Novo expects renewed Celtic challenge
Nacho Novo acknowledges that Rangers are expecting a major challenge from Celtic next season after appointing Tony Mowbray as their new manager. Mowbray took over the Parkhead helm from Gordon Strachan this summer and has proved to be a popular choice with players and fans so far.
Rangers duo Kevin Thomson and Steven Whittaker have first-hand knowledge of his skills as a manager, having worked with him at Hibernian, and Novo is under no illusions about the task ahead. But he insists Rangers will focus on their own job as they prepare to defend the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title.
"Celtic have signed a great manager, so it's going to be difficult for us," said the Ibrox striker. "It will be difficult for any team. There are always changes when a new manager comes in, a change of atmosphere.
"Don't get me wrong, I thought Gordon Strachan made a great contribution to Celtic as well," he said. "But I'm just thinking of my club and my team and looking forward to the start of the season."
Rangers enjoyed a successful end to last season when they clinched the title in their last league game, before completing a domestic double by triumphing in the Homecoming Scottish Cup.
"After last season the spirit is good and everyone is on a high," said Novo. "We need to try to get that energy for the start of the new season. All the boys are happy and looking forward to it.
"We are just working hard in pre-season just now and it's been good to get back and see all the boys," he said. "After winning the league last year, there will be pressure again. It's a tough league and it will be tough again like every season."
Another bonus of winning the SPL is guaranteed entry to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, 12 months after Rangers suffered a humiliating defeat to FBK Kaunas in their first qualifying tie to leave them devoid of European football last season.
"Last year it was disappointing to go out of the Champions League," acknowledged Novo. "This time we have had more time to relax and more holiday time. We have had time just to chill out and come back stronger.
"I think the team is in a better position now than we were last year and everyone is looking forward to these games."