BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Livingston midfielder Kieran Gibbons has hit back at suggestions that he deliberately tried to hurt Rangers winger Nathan Oduwa in their last meeting.
The 20-year-old has also revealed how the support of manager Mark Burchill and his family and friends helped him stay strong after being subjected to vile online abuse.
Gibbons caught on loan Tottenham playmaker Oduwa in the first minute of last month’s 1-0 Petrofac Training Cup defeat at Ibrox with a late challenge that went unpunished.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton demanded afterwards that his players get more protection, while a section of the club’s supporters took to social media to make their feelings known to Gibbons.
But as Livingston prepare to host Rangers in this afternoon’s Championship clash at the Tony Macaroni Arena, former Aberdeen trainee Gibbons insists he is not a dirty player.
He said: “I definitely didn’t go out to hurt anyone, I’m not that sort of player.
“I went for the ball and he’s moved it too quick.
“Oduwa is a fantastic player and anyone that’s seen highlights of him know he’s tricky. I went for the ball and he’s moved it too quick for me.
“With the speed he’s moving at and with all the slow-mo cameras, it did look bad at the time but there was no malice in it whatsoever.”
Gibbons was grateful for the support of those close to him in the aftermath of the incident after being targeted by Rangers fans on social media.
He added: “It was good to hear the manager coming out in support of me and I have to put on record that it was brilliant from people that sent me messages on social media like, ‘keep your head up’.
“It did mean a lot because the abuse I got was hard to take.
“It was friends, family, Livingston fans – just people in general that had seen the abuse that was hurled at me.
“It was probably more so my mum and dad, I think they took it more to heart than me.
“In football you need to be quite focussed and if you’re on social media, you need to take the praise along with the abuse.
“It’s one of these things that you need to accept and if you don’t like what you see then you shouldn’t be on it.
“I am happy to be on it, it’s a way of interacting with fans and you can basically see what’s happening in the world.”
Gibbons is loving playing regular first team football with the Lions after being released at Pittodrie during the summer and the playmaker is adamant that Livingston can cause an upset today after running Hibs close on Tuesday.
He added: “I thought we played really well against Hibs and we were unlucky, it’s a familiar story with us that we’ve been playing well and just been unlucky not to get the results.
“If we keep playing the way we are playing then we’re confident we’ll get the results.
“With such a small squad, everyone is together and it’s a good changing room.
“The manager has brought in good types; young, hungry guys that want to prove themselves.
“These are the games you want to play as a footballer, it’s the biggest games in the league and it’s good to have them in the league.”