WALTER SMITH believes finishing second should be a “realistic expectation” for Rangers over the remainder of the season. Smith, who had two spells as manager at Ibrox, thinks it would have required substantial investment for his old club to have been able to muster any kind of sustained challenge to Celtic’s supremacy following Rangers’ promotion from the Championship in the summer.

“Celtic were always going to be strong favourites,” said Smith. “Everything about the club is solid. They’ve got a new manager in who so far has done a terrific job. They’ve got a new look about them this season compared to last year. So that was going to make it even more difficult for Rangers to come up and challenge them.

“The disappointing aspect has been the few draws at home that has prevented them from getting into second. That would have been a realistic expectation for them. Halfway through the season when you look at what you’ve got to improve on, in the second half you would want them to try to get closer to Celtic. But that looks like a difficult task.

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“The majority of the Rangers fans are realistic as well. They appreciate the problems the club have got. In the first season back I’d have been very surprised if you got a circumstance where the team came in and put in a challenge to Celtic right away. Realistically I couldn’t see that happening without a higher level of investment which was always going to be difficult to achieve.

“I thought there was always going to be a settling-in period and that it wouldn’t be as easy as a number of people had maybe thought. The strides forward have maybe not come as quickly as they would have hoped.”

There has been little sign of the vast levels of investment promised by Dave King following his installation as chairman but Smith felt the precarious nature of the Ibrox business structure made that difficult.

Read more: Walter Smith backs Strachan to continue with Scotland: "I don’t think it makes any sense to change the manager"

“There’s no doubt that the team needs investment but the previous circumstances that the new board have taken over mean it might take a bit of time to recover. Rangers need investment if they are to challenge Celtic – you can’t hide away from that – but it’s a difficult period to try to satisfy both the financial and the football aspects.”

Smith felt the whole episode with Joey Barton – with the English midfielder suspended for several weeks following a training-ground altercation before being paid off by the club– had not helped Rangers’ progress this season.

“I don’t know what happened but it was a sideshow that they could have done without in the first half of the season,” he added. “I think they will be glad that [the Barton situation] is over and they can get on with it. This was a circumstance that they could have done without because everyone would have hoped he would have had a bigger influence on the team than ended up being the case.”

- Walter Smith (second right) was at Torrance Park Golf Club to officially open their new state of the art £1.5 million clubhouse, part of a wider residential development on the site. Full details at