Rangers boss eyes European qualification next season

Stuart McCall takes Rangers training
Rangers have improved since Stuart McCall took charge in March

Stuart McCall says Rangers will be challenging for European qualification next season if they win promotion to the Scottish Premiership.

But the Ibrox manager says a timescale for challenging Celtic for the title is more difficult to predict.

"If we go up this season, I've no reason to doubt that we can challenge for the European spots," said McCall.

"How long it will take to challenge at the top with Celtic and Aberdeen will be open to question."

Rangers will form a guard of honour when newly crowned champions Hearts visit Ibrox on Sunday having cantered to the title and the one automatic promotion spot.

In contrast, the Glasgow club have been in turmoil off and on the park this season but sit third and can still go up via the play-offs.

"People might say Rangers would struggle next season and take beatings and hidings, but I don't think that would be the case," said McCall, who also thinks Hearts will be challenging for European qualification next season.

"I pick out Hamilton as a case in point. Last season, came up through the play-offs and, until the January transfer window there, when they lost their three most influential and best players, they were third.

"Dundee came up last season and are in the top six."

Hearts captain Danny Wilson challenges Rangers' Nicky Law
Champions Hearts visit third-top Rangers on Sunday

McCall did admit that it would take a "long, long time" for Rangers to return to "the halcyon days when you're challenging in the Champions League and things like that".

He also said he was "gobsmacked" to learn that Rangers would have to pay Newcastle United £500,000 should they win promotion because of the terms that led to five players arriving on loan from the English Premier League club in January.

Rangers' finances were again in the headlines on Thursday when it was announced that their parent company's shares were to be delisted from the AIM Stock Exchange.

McCall says he received assurances from a club director about the future of the club that have won two successive promotions since their last financial meltdown.

"I had a quick chat with John Gilligan this morning and an email went round the club saying don't panic," said the team boss.

"Apparently, they are not concerned in any way. The plans for funding the football club will remain the same."

McCall took over from Kenny McDowall in March and thinks that two successive victories were the result of him achieving his first task of instilling renewed confidence in his players.

"Regardless of what happened before, this season can still be a success," he said.

"Everyone's got to believe that and there is belief there now.

"If the fixtures come out next season and Rangers are in the top league, that's all that anybody would be worrying about."

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