Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Rangers are fighting to keep big guns

Rangers manager Walter Smith

Rangers manager Walter Smith is hopeful Kenny Miller will be the only player heading for the Ibrox exit door this month.

The striker, who was out of contract this summer, quit the Scottish champions when he signed for Turkish outfit Bursaspor.

Smith is now seeking to recruit a couple of players — a forward and a defender — on loan until the end of the season to bolster his compact squad.

And the Rangers boss is keen to avoid losing any more of his current crop of players, claiming there has been no interest from other clubs so far.

He said: “There hasn't been activity at all for any of the rest of the players and certainly I would hope it stays that way during the transfer window.

“We wouldn't want to lose any more players. We've only lost Kenny because of the contractual situation and being unable to meet his demands for a new contract. We are disappointed about that but we don't need to lose any other players and hopefully we won't have to.”

Sasa Papac has yet to sign a new deal but Smith remains confident an agreement will be reached with the full-back.

He added: “Martin Bain (chief executive) spoke to him yesterday. There is no update, but I don't think there should be any great problem.”

Miller sealed his departure after failing to agree a new contract with Rangers and Smith had nothing but praise for the striker, who weighed in with 22 goals this season.

He said: “He was excellent during the time he was here. There is no doubt he had a big influence on our play over the seasons.

“His work-rate in the early part was second to none and he chipped in with a few goals as well. When Kris Boyd left, we were a little concerned about replacing Kris in terms of the number of goals but Kenny changed his play a little bit and supplied us with the amount of goals that was necessary.

“He has had a great influence on our team over the last few seasons and we are obviously disappointed to lose him.”

Smith has now challenged his players to fill the void left by Miller and he believes Nikica Jelavic has shown signs he can have a major part to play. The £4million signing made his comeback in midweek after almost four months

on the sidelines following a serious ankle injury.

Smith said: “He is a natural goalscorer although he more than has the capability to play for the team and to link with the rest of the players.

“In the early part of the season he was just finding his feet. Three months later he is starting again and he is looking forward to getting back into it.”

Meanwhile, Smith refused to write off third-placed Hearts' title challenge ahead of today's Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash (12.45).

“I think they are genuine contenders,” he said. “I don't see anything in their team that would lead me to believe they would be any weaker in the second half of the season than they have been recently.”

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