There is little point in using 90 minutes to clinch a championship when you can do it in seven. Such an approach served Rangers well in Kilmarnock, a blistering opening from the visiting team securing a third title in succession for their departing manager, Walter Smith.
Afterwards, Smith made a plea to the new Rangers owner, Craig Whyte, to spend money on the playing squad when Ally McCoist steps into the managerial frontline. "The new owner is aware that the club needs quite a large level of investment into the team," Smith said. "He's also aware that if they don't get that they will not continue the success they've had.
"[The previous owner] Sir David Murray needed to find the money every three to four years – and it's now needed again. The team needs a boost. I think he [Whyte] would be blind if he didn't realise that.
"The players deserve an enormous amount of credit for handling the situation they have handled. But unless there is a significant investment in the team then the team will stagnate. They can't continue to do what they have been doing."
There was also a warning to Whyte not to sell Nikica Jelavic. The striker arrived at Rangers for £4m last summer but has already been linked with moves away for several times that figure.
"I don't think it would be the brightest thing for the new owner to come in and sell one of our best players, especially when everyone is expecting him to come and spend money," said the 63-year-old. Smith will not admit it, but his 10th championship win was probably his sweetest, after racing Celtic all the way.
It was easy to feel sorry for Kilmarnock. Their home had been invaded by Rangers supporters, in a throwback to the days when segregation was absent from Scottish grounds. Visiting fans did not even attempt to conceal their allegiance. That was apparent after 47 seconds, as Kyle Lafferty latched on to a Steven Davis flick-on and lobbed Cammy Bell to send Rangers in front. Four minutes later, that advantage was doubled. Gregg Wylde fed Steven Naismith, who clipped home from 18 yards. The appearance of a Rangers fan cavorting around the pitch at that stage seemed especially unnecessary, given events at Tynecastle last week when a Hearts fan allegedly attacked Lennon.
As Lafferty scored again, – Jelavic this time the provider – the referee could legitimately have halted the contest on humanitarian grounds. The SPL had made great play about the dispatch of a helicopter carrying their trophy; given the timing of Rangers' opening goals, a pushbike would have made it in time. Jelavic hit the fourth with a sublime, curling free-kick shortly after the interval.
All that remained was for Lafferty to complete his hat-trick, which he did after dancing through the Kilmarnock defence. When the hosts claimed a consolation via a deflected James Dayton free-kick, even the Rangers following offered applause.
As Smith pondered Rangers' future without him, there were positive words from Allan McGregor. The Ibrox goalkeeper is another who has been courted by other clubs yet may well be of a mind to sign a long-term contract in Glasgow. "I just love the club, I love it," McGregor said. "I have two years left here and I want to extend that. You cannot beat moments like this. It's incredible."
|Thank you, Walter|