Rangers must solve conundrum

Football
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The Independent Online
The Rangers manager, Walter Smith, was yesterday again wrestling with the conundrum of domestic dominance and European embarrassment.

After Wednesday's 1-0 home defeat against Ajax, his team are in serious danger of taking the wooden spoon in the Champions' League after four successive defeats.

It is the worst record of all 16 clubs in the elite, but Smith will send out a side desperate to win points against Grasshopper Zurich at Ibrox on 20 November and at Auxerre on 4 December with pounds 500,000 on offer for a win.

"I feel we deserved something from the two home performances against Auxerre and Ajax but we could have no complaints about the away defeats in Zurich and Amsterdam."

Many observers believe Smith must now conduct a massive overhaul of his squad but with the club chasing Celtic's cherished nine-in-a-row Scottish championship record that is unrealistic.

"There may come the time when we have to make fairly big changes but that is always difficult here when you have to win the championship," said Smith. "It is difficult to plan for change when you have to be successful on the home front all the time."

He is hopeful that injured players such as Andy Goram, Stuart McCall and Alan McLaren will be back in action within a matter of weeks as Rangers prepare for a heavy programme after the break for Scotland's World Cup game with Sweden.

Smith and Brain Laudrup, captain for the night, were encouraged by the performances of the youngsters Scott Wilson and Greg Shields.

"They did very well," Laudrup said. "It is incredible in Scott's case in particular to play for Rangers for the first time and to do so well. Rangers can only be very proud of these two boys."

Smith said: "They are always saying that they don't often get an opportunity of first-team football which is true, they don't.

"It was encouraging to see their performances and I was delighted in the manner in which they handled the game, it showed they have a good temperament."

Wilson was pitched in for his first match at the age of 19 against Ajax and now he would love to stake a claim for a new contract with his deal expiring in six months. "I still find it scary that I actually played against Ajax for Rangers," said the Edinburgh-born Wilson."I was brought up as a Rangers fan so it was fantastic to get in the side."

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