Football

Rangers newco draft in Wayne Rooney's agent

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Rangers FC was liquidated last month (©GettyImages)
Rangers FC was liquidated last month (©GettyImages).

Rangers, a club in complete crisis, have turned to Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford for help as they look to rebuild after liquidation.

The Scottish giants fall from grace has been total and looks nearly complete. A 55th Scottish League Championship couldn't look further away as the blue half of the Old Firm begins life in the Scottish Third Division next season.

The Glasgow club have paid a heavy price for entering administration after a tax dispute with HM Revenue and Customs, and last month the club was forced into liquidation.

But like almost every other penniless team in the history of the sport, a new phoenix club has risen from the ashes to take its place.

Rangers "newco" as they are known, has been established by Charles Green, a former Doncaster Rovers reserve team player turned venture capitalist. Green's latest purchase finds itself hammered by new punishments each day, and Green has drafted in Rooney's representative to "assist" with the running with the club.

But while Rangers' present is clouded in controversy, so Stretford's own past is mired in intrigue. A dispute over Wayne Rooney's representation in 2002 went to court, and Stretford has found himself on the end of a few hefty punishments - including an 18-month FA ban and a £300,000 fine for misconduct charges for his acquisition of Rooney.

But Rooney's agent has acted as something of a footballing troubleshooter in recent months. Stretford is renowned as a fierce negotiator, motivated only by securing the best interests of his client.

When Harry Redknapp prepared for showdown talks with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy this summer, who did Redknapp want in his corner? Stretford. He is obviously well-respected within the game - top managers like Redknapp recognise his value, and now Rangers have come calling.

Few people in football have been brave, or foolish, enough to challenge Sir Alex, but Stretford became known as "the man who changed football for ever" after he secured Wayne Rooney a new five-year deal in 2010. After the Rooney saga, the secret was out - all the power lies with the players.

Such hard bargaining has won Stretford a reputation as a shrewd operator, and an accomplished dealmaker. His particular association with Old Trafford - although now soured - dates back as far as the 1980s. Operating out of his basement, Stretford signed United striker Frank Stapleton - his first client - and built up a relationship with those in and around the Carrington training base.

In the 1990s he was responsible for bringing David May and Andy Cole to United, and reportedly played a part, along with the Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes, in securing Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer from Sporting to Manchester.

Now he finds himself north of the border, parachuted into a crisis of cash and confidence. Rangers, a club with more top-flight national titles than any other club in the world, will face trips to Elgin City, capacity 3,900, Peterhead, capacity 4,000 and Berwick Rangers, capacity 4,100.

With a squad seemingly disintegrating by the day, Rangers face the prospect of assembling a side made up of kids and journeymen. And the prospect of a 12-month transfer ban means Rangers are unlikely to alleviate their troubles anytime soon.

At present, they have 17 players who look likely to stay at the club, three of whom are goalkeepers, and the vast majority are under 22 years old. In the short term, such a hugely reduced wage bill will stand them in good stead but the squad looks desperately thin.

Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries from this situation will be young Scottish players. With Rangers demoted three divisions, and more established stars jumping ship left, right and centre, the void will inevitably be filled by the youth academy, or young, hungry and cheap players from rival clubs.

And perhaps that's why Rangers have decided to call on Stretford. The club plans to challenge a number of the players who have taken the opportunity to leave the club, as Green argues the players have illegally terminated their contracts. Stretford could be a useful ally in any negotiations going forward.

Rooney's agent also has a record of working with younger players, and Stretford could be a handy facilitator if Rangers feel their best strategy is to sign up young talent. At the moment, the transfer embargo stands to come into operation from September 1. Not much time to put together a squad.

So far, Rangers have not elaborated on Stretford's position, beyond that he is merely "assisting" the club. Although the move has raised a few eyebrows, Rangers find themselves in a crisis.

Stretford has proven himself as one of the game's biggest movers and shakers, and one of the most well-connected agents. It remains to be seen what he can bring to help the struggling giants but it should certainly be interesting.

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