BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
LIVINGSTON defender Declan Gallagher has refuted accusations from online trolls that he became embroiled in a bust-up with Rangers stars Alfredo Morelos and Daniel Candeias due to his Celtic connections.
The 27-year-old was at the centre of an acrimonious finale to Livi’s 1-0 triumph over the Glasgow giants in September, leaping to the defence of his teammates, Shaun Byrne and Rickie Lamie, after the Gers duo refused to shake their hands.
Gallagher is adamant he would have stood up for his pals regardless of the opponents after the show of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Nevertheless, that did not stop some snipers from suggesting his time on the books of the Hoops as a kid may have played a part.
“It all stemmed from the handshakes at the end of the game,” recalled Gallagher. “It was between Ricki Lamie and Shaun Byrne, Daniel Candeias and Alfredo Morelos. They didn’t want to shake hands with our boys and I didn’t think that was right.
“People were saying on social media I got involved because I am a Celtic fan, but that’s nonsense.
“I play for Livingston football club and I was sticking up for my team-mates.
“I would have done the same if it was Celtic we were playing, or Hearts or Hibs. People not shaking hands at the end of the game doesn’t make me happy.”
Indeed, Gallagher believes the ‘class’ behaviour of Rangers manager Steven Gerrard following an undeniably difficult afternoon in West Lothian for his side spoke volumes in contrast to Candeias and Morelos.
“Steven Gerrard stood at the end of the game and shook every one of the players’ hands,” added Gallagher. “He said it doesn’t matter if you win, lose or draw – it is only a game at the end of the day.
“It was nice to hear someone like Steven backing us up and it shows his class. He is an idol to so many people around the world and it shows what type of person he is.
“I was more of a Manchester United fan growing up – so more of a Paul Scholes guy – but even I would say Gerrard was an amazing player!”
Gallagher has laughed off any talk of lingering resentment between the sides when they renew hostilities in Govan.
“When I see the Rangers players on Saturday there will be no bad blood,” Gallagher added. “I have no grudges with them or anything like that. Things happen on the park and when you come off it, they are all forgotten about.
“If I was to get sent off for doing something daft because of holding a grudge then I am letting myself and my team down.”
As Gallagher alludes to, there is little doubt Livingston will need all 11 players on the pitch to halt the Rangers juggernaut.
Gerrard’s men are the top scorers in the Scottish Premiership, with 22 of their 32 goals coming at Ibrox. In their last home game, they demolished Motherwell 7-1 with an unerring display of clinical finishing.
However, Gallagher added: “We have shown in previous games against Rangers, Hibs, Hearts and Celtic that we have gone into games without any fear. The pressure is off us and no one is expecting us to take anything from the game.
“We will go there with our heads held high and try and get another good result against them. I thought we were brilliant against them in the home game and we worked well as a unit.”