Rangers manager Walter Smith thankful for fan plaudits

Rangers manager Walter Smith
Rangers fans stayed behind after kick-off to bid farewell to Walter Smith

Walter Smith thanked supporters for the applause that marked his last home match in charge of Rangers.

Smith watched his side beat Dundee United 2-0, taking them to within three points of clinching the league title.

"We've got another championship in sight and I just ask them to stick with us and get behind the team at the weekend," Smith told BBC Scotland.

"Tonight, they were fantastic, they got right behind us. Their support for myself has always been great."

Celtic, who now trail Rangers by four points ahead of their trip to face Hearts on Wednesday, need to avoid defeat at Tynecastle to take the championship to the last day of season.

Should Celtic beat or draw with Hearts, Rangers will travel to Kilmarnock on Sunday knowing a win will guarantee a third straight Scottish Premier League championship in Smith's second spell in charge. Neil Lennon's Celtic end their campaign against Motherwell in Glasgow.

Goals by Nikica Jelavic and Kyle Lafferty ensured victory over United and Smith was pleased just to get the win.

"It was a good night for us," said Smith. "We're delighted. The main thing about tonight's game was to win and we've achieved that.

"It's okay for everyone to talk about me leaving. That was a decision that I made a long time ago. Everyone's known it for a while.

"The main thing was that we won the match, that's the most important thing.

"The most important thing is that the club goes on and has an opportunity to add another championship, which, if we can continue the run of form we're in, we can hopefully do on Sunday.

"I really appreciate people staying behind and applauding in the manner that they did, it's great. I think anybody would appreciate that. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would thank every one of them for doing so.

"It's been maybe a difficult season for everyone, there's been a little bit of frustration in it for everybody.

"It's a big day for every club when you get an opportunity to go on and hopefully win a championship. We have it in our own hands. We've handled the situation so far extremely well and we just need one more game."

Smith will be succeeded by his assistant, Ally McCoist, and the manager-in-waiting was keen to emphasise the need for Rangers to maintain their focus of winning the SPL.

"He's just a great coach and a great manager," McCoist said of his long-term colleague. "A great human being.

"I think the fact that every one of those fans stayed behind to pay their respects and say thank you for his services to this football club says it all.

"It was a celebration of Walter Smith's service to Rangers Football Club, but that's all it was.

"It was a big thank you from the fans, it was a big thank you from the players and the staff and the management for Walter's services to Rangers.

"In no way was that anything other than that kind of celebration. We would never do that to Celtic or Hearts and certainly not Kilmarnock.

"The league at this moment in time is far from over. There's plenty of football to be played.

"There's no reason why we're not going to expect anything other than a difficult game against Kilmarnock.

"They're maybe not playing just as well as they certainly did at the start of the season, but Kilmarnock at Rugby Park are tough opposition at the best of times.

"They're a good team full of good players with a good manager whose taken over from Mixu Paatelainen, so we're looking forward to it."

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