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Souness' regrets at failed takeover are eased by Smith's appointment

THEY welcomed one former Rangers manager on to the Ibrox board this week but it could easily have been another.

Graeme Souness is encouraged by Walter Smith's return to Rangers
Graeme Souness is encouraged by Walter Smith's return to Rangers

Charles Green, the club's chief executive, had mentioned bringing Graeme Souness on board on the day he completed his takeover but, by then, the former Liverpool manager had pinned his colours to a different mast.

Souness knew Green from previous dealings but his loyalties lay with Brian Kennedy, who attempted to buy Rangers both before and after the club fell under Green's control. Souness had been a player and manager at Ibrox and was keen to take on a more executive role. He felt Kennedy was the right man to take the club forward but the businessman could not conclude a deal.

It leaves Souness harbouring some regrets at what might have been. "Brian and I go back a long way," he explained. "We tried to buy Wolves together and when Rangers came up he asked me if I fancied it. Brian was only going to get involved if he felt it was the right deal for Rangers. In the end that turned out not to be the case. He was asked to go out on a limb in a few areas and in the end he didn't think that was right for the club.

"Is it a regret? Yes, I suppose it is. It wouldn't have been a gamble. My attitude was the club needs Rangers people running it. I would have done it for nothing and I felt we were going to do it for the right reasons. It wasn't going to be overnight, just like it won't be for Charles and Ally [McCoist]. But we would have got it back to where it should be."

Green knew of Souness' ties to Kennedy but still tried to entice him to join his consortium. Souness was flattered but felt it wasn't right. "Charles did offer me the opportunity to get involved. He was at my house late one night prior to the takeover and on face value I was impressed with what he had to say. But I didn't feel I could jump ship."

Instead it is Walter Smith who has returned to Ibrox, joining Green's board as a non-executive director. Souness believes the appointment of his former assistant was a shrewd move by Green and one that should help get any cynical fans onside.

"I think it validates what Charles is doing," he said. "There were question marks against him because of his time at Sheffield United; nobody knew him and all the Rangers supporters feared that he would be another Craig Whyte. Like everyone else, I was apprehensive because of the situation at the time. The right person had to come in because of what the supporters had been through. For the Rangers fans who don't know what's going on behind the scenes, this [Smith's role] should give them great comfort. That's the biggest thing because I'm sure Walter has done his due diligence. He will have asked the correct questions and got the correct answers, otherwise he wouldn't have gone near it."

Souness, like many others, is still trying to get his head around the idea of a Rangers side playing in the bottom tier of the Scottish game. If there is one saving grace, in his eyes, it is the crowds they have still managed to draw for matches against Elgin City, Montrose et al.

"We're there now and we need to deal with it," he said. "All we can do is keep our head down. It's the cards we've been dealt, now we have to roll our sleeves up and get on with it. The club has sold 37,000 season tickets. That wouldn't happen anywhere else in the world. Celtic fans would do the same and that's why you come back full circle and say Scotland will always be a footballing country and the job of managing the country will always be attractive."

Souness is a regular contributor to Sky Sports' output and acknowledged the difference the broadcasters' investment has made. Whereas clubs in the Barclays Premier League will share £3bn from next term, their Scottish counterparts have been left with a relative pittance.

"I fear for Scottish football but it's the same in England, the only difference is TV money," he said. "How can someone leave Rangers and go to Norwich? How can they be bigger than Rangers? There are only three or four teams in England bigger than Rangers and Celtic. It's a very sad situation to be losing players to small English clubs. It's not because of gates, it's not because they're playing wonderful football everyone wants to watch. It's because of the way things have evolved and we can't attract big TV money. It's a numbers game.

"Ki Sung-Yueng went to Swansea. How can you leave Celtic to go to Swansea? They get 20,000 every week but they probably quadrupled Ki's wages. That's the price on the ticket for Scottish football right now unfortunately."

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