Bhoys' Euro fever leaves Mark's Light Blues feeling home sick...

The green and white contingent in the city rejoiced last week.

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Hateley has found it difficult to watch Celtic go through to the last 16 this term
Hateley has found it difficult to watch Celtic go through to the last 16 this term

For the blue half of Glasgow, Celtic's progression into the last 16 of the Champions League was akin to a large dollop of salt being rubbed into an open wound.

As their biggest rivals claim a golden ticket to dine at the top table in the latter stages of Europe's premier tournament, Rangers are loitering in the lowest tier of Scottish football.

Ibrox legend Mark Hateley does not believe the hell will last forever. But he is well aware that it is a long road back for an Ibrox side who know full well just what they are missing out on.

Rangers won't be eligible to play in Europe until the summer of 2015 following events over the last year, but Hateley believes that they must start preparing for those occasions now, both on and off the park.

"It does hurt watching Celtic progress," he said. "I think that most Rangers fans would be open about that. That is where you want to be.

"In my experience of being a Rangers player and fan, the European nights are second to none.

"The atmosphere is just indescribable. It is just something very special and it was always a privilege to be part of great nights like that.

"They will come again, but right now they feel very far away.

"We must look to the future and start building towards that. That means getting our house in order in terms of the financial affairs of the club and also to look to have a team on the park that is worthy of progressing.

"Ally McCoist has done a remarkable job under the most trying of circumstances and he, along with Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant, deserves a lot of credit for getting a team out on the park and able to play.

"At one stage this summer I think there were eight players at the club."

Celtic will rack up an estimated £21million from their involvement in the Champions League this season and it is there that the Parkhead club, who remain on a solid financial footing, have the chance to really turn the screw.

Investing in the club and in the team will enable them to get stronger as Rangers push their way back to the top flight.

"You know that when you get back into the SPL that Celtic will really be in a position of strength which is why it's so important that Rangers do everything they can now to get things in order.

"This is the time to be looking at every single way possible of raising as much revenue for the club and investing it into the team.

"When they do get back up there, it will be savoured by everyone. Having not had it, you do long for it.

"Everyone wants to be part of the big nights, the excitement and the drama, but right now it is just about getting things right and to be as consistent as possible."

Hateley has been impressed at the manner in which the youngsters at the club have coped with being thrown in at the deep end this season.

While it has not been the easiest of journeys for Rangers during their first campaign in the Irn-Bru Third Division, they remain firmly on course to finish top of the table and progress up the ranks this summer.

And although young players like Lewis Macleod, Fraser Aird, Barrie McKay and Robbie Crawford are plying their trade against the likes of Queen's Park, Elgin and Peterhead, Hateley believes the intensity of playing at Rangers has not changed.

HE SAID: "Shirts are not handed out for nothing. The most impressive thing for me is that they have started to gel and play as a unit.

"There has been a sense of togetherness about them and a sense of cohesion.

"But the big thing is that if you are playing for Rangers, you are under the microscope. Every part of your life is being watched and you have to be able to handle that.

"The media scrutiny hasn't disappeared because Rangers are playing their football in the Third Division.

"There are still full houses for every home game, there are still newspapers full of Rangers players and there remains a huge expectation level if you are at this club.

"There are not many 17 and 18-year-olds who are going to get the chance to play for Rangers every week and nail down a first-team place.

"I believe these lads have a tremendous opportunity and if they can take on board the lessons that the likes of Ian and Ally will be trying to teach them every week, then they could really go far.

"Certainly, the experience they are getting just now is invaluable. "

One player who has caught the eye of Hateley this season has been the impressive Lee McCulloch, who has gone from strength to strength after becoming club captain in the summer.

"He took a big drop in money and he didn't leave when it became apparent that Rangers would be going down to the Third Division," said the ex-Rangers hitman.

"To me he should be an inspiration to all the youngsters in that dressing room. He leads by example and he has shown the heart and spirit that you need to make it at Rangers.

"He has been excellent this season and I don't think anyone will forget it."

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