SCOTLAND'S best goalkeeper is up for sale. That was the dramatic,

unexpected news from Ibrox yesterday as Rangers manager Walter Smith

made his first declaration of the changes he plans for next season, only

two days after the team had failed to collect their second clean sweep

of the domestic trophies.

The manager, in his low-key fashion, listed the players who would be

available for transfer, but when he started with the name of the

Scottish international keeper the litany that followed was difficult to

digest as the realisation of the first mentioned sank in.

When he came round to explaining the reason for Goram's inclusion,

Smith was brief. ''Andy and I have had disagreements about how he should

handle his training after coming back from injury,'' he said, ''and it

has led to us having to make this decision. It is a regrettable one on

our part, but it is one that I feel is the only way to resolve the


Goram, who has established himself as the country's No.1 and last year

was named the Player of the Year, has not had the best of luck in the

season just past, but his injury problems seemed behind him and, indeed,

he came close to making his return in the Scottish Cup final on


However, it seems that the keeper's application to recovering his full

sharpness has not been in harmony with that of the manager and, as each

is a powerful personality, the way forward has to be decided by the man

in charge.

Ironically, Goram was Smith's first signing after he took over from

Graeme Souness in April, 1991. He bought the keeper from Hibs for #1m in

June and Goram discovered quickly that Smith was a stickler for certain

standards. The keeper admitted that, when he turned up for pre-season

training, he was ordered to lose at least a stone or he would be sold

before he had made his debut.

That proved a salutary warning and Goram, after some hiccups, went on

to become a favourite of the Ibrox fans and convince a wide audience

that he was the No.1 international keeper for Andy Roxburgh.

The news of his row with the Rangers manager came 48 hours after his

deputy, Ally Maxwell, was unfortunate enough to be involved in the

errors that cost Rangers the single goal which prevented them from

adding the Scottish Cup to the premeir division title and League Cup

already won.

Smith would not be drawn on his intentions to replace Goram but

Maxwell has been more than a capable deputy for much of the season and

when he, too, was injured, Colin Scott came in to take the place without

any problems. Still, the chances are that another top name will be

brought into the goalkeeping strength once Goram is on his way.

Candidates will be plenty but, perhaps Smith will be keen to stick

with Scottish contenders because of the European rule on foreigners. In

that case, Bryan Gunn, of Norwich, would be an obvious choice.

Goram, son of a former Hibs player, was born in Bury 30 years ago last

month, and made his name with Oldham, where he caught the attention of

Scotland manager Jock Stein, although it was his temporary replacement,

Alex Ferguson, who gave him his first full cap, against East Germany in


A cricketer of considerable talent -- he played for Scotland -- Goram

had won four caps with Oldham before he was bought by Hibs manager Alex

Miller for #325,000 in October, 1987. He went on to gain 29 caps, the

latest being against Holland at Hampden last month.

That followed a long absence from the international side after a

serious knee injury which required major surgery in the US, but he had

been so depressed after his previous international, when Scotland lost

5-0 in Portugal in April, 1993, that he had threatened not to play again

for his country.

This season Goram was on the sidelines until February when he made his

come-back in the first team against Hibs, but after 10 successive games

and an international return he was injured again against Dundee United

and missed the last 10 games of the season, including the cup final.

Even at 30, he will attract interest, as keepers are inclined to go on

much longer at high level than outfield men, but it seems a shame that a

player of his quality has apparently not been able to agree with the

requirements of the country's leading club.

Goram, an extrovert whose confidence in his ability has been a salient

part of his success, discovered early on that Old Firm fans are less

forgiving than others when he made an error against Sparta Prague which

cost his team their place in the Champions' Cup. A talk with Walter

Smith in the manager's office put him right as to the way through that

crisis and he soon set up his stall as one of the best in Britain.

Now, unless there is a change of heart, it seems that he will again be

heading south, just as his predecessor, Chris Woods, did to accommodate


If Goram's name was the big surprise in Smith's list of nine players

available for transfer, there was a hint of others to come when the

manager added: ''That does not rule out the possibility that one or two

others could move on if some interest is shown during the close


Those available for transfer apart from Goram are: Gary Stevens,

Pieter Huistra, Oleg Kuznetsov, Fraser Wishart, David Hagen, Lee

Robertson, Chris Vinnicombe, and Brian Reid.

Four of them, Huistra, Robertson, Vinnicombe, and Reid, are out of

contract but Rangers still are entitled to a transfer fee. It is

unlikely that Smith will be difficult to deal with for those four or,

indeed, for Kuznetsov. Of Dutchman Huistra, the manager said: ''He has

done well for us and there has been European interest in him. I would

think he will be able to move back to the Continent.''

Similarly with Kuznetsov, Smith said that the club would be

sympathetic to a move into Europe from where he has received inquiries.

The manager wanted to pay special tribute to Stevens. ''He has been at

Rangers for seven years and has done really well. Two years ago he

injured an ankle which kept him out for most of the season. This year he

has played 37 times for the club and, although it wasn't his best

season, it says a lot for him that he overcame problems to play that


Wishart was brought in last year from the free-transfer market and did

the club a service during their injury-hit period. ''He has a year of

his contract to go but if any club shows interest we will let him go.''

Smith said that this clearance sale was similar to the exercise he had

to conduct three years ago when he took over from Souness. ''A number of

changes had to be made then and they will be made again this time. But

how many new players we will bring in depends on negotiations.''

There is no doubt he expects to have at least a couple in place before

the new season, especially as there is a European preliminary tie to be

faced. The odds are that his first choice is Michael Laudrup, the Danish

international midfield player.

Laudrup yesterday announced that he is leaving Barcelona in a Johan

Cruyff clear-out which also involves Spanish international keeper Andoni

Zubizaretta. Laudrup revealed that one of three offers he had received

was from Real Madrid. He refused to name the others, except to say that

both were from teams in the Champions' Cup next season. It seems certain

that Rangers are one.

Smith admitted that the 'foreigner' rule will still colour his

thinking when he goes into the market. He has four on the staff, Alexei

Mikhailichenko, Trevor Steven, Mark Hateley, and promising Australian

Craig Moore. For that reason it could be that players like Alan McLaren,

of Hearts, would be high on the wanted list. However, Smith pointed out

that, whoever he bids for, the selling clubs have to plan the

replacements before they agree to release players.

Rangers' Hampden conquerors, Dundee United, may not be able to move in

quite as expensive circles but their manager, Ivan Golac, has invaluable

knowledge of eastern European players and hopes to add another of the

Gordan Petric class to the Tannadice staff before long.

This week he will get to work on the transfer of Branko Brnovic, from

Partizan Belgrade, but yesterday he talked with keeper Guido van de Kamp

who is unhappy with the terms offered.