Gerrard shares Kennedy’s frustration over process of punishing Covid-19 breaches

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Gavin McCafferty, PA
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Rangers manager Steven Gerrard claims he shares John Kennedy’s frustration over the process of punishing Covid-19 breaches and “feels his pain” that three of his players will be able to face his Celtic side.

Kennedy spoke out on Thursday over the time the Scottish Football Association has taken to deal with breaches from five Rangers players, including first-team members Nathan Patterson, Calvin Bassey and Bongani Zungu.

Patterson faced Celtic last month and, with James Tavernier having only an “outside chance” of being fit for their Scottish Cup meeting on April 17, the 19-year-old right-back could again line up against the Hoops after Rangers’ appeal against immediate four-game bans was set for three days later.

The five players, including loaned-out pair Brian Kinnear and Dapo Mebude, were given police fines for attending a gathering during lockdown in the early hours of February 14, and SFA bans were announced on March 30.

Celtic v Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park
Steven Gerrard has shared the frustrations of John Kennedy (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Gerrard said: “We want all our players fit and available, especially when you are in my shoes with all the challenges that are thrown in front of us.

“Obviously we have just had news the hearing is when it is, which means the Covid lads will be available for the next couple.

“Of course that’s a boost, we didn’t expect that, but it is what it is, those decisions are out of our control, we don’t decide when those hearings are.

“We wait for contact and the SFA have given us a date and we have accepted the date, so we will deal with that when it comes.”

Gerrard feels his players’ punishments – they also have a further two games suspended – are too harsh when compared with breaches by Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli, and eight Aberdeen players who went out for dinner early in the season.

“I agree with John in terms of the inconsistencies from the SFA because we have been speaking about that for some time now,” said Gerrard, who lost Jordan Jones and George Edmondson for seven games after they had an illegal gathering of four people.

“When you are talking about punishment, Bolingoli left the country of his own will and then came back and trained amongst his peers and then went and played at Kilmarnock and put other people’s health in jeopardy. He was given a five-game ban and three were suspended.

“And the Aberdeen guys were given three games and they were all suspended. There were obviously positive Covid tests on the back of that.

“I definitely agree with John in terms of the inconsistencies and to be honest I would probably be a bit frustrated as well with him if good players were available to play against his team next week as well. So I feel his pain.”

John Kennedy file photo
John Kennedy spoke out on Thursday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Gerrard also noted that there were no punishments for what Kennedy termed “minor slip-ups” of coronavirus protocols during his team’s training camp in Dubai in January.

“Nothing has really come of the Dubai trip, the only thing that has really come of it is that no one else is allowed to go on a training camp,” Gerrard said.

“We obviously move on from that incident but obviously rules were broken on that trip in terms of drinking together with no social distancing.

“But the Celtic business is not really for me to talk about. My concerns are Rangers and we will look forward to that hearing and deal with it as and when.

“But I definitely agree with John in terms of the inconsistencies, especially when it comes down to punishments.

“I am the only one who knows the details about our own Covid situations and I think a few things I said got taken out of context in terms of Nathan Patterson’s quotes.

“These guys have broken rules, they deserve punishment, but we feel as if not everything has been taken into consideration, because we were at the forefront in terms of making sure that we suspended these players ourselves and they missed games of football on the back of that. We took the maximum fine and we were really strong and forceful in terms of our punishment.

“So we are not trying to defend what they have done. It was my own opinion, which I have got my right to, that I don’t think there is any consistency in terms of the outcome of the bans.

“It just seems as if the SFA are guessing in terms of punishments and everything is inconsistent, so that is a frustration.”