STEVE Clarke has revealed Graeme Souness tried to make him the first Catholic to sign for Rangers during his time at St Mirren. 

More than three decades on the Kilmarnock manager was subjected to abuse by religious bigots during his side's William Hill Scottish Cup defeat at Ibrox on Wednesday.

Clarke's place in history as the first Catholic to sign for the club post-World War One may have been taken by Maurice Johnston, who returned to Scotland after a spell in France in 1989, but that hasn't stopped him from speaking out against the hatred. 

Appearing at a media conference alongside club captain Kris Boyd, who was subjected to sectarian abuse by Celtic fans days earlier, the 55-year-old revealed Alex Smith blocked the proposed move. 

Clarke said: “I’ve had a fantastic reaction to what I said. I’ve had messages from all over, including good messages from Rangers. A good message from Rangers, a good message from the SFA, a good message from the Scottish Government, so everybody is speaking well.

"When I did the press (on Sunday at Rugby Park), and there's people in here who'll back me up on this, I didn't know that Kris had been hit by a coin.

"I didn't know that there had been chanting against him.

"I then said, when I saw the press again the next day, that the majority had to stand up to the minority... everyone has to take responsibility.

"Rangers didn't sign catholics when I was at St Mirren as a player. Graeme Souness made an enquiry for me and I remember by manager Alex Smith saying: ‘you can’t do that, son’.

"And it wasn't because there was any racism or sectarianism from Alex, he was just protecting me as a person. Not long afterwards Maurice Johnston went there as the first headline Catholic to sign for Rangers, so there's been massive advances."

Clarke made over 200 appearances for Smith's Buddies before moving down south to join Chelsea.

There, he was named the team's player of the year in 1993-94 and won the Cup Winner's Cup in 1998. 

Clarke was speaking after a week in which he says he was called a "Fenian b******" by a section of the Ibrox crowd, prompting him to accuse them of living in the "Dark Ages" and express relief his children did not grow up in such a culture.

"I have no connection with Celtic or Rangers," he continued. "The only part I can see is that I was brought up as a Catholic on the west coast of Scotland. That shouldn't be an issue in this day and age. Why is that an issue? I'm definitely not a Fenian.

"I've had so many messages of support from people in England saying 'I saw you on the telly, I hope you're OK, what was the reason?'

"They don't understand, they don't understand what we're talking about up here. I think that's a sad reflection on us as a society."