Steven Gerrard has revealed he has received an apology from Kyle Lafferty for the bust-up with Michael O’Neill that now rules the striker out of Rangers’ Sunday showdown at Hamilton.
The Northern Ireland striker has been barred from taking on Accies by the Irish Football Association after calling off from O’Neill’s squad at the last minute ahead of last week’s double-header with Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Belfast chiefs have invoked Fifa’s rarely-used five-day rule, which allows national associations to block players who pull out of playing for their countries from then turning out for their club side.
The move has been viewed by many Gers supporters as a draconian overreaction against a player whose goals helped fire Northern Ireland to Euro 2016.
But Gerrard admits Lafferty was in the wrong with his midnight call to O’Neill to say he would not be travelling.
“It’s a shame (that he misses Sunday) because he’s a good player and he’s been in good form since he came in,” said the Rangers boss, who will also be missing Scott Arfield and Borna Barisic for the Hope Stadium clash. “But we respect and appreciate what’s gone on.
“He hasn’t followed the protocol and done the right thing so his punishment is that he can’t play on Sunday and any footballer doesn’t like missing games - I can assure you of that.
“I support him, of course I do. I always support my players 100 per cent. He’s come in, apologised for what’s gone on.
“We respect Northern Ireland for the punishment they’ve given him and we move on.
“There’s nothing else to add to it. We put a statement out yesterday which was very clear and now it’s an opportunity for someone else on Sunday.”
The statement Gers’ released on Thursday stated Lafferty remains available for his country but Gerrard admits the former Burnley, Norwich and Hearts ace will have to talk it out with O’Neill on whether his controversial withdrawal now threatens his international future.
“That’s none of my business to be brutally honest,” he said. “It’s between Michael and Kyle to sort out.
“I hope he continues because I still think he’s got a lot to offer the international scene when I watch him for Northern Ireland. He looks passionate, he looks like he loves it.
“He’s made it clear to me he wants to continue to play and be available but that’s a conversation between himself and Michael that he will have to thrash out.”
Gerrard also reacted to the decision to withdraw Paul Gascoigne’s nomination for the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.
The former England skipper said: “Paul Gascoigne is my hero. A player I admired an awful lot. I bought the VHSs, the CDs, the shirts - all the memorabilia that comes with Gazza.
“He’s my hero, so I’m disappointed for him of course. It’s a shame because as a player and a talent and a man, he deserves to be in there.
“I don’t know the circumstances (behind the decision) so I’ve got nothing more to add to it. But I’d just like to echo that fact that I love Paul Gascoigne and that’s all I need to say on it.”