, with a busy fixture list in the next two weeks.
The new manager takes his side to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen on Tuesday night, then returns north on Friday to take on Ross County. Rangers are then back in action at home to Motherwell on December 28 before welcoming Celtic five days later.
Beale will have Connor Goldson back in the squad for the trip to Aberdeen but Antonio Colak will not be ready in time to face Jim Goodwin’s side, though the striker will be available for Friday. Steven Davis will miss the journey north as he needs a scan after picking up “a small injury” in training.
After playing James Sands and John Lundstram as a make-shift centre-back pairing in the win over Hibs last Thursday, Beale was especially happy to have Goldson available again.
He said: “I think we’ve seen that in the season where there were no fans in the stadium, all you could hear was Connor moaning but that is actually a good thing because he gives some personality to the team.
“Teams are generally quiet. He has probably played 99 per cent of the last 250 or 260 games so when you have a player so consistent in terms of selection and you lose him for four or five games, it does rock the squad. Especially when the other centre-half changes so much.
“So we are delighted to have him back in the squad. Whether him and Ben (Davies) are able to go full tilt for 90 minutes we will have to see.”