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Rangers have hit out at “homophobic and disgraceful slurs” after their former player Joey Barton centred criticism of women’s football around 17-year-old Partick Thistle goalkeeper Ava Easdon.

The ex-England midfielder, who had a brief and unsuccessful spell in Scottish football in 2016, highlighted a goal Rangers scored against Thistle in Sunday’s Sky Sports Cup final and wrote on X: “I mean let’s just talk about the goalie! How is this nonsense on the box?”

Barton followed up his comments on Tuesday by hitting back at criticism from Easdon’s father and Rangers player Nicola Docherty and using homophobic comments to describe the women’s game.

A statement on Rangers’ website read: “Rangers FC has been made aware of discriminatory and misogynistic comments regarding the women’s game following Sunday’s Sky Sports Cup final.

“As a club, we stand together against these homophobic and disgraceful slurs in the strongest possible terms.

“We are unwavering in our desire to further the women’s game across the country which goes from strength to strength, and will support all players in challenging those who hold extremely outdated and foul views of women’s football.”

The goalkeeper’s father, seven-time world kickboxing champion Lex Easdon, had accused Barton of playing up to his “fan boys” on social media and wrote: “In 2024 and ‘grown’ men feel the need to belittle and bully a 17yr old school kid, who doesn’t get paid to play unlike some men who make the same mistake week after week and get paid hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Scotland head coach Pedro Martinez Losa offered his backing to Easdon.

“We have to have a strong opinion on supporting Ava, obviously,” he said. “A young player, who is 17 years old, who is competing excellently this season for her club.

“We are a sport in development and we all have to be aware of that and protect players.

“If we want players like her to develop and play in the national team, we have to create a safe environment where they are going to play and make mistakes. We have to understand that mistakes are a part of the evolution.

“The problem we have now is accelerating the progress and the evolution so there are other people involved, and we can’t control that.

“I just want to show my support from the head coach position of the national team. I want to show my support to a player who is playing exceptionally. She is very brave to compete in a final.

“She has been put in that position, she is dreaming of being a football player, as are many girls in the country. And, by the way, she is playing very well.”

When asked about Barton’s comments specifically, the Spaniard added: “I can’t control people’s opinion or who says what but I will show my support to Ava.”

Martinez Losa praised the togetherness of the women’s game after the likes of Docherty spoke out in support of Easdon.

Docherty wrote on X: “Couldn’t help but notice the tweets from an older man regarding this great young goalkeeper who is inspiring the next generation. Keep doing what you are doing! If women’s football isn’t for you change the channel, it isn’t hard.”

Martinez Losa said: “The women’s game’s culture is a totally different scenario where we want that togetherness, we want that atmosphere where girls can attend games, families can attend games. That’s the image we want to provide.

“But also internally we have been working so hard to create these safe environments. The only thing we can do is learn from this process and show the support to the player who is involved.”

Chelsea and Scotland midfielder Erin Cuthbert also offered Easdon her backing.

“Ava’s a terrific young goalkeeper coming through the Scotland ranks so that’s important to say,” she said. “One mistake won’t define you.

“I was disappointed with a mistake I made against Man City and you’ve got to get back up and show yourself again and that’s when, more than ever, you have to just find another way. Mistakes happen, it’s part of football.”