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Walter Smith insists Rangers need to get back to a situation where...

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................. the team is the priority.


By Kheredine Idessane

BBC Scotland



The 65-year-old, who stepped down as chairman two months ago, said there is "an obvious suspicion" that is not presently the case.


Smith believes the Ibrox club has to "get rid of the boardroom turmoil" and "settle down" if Rangers are to look forward and find a "normal path".


He was also surprised by the loss of £14m in the club's recent accounts.


"I knew they would make a loss but I wasn't quite sure just exactly what it would be so that was quite a surprise when it came out to be such a large figure," said Smith, who won 21 trophies during his two spells as manager.


"It used to be that the wages of the footballing side used to be the major problem in clubs' finances but that's been cut down fairly dramatically from when I was there."


A group of shareholders are trying to force changes on the Rangers board at the upcoming AGM, with the increasingly bitter feud reaching the Court of Session.


When stepping down from his short-lived spell as chairman, Smith referred to a "highly-dysfunctional environment" at board level.


He also voiced support for those hoping to join the board, although he stated that chief executive Craig Mather was doing a good job and hoped he would be able to continue.


"Like everybody else, you just get frustrated that nothing seems to be settling down at the club," explained Smith.


"They still have a fair amount of turmoil in the background.


"Like everyone else, I don't think that the club can really look forward until that's erased.


"There's the obvious suspicion that the club isn't the main reason why people are running the club at the present moment.


"After the AGM, if we get back to the fact that Rangers are a football club and it should be run for the football club and for the football team. I think that that would be a massive step."


Smith, who had current Ibrox boss Ally McCoist as assistant between 2007 and 2011, insists establishing confidence in the board is vital for the club, who are top of Scottish League One having won all their league matches so far.


"I don't think there's a great deal of turmoil in the current board," he added. "There's turmoil being created because a lot of people want to see a change on that board.


"That, I think, is the main crux of the problem at the present moment. The football aspect of Rangers is going as you'd expect it to go for a big club down in the lower divisions.


"They're back on track, they're playing some good football but we still have this problem surrounding the board. I don't think the club can get back to being a settled club until that is eventually settled.


"If you're looking at the job that the manager's doing at the present moment, who could complain about that?"

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Former Rangers manager and chairman Walter Smith yesterday became, along with Celtic’s European Cup-winning captain Billy McNeill, a patron of the St Andrew’s Sporting Club.


Smith, while honoured to be officially involved with the 40-year-old Glasgow boxing institution, had other battles in mind when he spoke with reporters afterwards – namely, the battle for the hearts and the soul of the Third Division champions and runaway League 1 leaders.


With losses of £14.4million announced last week and in-fighting between directors and rebel shareholders showing no sign of letting up, Smith struggled to see a light at the end of this particular tunnel. He remains convinced, though, that Rangers will somehow survive the latest blood-letting and emerge from the financial mire yet again.


“You have to feel optimism for the simple reason that Rangers are a great club,” he said. “They cannot continue being run in the manner they are at the present moment. That can’t continue. It can’t be allowed to continue.


“When you see supporters protesting in the manner they have done in the last few games you know that, effectively, will be the reason Rangers will get out of that.”


Even so, Smith admits that he is not in a position to declare that a second administration at Ibrox can be avoided.


“If I knew what was going to happen I would be confident answering that one [but] I don’t,” he said. “But something has to happen.


“Rangers are too big a club and too great an institution to not find an answer to the problems they are facing at the present moment.”


Asked whether the club’s directors should follow manager Ally McCoist’s example and halve their salaries, Smith replied: “That’s up to them. I think some of them have dropped certain aspects of what they were taking.


“I’m not privy to what might be happening in that respect. I do know that things will, at some stage or other, settle down.


“The right thing will happen and Rangers will come back. But it will not be without further pain: I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”


The troubled club’s latest chief executive Craig Mather wasin South Africa at the weekend for talks with former director Dave King in an attempt to persuade him to supply a much-needed cash injection.


Smith, who was twice dissuaded from resigning as chairman before he finally left, believes that Mather could have improved his carbon footprint and remained at home, believing that King - who saw previous owner Sir David Murray squander £20m of his money when he first invested in the club - is unlikely to work with the current regime.


“Does it make sense? I don’t know,” he said. “That’s the difficult thing about Rangers. What makes any sense any longer?


“I don’t know if that’s true or whether Dave King would come back and get involved in Rangers again. I just don’t know.


“Would he be good for the club? It depends on circumstances. I hope somebody can come in and end this situation we have at the present moment where there is a circumstance where EGMs can be called at any given time by any given person.


“That situation is not conductive to running a stable football club. So if we get an owner back and one who is basically interested in the football side of the club and seeing the footballing side of the team progress – as Dave King would be – then that would be a good thing for Rangers.


“I don’t know what his thoughts would be on that. I don’t really envisage him coming back to sit amongst the board.”


Smith is certainly of the opinion that there are currently too many vested interests at Ibrox for the club to progress.


“I think there are,” he said. “That’s what happens. We have seen banners at recent games – and as a manager you expect that’s how fans will show their discontent.


“If you are a manager you expect that kind of thing amongst the support but it’s the first time I can remember the board taking that kind of criticism.


“And that’s an indication. If you were a manager that would indicate to the manager he is struggling. It should also indicate to the board that Rangers are also in the middle of a struggle.”


However, Smith dismisses suggestions that Rangers should not have made high-profile signings such as Cammy Bell, Jon Daly, Nicky Law and others on elite-division salaries while the club is losing money in Scottish football’s third tier.


“At Rangers it’s a difficult scenario,” he said. “You talk about cutting their cloth but, at the start of last season Rangers had to have a team that was fairly recognisable in terms of the level of player.


“Even during the season when they were winning there was a whole raft of discontent over the way they were playing. But, this year, what do you do with that?


“Do you say: ‘We are going to go with the same team again?’ You couldn’t do that. They had to [improve] the team. They had to bring in different players.


“People come out and say: ‘It’s not necessary for them to have that in that division’ but it’s not just the division that matters at Rangers, it’s the fact you have 45,000 people coming to watch something on a football pitch.


“That’s where Rangers have to make the difference and, in fairness to Alistair, he has done that this season. They are still losing money but when you make a decision to become involved at Rangers there is no common sense to it.


“There is no common business sense. Yes, there is money going out, it’s a fact. But what do you do?


“All the people saying this, that and the next thing don’t realise that you can’t sit on the board of directors and tell people: ‘We can’t afford to do this.’


“You actually have to go out and find the money to do it. That is the problem. If you get into the Champions League, then you can make a profit. Celtic have shown that, Rangers showed it in the latter period I was there. That’s the place you make the money. So Rangers have to use their money to create a situation where they can put that challenge in. That’s the gamble. It’s not a sensible gamble. But that’s what it is.


“The problem they have at the moment is not because they have put a whole load of money into the football team.


“Look at Rangers and they hardly bought a player in five years. All the players have been free transfers. The wage bill is probably at its lowest in recent history. By a mile. It’s somewhere near a third of what it was when I was manager. The feeling is that the money is going elsewhere.”



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The Express's take on it:


Walter Smith wants end to Ibrox board games


WALTER SMITH has urged Rangers’ warring factions to put the team ahead of self-interest after it emerged that fresh moves are afoot to broker a deal with former director Dave King.


The South Africa-based tycoon is seen as a potential saviour in fresh attempts to safeguard the future of the club.


But former manager Smith, who quit as chairman in August following a period of bitter infighting at Rangers, feels that the focus has been lost.


He said: “I hope that shortly the club will settle down and concentrate on the football aspect.


“That has been forgotten these last few years. It is a great football club supported by a huge numbers of people whose lives have been affected by what has happened.


“Any given person being able to call an AGM at any time is not conducive to running a stable football club, so if we can get an owner who is basically interested in the football

side that would be progress.


“Football in Scotland has suffered from the fact that Rangers are in lower divisions and the club has also suffered greatly in terms of image due to the situation they are in.”


Smith, unveiled yesterday as a patron of the St Andrew’s Sporting Club along with Celtic legend Billy McNeill, also called for the fans to get behind manager Ally McCoist.


The 65-year-old said: “Ally gave up an awful lot to join the coaching staff without any guarantee of being the manager and he could never have imagined when he took over that he would find himself in this situation.


“I don’t think a lot of people would have put up with what he has and I think he deserves a great deal of credit for the way he has handled the situation.


“He has done extremely well. Last year he was always going to have a problem because nobody could have had a worse pre-season than Rangers did with no new players.


“I think now they are coming out of that and the team is playing far better.

“But there isn’t a great deal of cash and people have expectations, for Rangers to get back to the Premier League anyway.


“Ally has been the person more than anyone who has stepped in and led the club over this period.


“There’s a bit the majority of people don’t see about Ally – his hardness, his determination, his will to win and his ability to stand up for himself.


“It would have taken someone with the club at heart to stay and work through this period and what’s been happening.”


Smith believes there are too many different voices trying to have their say and hinted at the principal reason for his reluctant decision to step down as chairman – one, he

stressed, he would never have taken lightly.


He also underlined the importance of Rangers regaining their status as a top-flight club.


Smith added: “Rangers have 45,000 people coming to watch them and I used to say to the board not to tell people you can’t afford to do something.

“You have to find the money to do it. You can do that if you get into the Champions League because that’s the place where you make money.


“But Rangers have to get the money to get back into a situation where they can put in a challenge.


“It’s not a sensible gamble but that’s what it is. The problem isn’t that a lot of money has been put into the football team. They have hardly bought a player for five years, so if

you look at the money that’s been lost, where is it?


“The wage bill is probably at its lowest in recent history. So the feeling is that the money is going elsewhere outwith the football team and that’s causing problems.


“But I have some sense of optimism for the simple reason that Rangers is too big a club and too great an institution to continue to be run in the manner it is at the moment.


“At one stage or other it will settle down and Rangers will come back, but not without a bit of further pain.”



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