Steve Clarke, the manager of Scottish Premiership club Kilmarnock, has hit back at Rangers counterpart Steven Gerrard over what he believes is a personal attack.
The teams will meet in a fifth round Scottish Cup clash at Rugby Park later today and Gerrard has claimed that Clarke tried to have former England striker Jermain Defoe suspended for the match.
Clarke cited the example of his own player, Jordan Jones, receiving a retrospective two-game suspension for allegedly diving to win a penalty kick in a game against Dundee earlier in the season.
Defoe was accused of being guilty of that offence when Rangers were awarded the first of four penalties during their 4-0 win over St Mirren at Ibrox last weekend.
“I am not particularly advocating [action] but I just want consistency,” Clarke said earlier in the week. “So, if our player gets a two-game ban, I look forward to seeing what happens this week.”
Clarke, though, defended himself against Gerrard’s accusations.
“I was very general in the point I made and I didn’t name names,” he said. “If the collateral damage from that is that I upset another manager then that has to be the way because I have to do my job professionally for Kilmarnock.
“One of the other things which upset me about what I regarded as a more personal press conference than the one I gave was the fact that he alluded to me being the only Premiership manager who didn’t go to the recent summit meeting in Perth and that that was somehow my fault.
“It wasn’t my fault. I explained that I didn’t get the invitation until late on Tuesday and I’d already made plans for the Thursday.
“I accepted Ian Maxwell’s reasoning for forgetting about us, which was a sad reason; he’d lost his father. I asked the press that that would be the end of it and I didn’t make a big issue of it.
“Anyway, I wasn’t the only manager who didn’t attend – Hamilton’s Martin Canning, who has unfortunately lost his job since then, wasn’t there either.
“So for Steven to come out and try to say that they’d agreed at that meeting to try to show more respect to referees didn’t make any sense because I wasn’t at the meeting and wouldn’t have known about that and why would he try to isolate me? I was disappointed with that.”
Clarke revealed he has not attempted to speak with Gerrard this week.
“No; I’d wait until the next time I saw him,” he said. “There was no need to make it personal with all that stuff about class or whatever.
“I’m 55 years old and I know how to lead my life, professionally and personally. There will be someone bigger and better who will judge me at the end of my time.
“I’m not going to become involved in personal things but I have to answer some of the points that Steven made.
“Everybody handles situations differently. I keep using the word but I tend to handle them consistently and not make them personal. We should all understand how difficult it is.
“Sometimes it’s hard to sit in front of the media and try to talk common sense and offer balanced views and opinions.
“If I was having a go at only one club or only one player in particular then that would be a different matter and I’d expect somebody to come back at me.
“But I’m always very conservative in any criticism I put out there. I try to fight my corner for this football club because that’s what I’m paid to do and that’s what I will do.
“If I can walk into the dressing room and look at my players in the eye and say: ‘I’m standing up for you guys the best I can’ then I’m doing my job.”