Smith backs Rangers to answer the critics

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The Independent Football

Walter Smith insists he has not been surprised by the criticism aimed at Rangers since their Co-operative Insurance Cup defeat to Celtic last Sunday. Instead the manager has challenged his players to show they can survive the fall-out from the disappointing events at Hampden as they now try to steer their campaign back on track.

Hearts visit Ibrox in the Scottish Premier League today in a game Rangers cannot afford to lose as they attempt to bridge a three-point gap to leaders Celtic in the title race. "As long as the criticism doesn't affect the team too greatly, that's OK," Smith said. "Before last Sunday, we were in a position to win a treble if we performed well enough until the end of the season.

"Last season, we were in a position where we were leading the championship, in finals of cups and eventually got to the final of the Uefa Cup and people were complaining about how we were playing.

"Last season there was a possibility of it being one of the best seasons in Rangers' history but you were never going to satisfy everybody," he added. "It's just part and parcel of life in Scotland. You have to handle it and take it on board and you have to be strong enough to handle it."