ALASTAIR Johnston has aimed a swipe at Celtic fans that claim Rangers are a new club and insisted the Light Blues will thrive after surviving the most tumultuous period in their history.

Rangers’ status has long been a hot topic amongst sections of the Celtic support, and fans of some other clubs, following events of the disastrous Craig Whyte era at Ibrox.

Johnston left his position as chairman following Sir David Murray’s sale of Rangers to Whyte in 2011 but he returned to the top table six years later following regime change that saw Dave King, Paul Murray and John Gilligan win a lengthy battle for control.

Many rival fans have claimed that Rangers were reformed as a new club after Rangers Football Club plc was placed in liquidation eight years ago.

Rangers were admitted to the Third Division in 2012 but are now challenging for the Premiership title under Steven Gerrard’s guidance.

“I left after we won the title for the third time in a row in 2011 and I wasn’t believing my ears about what was going on at the club and where it was going,” Johnston said.

“You were hearing all the words like the Rangers have disappeared, they have died, it was a new club and all the stuff which self-interested people tried to maintain.

“I always wondered about the mentality of certain Celtic supporters, not by any means most of them, who basically said our club died in February, 2012.

“You know what? If that was the end of Rangers and Celtic and if that was the end of the big game that started in 1888 (the first Old Firm meeting) all the way to 2012 - we won that game. The way you determine it by the number of times (54) we won the top division. We were ahead in February, 2012 and in head-to-head victories, we were ahead of Celtic in 2012.

“So if you wanted to say the old Rangers of 1872 died - we beat you 2-0 and when the game started again in 2012, it will be 120 years or so before you can tie with us.

“So you were dealing with that sort of mentality, with Rangers fans being defensive.

“But the reality is Rangers survived and not only did they survive, they started to thrive again.What we are seeing is much more of a thriving Rangers than a surviving Rangers.

“We have left survival behind us and it is now all about thriving and seeing how far we can go.”