Please stay, Walter Smith: New Rangers chief hopes to keep boss

By Peter Jardine for MailOnline

New Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston has revealed that he has opened contract talks to keep Walter Smith and Ally McCoist at Ibrox.

And despite the 61-year-old manager seeking assurances about the club's financial muscle before committing himself beyond the end of the current season, Sportsmail understands the medium-term outcome could see Smith carrying on as boss on a handshake agreement when his current deal expires in January.

Rangers haven't bought a player during the past two transfer windows, with owner Sir David Murray seeking to balance the books and sell the club.

Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston

At the top table: chairman Alastair Johnston is flanked by chief executive Martin Bain and manager Walter Smith

That complicates contract talks for all parties, although with McCoist's deal running beyond Smith's until June 2010, the assistant manager has more leeway.

McCoist, seen by many as the next boss, might well be susceptible to signing a new, longer deal along with first-team coach Kenny McDowall, as that would give them added protection in the event of Smith leaving or the club being sold.

'I want to give the management team new contracts,' said Johnston, who attends an Ibrox European game for the first time as chairman when Sevilla visit.

'That is not reliant on outside finance. We are progressing towards a situation (where new contracts are agreed) and have held talks on that over the weekend.

'We haven' t concluded those discussions. This has been my first chance to meet with (chief executive) Martin Bain and Walter.

' The board and myself are supportive of the continuation of the management team. We will be working towards these ends.'

Smith, who is believed to have seriously considered leaving Rangers after last season's title triumph, has always maintained he's happy with the status quo - carrying on without anything concrete after his contract expires in January.

Walter Smith

A new era: Walter Smith, Alastair Johnston and Martin Bain at Ibrox on Monday

'There's a lot happening at the club at the moment,' said Smith on Tuesday. 'I am comfortable with the situation as it is at present.

'There is more to it than just signing a new contract. There are discussions taking place on what direction the club is going.'

Johnston, meantime, at no point indicated there would be money to spend on the squad in January, despite the champions' poor start to the SPL season. He claimed the issue would be addressed nearer the time.

'The squad has been cut back, but intelligently and without a degree of panic,' added Johnston. 'It has been done strategically. I don't want to get Rangers in a situation where we are judged by how much we spend.

'We are not going to get into a war with ourselves or anyone else on which club spends more.

'We should be judged by displays on the field and the success we deliver.'

Walter Smith

Big Test: Walter Smith and assistant Ally McCoist during a training session ahead of the Champions League clash with Sevilla

Bain, who pruned nine first-team squad players from the wage bill in tandem with Smith over the summer, hinted that the European exit in Kaunas 13 months ago is still a millstone around the club's neck.

'Within any business, you have to look at your projections and the facility you operate within,' said Bain.

'You look at that and the investment that was made, to a certain extent, in bringing in players a year ago.

'Both Walter and I knew we had to strengthen our team within the recent transfer window. But when you look at the parameters you have to operate within - and projections and planning - the decision was taken collectively that we couldn't add to the squad significantly.

'However, you then look at the swing involved in Champions League revenue. That is worth roughly £16m or £17m to this club. After a season without European income, you can see the swing when you come to do your projections.

'Unfortunately, those projections have to be done over a two or three year period and that' s why the decision was taken at the time.'

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