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Championship title secured

Party begins as Rangers hope to match their rivals

Mark WarburtonRangers tonight rewarded a near-capacity crowd of 48,568 at Ibrox with a slim 1-0 win over Dumbarton that wrapped up the Championship title with games in hand.

Victory was secured courtesy of right-back James Tavernier’s tap-in six minutes into the second half.

As for next season, Rangers have been installed as 8/1 to win the Premier League, odds which may look a tad optimistic to those who have been asking long before tonight’s game about the ability of the blue half of Glasgow to compete on anything like equal terms with their traditional rivals in the east end.

Some guidance will be provided by the first Old Firm encounter for four years when the two sides meet in the Scottish Cup semi-final. It may reveal the size of the gap between them, though the Celtic manager will be concerned that defeat may prove fatal to his tenure at Parkhead.

Celtic are poised for their fifth successive Premier League title and benefit from a better and more experienced squad. But nothing is certain in sport. The league leaders lost a League Cup semi-final tie to Ross County, a game they were expected to win.

What cannot be denied is the difference in their respective balance sheets. Celtic are said to have a budget of about £24 million to invest in the squad, swollen by the sale of players such as Victor Wanyama, Ki Sung-yueng and Virgil van Dijk, whose added value transfers out of Parkhead turned a profit of £26m.

Rangers celebrate
Rangers players celebrate

Each one was plundered from overseas, a source unlikely to be open to Rangers’ manager Mark Warburton (pictured) who has been left to rummage in the bargain bins of the English lower leagues. Players have been recruited from Accrington Stanley and Doncaster Rovers, a far cry from the days when they were signing international stars such as Paul Gascoigne, Michael Mols and Jorg Albertz.

To be fair, Harry Forrester, signed from League One Doncaster, has been a success and he was not exactly unknown to the manager who was his coach at Brentford.

Rangers continue to rely on short-term funds and there has been no indication that the current board is able to provide the sort of transfer budget that would be required if the club is to mount any sort of challenge next season.

Speaking ahead of tonights’s game, Warburton was circumspect about the club’s immediate future.

“If we sign five players and two take six months to settle in then we have a problem, but we have to go for quality players as well. If we have to spend the money, we have to spend the money.

“The board haven’t said no. Far from it. They have been really supportive, but there’s no point in saying we are going to get four players on low wages and expect to go and match Celtic. It’s not going to happen but we have to try and use the money as best we can.”

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