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Madjid “The Sandman” Bougherra and Kenny “The Perma-tan Punisher” Miller

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Gritted teeth, gnarled expressions on the faces, knuckles whitened wrapped around the royal blue jersey of the interlocular, fists clenched at the ready, threatening ominously to be unleashed in a flurry of blows. Words of venom and frozen breath are being spat at each other through sheets of Friday morning rain and cold, blustery, sheets of wind.

I challenge you to a duel.

Two men stand toe to toe ready to take out an anger that must have been brewing with words of venom being spewed at one another. An Edinburgh lilt chews out words of distain to be met by the broken words of anger flowing in an anglo-gallic, French Algerian accent.

Both men willing yet pensive that the other will throw the first punch and the training ground set-too will spill over into a full on brawl on the watered, maintained grass of Murray Park.

Then it happened.

According to reports in the press and rumours circulating internet forums and messageboards the fight happened. More than verbal volleys were exchanged as a blur of arms and legs were tangled in a spurt of apoplectic rage. It was over as soon as it started and described as “handbags at 50 paces” by the manager – but can we read a little more into it?

Training ground clashes are what makes a team; yet of course it can also break a team. Walter Smith is particularly known for trying to encourage the players comprising his teams to train as hard as they play – something that was lost in the time of Paul LeGuen where contact at training was outlawed (just ask Phil Bardsley).

There is always flair ups in training at professional football clubs. Our manager in waiting Ally McCoist was an excellent proponent of this as his bright and breezy joker persona outside the club was a mask for a fiercely competitive and very hard trainer. Coisty revelled in tussles with Bomber Brown and Gough on a daily basis on makeshift training grounds which often continued onto the minibus on the way home. It’s a mark of respect that the players care that much.

Should the swirling rumours of the Scottish media and West of Scotland Chinese whispers that ensues everytime some Old firm gossip surfaces been reporting this story about any two other players then there is a chance that this tete-a-tete could be dismissed as two players who care so much about the club, the team and each other that their desire bleeds out onto their will to win training games; but it wasn’t.

It was Madjid Bougherra and Kenny Miller.

The fact that it was this pair is relevent as it was this pair that seemed to be having a throwaway “war of words” in the press last week. As we all know, Bougherra was late (again) in returning for duty with Rangers after Algeria’s success in getting to the World Cup in South Africa. Smith dealt with Bougherra in-house and then left him on the bench for Rangers’ European tie with Stuttgart. Meanwhile, Miller was pulled in after training as the rent-a-quote for the day in the media room at Murray Park.

Naturally, the media was going to ask the questions that the players didn’t really want to answer and the hot topic was of course the late return and potential dropping of arguably Rangers’ best player before a critical Champions League tie. Miller was probed on the issue and his comments were not really all that provocative;

“We want our best players out there,” Miller said. “Obviously I don’t know what’s gone on with Madjid not coming back but it’s something the manager will sort out I’m sure.

Miller continued and was a little bit more specific, “I don’t see any reason why he would want to stay away. Obviously this week’s circumstances with qualification for the World Cup is maybe a little bit more understandable than other times but still no excuse.”

Those comments are hardly a call to arms and a slap in the face for Bougherra; who at least on the park seems to get offended if even the slightest thing goes wrong. Yet, as ever, the Scottish media sensationalised the story and churned out the usual vernacular such as “blasted” and tone of reporting that will serve demonise both Miller and Bougherra.

Is this what served as the impetus and trigger to the fight that has been splashed all across the newspaper back pages of the sports sections today?

One can only imagine what might have been said between the two and who it was that might have started it:

In the red corner, wearing the green and white shorts, weighing in at something or other pounds, hailing from parts unknown……..Madjid ” The Sandman” Bougherra. In the blue corner, also wearing the green and white shorts, hailing from the wrong side of Scotland……..”Kenny “The Perma-tan Punisher” Miller. The verbals begin the bout…

The Sandman – “What is zhis you err sayeeing about moi dans le newspapeyay monsoir Meeloor?”

The Perma-tan Punisher – “Nuthin Boogie eh”

The Sandman – “Yoo dizrespect me in le papeeyay monsoir”

The Perma-tan Punisher – “Ah just said that you wur late comin back fae doon in ‘efrica, didnta eh?”

The Sandman – “For thees dizrespect…..I keel you”

(Bougherra comes flashing in with punches and kicks like a catherine wheel that’s flown off its upright and Miller replys by trying to spray some tanning product into Madjids eyes)

This is more than likely not what happened (you can pop that jaw closed now at that revelation I know). Although I’d say that I’d imagine Bougherra had been told about the newspaper article(s) second hand and had decided to confront Miller on what had been said. Of course this is conjecture and there is every chance that it might have just been two players clashing over an agressive tackle too far – but I just can’t buy it.

Now there’s two reasons why.

Firstly, I think that its fairly obvious that there is simply not that kind of fight on the pitch anytime we have all watched Rangers, Miller and Bougherra this season. Bougherra is the unflappable centre half who has only made about three mistakes in his whole tenure with Rangers.

He’s more likely to look personally offended at a bad challenge or a sending off against him than to fly into an unstoppable rage. Miller for all his endeavour and tenacity (is ‘headlesschickenness’ a word?) is not known as a hot head either.

It’s rather uncharacteristic of both – so there must have been something pretty major to set both these players off against each other.

It has to be the newspaper stories. Differences in culture? Misrepresentation in the press? Issues with translation and players hearing things second hand? The second reason I think that I think there is more to it is that there has been further rumour of Bougherra clashing with another team mate at the Rangers christmas night out in Manchester over the weekend.

Again, that is purely conjecture and could perhaps be put down to weekend Chinese whispers and stories being changed as they are passed from one person to another. But if there is a more than a shread of truth in it then it does seem that Mr Bougherra has issue with a couple of players or the converse; some of the players have issue with Bougherra.

Since this is an in-house matter and it should remain so, we will not know the full truth. Walter has said his piece and brushed off any discussion of there being dressing room unrest. The coming weeks will perhaps tell it’s own tale of what happened. Will we see Bougherra back in the starting eleven sooner rather than later? I’d predict so. Even if he had shat in Millers’ shoe he’d still get a game at Rangers until at least the transfer window.

We can only hope that a dressing room bubble of discontent will be the making of this side.

I always like to try and remain positive about our club and our team. I want to believe Smith that this was nothing more than a short disagreement that was over before it started – but I just can’t get my head around it. There is too much of a back story and too much that can be read into it for it to just have been born out of over zealousness in training.

I sincerely hope that rather than this discontent and distaste in the dressing room continuing and potentially fracturing the side, that this fight can be the full stop over the issue that possibly exists or existed between the two. A clearing of the air and two men that now respect each other for standing up for what they believe in. We’ve had a divided dressing room before that was highly counterprodutive to our aspirations as a team. Lets all pray that this is not the case.

Hey, who knows? Maybe Miller was just jealous of the natural tan that Madjid sports?


Written by therabbitt

November 30, 2009 at 8:46 pm

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