The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is to stand by its decision to ban Rangers pair Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor for life despite the players' club coach Walter Smith granting them a reprieve.
The midfield player and goalkeeper were banished from international football for a late-night drinking session following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying defeat in Amsterdam last month. The pair had compounded the original offence by appearing to make abusive gestures as they sat on the bench against Iceland at Hampden three days later.
Smith stripped Ferguson of his Rangers captaincy and suspended both players for a fortnight but made it clear, in an off-the-record briefing to a select number of newspapers, that their days at Ibrox were over. In a surprise move, however, the 'Gers boss has welcomed both players back in to the fold after hitting out at the SFA for their handling of the drinking incident which involved four other Scotland players.
"I did say in an off-the-record briefing to journalists that they would not play for the club again," Smith said. "Since then I have had a think about it and I have looked at the way it has been handled by the SFA.
"The president (George Peat) said the issue, the original problem, was not handled properly, then (Scotland manager) George Burley said it had not been handled properly. So I ask myself: if the SFA admit they did not handle it properly, am I being harsh?
"There were six players involved and two end up getting the majority of the blame. The SFA have started a new trend in criminality - if you leave the scene of a crime early, you are not guilty.
"If people in charge are saying it was not handled well, then I feel I have got to give them some leeway. I have the right to change my mind but what I am doing is making them available for selection again, not saying they will play."
There will be pressure on the SFA to re-examine their decision, which many believe was harsh. However, a spokesman told the Press Association: "The SFA board considered the matter last week. We now consider it closed."