Thompson aims to lift Rangers

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The Rangers striker Steven Thompson believes he deserves a chance to help lift the club out of their dismal start to the season.

The Rangers striker Steven Thompson believes he deserves a chance to help lift the club out of their dismal start to the season.

Rangers are already out of the Champions' League and trailing Celtic in the Scottish Premier League. Their Uefa Cup hopes are in the balance following a first-leg defeat by Maritimo in Madeira. Tonight they travel to Pittodrie to face a resurgent Aberdeen in the CIS Insurance Cup. Goals have been hard to come by, especially away from Ibrox, and Aberdeen have let in only one all season.

Thompson has clocked up just 97 minutes of action this season, with summer signings Dado Prso and Nacho Novo being picked ahead of him. He said yesterday: "It has been difficult to watch this season. Dado and Nacho have been doing well but without getting the goals. It is frustrating for them but as a striker myself I want to get a chance and, hopefully, if I do, I will be able to take it.

"I know they can be few and far between and if you don't take them then you might be back out because the competition is so hot. I have been training hard and just biding my time waiting for an opportunity."

Regular first-team football is also crucial to his international career, with the Scotland manager, Berti Vogts, having made it clear he will pick only match-fit players for forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. He said: "Berti had a word with me away on the last trip and said I have got to start pushing to get in the team and if I didn't, it would be very difficult to select me."

Rangers will go into tonight's game following a laboured home victory over Inverness, which Thompson missed through suspension. He said: "Obviously, we would like to be playing better football, but on Sunday we got the result and closed the gap on Celtic and that's the most important thing. We would have liked to have won the Uefa Cup game as well and we didn't, but it is not over yet. The tie is very much still open and at Ibrox we can definitely get a result against them."

That would lift much of the pressure on the manager, Alex McLeish, and Thompson stated the players were still behind him. "Any manager at Rangers is going to be under pressure to get results and the players have been getting only mixed ones this season.

"But we are behind the manager 100 per cent and everyone has got to be reminded that without having played particularly well we are still in the Uefa Cup, still in the CIS Cup and if we beat Celtic at Ibrox there will only be two points in it."

¿ Celtic have agreed a new kit deal with Nike which will begin next summer. The five-year contract will be worth a minimum of £5m per season to the Hoops, who stand to increase that annual figure depending on their success on the pitch.