Football: Rangers responsible for a nation's hopes: David McKinney on tonight's test for the Scottish champions

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The Independent Online
RANGERS will secure a place in history if they qualify for the Champions' League at the expense of AEK Athens tonight, as the Glasgow club have never in their 38 years of European football overcome a 2-0 first-leg deficit.

The public house comedians in Glasgow have hit upon the theme by suggesting AEK stands for Another Early Knock-out, a scenario which would not merely deprive the Scottish champions of revenue of at least pounds 4m, but which could have a much more serious impact on Scottish football. The danger is that unless Scotland's standing in the European game is improved, the champions of the Scottish League will be granted entry only to the Uefa Cup.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, has few tactical options open to him. His side have to look for goals while keeping things tight at the back. 'We have to be positive, and whatever we can get from wherever we can get it will be welcome,' he said.

Smith has put his faith in Mark Hateley and Duncan Ferguson unsettling the Greeks with their aerial power. While Hateley played some of the best football of his career last season, Ferguson has still to prove the worth of his pounds 4m transfer fee.

About his ability to play football there is no question: a stunning overhead kick against Germany at Ibrox in 1993 served notice of a precocious talent. Ferguson is, unfortunately, afflicted by the Scottish disease. His is a flawed genius, like so many before him.