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By ESPN Staff

Smith concerned as Ferguson is ostracised

Scotland boss Walter Smith is concerned that national team captain Barry Ferguson faces the prospect of reserve-team football.

Ferguson has been ousted by manager Paul Le Guen from the Rangers squad and been replaced as captain by Gavin Rae.

The midfielder is keen to rescue his Ibrox career, according to his agent John Viola and brother Derek Ferguson, however Le Guen claims his authority was being undermined by the former skipper.

The rift leaves doubts over whether 28-year-old Ferguson can play again under Le Guen, certainly before the next round of Euro 2008 qualifiers.

Smith told the Daily Mail: 'Barry's situation at Rangers is something new.

'It is important that he plays, important that he's involved, because it's important that all our main players do. I would put him in with the rest of the guys in this situation.'

Scotland defender Andy Webster remains out of favour at Wigan, while Steven Pressley spent a month out of action after leaving Hearts but is now playing again at Celtic.

Smith said of Ferguson's situation: 'It's something we have to be really aware of.'

Scotland's next Euro 2008 qualifier is against Georgia on March 24, and four days later they face Italy. Smith's side currently top Group B.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has declined to comment on speculation linking him with a potential bid.

The former Celtic boss does not expect to make any signings before Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie against Manchester United.

Ferguson, 28, has been linked with Villa, Everton and Newcastle.

O'Neill, when asked about the speculation regarding a move for Ferguson, said: 'I couldn't possibly make a comment. I am not going down that route of making a comment on a player. There is absolutely no point.

'I think it would be difficult for us to have any signings before the FA Cup game with Manchester United. Nothing is impossible but it would be difficult.'