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Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 18:18 UK

Smith revels in Rangers progress

Rangers manager Walter Smith
Smith is enjoying a wonderful second spell at Ibrox

Rangers boss Walter Smith is delighted yet a little taken aback to have reached the final of the Uefa Cup.

"To be in the group of Scottish managers to reach a European final is fantastic," he said. "Now that we are there we hope we can go one better.

"A lot of people disregard success in Scotland, so it's probably my highest profile achievement.

"But it's a surprise when you consider the amount of changes that were made to the team in the close season."

Smith returned for a second spell at Ibrox in January 2007 and was responsible for a squad overhaul in the summer.

"It's amazing how quickly the team has gelled together," said Smith.

The quest for four trophies remains on track after Thursday's dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Fiorentina saw Rangers set up a Uefa Cup final meeting with Zenit St Petersburg.

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"For any manager it's always good when your team has a level of success," Smith continued.

"We have had that this season and we are now at a stage where we can turn that into something a little more tangible. We are obviously delighted.

"I saw how much it meant to Sir Alex Ferguson when his Manchester United got to the final of the Champions League and I felt the same.

"When Nacho Novo scored that penalty it was fantastic.

"It's very difficult to put my feelings into words. There is pride in how it has been achieved.

"A lot of people were critical of the way Rangers played but they must give us a bit of credit for getting there.

"Whatever faults we have, no one can say that we don't have a commitment and an attitude that has seen the players through some very difficult games.

"The Champions League is way beyond the expectations of a Scottish team, although Celtic have done fantastically well to reach the last 16 two years in a row, but we've shown the Uefa Cup is within reach.

"That's a big step for such a small country and we can be pleased with that."

Zenit St Petersburg are managed by Dick Advocaat, the man who replaced Smith at the Ibrox helm back in 1998.

The fixture list is there and we have been told that's what we have to do

Walter Smith

But Smith insisted: "It's not about the managerial aspect of playing against another coach.

"It's just a matter of trying to win, as I'm sure Dick will be trying to do. I think he enjoyed his time at Rangers and he is still friendly with the chairman.

"It's just about winning regardless of who the coach or the team is.

"Zenit are a very good side but when you get to a final you have a legitimate claim to thinking you can win it."

The Russian FA have cancelled Zenit's league fixture on the weekend before the 14 May final.

In stark contrast, the visit to Manchester is one of eight games Rangers must play in a 21-day period.

Rangers' European progress means the SPL season will be prolonged by four days but the Ibrox club have already expressed unhappiness that the extension is not longer.

Asked whether Rangers would consider appealing for more time to play their remaining games, Smith replied: "You would think it would be nice if they came to us.

"They have made it perfectly clear they are not prepared to do extend the league further.

"Everybody has made it perfectly clear that they don't want an extension to the season and I made it perfectly clear last week that the only reason they did extend the season was because it's physically impossible for us to play the games that we have.

"I don't see that we will get any other leeway. The fixture list is there and we have been told that's what we have to do. It's not ideal."




see also
Rangers can be legends
02 May 08 |  Rangers
Walter's way works for Rangers
02 May 08 |  Rangers
Smith joy over shoot-out victory
01 May 08 |  Rangers
Fiorentina 0-0 Rangers (0-0)
01 May 08 |  Europe
Uefa Cup photos
01 May 08 |  Europe


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