Football: Rangers reveal European plans

Rangers yesterday unveiled the blueprint drafted to prepare the perennial Scottish champions for the expected advent of a European League by the year 2000.

Their manager Walter Smith and his assistant, Archie Knox, have signed three-year extensions to their Ibrox contracts. Smith has also recruited the Dane Tommy Moller-Nielsen, the 34-year-old son of the former Danish international manager Richard, as first-team coach to replace Davie Dodds.

The chairman, David Murray, revealed the backroom appointment is just the start of a summer signing spree which will include a new training facility and, possibly, no fewer than nine new players by July.

Murray confirmed his desire to consign "nine-in-a-row" to the history books, saying he and Smith had resorted to "short-termism" in recent seasons in order to equal Celtic's cherished record of nine successive Scottish titles.

Now they crave making a bigger impact on Europe - even though they must walk a qualifying round tightrope for the Champions' League in July. Failure would mean an exit before the Premier Division has begun.

Asked if he expects a European League to run alongside domestic football within the next three years, Murray said: "It is happening already. It is called the Champions' League.

"I've said repeatedly that by the year 2000 we will have all three European trophies combined into one. It is starting to happen already. We must be ready for that. It is all very well saying we are a big club. It is quite another going and doing it. We all know what is required.

"I do believe the parochial element of 'nine-in-a-row' has held us back over the past couple of seasons. 'Ten-in-a-row' will take care of itself. We'll either win it or we won't but dramatic change has to come."

Rangers have spent pounds 50m over the past eight years to redevelop Ibrox into a futuristic 50,000 all-seat stadium, but now the emphasis is on changing the playing staff. Richard Gough and David Robertson have gone and Smith has already lined up the Swedish international midfielder Jonas Thern from Roma, the Australian full-back Tony Vidmar from NAC Breda and the German goalkeeper Georg Koch from Dusseldorf.

More will surely follow with Rangers having confirmed their interest in Internazionale's defenders Massimo Paganin and Alessandro Pistone. Roy Hodgson's departure from Inter is delaying decisions on their futures.

But Murray will not splash big-money fees on people like Paul Ince and Kennet Andersson who are, at 30, deemed too old for the Ibrox vision. Paul Gascoigne, though, could be part of the future - if he accepts an offer to stay.

"We admit that in the past we have gone for the quick fix in the transfer market," said Murray. "Now we are putting the building blocks in place by signing players of the right age on four to five-year contracts. We could have as many as nine new players by the start of the season.

"We need to do it. We were vulnerable there for a few months last season but shrewd management and extra effort from a couple of players saw us through."

Smith's deal confirms he is in with the bricks at Ibrox, after first arriving 11 years ago to become assistant to Graeme Souness. Knox joined from Manchester United in 1991 to become Smith's No 2.