Hateley: Rangers must perform at whole new level

RANGERS legend Mark Hateley today predicted the SPFL Championship could be the most exiting division in Scottish football next season.

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Ally McCoist and Mark Hateley are former Rangers strike partners
Ally McCoist and Mark Hateley are former Rangers strike partners

And he reckons his old strike partner Ally McCoist will need to strengthen significantly this summer to land the title.

Hateley is a regular attender at Ibrox on match days and he has been impressed with how McCoist has fared as manager.

For the Englishman has seen at close quarters what the man he formed a lethal frontline partnership with has had to endure since taking charge.

And he believes that, in the difficult circumstances he has had to work in, winning back-to-back promotions is a fine achievement.

But the former England hitman feels the Scot faces a difficult task completing a hat-trick of league victories in the 2014/15 campaign.

Hearts will be in the second tier after being relegated - largely due to being docked 15 points after going into administration.

And both Hibs and Dunfermline, who are involved in the Premiership and Championship play-offs respectively, could join them.

Hateley is looking forward to watching Rangers attempt to complete the final stage of what has been labelled "The Journey".

Yet, he feels the Govan club will have to bring in several new players to be absolutely certain of clinching a place in the top flight.

He said: "Without a shadow of a doubt, the level of opposition for Rangers next season will be a lot higher than it has been in the last two seasons.

"I am sure the Rangers players will be looking forward to coming up against far better sides. And that, in turn, is also attractive for the football fan.

"There have been a lot of games played at Ibrox this season, and away from home as well, where the proverbial double decker bus has been parked.

"Teams have set up defensively and Rangers have had to go out to break them down. It has not been especially entertaining to watch at times.

"But in the Championship there will be more football played. The full-time teams at that level will also want to play on the front foot and have a go at Rangers."

Hateley added: "I think the Championship will certainly be more attractive to the players and to the fans because of the clubs in it and the games they can go to.

"It could be where all the big games will be in Scottish football next season. Hearts and Rangers are there and Hibs could be, too, if they lose the play-off.

"But to step up to the next level Alistair needs to be able to bring in players. He needs players who can get the club into the top flight.

"He needs players who are going to be able to play at the highest level and there has to be investment this summer for that to happen."

McCoist has informed Andy Little and Ross Perry they will not be getting new contracts and has told Chris Hegarty he is free to look for another club.

And he has been linked with moves for free agents Scott Allan, Kris Boyd, Gavin Gunning, Shaun Hutchinson and Kenny Miller.

His rebuilding job has been complicated considerably by the fact that a section of the Light Blues support is threatening to withhold their season ticket money.

Hateley said: "What Alistair has done in the last two years has been terrific. He has achieved what he set out to do at the start of each campaign and that is win promotion.

"And the last two years have been tempestuous to say the least. Last summer was a little bit better because he at least had a squad he could take away on pre-season.

"I would like to think that Alistair could get the players he has targeted quickly this summer through investment in the team.

"He needs an underbelly of talented players as well. He needs three, four, five players who are not in the starting XI who are capable of making a difference from the bench.

"He needs as much help as possible. He has to be able to get into the market early and there needs to be investment for that to happen."

Hateley, who won 10 major honours during his five seasons with Rangers, enjoyed games against Hearts during his time as a player in Scotland.

And he is greatly looking forward to a return of the games against the Jambos both at Ibrox and Tynecastle in the season ahead.

He said: "The games against Hearts were terrific to be involved in. Hearts and Rangers are both very big football clubs with large and passionate supports.

"I would say that after the Old Firm game and, possibly, the game against Aberdeen, the Hearts game was the biggest for us at Rangers.

"Aberdeen were obviously still doing very well when I first joined Rangers and in my first season they pushed as all the way. But the Hearts game was definitely one of the top fixtures.

"Tynecastle is a proper football stadium. The fans are all right on top of you and the atmosphere is superb.

"I am sure the current Rangers players are all excited about the prospect of playing them. As a fan, I am certainly looking forward to seeing the games."

Football

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