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Fans voice fears over enclosure plans

RANGERS' plans to transform the enclosure in front of the main stand into an all-seated area are meeting with the disapproval of the supporters who inhabit that particular part of the stadium, writes James Traynor.

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Already the club have received more than 100 letters objecting to the proposed #1.5m development.

This growing unrest has not escaped the attention of the chairman, David Murray, whose Murray International empire encompasses all things Rangers, and he realises that the customers have to be accommodated.

Normally, Murray would reconsider his plans and make adjustments and although he will take another look at this next stage of the Ibrox upgrading there is little he can do to give the fans what they want. Rangers, like every other team who wish to play in Europe, have no choice.

Football's world and European authorities are demanding that stadia must be all seated before clubs can play in the various FIFA- and UEFA-sanctioned competitions. Rangers must do away with their 9000-capacity enclosure just as Celtic must replace their vast terracings with seated areas.

Rangers have lodged a planning application to deal with this and the re-seating of their main stand.

''We are here to listen to the customers and to try to give them what they want, but it may be out of our hands. Legislation forces us to put in seats,'' said Murray. ''Perhaps we are just addressing the problem sooner than other clubs.''

The days of the upright supporters are over, but if Rangers are looking for a way to appease their fans perhaps it is worth considering the possibility of leaving the enclosure intact but closing it during European ties. Maybe a compromise could be reached that way.

The owner also said that he was happy with the progress being made by Rangers on most fronts, pointing out that they have come a long way in the past 12 months alone. Even so, he will not allow the club to mark time realising football is in a period of change and that only those clubs bold enough to read the signs and act swiftly will emerge ready to take advantage of opportunities such as an elite league drawn from all European countries.

There is much more to this business these days than kicking a bag of wind around a patch of turf, but without the players, of course, there is nothing and they remain unconcerned about finances other than their own salaries. While the likes of AC Milan and Real Madrid could be fellow members of some future set-up Butcher, Gough, Johnston, and co have on their minds this week only St Johnstone.

The Perth side will be at Ibrox tomorrow for the third round of the Scottish Cup and they are capable of punishing any complacency. Rangers need only look back to last season's semi-finals when St Johnstone earned a no-scoring draw in the first match, but lost 4-0 in the replay.

Trevor Steven, who will be making his Scottish Cup debut, was given a boost yesterday when England manager Bobby Robson called him into next week's squad gathering. The Rangers midfielder was not included in the list of 30 announced earlier this week, but cup replays south of the Border have left Robson short.

Top clubs down there and in the premier division have been beaten to the signature of 15-year-old Aberdonian Levi Smith. The Deeside Boys Club midfield player had attracted the attention of many clubs, but Rangers' youth coach Gordon Neely persuaded him that Ibrox was the best place to begin.

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