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Why Walter's in with a shout


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Why Walter's in with a shout DARRYL BROADFOOT, Chief Football Writer July 16 2007

Rangers' rearmament programme suggests Walter Smith will negotiate the Celtic juggernaut head-on next season. The Old Firm's contribution to the transfer cattle drive makes for an engrossing resumption of hostilities once the fairweather golfers and part-time Pimm's drinkers have had their fill.

Gordon Strachan scored the first psychological points of the summer by meeting Hibernian's asking price for Scott Brown, snatching him from their financially infertile rivals in the process. Massimo Donati, the former AC Milan midfield player, has offset the departure of Neil Lennon and on the largely impermissible evidence of pre-season looks to be a dynamic and diligent accomplice for the productively hyperactive Scotland graduate. The runaway champions have undoubtedly improved, an ominous warning to the also-rans in the competition now cosmetically altered - it remains to be seen if enhanced - to Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

It would be foolhardy, though, to predict an incontestable procession to three titles in a row despite the compelling evidence in favour of Celtic continuing their dominance of the domestic scene. Smith, it seems, is attempting to emulate his earlier feats in frustrating Tommy Burns' exquisitely appointed side, albeit with more modest means second time around.


The reinforcement of the defence, with Ugo Ehiogu, David Weir, Carlos Cuellar and Andy Webster all summoned, has been complemented by the presence of a willing target in Lee McCulloch, and a much-needed injection of pace, with DaMarcus Beasley and Jean-Claude Darcheville snapped up more for their drive and dynamism than for their erratic strikerates.

Smith may continue to be frustrated in his pursuit of Steven Naismith, a time-honoured summer transfer saga that will almost certainly result in the Kilmarnock attacker's scuttling into a blacked-out car bound for Murray Park in the final hours before deadline, yet the architect of nine in a row has not endured in this business without a canny streak. By comparison to the defending champions' enviable boutique buying, Rangers' wheeling and dealing has been akin to a productive shop at TK Maxx: brand names at a fraction of the retail price. And plenty of them.

Rangers’ wheeling and dealing has been akin to a productive shop at TK Maxx compared to Celtic’s enviable boutique buying

It is this element of the manager's rebuilding job that will address the apathy which created an almost funereal atmosphere around Ibrox last season. Kirk Broadfoot, Alan Gow, Graeme Smith, McCulloch and probable recruits Naismith and Steven Whittaker, share a common allegiance with Rangers. Recruiting those with a boyhood affection is a throwback to the days when playing for the jersey was more than an anachronistic cliche. Without the income to match Celtic's spending power, Smith has had little option but to recruit those who would not require an invitation to go the extra mile. As he discovered with the core of his recently feted side - Andy Goram, Richard Gough, Ian Ferguson, Ian Durrant and Ally McCoist - a collective spirit is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts.

It will require more than extra reserves of application to wrest the championship from Celtic's firm grasp, which is why next season will define the entire career of Barry Ferguson. The captain cut a forlorn, disillusioned figure throughout Paul Le Guen's reign. Unwittingly or otherwise, he was instrumental in the Frenchman's downfall; failing to adhere to the manager's specific instructions on his role as he attempted to achieve the impossible and plug the leaks that sprung all around him.

His confrontations with Scott Brown will be a key factor in the destination of the new trophy and, at 29, this represents arguably the peak year of his powers, however much his body has suffered through injury. He has won over the majority of those who were scornful of his return from Blackburn Rovers but content that he has the right players around him - and a manger whose aura alone can put the fear of death in even the most senior players - Ferguson is convinced Rangers can mount a serious and sustained challenge.

Celtic, rightly, will begin as favourites, on short-odds at that but the underlying rivalry between Strachan and Smith, perhaps intensified by the mini-spat over Stephen McManus's and Shaun Maloney's international availability for the Kirin Cup, will be another fascinating facet to what promises to be a colossal joust.


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great article Bazza. I have confidence in whats happening at Ibrox, even though big money wasnt spent.

Im more concerned about the quality of player coming in rather than outspending the tims.

Look at Graveson, waste of money.

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Very good article indeed. Seems to suggest to me however, that Walter has outdone Strachan. And.. we have a better team spirit that they do. And Walt always does the biz over him. (Walt even holds it over him in the EPL too). btw.

I'd take our signings over theirs tbh. With or without Naismith.

Love to see the Journhos eat their words....

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