Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Smith’s new Old Firm goal

Rangers manager Walter Smith

Walter Smith admits sacrificing success and silverware is the price the Old Firm may have to pay in a bid to attract major investment and avoid being dragged into further decline by Scottish football.

The Rangers manager has spoken out on why he believes both the Ibrox club and Celtic must quit the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, and why forming a European league with other big clubs in small countries is the most realistic option.

According to Smith, the clubs they leave behind in the SPL would also benefit, with the Scottish champions given the opportunity to challenge the less successful of the two Old Firm clubs for their place in the new league.

With the likes of Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven and Anderlecht providing the competition, Rangers and Celtic would be less likely to be challenging for honours every year and would find themselves having to adapt to a situation where they may not be winning games every week. Such a scenario would not be a problem for Smith, who said: “You've got to handle that situation.

“You make your choice. I don't see any problem with that. You would need to ask the supporters how they would feel about that. From my own point of view, that's the point of going into another league. You're not going to gain an increased level of finance without overcoming what would be looked upon as problems.

“Rangers and Celtic win on a regular basis in Scotland, as do other bigger clubs in small countries. It's something we would all have to adjust to.

“Managers' jobs is to win games regardless of where they are anyway. The thing that matters is that we start to raise the profile of our country's football.”

Clarifying comments in yesterday's newspapers about his fears for Scottish football if the Old Firm are not allowed to quit the SPL, Smith added: “Football will always be played in Scotland, we will go on, we will play.

“It's not the football that I feel would die, it's the profile of the country. We are losing players, not to the Premiership, but to the Championship in England and that's an indication that there is a decline in the standard that we have. What we have to do is find a way out of it. It's no use saying we have a very healthy and competitive league if we are losing players.

“Sixty-odd Scottish players are playing in the Championship when they should be playing for clubs in Scotland. Everybody sits down and congratulates themselves and says, 'It's not that bad'. But it is.

“Somebody has to come up with an idea somewhere to try to make the league more attractive and to get people to invest in the league and to make sure that we keep as high a level of player as we possibly can.

“That's what the supporters want to come and see — players. We were losing out to the Premiership a few years ago and now it's the Championship because people in England are prepared to invest to get to a higher league.”

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