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Walter: "We're looking forward to tomorrow's game


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By Andrew Dickson

WALTER SMITH'S Rangers players are straining at the leash as they prepare to kick off their SPL title defence against Falkirk tomorrow.

The squad has been back in training since July 9 and will finally get the competitive action underway after they unfurl the championship flag at Ibrox.

Gers have had a good pre-season, playing six warm-up games and impressing in a stylish 4-3-3 system.

Now it's time to put their hard work behind the scenes into practice and Smith admits his men can't wait to get going.

He said: "Regardless of whether you're being asked to defend a championship or not, people always look forward to the start of the season.

"We are no different. We came back five weeks ago and the boys are desperate to get started in a competitive aspect.

"We're looking forward to tomorrow's game and we feel ready for it. We've had a good pre-season and we're in good shape."

Smith knows expectations of Gers are higher now after they won the league in such dramatic circumstances last season.

Having been seven points off the pace at one point, they went on a fantastic run to win by four from Celtic in the end.

Many people feel the Light Blues will build on that success over the next few months and the manager knows they'll have to be at their best to do that.

Smith added: "There's always a little extra pressure on you when you are champions that isn't there when you are challenging for the title initially.

"I'm not sure how much more difficult it is going to be because it was difficult enough to win the title last season.

"I can't imagine it'll be any harder this time around because we had to come from behind to win the title.

"It was our run of form in the second half of the season that got us there and we know it will be tough to repeat that."

Falkirk are many people's favourites for relegation but they're a side that caused Rangers all sorts of problems last season.

Indeed, it took a single goal to settle three of the five meetings between the teams and Smith anticipates another close contest.

He said: "Funnily enough, we played Falkirk in the first game of the season last year and we were fortunate to win 1-0.

"They always play well against us and that was the case in the last game of the season when we met in the Scottish Cup final. That was another we were a touch lucky to win.

"We know the difficulties Falkirk can bring us but we're at home and I would hope we'll do enough to impose ourselves on the game."


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"The previous season had taken its toll and that was apparent watching us in pre-season games last summer. There wasn't a freshness or liveliness about us in any of our games. This season it's been different. We've taken some tough pre-season games and there have been some good aspects to look at. But overall we're far fresher than we were starting out last year and I think that will lead to a more optimistic Rangers manager than was the case last season."


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