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Rangers boss blasts SPL for fixture backlog

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 5 May 2008


Walter Smith has blasted the Scottish Premier League for failing to assist Rangers in their bid to win the UEFA Cup.

On Sunday the Gers boss watched his side being held to a goalless draw away to Hibernian – a result which means they trail SPL leaders Celtic by seven points although they have three games-in-hand.

While Smith denied his players are beginning to tire as they bid to win four trophies this season – by adding the UEFA Cup, SPL and Scottish Cup to the League Cup – he is furious the SPL has not done more to help his team.

Though the league season has been extended to accommodate Rangers' seven remaining fixtures, and will now end on Thursday, May 22 rather than Sunday, May 18, Smith feels more should have been done to boost their UEFA Cup chances.

And his anger was increased when UEFA Cup final opponents Zenit St Petersburg were granted permission by the Russian Football Union to postpone all three of their league games before facing the Gers on May 14.

Smith said: “It's frustrating that we need to play so many games in such a short space of time.

“Zenit St Petersburg will have 13 days to prepare for the UEFA Cup final and it's strange that one association will cancel four games to support their team's chances while the other doesn't want to help.

“Everyone in Scotland has made it clear they are not interested in helping Rangers so we just have to get on with it.

“There's no point in trying to have next Saturday's game against Dundee United postponed as the SPL have already made it quite clear they won't do anything like that for us.

“We just have to get on with it and since everyone thinks it's the right thing to do we'll just play the games.”

The SPL now looks destined to be decided on the final day – when only a few weeks ago Rangers looked to be strolling towards the title.

After defeating Celtic at Ibrox on March 29, Rangers have lost twice away to their Old Firm rivals and drawn with both Dundee United and Hibs.

With so many games still to play between now and May 22, the pressure is beginning to mount on the Ibrox side.

However, Smith says his players are not beginning to suffer the physical effects of what has been a marathon season and is still confident of landing the title.

The Rangers boss said: “There may have been a mental tiredness at the start of Sunday's game against Hibs but we finished the stronger team.

“I wouldn't say there is any problem with the players' physical condition. You could maybe say that if we had been hanging on at the end but we finished the game on top so that's not the case.

“What we will have to do is make sure we lift ourselves for the start of our matches.”

Smith continued: “The situation we're in now in the league is quite clear. If we win all our games then we win the championship and we know the league is still in our hands.”

In Sunday's game there were few clear-cut chances for either side.

Rangers thought they had scored in the 54th minute when Gabon striker Daniel Cousin nodded the ball into the net from close range but the referee correctly ruled him offside.

Hibs' best chance came from Portuguese midfielder Filipe Morais when his 25-yard effort required Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander to make a fine one-handed save to tip over in the 62nd minute.


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