The Ibrox club finished a distant third in the Premiership last season, a yawning 39 points behind champions Celtic who landed an historic undefeated domestic treble in Brendan Rodgers’ maiden campaign as manager. Celtic also returned to the lucrative group stage of the Champions League for the first time in three years, having failed to qualify in both seasons of Ronny Deila’s tenure. Rangers chairman King believes the gap between the Old Firm rivals, on and off the pitch, is not as pronounced as it could have been as a consequence of his club’s financial collapse in 2012. He now expects his new manager Pedro Caixinha to present Celtic with a credible title challenge in the forthcoming season.
“Realistically, running Celtic close would be good,” said King. “They are coming off a high and it will be difficult for them to repeat what they did last season for obvious reasons. In footballing terms, I don’t think Celtic are as far ahead as they could have been – certainly with our new signings this summer. Given that we were in the wilderness for four years I don’t think Celtic did as much in that four years as they could have done. We are clearly behind them squad-wise but I really would expect to give them a run. I certainly don’t expect a repeat of last season. If we had been 16 points behind Celtic and 16 ahead of Aberdeen, that would be right in terms of our spending. So for us to finish so dismally behind Aberdeen was very disappointing. I will repeat a bit of what I said last year, that we are going to try to compete with Celtic for the Premiership.”
King sees the recruitment of director of football Mark Allen from Manchester City as a positive statement of intent from his club.
“Two years ago, there was still a concern about the turmoil that was going on at Rangers and whether this rebuilding exercise was going to work. What we have seen in the last year is a normalisation of that situation. People accept the club is on the way back. Now we have someone like Mark who sees us as a bigger opportunity and is not worried about where we will be in two years’ time.”