EXCLUSIVE by Darrell King in Birmingham

We join Graeme Macpherson, Bert Mitchell and Hugh MacDonald to follow up on our exclusive interview with Barry Ferguson telling his side of the 'Boozegate' story that ended his Rangers and Scotland career. BARRY FERGUSON today speaks for the first time about his Scotland Boozegate shame - and his fury at the way the SFA ended his international career.

The former Rangers captain, now at Birmingham after a £1million summer move, has kept his own counsel on events at Cameron House back in March when he stayed up all night in the bar drinking with team-mate Allan McGregor.

But Ferguson has spoken exclusively to SportTimes writer Darrell King and, in Part One of a series that will run in our pages this week, he reveals: His anger at the way the SFA informed him he was banned for life.

Why he wants Scotland to beat Norway this Wednesday night in Oslo to keep the World Cup dream alive.

His feelings towards George Burley and the rest of the international hierarchy.

Here's the first of our exclusive articles:

THIS time was unquestionably the most difficult two hours of Barry Ferguson's life.

In a Murray Park office alongside shell-shocked team-mate Allan McGregor - with Martin Bain, the Rangers chief executive, his right-hand man Andrew Dickson, and Players' Union head Fraser Wishart all for company - the details of his fine and suspension from the club he had just disgraced were being laid out in cold, hard facts.

Ferguson's head was all over the place. Just a few hours earlier he had reported to Rangers' training ground for the first time since the now infamous Scotland Boozegate controversy had exploded and turned his world upside down.

Fatally - and if he could turn back time this is one of many things he would reverse - he had walked past Walter Smith's office that Friday morning. It should have been his first port of call, he should have sought his manager and apologised for his conduct.

But he didn't. And he was paying the price for that lack of respect to the man he held - and still holds - in the utmost regard.

There was no grey area with what was happening. Ferguson had shamed Rangers. For that, Smith had decreed, he was going to face severe punishment.

The now infamous Cameron House drinking session with close pal McGregor that had become public to the Iceland World Cup qualifier at Hampden, Smith could accept.

He didn't like it one little bit, but these things happen - and will no doubt happen again sometime, somewhere - such is the way with football players.

But the images of the captain of Rangers making V-sign gestures at photographers - along with McGregor on the bench at the National Stadium - was something that saw Smith explode with rage.

Head bowed, he was taking his medicine. Then, the fax machine in the corner of the office began to whirr.

A sheet of paper appeared, a carbon copy of the press statement the SFA were about to release to the world.

Ferguson was being informed by fax that his international career was also over. And that, more than anything else, is something that the now Birmingham City player still struggles to get his head around.

"Listen, I was totally in the wrong with what happened at the hotel, I would never sit for a second and try to dress that up in any way or try to make a case for what went on that night with the drinking," he says, relaxed in the hotel grounds of the luxurious hotel close to Birmingham that is his temporary home until a permanent abode can be found.

"If I could go back and change things I would, of course I would. I should have gone to bed, and I should never have made the V-signs - when I see the pictures of that I feel so stupid. I looked like a daft idiot and I should have known better. But it was an error, a bad call.

"I let myself down, my family down, my country down and I let Walter Smith, Rangers and the supporters down.

"That's something I'll need to live with and it does still hurt me. I should have gone to bed, that's the bottom line.

"But I made a mistake and people do that - I am a human being, not a robot and I made a costly mistake.

"The thing that rankles with me now is the way the SFA handled the entire situation - for me it was a joke.

"I had played for Scotland 45 times, I had captained my country for years - and they sent a fax to Murray Park saying that I would never play for my country again. It was just the same statement they put out, that was it!

"That just astonished me. The machine starts to ring, and in comes a fax from Hampden for my attention telling me that I would no longer be picked, and neither would Allan.

"The people in the room just looked at each other in total disbelief - is that how something like that should be handled?

"No-one has ever spoken to me from the Scotland set-up. Not the manager, the chief executive, a PR guy, anyone.

"I was driving back into Murray Park after being sent home for a few hours and I heard on the radio that the SFA were going to ban me for life.

"I was in such a whirl that I wasn't taking anything in -then a fax arrives and that was it over ... no phone call, no anything. That, for me, sums the SFA up. They don't know how to handle anything properly."

Rangers were also seriously unhappy with the way the governing body handled the whole episode.

The thought inside the club was that they piggy-backed' onto their punishment when it should all have been dealt with swiftly at the time, and that the players should have been banished from the squad instantly which would have avoided the subsequent media frenzy that ensued, and prompted the V-sign gestures.

"Maybe that was the case, I don't know and the SFA would need to answer that," said Ferguson.

"The whole thing was a bit of a farce to be honest. First of all we were to leave Cameron House, then some of the players went to the manager and said they didn't want that, and the next thing we were told to stay.

"The manager then said we would be subs, and then two days later we were banned for life and they said it was down to what had happened at the game on the bench with the V-signs.

"Fair enough, if they think sending a fax to tell you it's all over is the right thing to do, then that's up to them.

"What I would say is that Rangers handled the thing the right way. We sat face to face, I took my punishment and it was done properly.

"I wasn't happy, of course I wasn't, but I knew why the club had acted the way they did and I just had to go away and try to deal with it.

"But the SFA? That was a shambles for me. Then I hear a few days later Gordon Smith saying on the radio the door might not be closed, we could still play and all that sort of stuff.

"That sums it up for me, the left hand never knows what the right hand is doing in that place."