THE crowd at Rangers' final home match of last season was 50,048; the attendance at Bristol City's last home game, against Huddersfield Town, was 13,376.
Richard Foster yesterday admitted that dropping down to the Scottish Second Division was "a consideration" but ultimately those were the figures which convinced him to sign for Rangers.
Foster negotiated the early release from his contract at Ashton Gate, which still had a year to run, and will become a Rangers player again when the club's registration embargo is lifted by the Scottish Football Association on September 1, although he can play in up to three league or Challenge Cup games as a trialist before that date. He was loaned to Rangers by Aberdeen in 2010/11 and played 24 times, featuring in the Champions League and winning a Scottish Premier League title. He now has a two-year contract having joined fellow new arrivals Cammy Bell, Jon Daly, Nicky Clark, Nicky Law, Arnold Peralta and Steven Smith.
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"When you just look at the size of the club, still getting 50,000 fans at home in the third division is insane," said Foster. "To be part of this massive club, to train every day at Murray Park – I never had facilities that good at Bristol – is incredible. So being in the Second Division was just a small consideration for me.
"Ashton Gate [Bristol City's ground] was a great place to play but they were getting a maximum of 17,000 or 18,000: which is a good attendance. But when you read of Rangers getting 50,000 it's completely different. Bristol are still a big club but I wouldn't compare them to Rangers. They simply can't match the fanbase."
Neil Alexander is on his way out of Ibrox after declining a new deal which would have involved a substantial pay cut. Bell, already signed from Kilmarnock, will be the first-choice goalkeeper. "Neil's contract has run out," Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, told the club's website. "There was another contract on the table for him. I know [interim chief executive] Craig Mather spoke to his agent but he hasn't signed it.
"I would like to sign another goalkeeper because I would like Scott Gallacher to go out and play. At this stage of his career it wouldn't do him any good just sitting on the bench."
Former Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon, who is unattached and has not played a game for 14 months because of injury, has been training at Murray Park although it is unclear whether there is interest from either side in that culminating in a contract offer.
Defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Dorin Goian are also on their way out because their wages – agreed before Rangers' liquidation and fall out of the SPL – are not sustainable for the club. Bocanegra was loaned to Racing Santander and Goian to Spezia last season. "Hopefully, we will have news in the next few days," said McCoist.
As for Foster, he had eight seasons at Aberdeen, was loaned to Rangers, returned to Pittodrie for a final campaign and then joined Bristol City in Janauary, 2012. Last season they were relegated to npower League One.
His previous games for Walter Smith's Rangers included outings against Manchester United, Valencia and Bursaspor in the Champions League and Sporting Lisbon and PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League. He admitted yesterday – while promoting season ticket sales – that it was the spell in which he played the best football of his career. "I had to, really. Something ridiculous like 95% of the squad were internationals somewhere. I had to just to hold my own, which in the big games I think I did.
"The Valencia game was probably the highlight for me. The way the crowd were that night will live with me forever. My son, Oliver, was also born here, so he will forever be a Glaswegian. I went back to Aberdeen and ended up as captain, which was a huge thing for me at the time. I'm just delighted I've had the chance to come back."
The deadline for Rangers season-ticket renewals is this Friday. Prices for the family section are £258 for adults, £65 for kids, £179 for concessions. Prices for other parts of the ground start at £278, £68 and £190 respectively. Information is available on the Rangers website, the Rangers Ticket Centre or on 0871 702 1972.