Past failure is the spur for Rangers

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The Independent Online

Glasgow may be a city divided, but compared to the travails experienced by Rangers' European Champions' Cup oppo- nents tonight, it is a model of harmony.

Anorthosis Famagusta are the team without a town. The Cypriot champions' home town, Famagusta, lies on the border between Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus and the Greek south. Most of the town is occupied by Turkish military, and much of the rest is abandoned. For the past 20 years, Anorthosis have been based in Larnaca, 30 miles away.

That is where Rangers, with Paul Gascoigne, will play the second leg in a fortnight's time. The draw has been kind to Rangers. While most clubs prefer to play the second leg at home, this is a tie that is best settled in the first leg.

Cypriot teams are hardly among European football's heavyweights, but their grounds can be difficult places to get a result. Last year, Athletic Bilbao were beaten 2-0 by Anorthosis in the Uefa Cup, and only a late second-leg goal took them through to defeat Newcastle in the next round.

Six years ago, Scotland trailed 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier in Limassol before two Richard Gough goals - the second deep into injury time - gave them victory, while, more recently, Denmark were held to a draw there in March.

Thus, if the tie remains open, it could be a volatile evening and Gascoigne's cool would face an early test. The pursuit of European glory is the raison d'etre behind Rangers' acquisition of the bleach boy. Their continued domestic success - seven consecutive titles - has been meagre consolation for their failures on the greater stage.

Last year they were beaten home and away by an AEK Athens side which had an undistinguished Champions' League campaign. The previous year they went out to Levski Sofia, again at the first hurdle.

The financial cost of failure is enormous - entry into the Champions' League is worth pounds 5m to pounds 10m. The cost in terms of pride and prestige would be even higher. "It is imperative that we qualify for the Champions' League," Andy Goram, the Rangers goalkeeper, said. "We are desperate to put the disappointments of Athens and Sofia right," added Ally McCoist. "There is no place like the Champions' League, and we want to be in it."

Gascoigne - who is making his European debut at club level - Mark Hateley and Michael Laudrup will be Rangers' three 'foreigners'. Stephen Wright, signed for pounds 1.5m from Aberdeen this summer, will also play in a five-man midfield.

Rangers have been encouraged by their pre-season build-up, and believe they will not be "caught cold" by the early scheduling of the tie this time around. "We are better off, fitness-wise," Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, said.

If there is still is a temptation to feel complacent, it should be dispelled when the teams run out. When Rangers lost in Sofia two years ago, they went out to a last-minute goal; the scorer, Nikoli Todorov, now plays for Anorthosis. Sofia's manager, Georghi Vassiliev, is also now with Anorthosis.

There are two other Bulgarians in his side, but the player Rangers must watch carefully is Sinisa Gogic. The former Yugoslav international, now a naturalised Cypriot, has scored 50 goals in the last two seasons for Anorthosis.

n John Lambie, the former Partick manager, was last night confirmed as Falkirk's new manager in succession to Jim Jefferies, who left Brockville Park for Hearts last week.