Scottish Premier League

Rangers battling on a budget

August 6, 2009
By Andy Moir

Rangers were once regarded as one of the big hitters in the European transfer market. The Light Blues certainly attracted some famous names to Scotland in the modern day era. But gone are the halcyon days of landing international figures like Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne.

Brian Laudrup
GettyImagesBrian Laudrup was one of Rangers' stars of yester-year

Now there's a wind of change running through the Ibrox corridors.

During a bleak summer for the Govan side several senior professionals have already left the club with boss Walter Smith admitting he's unlikely to be given any of the revenue to sign fresh blood.

Captain Barry Ferguson has been reunited with old boss Alex McLeish in a £1.2m move to Birmingham.

Ferguson had fallen out of favour with Smith following his infamous booze gate scandal while on international duty with Scotland. Perhaps that gave Chairman David Murray the perfect excuse to sanction Ferguson's sale and save on his hefty weekly wage packet.

Charlie Adam has followed Ferguson out of the Ibrox exit door in a £500,000 move to Blackpool while Alan Gow is on the verge of signing for Plymouth Argyle. Christian Dailly, Brahim Hemdani, youngster Dean Furman and goalkeeper Graeme Smith have also all gone.

Andy Webster has also been loaned out to SPL rivals Dundee United to lighten the financial burden on the club.

It seems as if any Rangers player has his price right now as Scottish clubs start to feel the pinch due to the global economic downturn.

Despite generating nearly £2m in transfer sales the reigning Scottish Premier League champions have yet to make a single new signing during the close season.

That'll make Smith's title defence even harder especially as his counterpart at Celtic, Tony Mowbray, has some funds to work with.

It's a far cry from when Smith's colourful predecessor Graeme Souness put the club on the map in terms of their ability to attract top class talent.

He masterminded several sensational signings when he succeeded Jock Wallace as Gers boss in April 1986.

Armed with a considerable transfer kitty the Souness revolution was soon in full swing.

English internationals Terry Butcher, Chris Woods, Trevor Steven, Gary Stevens, Trevor Francis and Ray Wilkins all joined the Souness bandwagon.

The Rangers manager was able to offer the lure of European football at a time when English clubs were banned in the wake of the Heysel Stadium disaster.

Undoubtedly it was the controversial signing of former Celtic striker Maurice Johnston in 1989 which earned Souness most exposure.

Johnston stunned Scottish football when seemingly destined for a return to Celtic he opted to join their arch rivals for £1.5m from Nantes and become the first openly Catholic to play for Rangers.

However, one of the first moves by Souness was perhaps his shrewdest when he lured current Rangers manager Smith to the club from Dundee United and made him his assistant.

But maybe Smith is now paying a heavy price for the transfers of the past.

Souness was soon rewarded for his considerable spending spree with silverware success and the spending continued even after his departure.

Smith replaced his former boss after he accepted the challenging of managing his old team Liverpool in 1991. During Smith's first solo spell in charge he adopted a global recruitment approach.

Among his many signings was AC Milan's Laudrup for whom he paid £2.3m in July 1994 and12 months later he splashed out £4.3m to bring Gascoigne to Scotland from Lazio.

But he knows he's now shopping in the lower echelons of the transfer market as he looks to defend the SPL title on just a shoestring budget.

Walter Smith
GettyImagesWalter Smith has plenty to ponder

Astonishing as it might sound, it's only nine years ago since Dick Advocaat spent £12m on Tore Andre Flo to make him the club's record signing.

The Dutchman clocked up a staggering £36m on new players in his debut season on the likes of Arthur Numan, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Andrei Kanchelskis and Colin Hendry.

What Smith would give for just a fraction of that money?

Advocaat's successor Alex McLeish had to be a lot more economic in his transfer dealings as he had less cash to splash. In Big Eck's first full season as manager the club won its seventh treble but he was then forced to slash the wage bill in the following campaign.

Out went high earners like Lorenzo Amoruso, Neil McCann and Barry Ferguson although McLeish later brought the latter back to Ibrox. In their place came several Bosman free transfers, but it was always going to be tough to replace quality players on the cheap.

McLeish's shrewd recruitment skills saw him sign Jean-Alain Boumsong from Auxerre on a free before he was sold on to Newcastle United for a staggering £8m.

Despite enjoying silverware success McLeish made way for Paul Le Guen.

But the Frenchman suffered an ill fated spell at the helm before Smith answered the call to return to his old post in January 2007. He proved to be a popular choice and originally returned to repair the damage done by Le Guen.

Smith has helped to reaffirm Rangers' place in the Scottish game and even guided them to the UEFA Cup final in 2008. Now he will be looking to build on the success of the League and Scottish Cup double last season.

At least Smith has had a quieter summer as having won the SPL title on the final day of last season the Gers were spared the added obstacle of a Champions League qualifier before domestic action starts on August 15.

As the boss looks to strengthen his squad on the cheap before the transfer window closes he'll be hopeful the lure of European football may prove to be a trump card.

Smith can either rummage around in the bargain basement bins for new signings or look to his youth ranks for reinforcements. The former Scotland manager is not afraid to give youth a chance.

He's already promoted rookie John Fleck to the senior side and the 17-year-old has more than held his own at the top level.

There are other talented kids in Ibrox ranks and maybe that will prove to be the best way forward for cash strapped Smith in the new season ahead.