Rangers rally to cause of records

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BRangers 3

Hibernian 1

Seven down, three to go. The Rangers fans who packed Ibrox yesterday to acclaim their side's latest triumph celebrated a seventh successive title win, not so much as an achievement in itself as the latest step towards bettering Celtic's nine-in-a-row record of the 1960s and 70s.

This latest championship - secured when Celtic lost on Saturday - was achieved without the services of several top players for long periods. Gough, Robertson, McCall, McCoist, Hateley and Goram have all been missing at various stages, making this a satisfactory triumph for Walter Smith, the Rangers manager.

He was magnanimous in victory, suggesting: "I have greater admiration for Celtic's achievement with each year that passes. We are now one step nearer to equalling Celtic's record and maybe we can even beat it."

The fans will be asked to make a contribution towards the future success of their club as Rangers embark on a rebuilding job on and off the field. The vacant corners at Ibrox are to be filled in before the start of the season to accommodate both seating and the largest screens in Europe, while Smith will set about strengthening the side.

The 35,000 fans who have purchased season tickets will be asked to pay to own their seat for the next 25 years, lured by the prospect of their money being used to bring in top players.

The success of the last seven years has allowed Rangers to operate on a different plane from other clubs in Scotland and when David Murray, the chairman, mentions new players he is referring to those of the calibre of Dennis Bergkamp and Jesper Blomqvist. While new faces will arrive familiar ones are certain to leave with Basile Boli, the French defender, likely to be the biggest name to depart.

The prospect of Rangers growing must be a frightening one for other Scottish clubs, who this season failed to mount a respectable challenge at a time when Rangers were experiencing a time of transition. This seventh title was founded mainly on the skills of Brian Laudrup and forged through adversity.

Yesterday at Ibrox the party took some time to warm up but two goals inside the last five minutes had the supporters in good cheer for the traditional lap of honour. Rangers kept one of their better performances for this game and were denied a greater winning margin by the skills of Jim Leighton, the Hibernian goalkeeper.

Goals from Gordon Durie after 24 minutes, Ian Durrant after 85 and Alexei Mikhailichenko two minutes later sealed the victory, despite Martin O'Neill equalising in the 38th minute.

Rangers (4-4-2): Thomson; McLaren, Gough, Brown (Murray, 29), Cleland; Durie (Mikhailichenko, h-t), Miller, Steven, Durrant; Hateley, Laudrup. Substitute not used: Maxwell (gk).

Hibernian (4-4-2): Leighton; Miller, Millen, Tweed, Mitchell; Evans (McAllister, 66), McGinlay, Farrell, O'Neill; Wright (Tortolano, 81), Jackson. Substitute not used: Reid (gk).

Referee: W Young (Clarkston).