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BARRY WATCH K.O.; Reconstruction of what really went on at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge.

THE story had everyone talking. A young Rangers star sporting a black eye and a cut head just hours after being sent off in the latest Old Firm clash.

Barry Ferguson's antics on - and off - the pitch last Sunday fuelled rumour and speculation over what exactly took place hours after the match in a quiet village street in Lanarkshire.

But today the Sunday Mail can reveal the full sequence of events which left

Barry and older brother Derek battered and bruised after the second battle of Bothwell Bridge, 321 years after the first historic skirmish.

Humiliating

Mystery surrounds whether Ferguson went some way to provoking the fight with Celtic fans last weekend after reports that he deliberately changed into his training kit to goad rival fans.

We can reveal Ferguson, 22, arrived at the Bothwell Bridge Hotel at 4pm last Sunday, and met up with Derek, 33, and two other friends. The group meets at the hotel every week for a card game, and despite his red card at the Parkhead clash, which ended in a humiliating 6-2 drubbing for the Ibrox side, Scotland international Ferguson was not prepared to miss out on his weekly fun.

It never crossed the young dad's mind that Sunday evening was perhaps not the best night to be seen out and about, given his early exit from the game and the V-signs he threw at Celtic fans as he headed for the tunnel.

Ferguson was wearing a smart suit, shirt and tie when he arrived at the bar to meet his mates. Families and small groups were dotted around the large bar area.

It seemed many people had chosen the hotel for a quiet drink, believing it would offer that oasis of calm so rarely found in West Coast pubs on the day of an Old Firm clash.

But it was not to be.

A group of Celtic fans arrived at the hotel shortly after Ferguson's entourage - obviously intent on celebrating a famous victory over their ancient rivals.

Two of the men were wearing Celtic tops and Ferguson, who spent the night drinking vodka and Red Bull, allegedly complained to staff about the men wearing team colours.

The Celtic fans were asked to put their jackets on to cover the shirts and agreed, but insults were traded between the two groups afterwards.

Then Ferguson, with apparent disregard for his own safety, jumped in a taxi to his Bothwell home and changed into his Rangers training gear, complete with Nike training top and Rangers track suit.

He then returned to the hotel bar and continued drinking with his brother and friends.

A few elbow nudges later and the outcome of the evening was inevitable. From that moment on it seemed there could be trouble at any time.

When the two men who had been asked to cover up their Celtic tops saw Ferguson's dress they complained to management about him.

Staff then asked him to change, but Ferguson replied: "I am a professional footballer, these are my working clothes."

At that point, staff at the hotel asked both groups to leave.

But trouble flared again when they met up outside the Jasmine House Chinese take-away restaurant.

What is certain is that Barry Ferguson received a nasty gash above his left eye. What is not so clear is whether he deserved it.

Some locals spoke of Derek, now playing with Second Division outfit Clydebank, pulling a heavy belt from his trousers while Barry kicked an older man.

A fan then head-butted the younger brother, leaving him with a gash over his eye which required three butterfly stitches.

Derek was hit over the head by another fan brandishing a bottle of Buckfast. Various others joined in the fighting and paramedics were called to the scene. The police did not arrive until at least 20 minutes after the original fracas, by which time Ferguson and most of the others involved had scattered.

One of Ferguson's mates was left lying unconscious in the street, and two others needed treatment at hospital.

The injured Celtic fans were taken to Monklands Hospital, Airdrie, while the Ferguson contingent was taken to Hairmyres, East Kilbride, to prevent any re-run of the fighting inside a hospital.

One local said: "It was incredible. There were bodies flying everywhere. It was violent and horrible, they really went for each other.

"What kind of guy goes home to change into his training kit? They were giving him a hard time, but surely he's used to that."

Ferguson has told police he was making his way home when he was attacked by a group of about 10 Celtic fans and claims he was only in the street to look for a taxi.

He also told officers he did not know how he got the cut above his eye. An officer who visited him at his home the day after the fracas asked him if he wanted to press charges, but Ferguson declined.

On Monday, a Rangers contingent, led by Ibrox security chief Lawrence McIntyre, poured into Bothwell in an attempt to calm the storm.

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: "Mr Ferguson has not made a complaint and our inquiries into this matter are at an end."

14.40: Ferguson is sent off shortly before the final whistle at Parkhead and flicks V-signs at the Celtic support as he leaves the park

16.00: He arrives at the Bothwell Bridge Hotel to meet brother Derek and another two mates before settling in the bar for a drink and their weekly card game

17.00: A group of Celtic fans, two of them wearing green polo shirts bearing the club's crest, arrive at the hotel bar

17.30: Ferguson complains about the Celtic fans wearing team colours. The men are asked to cover up their shirts and do so, but they launch verbal assaults on Ferguson and his party

18.00: Ferguson leaves the hotel to go home where he changes out of the official Rangers suit and into his training kit, including his club Nike training top and tracksuit

19.00: He arrives back at the hotel and takes up position at the bar, sipping vodka and Red Bull drinks with his brother and their mates

19.30: The Celtic fans in the bar complain about Ferguson's colours to management. He tells them: "I am a professional footballer, these are my work clothes."

20.00: Both groups leave the hotel, but trouble flares outside the Jasmine House Chinese takeaway. Derek is hit over the head with a Buckfast bottle and Barry is head-butted.

20.30: One of Ferguson's pals, knocked unconscious in the fracas, is rushed to Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride (left). Injured Celtic fans are taken to Monklands Hospital, Airdrie (right), to avoid further flare-ups between rivals.

MON: Staff from Ibrox begin probe into the battle of Bothwell Bridge
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Article Details
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Author:Lavery, Charles
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 3, 2000
Words:1141
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