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Novo praises smith despite frustrations of rangers bench


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Nacho Novo would probably be regarded as the most valuable impact player that Rangers have in their possession. The evidence is there in the Ibrox trophy room, where the Scottish Cup has pride of place thanks to Novo’s remarkable introduction to last season’s final when he scored with his first touch.

The Spanish forward’s spectacular lob proved decisive against Falkirk and partly made up for missing out on the previous season when the closest he got to the 2008 Scottish Cup final with Queen of the South was a seat in the stand as Walter Smith’s side edged out the Irn-Bru first division club 3-2. Now, he craves being in at the start of any story Rangers create.

Novo should be in Smith’s line-up for tonight’s reunion with Queen of the South in the Co-operative Insurance Cup. The third round tie at Palmerston Park is the sort of occasion that is tailor-made for Novo, who has been a serial scorer in cup competitions, either domestic or European, during his five years at Ibrox.

However, the plethora of strikers at the club mean that Smith has been using Novo sparingly this season, as he watches Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller form the first-choice partnership, and echoing the frustration of 2008 when he had only a cameo substitute role in the Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg.

Yet, Novo insists the situation has not diluted his admiration for Smith. Indeed, had it occurred at any other club other than Rangers, he would have packed his bags long ago. “Years ago when I was younger I would have moaned when I did not start but now I am less selfish. I have learnt a lot from the manager,” he said.

“This is my sixth season and there have been a lot of changes — I am the only one left now. I just want to stay here. The manager is always trying to give me help. He says that he just picks players for each game.

“It’s been tough to miss games but in the last two and a half years since Walter Smith came, he has been great with every player, and fantastic with me. So has Ally McCoist [the assistant]. I listened to him a lot and I am sure Ally will be the manager one day.

“It has been frustrating not to play. I always want to play. That is my mentality and it is hard to stay on the bench. A run of six of seven starts would be good for my confidence but we have a lot of strikers. I know if I work hard, my reward will come.”

Rangers will have Madjid Bougherra back from suspension but Smith will not be adopting a rotation policy, partly out of pragmatism and partly he is aware that Queens could be far tougher in their own cramped backyard in Dumfries than they were on the open space of Hampden Park.

“We will make a couple of changes for the game but they will not be wholesale because we do not have that big a squad in the first place,” Smith said. “We will not be bringing in any younger players, the first team players we have available we will use.

“Queen of the South gave us a lot of bother in the cup final and I expect the same at Palmerston. It is a televised game and their approach will be good. We need to make sure we match that enthusiasm. If we don’t then we’ll have a problem.

“It is a mental test as well as a physical test. We need to approach the game in the right manner. The smaller clubs always look forward to these games and, like I say, they gave us more than a few problems at Hampden. We have been slow to start games recently and this could be a classic cup-tie encounter, so we need to ensure we start right.”

Smith admits he was wrong and is set to accept SFA ban

Walter Smith insisted yesterday that he was not abusing Steve Conroy when the referee sent him to the stand last Saturday in the encounter away to Kilmarnock but the Rangers manager is unlikely to launch an appeal if the SFA imposes a four-game touchline ban for misconduct. That means Smith will be sitting in the stand when Celtic come to Ibrox on October 4.

Smith said his actions at Rugby Park have been misunderstood, yet he accepts his response to the dismissal of Pedro Mendes was wrong. “I have not received any notification from the SFA,” Smith said. “I will have the right of appeal and it will depend on what they accuse me of. When you are out of order, like I was, and I admit that, then you have to accept it. However, everybody has the impression I was criticising the referee. I was not.”

Smith says he was angered by what he felt were attempts by the Kilmarnock players to have Mendes shown a second yellow card. “They just wanted the game played on, I accept that now,” he said.

why does smith not want to use any of the youngsters in our squad

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