Kilmarnock: Lee Clark hits out at Rangers' 'cheap shot'

By Kenny CrawfordBBC Sport Scotland
Interview: Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark

Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark says Rangers' attempt to link Martyn Waghorn's injury to the Rugby Park pitch is a "cheap shot".

The striker picked up a knee problem in Rangers' Scottish Cup win on Tuesday.

And manager Mark Warburton has called for an end to the use of artificial pitches in Scotland's top flight.

"Serious knee injuries are happening on some of the best pitches in the world, so to link it just to the surface is just a cheap shot," Clark said.

The Kilmarnock boss was responding to a Rangers website statement suggesting that Waghorn's injury, which could rule him out of action until the summer, had been suffered on the "unforgiving Rugby Park surface".

"I think it's a generalisation," said Clark. "Injuries are picked up both on grass and artificial pitches and that's the nature of the game."

Kilmarnock chairman Jim Mann is upset that Rangers used the term "unforgiving" in relation to the pitch.

"It's the politics of football to some extent," Mann told BBC Scotland. "I am upset with them and I think there's too much nonsense talked about this sort of stuff."

Michael Johnston, who Mann succeeded as Killie chairman last year, described Rangers' statement as "ill-informed", a view the current chairman shares.

"We can play rugby on here," Mann explained ahead of Glasgow Warriors' match against Munster on Friday night, the second game to be hosted by the Pro12 club at Rugby Park this season.

"At the end of the game tonight, there will be 30 players at least who have crashed on the pitch and none of them will be walking off saying 'I hurt my knee because of the pitch'. He hurt the knee because of how he fell.

Martyn Waghorn
Waghorn could be out for up to two months with a knee injury picked up against Kilmarnock on Tuesday

"My philosophy in life is that everyone's entitled to their opinion and I'm not going to be crying out against someone's opinion. It's not fact-based - that's the issue."

Mann added that they have not heard anything back from Rangers in regard to retracting the comment, but Warburton was unrepentant at his own media conference ahead of his side's match on Queen of the South's artificial surface.

"There is no doubt in our minds, from a coaching perspective and medical perspective, his injury wouldn't have been of this nature if it hadn't been for the pitch," he said.

"Martyn Waghorn left that pitch with lacerations and immediate bruising, there is no doubt about that.

"When we use the term unforgiving, we meant in terms of the hard aspect of the pitch.

"It is harder than a grass pitch would have been. It is as simple as that.

"Had that been on grass, he wouldn't have the same nature of injury that he has now.

"That is just a simple fact and that has been backed up by a medical team, a very proficient medical team and by coaching staff who saw the initial impact of the injury."

Asked if the thought artificial pitches were suitable for Scottish football, the former Brentford manager added: "Personally, not at the highest level, we need to be clear on that.

"We understand the financial climate, the need for revenue, we are not ignoring that.

"But, at the highest level, to attract more investment, would it not be better to have a consistently high quality level of grass pitch in the Premiership?"

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