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Mike Ashley is hungry to take Rangers to Europe's top table

By Andy Newport

New Rangers chief executive Derek Llambias insists Mike Ashley aims to put the fallen Glasgow giants back into the Champions League.

The Newcastle United owner has sent his right-hand man north and tasked him with reshaping the chaotic Ibrox outfit.

And Llambias told the club's stormy AGM that the controversial Sports Direct tycoon - who owns 8.92 per cent of Rangers - wants to see the Light Blues restored to their former place at the top of the Scottish game.

The former Newcastle managing director - who has already implemented spending cuts -said: "We need financial stability off the pitch and great football on it.

"We want to get Rangers back into the top flight and the Champions League. That is our aim and hopefully next year I will give a much better speech."

But Ashley will have to overcome a number of off-field obstacles before he can even think about challenging Celtic for domestic dominance.

Rangers need to raise £8.3million before April 1 if they are to avoid another crisis.

However, a resolution which would have given the club the power to issue new shares without first offering them to existing stakeholders was defeated at the AGM - a blow which the board admits will "limit its options for future funding".

Billionaire Ashley will also have to find a way past the Scottish Football Association, who are preparing to punish both him and Rangers after charging them with breaches of "duel ownership" rules.

A disciplinary hearing has been set for January 27 but Llambias revealed during the AGM that the club will hold informal talks with Hampden chiefs on Tuesday to discuss a way forward.

But the 57-year-old has already started work on slashing the club's £33million cost base. Around 10 members of staff were made redundant last month and Llambias added: We've taken a tight review of the business and we will continue to cut costs and improve our commercial revenue.

"Every penny of that will go onto the park. That is the only way we can prove our commitment to the club."

The 90-minute shareholder meeting saw Llambias PLC chairman David Somers, director James Easdale and his brother Sandy face a barrage of abuse from around 2,000 supporters.

There was no place for Ally McCoist after it was confirmed on Sunday night that the manager had stepped down and would see out the remaining 12 months of his contract on garden leave.

Chants of "out, out, out", "sack the board" and "scumbags" were hurled at the directors as they made their way out onto a flimsy tent erected on the Ibrox pitch.

There was little detail given on how the board plan to raise the £8.3million other than to say a fresh share issue was to be expected, while Somers found himself the target of more insults as he toyed with the furious fans.

He tried to win them over by claiming the club was the victim of "anti-Rangers feelings" which stretched to the top of the Scottish football "establishment" during his opening speech.

But he was treated to another volley of vitriol when he said "when you get to be chairman of Rangers, you get to do it your way" as the fans reacted angrily to his handling of the meeting.

Despite the flak, all three PLC directors were re-elected with the help of Ashley and other institutional investors.

Llambias did earn himself a brief round of applause after spelling out Ashley's intentions but he insisted he was not there to make himself a fans' favourite, saying: "Not everything I do will be popular but everything will be in the club's long-term interests."

Former Rangers defender John Brown prompted the loudest cheers of the day when he asked a series of questions before labelling the Easdales "stooges" and "rats" as Somers tried to silence him.

Quizzed about the "onerous contracts" signed by former chief exec Charles Green, Somers said the board had found a "lot of dodgy" deals when they came in just over a year ago, revealing some "watertight" ones would be honoured, some had been renegotiated and "in a lot of cases we have said: 'We will see you in court'."

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