Smith: Rangers' new owner must invest in squad

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The Independent Football

Outgoing Rangers manager Walter Smith has called on their new owner, Craig Whyte, to invest in the team to continue the club's success. Smith this season led Rangers to a third successive Scottish Premier League title, a 5-1 win at Kilmarnock on Sunday meaning that his side beat Celtic to the trophy by a point.

Smith then urged Whyte to entrust Rangers' new manager, Ally McCoist, with funds to strengthen the squad. Smith said: "Unless there is a significant investment then the team will stagnate. They just can't continue to do what they have been doing at the present moment.

"That is regardless of if I was the manager or anybody. Next season will be a problem. Hopefully, that will be looked at by the owners.

"But I don't think the new owner would have bought the club unless they were happy to put money into the team. The team needs a boost. He would be blind if he didn't realise that."

Smith has been operating with a smaller squad and tighter budget than during his first spell as manager at Ibrox, during Rangers' run of nine straight SPL titles. However, last summer he spent £4m on Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic, who missed part of the season through injury but has provided a "different dimension".

Smith added: "I don't think Jelavic will leave this summer. I don't think it would be the brightest thing for the new owner to sell one of our best players – especially when everyone expects him to spend money. He [Jelavic] just gives us something different up front – something we've never really had before. Kris Boyd could score, Kenny Miller could run through defences and, in the latter stages of his time at Rangers, he was scoring a lot of goals as well, but Jelavic gives us a mix of everything. He can run through, he can link up, he can score and it has brought a different dimension to the team."

Madjid Bougherra, meanwhile, has responded to a Celtic jibe by saying that experience had paid dividends after his side beat their Old Firm rivals to the title. Bougherra was overjoyed, but could not resist a retort to a comment from Celtic earlier this season.

He said: "It is fantastic as everyone knew our situation. We didn't have a big squad and we had many games to play, including in the Champions League and Europa League.

"Even so, we never complained and got on with our jobs. We did our best and in the end we were the champions. You know, I remember hearing a Celtic player – I think it was Kris Commons – saying they were younger, faster and better than us. I can tell him now that we are maybe older and slower but we are the champions once again."

Jelavic, who scored 19 goals this season, was thrilled with being crowned champions. The Croatia international striker said: "It was a great victory [over Kilmarnock] for us and I think we showed we were the best team in Scotland over the whole season. We deserve this title. This is the most exciting moment in my career and the biggest thing that has ever happened to me in football.

"I am delighted for the manager. He has done many, many good things for Rangers and in his last season, he has worked so hard for the title."

Sasa Papac hopes to be part of the squad under McCoist. The Bosnian, whose current contract expires this summer, said: "I hope I can sign another contract too because I have given everything to the club for five years and now I have eight trophies as a reward. We are still in talks with Rangers so we will see what will happen in the next couple of days, and I hope I can stay."

Kyle Bartley hopes to return to Rangers next season on another loan from Arsenal. The 19-year-old defender made nine appearances after moving to Ibrox in January before a knee injury cut short his spell.

He said: "There are talks going on with Arsenal as we speak so we'll have to wait and see but if I'm told I can come back that would be fantastic. The experience this year was invaluable and I really enjoyed my time so if I could come back next season that would be fantastic. All the boys get on really well and they're all great lads and now they can celebrate this success together."