Rangers playmaker Todd Cantwell has called on Scottish referees to start punishing “questionable” tackles earlier in games as he stepped up his preparations for the cinch Premiership match with Celtic at Ibrox this weekend.

Cantwell fully expects to be subjected to a few robust challenges when the Glasgow giants meet for the third time this season in Govan on Sunday – he has been getting targeted by opposition defenders since he was a boy due to his ability on the ball and the position he plays in.

The Englishman - who has performed consistently well for Philippe Clement’s team this year and helped them move to within just a point of their city rivals, who have played one game more, at the top of the league table - has no issues with the physicality of the game in this country.

However, the skilful forward, who has become something of a hate figure for Celtic supporters since moving to Glasgow from Norwich City in January last year, believes some of the treatment which he receives is excessive.

The 26-year-old, who has scored five goals in his last 10 Premiership appearances, would like to see Scottish match officials laying down a marker early on in a match and showing they will not tolerate dirty play by giving out yellow cards to offenders.

He admitted that he had been disappointed with the “inconsistency” of refereeing decisions during his time north of the border.

“It is something I have probably had most of my career,” said Cantwell. “I am the sort of player who probably invites tackles with my dribbling and the way I like to play. Do I think that some teams look at it as an opportunity to try and stop me? Yeah, I do.

“But it only works if it stops me and I don’t think it has. The injury I got was hamstring. Listen, it happens, it is part of football. To be honest, if I was on the other team I might try the same thing.

“It is a compliment. It always has been. Ever since I was a little kid, I have always been the player who gets tackled a lot. It is the way I play football, I know that. The manager has made it clear that he doesn’t want to change the way I play, but at times I can maybe be a little bit smarter and protect myself as well. That is another learning curve for me as well.”

He added: “For me personally, the No 10 is in the team to create, to be a bit of a maverick, to be the player you probably look to and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t see that coming’. With that you are obviously going to make mistakes at times and people are going to say, ‘He is forcing things’.

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“You are always going to be the player who is targeted by other teams as well. If someone can make something happen they are going to try and stop him. That can be physically, mentally, it can be anything. That is my responsibility to be ready for that.

“I don’t think you can compare the football up here to down south. I certainly don’t think it is faster, I think it is probably slower. But it is definitely physical. Teams just play a different style.

“The way that we play and the way that most teams in the league play is different. Most teams will try and drop off and set a boundary and say, ‘No, you are not coming into our box’. That is down to us to challenge. It is different sure.”

Clement admitted after the Premiership match against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park in February – a game which Cantwell picked up an injury in - that he would like to see Scottish referees offer players greater protection.

The man who scored the opening goal for Rangers in their 3-0 win over newly-crowned Scottish champions Celtic at Ibrox last May concurs with his manager. “I don’t think it is over physical up here,” he said. “But I think some of the tackles and some of the decisions are questionable. I have always found from my personal experience that the first tasty tackle should always be booked because it sets the tone and shows ‘you are not getting away with that’.

“The problem that I struggle with is the consistency of that because sometimes the tackle will be booked instantly and sometimes it won’t. Mine don’t tend to be yellow cards. It tends to be a yellow card for me if I am on the other side.”