• Concerns over the Dens Park pitch
  • Details of contingency plans
  • Fears over the image of Scottish football
  • Diomande injury blow

Philippe Clement has spoken to the media after the postponement of the Premiership fixture with Dundee. Here is what he had to say.

Diomande has small injury on the thumb. He needed an operation this morning on that so he will be out, not long but he will be out for the game.

Is it just this weekend he misses?

We will see but it's not for a long, long time.

Were you supposed the Dundee game was given the go-ahead at 11 o'clock yesterday morning?

No, I was ready for everything. We were ready to play, we prepared everything to play. We trained Tuesday morning and went there in the afternoon, players had their treatment, we had a meeting like we always do. We had two meetings on Wednesday around the game, we had all the preparation, players were in the hotel the whole time, we were together and we were up for playing this game. We were preparing everything to get the three points so all our focus was on that.

The Rangers statement was strong, was it targeted at Dundee as a club or the football side of the business?

This situation was clear a few weeks before, it's been a problem for a long time apparently. It's, for us, the second time that the game has been postponed, it's five games this season that have been postponed so that's 30 percent of the home games that have been postponed this season. I don't remember in 30 years of football all over Europe that that happened anywhere so there's a big problem I think. If you start to speak about climate change or things like that then you don't realise the problem yet so that's one point. It's not pointed at the manager of Dundee and the players because they are the victim also of this situation. I want to make this really clear because they're having a really good season and they're also frustrated about that. But it's not a normal situation that you play in the Premiership, the best league. I think the league had a really good advertisement at the weekend with the Old Firm, there were so many people watching this game. I hear it was even a record until now. Everybody was really positive about the game, about the intensity, everything although I didn't like the start! So it was a really positive thing for Scottish football but then three days later this is really bad for the image of Scottish football that these things can happen. It could have been avoided by playing at another venue somewhere else because everyone knew what the situation was. It's [the statement] pointed at the club, they didn't do the right things to have a decent football field and it's happened several times already this season so that needs to be solved otherwise we cannot play the game. I also understand that teams like Hibs and Motherwell feel really bad about this situation and that could've been avoided last week by saying, 'Okay, we will make a decision earlier or we play at another venue.' We were even prepared to play today, so short ahead of the Ross County game.

Was that an option?

No, we offered that option but it was not accepted. So it will be next week but we saw yesterday morning, it was possible to play but in a few hours it was impossible. Who's going to guarantee that it's not going to rain next week? The pitch is the problem, it doesn't take the water anymore.

Should a decision be taken now that it's not going to be played at Dens Park?

Or someone has to guarantee that the next five or six days, there will be no rain and that the pitch will be good to play. Somebody needs to take that responsibility to say, 'I'm 200 percent sure that will happen otherwise it's my fault.'

You said you were happy to play at a neutral venue on Tuesday, was that offered to Dundee?

Not happy but we just wanted to play the game. You guys maybe don't understand but we have a very busy schedule, you are preparing everything, training and preparation. The guys almost don't have any free days. They will have two free days this month. I've had to take one off now because we had to change our programme. So there's a lot of things around it, yesterday when we were in the hotel I saw a father with a small boy, it was the second time that they've travelled from Wales to St Andrews for the boy to see a Rangers game and it's the second time the game's been cancelled. It was a boy of six, seven years old who was crying. There's a lot of things around that, all the fans coming there from Wales, from England, from Northern Ireland, from all over the place the first time a few weeks ago and now again. This is really bad for the image of football in Scotland. Everybody needs to realise that and it needs to be avoided. It's important to make the right decisions that this cannot happen anymore.

Do you think this has given you a disadvantage in the title race?

I'm not thinking about that. I'm only thinking about one thing and that's my team and winning the next game. I'm only busy with Ross County, that's why I told you guys I want to talk a little bit about football but I know I need to respond to all the other things and I need to be busy with the other things also myself, but not my team, they need to focus on Ross County.

Is that your message to the players – that you can’t feel sorry for yourselves?

Yeah. Of course.

Was it an option to play last week ahead of the Old Firm?

I don’t think the option was there because Dundee needed also time to fix their field to be playable. It was on the edge against Motherwell. If I hear the Motherwell manager, it was over the edge even because it was not ready to play.

Have any of your players come to you about being concerned of the safety of that surface?

I don’t think they dare to say that. Then they know they are not going to play there and they take a big risk for the rest of the season.

Would you have had concerns?

I haven’t been on the pitch so I cannot make any comment about that. I can only make comment the day we were there when it was postponed. That day yes, for sure, it was a risk for injuries for players. That is why the referee took the decision not to play. Apparently yesterday he took the same decision for the same reasons. For the fifth time this season.

What do you think the punishment should be for clubs?

That is not my job. I am not sitting in the board of the Federation or the board of the club. There are other really smart people in this country to make the decisions around that and to discuss about that, maybe also to discuss with other countries what would happen there or what happened in the past. I don’t think it ever happened five times but maybe after two or three games there were things happening in other countries. Let the smart people decide about that and let’s me focus on football.

Were Dundee willing to play today?

I don’t know. I don’t know.

Was it the League that didn’t accept it?

I don’t know. I don’t know.

If the game doesn’t go ahead at Dens Park are there plans to play it elsewhere?

The last thing that I hear now, the last information that I got, is that we will know Tuesday at 12 o’clock at the latest where we are going to play on Wednesday. Normally in Dundee. If it is not possible it will need to be somewhere else. That we know now Tuesday at 12 o’clock before we travel, we know what is going to happen. We need to make several plans. I hope we know a few days before where the other venue will be to organise things.

Is there a chance that could be behind closed doors?

I don’t know. Please, guys, ask these questions to the Federation, they are the ones who organise this game. I am here to organise things for my team, to make travel, to see what is the squad and all those things. But not those questions. That is not my role.

Is there stronger leadership required in Scottish football?

I cannot say anything about this because I don’t know anybody from the Federation. So what can I say about that? Nothing. Maybe there is strong leadership and whatever reason there is this situation. I don’t have any opinion about that. I don’t know the people. I only know that it is important now to make a really good decision towards next week. That it is really clear for everybody, that everybody knows, that everybody can prepare this game in a good way that it can be played for sure. 200 per cent sure. And that it can be played in a situation that is good for the image of Scottish football, like it was this weekend with the Old Firm. In a good situation, that there can be football played. I said it a few months ago. In the Premier League, they raised the standards in all the amounts towards the teams to have a better product of football. That is why they are also the games that most people look at. It is the best way, the best football, the fastest football, because football is played in a good way on good surfaces. It is an important part in football to have a good surface. Those are things to think about. I don’t know how it works in Scotland. In Belgium you have the Licence Committee, it is probably the same here, and you need to get one minimum standard, like the lights, like the seating, like how many standing places or whatever. A lot of rules. I think the pitch is a really important part in that also. It is an important part to have a good competition and good product.

What challenge will Ross County pose on Sunday?

I read from their manager that they are super motivated and want to do something special. It is always the case that we have respect for every opponent. They played a good game at Ibrox also. We know we need to play a good game to get the three points. We are focused on that now.

Has what happened this week affected your preparation?

No it affected that. We had to change plans. For you guys also, normally you are here tomorrow but now you are here today because we had to change plans with the players. It is a different preparation. But no excuse towards the game on Sunday. I am not somebody who wants to have excuses if we need to change plans. I told you guys we always adapt to the situation but, of course, if I see things that are not normal I will speak about it. I will always adapt to win games with my team.

When the club made the suggestion to play at another venue, what reasons were you given for that not being possible?

That you need to ask the Federation or the right people in the club. It was not the case. I don’t go further in questions about that and why and what and when. No. I just focus. Ok that is the decision, what can I do now with the team. Don’t forget we are four, five days after the Old Firm. I have been preparing that, preparing the training for Dundee, preparing everything. I don’t have time to ask everyone in the club about every word that has been said and every detail around that. It was not possible apparently to have another venue or play today on another venue. OK. Then I know that is decided and I go on with the team.

How would you feel if there were no supporters there?

That it is a disadvantage, of course. But it is what it is. We need to adapt. Like when it was Covid, we didn’t like it also. But our mindset is that whatever decisions are made we go to win games. That is the mindset. No excuses around that.

You wouldn’t rule out playing behind closed doors?

If that is the decision, we will play behind closed doors. If they ask us to play on Mars, we go to Mars, we take the flight. To win the three points, that is our mindset of the whole group, me and all my players.