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Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Wednesday, 21 July 2010 15:56 UK

Ibrox exodus as Boyd, Novo and Thomson move on

Kris Boyd and Nacho Novo
Boyd and Novo scored a combined total of 202 goals for Rangers

By Andy Campbell

Kevin Thomson's move to Middlesbrough makes the midfielder the fifth departure from Rangers this summer.

And with defender Danny Wilson having a medical at Liverpool with a view to a transfer worth £2m-£5m depending on appearances, the tally is likely to rise.

Thomson, 25, will be continuing a recent trend of not only leaving the Scottish champions but exiting one of the Old Firm clubs to team up with former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan at the Riverside.

But, while Celtic have moved to replace the likes of Stephen McManus, Barry Robson and Scott McDonald, Rangers have yet to add to their squad in the close season.

Kris Boyd left Ibrox to join Boro on a Bosman transfer after four-and-a-half high-scoring years in Glasgow.

Fellow striker Nacho Novo also exited under freedom of contract to seal a move to Sporting Gijon in his native Spain, while fringe players DaMarcus Beasley and Steven Smith were not offered new contracts ahead of their departures.

Rangers insist there is money for manager Walter Smith to spend and that their relationship with bankers Lloyds has improved in recent months.

Debts, which peaked at £31m, have put pressure on Smith to trim his squad over the past two years, but involvement in last and this season's Champions League group stages, a reduced wage bill and money generated from the sales of Pedro Mendes in January and Thomson more recently should contribute to a more palatable debt figure for all concerned.

If we don't sign players, we will have to be good enough

Rangers striker Kenny Miller

Smith now faces the task of rebuilding his squad in preparation for Rangers' Scottish Premier League defence and their return to the Champions League.

Indeed, the scenario currently facing the club is reminiscent of the summer of 2003.

Having just won the treble, Alex McLeish's Rangers moved to ease their debts with the sales of Barry Ferguson, Lorenzo Amoruso and Neil McCann.

However, cut-price signings Nuno Capucho, Emerson and Egil Ostenstad failed to bridge the resultant gap in quality and season 2003/04 ended with Rangers finishing a distant second to Celtic in the league and without a trophy.

Smith will be eager to avoid a similar outcome in his final season in charge of his boyhood heroes.

Thomson's exit is as much about damage control than reducing debts.

In more lavish economic circumstances, Rangers were able to tie players down to extended contracts before they entered the final year of their existing deals, thus warding off interest from other clubs.

However, in the months that followed Lloyds' takeover of Rangers' previous bankers, Bank of Scotland, Smith was given no money to maintain or expand his squad.

Kevin Thomson
Thomson followed Boyd to Middlesbrough

As such, Boyd and Novo were allowed to enter the final year of their respective deals and, although renewed contract offers were eventually tabled by Rangers, both forwards chose to increase their wages at clubs who did not need to pay a transfer fee for their services.

With Thomson, Rangers were risking a similar scenario if they did not sell.

Moreover, stand-in goalkeeper Neil Alexander, defenders Wilson, Sasa Papac and Andy Webster, midfielder Lee McCulloch and strikers Kenny Miller and Andrius Velicka can all leave for free next summer.

And Smith has admitted that the club will struggle to offer new contracts to rival those on offer from prospective suitors.

Velicka and Webster have featured only sparingly in their time at Ibrox, but the others have each played an important role in Rangers' haul of six trophies in the last three seasons.

Rangers did have a bid accepted by Burnley for winger Chris Eagles, but the player turned down the chance of a move north.

With no European qualifiers, Smith can afford to play a long game in the hope of getting the players he wants at what the club see as the right price before the close of the transfer window.

And, until such times as new faces arrive, Smith will hope the sentiments of his striker Miller ring true.

"If we don't sign players, we will have to be good enough," said the 30-year-old.

"But, if nobody comes in, we will carry on regardless, as we have done for the last couple of years and hopefully retain our title."

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see also
Depleted Gers can cope - Miller
16 Jul 10 |  Rangers
Middlesbrough sign Gers' Thomson
16 Jul 10 |  Middlesbrough
Eagles rules out move to Rangers
15 Jul 10 |  Burnley
Smith admits transfer frustration
07 Jul 10 |  Rangers
Boyd completes Middlesbrough move
05 Jul 10 |  Middlesbrough
Smith aims to replace strike duo
05 Jun 10 |  Rangers
Norwich swoop for Rangers' Smith
02 Jun 10 |  Norwich
Novo calls time on Rangers career
21 May 10 |  Rangers

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