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Astute bit of business or just a false economy?

Rangers have reportedly rejected two bids from Nottingham Forest for Lee Wallace, although a deal could yet be struck to sell the Scotland defender before the close of the transfer window on Friday.

Lee Wallace is happy to stay, and Rangers want to keep him, but they may no choice but to sell. Picture: SNS
Lee Wallace is happy to stay, and Rangers want to keep him, but they may no choice but to sell. Picture: SNS

Even then, the player's preference is to remain at Ibrox.

Given the financial and political situation at Rangers just now, what are the pros and cons for selling the full-back?

CASE FOR

In short, the money. Graham Wallace, the chief executive, has been clear that the cost base needs to be cut because Rangers are operating outwith their means. There will be no significant income until season ticket renewal money begins to be received in June and July, which means that the cost cutting needs to happen now. There is increasing concern outwith the club that an immediate shortfall might be encountered next month, although Wallace is adamant there "is sufficient cash in the bank".

Either way, Rangers need to reduce their outgoings, so selling Wallace makes financial sense in that respect. He is most likely the highest-earning player at the club, and he is the most sellable asset. David Templeton would attract attention if he were a free agent, but since he is on a good wage at Ibrox, few other clubs would be prepared to match the wage and pay a fee. The same applies to Nicky Law, Cammy Bell, and Lewis Macleod, the young player with the most potential in the squad. There has been no significant interest in any of these individuals, though, while those players who are out of contract in the summer would need to be incentivised - most likely though a pay-off - to depart now.

So that leaves Wallace. He is an internationalist, a proven top-flight player in Scotland, and still at a young enough age to be considered a player who can improve further. He has consistently been Rangers' best player this season, so it is little wonder that Nottingham Forest showed an interest. It will also be felt that Rangers' imperative to sell is greater than the need of the buying club, which forces the price down.

Graham Wallace raised the notion of the squad taking a 15% wage cut as one means of reducing outgoings. The players will not countenance it at least until the executives are making the same sacrifice, although selling one comparatively high-earning player, and generating a fee, might reduce the need to negotiate a wage cut.

Ultimately, Rangers need to make savings, so selling Lee Wallace is an obvious consideration.

CASE AGAINST

It begins and ends with the fact that Wallace is Rangers' best player. He is the one member of the squad who would be expected to figure in a team that could challenge Celtic for the title once Rangers eventually return to the top-flight. While there is a financial case for selling him, there is also one for retaining him: Rangers paid £1.5m to sign him, and replacing him in 12-to-18 months would cost a similar amount.

Graham Wallace has made several comments about the short-term thinking that brought Rangers back into a financial mess, and it may be a false economy to sell the defender now. There are other consequences, not least the mood among the rest of the players, although footballers tend to be pragmatic and resilient, viewing the comings and goings in a squad as inevitable. None the less, with the financial backdrop at the club, selling Wallace might be seen among the players as a reflection of a grave situation.

The manager, too, does not want Wallace to leave, while the player himself wants to stay. McCoist values his experience and attitude, and his influence with the younger players in the squad. Many view Wallace as a future captain. The player is settled in his home life, with a partner and a young child, and has no ambitions to play in England. He coaches a local amateur team in Edinburgh - many of the players are his childhood friends - and he takes that part of his life very seriously. Money is persuasive, of course, but Wallace is unlikely to move to a club that pays well beyond his current salary.

Rangers must consider their options carefully for other reasons, too. If costs are to be cut, it is legitimate to point out that the first-team wage bill is only around 30% of turnover - well below UEFA recommendations - so cuts ought to be achievable in other areas of the business. The chief executive has tasked Philip Nash to conduct a full review, and so it may yet be that the football side does not bear the brunt of the cuts.

There is also the question of season tickets. The sale of the team's best player, as part of a cost-cutting exercise that would seem to preclude adding to the squad in the summer, is hardly much of an incentive for the fans to renew. The team will be weakened by Wallace's departure.

His future, then, is pivotal to Rangers' future, whatever the outcome.

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