Football: Rangers' hopes of recovery depend on Laudrup

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The Independent Online
On the day he welcomed back his most talented individual, Walter Smith stressed the need for collective responsibility as Rangers try to clinch a Champions' League spot.

The Ibrox manager confirmed that Denmark's Brian Laudrup will play some part in tonight's European Cup preliminary round tie, when his side will attempt to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit against IFK Gothenburg.

Smith must now weigh up the obvious attraction of giving his captain a free rein to haul back the deluge of goals required against a lack of match fitness incurred during a three-week absence with a bout of chicken- pox.

"My dilemma is obviously whether to start with him or to wait and bring him on at a certain stage of the game," said Smith. "He is an important player for us and obviously it a big lift having him involved again. He is keen to play his part in the game, but the decision in the end will rest with me."

Laudrup was named in a 19-man squad today that also included the German midfielder, Jorg Albertz, who has recovered from a knee injury. Smith, however, was quick to point out that it was not individuals who would have the greatest bearing on the outcome of tonight's tie.

"The biggest thing for us is how the whole team performs," he said. "Obviously we have individuals who can win us games with their ability alone. But if you look at the goals we lost early in the second half out in Gothenburg, they were caused by a breakdown in teamwork as much as anything."

Rangers' disintegration against the Swedish champions has given them an enormous task at Ibrox, but Smith does not expect supporters automatically to make it the ground a fortress for the visitors. "I have never been one to ask supporters to get behind the team," he said. "I think the priority is that the team gives them something to shout about. First and foremost it is a question of how we approach the game and if we can apply a bit of pressure and cause a bit of nervousness in the Gothenburg side, then the supporters can help us by creating an intimidating atmosphere. But it is up to us to make that happen."

Although Smith is realistic about the chances of Rangers successfully completing their mission, he is adamant that they will not fail for lack of effort.

"We have to recognise that Gothenburg have a major advantage," he said. "I don't think we have ever been down 3-0 before either, so the challenge is enormous. We can still get the kind of result we are looking for, although it will take one hell of a performance."