Smith admits Nikica Jelavic buy a gamble for Rangers

WALTER Smith has admitted taking a calculated risk in investing practically all of his transfer budget, not to mention a great deal of faith, in Nikica Jelavic.

• Nikica Jelavic

The Croatian international striker finally arrived in Glasgow yesterday for the final stages of what has been a protracted move from Rapid Vienna. The sum of around 4 million Rangers will pay the Austrian side uses up all of the funds allocated to Smith for transfer fees during the current window under the Ibrox club's agreement with their bankers.

Smith has also been able to sign James Beattie on a free transfer from Stoke City and secure Slovakian winger Vladimir Weiss on a season-long loan from Manchester City but decided to put all his eggs in one basket when it came to using the cash resources available.

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His dogged pursuit of Jelavic was made in the firm belief that the 24-year-old possesses the necessary quality to make better business sense than strengthening his squad with four players at a cost of 1 million each. It leaves Smith's squad relatively light in terms of numbers but that is a circumstance he is prepared to face.

"With the budget that we had to spend, I have taken a wee gamble on not bringing in a number of players," he said. "I've gone for one in particular in Jelavic who I hope will bring us a level of goals and compensate for the loss of Kris Boyd.

"I didn't really have the need to fill a whole lot of positions. I know we haven't got a huge squad of players but I felt rather than maybe bring in four players for that amount of money, it is better to try and bring in one who I felt would do a really good job for us.

"The gamble from my own point of view is that we are now sitting with about 18 or 19 players. If we avoid injury and suspensions to a great degree, then we should get through okay. That's the gamble I'm prepared to take.

"I don't want to see the club bringing in a level of player which is not exactly what we want. Hopefully it will be a case of quality rather than quantity."

Jelavic, who will not receive a work permit in time to face Hibs at Easter Road tomorrow, eventually broke the stalemate in his transfer saga when he made it clear to Rapid Vienna that he had his heart set on moving to Rangers.

It came as a relief to Smith, who is now hoping Rapid are eliminated from the Europa League when they face Aston Villa in the second leg of their play-off round tie next Thursday. If Rapid reach the group stage, Jelavic will be ineligible to play for Rangers in the Champions League this season.

"No harm to Rapid Vienna, but obviously I hope they lose to Aston Villa next week," said Smith. "We want to do well in the Champions League but our season is one which will depend a lot on us getting the right level of goals. Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller have done that manfully for us in the last couple of seasons. Hopefully this season, between Jelavic, Beattie and Miller, we will still have that level of goals."

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Speculation continues to link several of Smith's squad, including Miller, Madjid Bougherra, Steven Davis and Allan McGregor with moves out of Ibrox before the transfer window closes but he is determined that will not happen. He expects his current group of players to remain intact, with the exception of one more loan signing coming in.

"We don't need to sell a player," he said. "That's been made quite clear. I will be resisting it. If it comes down to a player being desperate to go, there is nothing we can do about that, but we are not looking to sell and we don't want to sell. We are happy to be going into the season with the group we have. So selling a player is not going to be a factor for us.

"That's our budget been reached in terms of signing players. Later in the transfer window, we may manage to get another loan signing. But effectively speaking, we have now spent the money we had."

Smith, meanwhile, has concurred with his Celtic counterpart Neil Lennon's assertion earlier this week that Scottish football has an image problem in England which makes it difficult to attract players from there.

"That has gone on for years," said Smith. "I agree with Neil. People in England are disparaging about us. It is up to us to try and make sure we rectify that. I've said many times that managers and coaches in Scotland are trying to keep the game at as high a level as they possibly can.

"The financial aspects are always going to be a problem for us, but if you look at attitude, willingness, motivation and organisation of your teams, the Scottish boys do extremely well at that.

"It's always disappointing when they are disparaging towards us. Although I don't think we would be at the top four level of the English Premier League over the last ten years, Rangers and Celtic have done as well in the Europa League or Uefa Cup as any of our English counterparts.

"Both of our clubs have reached the final in that period, while Middlesbrough and Fulham have done it for England. So we are not as far away as a lot of people would believe us to be."

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Meanwhile, Weiss fulfilled one boyhood ambition at the tender age of 20 this summer when he performed with distinction for his country at the World Cup finals in South Africa.

The Slovakian winger could not resist the opportunity to add another landmark entry to his fledgling football CV when the offer of Champions League football with Rangers came his way this week.

Weiss confirmed yesterday that he had nine other offers, including one from Celtic, to go out on loan from Manchester City this season but none could match the prospect of being involved in the world's elite club competition.

"I spoke to the Celtic manager but the following day I heard Rangers were interested," said Weiss. "I don't think Rangers even knew Celtic were interested, because it was kept quiet and things moved fast.

"I spoke to both managers and decided to come here. Champions League football was a big factor. To play in the tournament at my age will be fantastic."

"I'm really pleased to get Vladimir," said Smith. "He's the type of player we've not really had since I came back to the club. He is a genuine winger and I hope we can fit him into the team and get a good benefit from that."