Walter Smith heaps praise on Rangers squad for 'special' title triumph

IT MAY have lacked the drama of 'Helicopter Sunday' five years ago, but as Rangers repeated history by again sealing the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title at Hibernian's home, Easter Road, their manager Walter Smith admitted this particular championship triumph had been "a wee bit special".

• Rangers manager Walter Smith with assistants Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowall celebrate after Rangers victory at Easter Road

Celtic kept Rangers waiting by beating Dundee United 2-0 yesterday lunchtime, but within hours the job was completed by the Scottish champions with three games to go as they sealed their second consecutive title – and a ninth career Scottish championship for Smith –thanks to a Kyle Lafferty goal.

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• 5 pivotal games which lead to Rangers winning the 2010 SPL title

Smith is no stranger to winning silverware, having guided Rangers to seven of their nine-in-a-row championships in the 1990s. But, against a backdrop of financial woes and uncertainty over the future ownership of the club, he says this particular achievement stands out.

Smith said: "You always feel grateful for the fact that you've won a trophy and you are in this position, as Rangers teams are a lot of the time.

"But this one is maybe a little bit different from the others we have had because of the circumstances surrounding the club and the difficulties we have faced. You enjoy anything you win but this one is a wee bit special for everyone involved."

Smith has not bought a player since the arrival of Maurice Edu from Toronto in August 2008 and he added: "We've got a good group of players, we just don't have a lot of them in terms of the size of group that's needed for a club like Rangers.

"That's what maybe separates it from a lot of the other championships I've been fortunate enough to win. It's a small group and it's maybe been a little bit against the odds. I'm delighted for the players. I've had to ask a lot of them and you could see, even today, they have lost a little bit of the brightness they had in the early part of the season. We've had to keep asking them to come back and play and they have done so. For the consistency they have achieved, they deserve enormous credit. When we've been under a little bit of pressure, we have managed to win through. They have been a resilient bunch and a difficult bunch to beat."

• A breakdown of yesterday's key events which ended in Rangers winning the Chapionship

Midfielder Kevin Thomson also believes Rangers finally deserve some credit after clinching the title. The former Hibs captain feels the Ibrox side has been forced to endure their share of criticism over the last few years and have been compared unfavourably with Rangers teams of the past.

"I think all the boys deserve a huge amount of credit," said Thomson. "I know it's up to you guys to print what you print but we have taken a lot of flak as a team. For the last two or three seasons I've heard people saying that we are the worst Rangers team but I think we showed today how much character we have as a team.

"We might not have the same quality as some other teams but we've certainly got some dig and some attitude and thankfully that has got us over the finishing line. Criticism shouldn't affect top football players and thankfully we have a dressing room who don't listen to what is going on in the papers.

"We stick together, we know our jobs and perform and hopefully we are going to get some credit."

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