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Rangers boss Smith's sadness at worst Old Firm week

By Lisa Gray

Walter Smith admits he is glad to be facing his final Old Firm derby this weekend following the events which have marred the build-up to the clash at Ibrox.

Smith will head into the famous fixture as Rangers manager for the last time tomorrow, in a match which could ultimately determine the destination of the Scottish Premier League title.

The veteran boss — who has been warned by police over his own security — has expressed his despair at the news that Celtic boss Neil Lennon was sent two viable parcel bombs, while other high-profile supporters of the club were also targeted.

Smith, who will quit the Ibrox hotseat at the end of the season, said: “After the happenings of the last week, I'll be delighted it's my last one.

“That, more than anything else, is the feeling I've got going into it.”

But the 63-year-old is still determined to go out on a high, adding: “It's my last Old Firm game and it's one I hope we can go on and win.

“I just look forward to it, whether it's my first or my last.

“It doesn't really matter. It's the result that is going to matter more than anything.”

With Rangers boasting a one-point advantage over Celtic, who have a game in hand, the stakes are high as both teams battle for the SPL crown.

But off-field matters over the last few days have undoubtedly overshadowed the match so far.

Smith added: “It's our job. If we were looking at it from a purely footballing point of view, we have reached the stage of the season that everybody should be looking forward to.

“Now you find yourself in a situation where it's other things that are grabbing the headlines and it should be the football.

“In the 20 years I've been involved and being from the west of Scotland, I've never known a week quite like this. It's sad.

“When you look at people like Neil Lennon and the other couple of people involved in the threats, it's something that unfortunately goes far beyond the footballing aspect.”

The Old Firm fixture attracted unwanted headlines earlier this season when three Rangers players were sent off in a Scottish Cup replay, which also saw Lennon clash with both El-Hadji Diouf and Ibrox assistant Ally McCoist.

Smith said: “We have played six times and we have had four incidents that were news-worthy in those six games. What we are talking about here is something outwith football.

“I think there were fewer arrests at Hampden than there were at the one before the League Cup final. This goes a big bit beyond the footballing aspect.

“There is that pressure placed on everyone who comes to the game on Sunday to make sure their behaviour is as it should be.

“I'm afraid the outside circumstances are dominating more than anything else.”

Meanwhile, Smith has revealed for the first time that he thought Rangers' hopes of retaining the title were over when top goalscorer Kenny Miller quit the club to move to Turkish outfit Bursaspor, at a time when the squad was depleted by injuries, including that of £4million new signing Nikica Jelavic.

He said: “We had a few things around January or February, when we lost our top goalscorer and our other striker was out injured and we had quite a bit to contend with injury-wise.

“I never thought we would actually get to the stage this season where, with the split coming and five games to go, we would have an opportunity to win the league.

“I thought there would be a huge element of doubt at that time of the year.

“We have lost five games this year and, in a normal season I would say a defeat a quarter would keep you in contention, so we have lost one more game than that. So we are going into the last period of the season delighted that we've still got the opportunity to go for a championship when earlier, midway through the season, I thought that would be really doubtful.”

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