Retiring Smith hails Rangers stars
Retiring Rangers manager Walter Smith dedicated his tenth title win to his players after they clinched a record 54th Scottish title in style with a 5-1 rout of Kilmarnock.
It capped a trophy-laden career for the retiring Rangers boss, who has lifted 21 trophies in two spells in charge of the club including ten league titles, five Scottish Cups and six League Cups. And Smith, who was unable to sign a player for two seasons due to the club's perilous financial position, paid credit to his players for putting all the off-field difficulties to one side to clinch their third successive championship.
"It's not just what they have put up with over this season, it's what they have put up over the last two or three years," the 63-year-old manager said. "The circumstances surrounding our club have not been the best and normally wouldn't be that conducive to having a level of success. But we've had that and it is down to the players' attitude. I was delighted for them that they managed to go and win in a manner that they did do.
"For us it has been a really good one. I don't think we were the favourites this season and the boys have fought extremely hard. We've had to ask a lot of them, to play in different positions and we've maybe not had the fluency of play but we've been a very difficult team to overcome and it is to their credit that that has happened."
The Rangers boss watched as his team fired in three goals in the opening six minutes at Kilmarnock. Kyle Lafferty started the party after 45 seconds when his lob sailed over Cameron Bell before Steven Naismith doubled the lead in the fifth minute.
Lafferty got his second in the seventh minute before completing his hat-trick three minutes after the break. Nikica Jelavic added a fifth direct from a free-kick in the 53rd minute and Killie pulled one back a James Dayton deflected free-kick.
Celtic, who trailed Rangers by a point going into their game with Motherwell, did their job with goals from Gary Hooper, Georgios Samaras, Shaun Maloney and Paddy McCourt helping them to a 4-0 win, but it wasn't enough.
Smith admitted he would always have a niggling doubt about his decision to leave Rangers but said his backroom team of Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant deserved their chance to lead the club following the takeover of the club by businessman Craig Whyte. "I will always have a regret. I had a regret when I was actually arguing with myself whether to do it or not," Smith said. "Yes you will always have a regret but I still think it's the right thing. It's the right thing for myself and it's the right thing for Rangers now they are getting new owners and a new manager.
"The lads who have been working with me, Alistair, Kenny and Ian Durrant have been patiently waiting for an opportunity to take over and I think they thought they would possibly get it a bit earlier but they haven't. They have been fantastic for me and they were due the opportunity and that was part and parcel of the decision but I think it's the right one."
Meanwhile, Celtic boss Neil Lennon is keen to win a new deal at the club despite his problems off the field where he needs 24-hour security protection after being the target of letter bombs. "I brought a lot of players here and they have been magnificent for me all season," said Lennon.
"I think we have a nucleus of a very good squad. But I am saying all this and I might not be here. I'm hopeful that I will be here next season. But they might not want me. The remit is to win the championship and we haven't done that so that might be a stroke against me."