Walter Smith says leeway from bank is vital at Ibrox

WALTER Smith has raised fresh doubts over his future as Rangers manager beyond the end of the season and expressed his fears that the Ibrox club could face a return to the wilderness years they endured in the early 1980s.

• David Weir (Player of the Year), Walter Smith (Manager of the Year) and David Goodwillie (Young Player of the Year) show off their Clydesdale Bank SPL awards ahead of last night's ceremony in Glasgow. Picture: SNS

He may be on the verge of his ninth league title triumph in charge of Rangers, a seemingly imminent achievement which last night saw him named Manager of the Season by SPL sponsors Clydesdale Bank, but Smith believes repeating such achievements will become increasingly problematic for the club under their current financial restrictions.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 62-year-old feels Lloyds TSB, who are overseeing Ibrox fiscal policy as the search for a new owner continues, fail to understand the footballing impact of their refusal to release more funds to strengthen the first-team playing squad.

Smith has not been able to sign a player for a transfer fee since August 2008 and, along with his assistants Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowall, has been working without a contract since January this year. While he takes pride in the silverware won by the players at his disposal over the past two years, he feels next season may stretch existing resources to breaking point.

If the current uncertainty is not resolved, Smith also questions whether his own enthusiasm for the job will be sufficient to persuade him to remain in charge. Clearly, he would not relish the prospect of circumstances such as those which saw an impoverished Rangers go eight years without winning a league title before Graeme Souness and Smith led them to success in 1987 on the back of unprecedented investment.

"Rangers have had periods of time in their history when they have gone a long while without winning championships," reflected Smith, "and I would hope we won't be going back into that situation.

"This is an important time for Rangers because I don't think there is a full realisation of the exact impact the implementation of the plan currently agreed with the bank for next year will have. I can appreciate the reasons why the plan was put in place, but I'll never agree with it.

"If there is a continued down-sizing, then it will impact on our ability to succeed at a time when we need to succeed. The financial people see the team winning the League Cup and with a good opportunity to win the league this season and they probably think whatever they do isn't going to have a major impact or be a damaging influence.

"Unfortunately, they don't realise just what it takes for an Old Firm team to be successful. We have handled it all right this season, but unless we get a little bit of help in terms of increasing our pool of players, it will be very difficult for us to recreate successful circumstances again.

"Under the current circumstances, next year will be extremely difficult. If nothing changes, if there is no buy-out or anything like that, it will be an extremely difficult season for Rangers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It is difficult to gauge what is going to happen. If there is no change at all, and the plan which is in place at the present moment starts to be implemented, then I think it will be an extremely difficult season for the club to handle.

"I won't say it would be impossible to win the title, but it would be extremely difficult to maintain a level of success. It hasn't been spelled out to me what difference it might make if we get into the Champions League, but that would obviously free us up to have a little bit more money than we are getting.

"But even then, you are not talking about a lot of money overall. The whole object of the plan in place at the moment is to get the debt away down. So we won't have a lot of money at the end of the season anyway if things remain as they are at the moment.

"We have six players out of contract in the summer (David Weir, Kris Boyd, Nacho Novo, Kirk Broadfoot, DaMarcus Beasley and Stevie Smith) and we will maybe lose half of them.

"That's where the investment aspect of whatever happens comes into it. They don't want to go back to the situation the club was in before in terms of debt. You would appreciate that.

"But it is one of the ironies of our situation at the moment that if you are gaining a level of success on the pitch, you would hope to benefit from it. But it doesn't seem as if the team will be the part that benefits greatly from that."

Smith says he is no closer to making a decision on his own future but admits his desire to continue working could be compromised by the club's present difficulties.

"Retirement is a nasty word for some people and might be for me as well," he said. "But you've got to enjoy what you are doing. I'm enjoying it at the moment, but I don't know that I would if we enter a situation where it's even more difficult to maintain the level of success we've had recently.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I feel the summer must bring the situation to an end one way or another. Everyone has to start making a decision, the people who have been talking about buying the club. If no-one buys it, then I'll need to sit down, take everything into account and make my own decision. Then again, I might get sacked and that would take the decision out of my hands.

"The main thing for me is the impact the cutbacks will have on the club and whether I'll have the enthusiasm to do that again. Maybe it will take someone younger to have the desire to handle all of this.

"Okay, you look at Sir Alex (Ferguson) at Manchester United, but if you are working with Wayne Rooney or Rio Ferdinand, that will keep you going. It's not only me, but the players and staff at Rangers who need a bit of help now by bringing in new players to give us some freshness and a different outlook.

"All of those things have been pointed out (to the bank), but they only look at the financial side of things, whereas I'm inclined to look at the team. So I'll just wait and see what happens. I'm not trying to be evasive, I genuinely don't know."