Rangers ready to fight Norwich City for Steven Whittaker
New signing Steven Whittaker has been accused of moving to Norwich City purely for financial gain – and has been warned to expect legal action from the man behind the re-formed Rangers.
The Canaries announced at the weekend that they had snapped up the 28-year-old Whittaker on a four-year contract, subject to international clearance.
The Scotland international defender believes he is a free agent as one of 10 players who rejected the transfer of his contract to the 'newco' Rangers after the club's takeover.
But Charles Green, head of the Sevco consortium that bought Rangers' business and assets for �5.5m when the Glasgow club was consigned to liquidation, has vowed to pursue legal claims against the Rangers players who refused to join his new company.
And Green told Whittaker he had more chance of playing European football at Ibrox than at Norwich.
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Carrow Road-bound Whittaker and Kyle Lafferty, who joined Swiss side Sion, are the first of the 10 want-away players to secure moves.
PFA Scotland and their lawyers believe they are free agents under employment law but Green vowed to fight for transfer money and revealed he had written to every league club in the UK warning them to stay away from the players.
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Rangers failed to meet the financial criteria to take their place in the Champions League before they were consigned to liquidation and Green's reformed Ibrox club will not be able to play in Europe for three years under UEFA rules.
The club face the prospect of Scottish Division Three football, next season but Green accused the players of being motivated purely by money.
Green told Sky Sports News: 'Our lawyers will pursue these claims. We have written to every Premier League and Football League club in the UK telling them clearly that we see this as a breach of contract. We don't accept the advice the players have been given.
'If their career is to play in Europe that's never going to happen at the clubs they are signing for. If they are really looking at playing in Europe, they would stay at Rangers and play because the reality is that, before Norwich play in Europe, Rangers will be back in Europe.
'I don't accept that this is a career move – it's for financial gain, no other reason.'
The Scottish FA could, in theory, block any transfers and have sought FIFA guidance and backing amid fears of a court battle with Green. Privately, the governing body's legal advice is that the players are free to go.
City yesterday declined to comment on the threat of legal action, not adding to their statement that they awaited international clearance before the deal could be finalised. But before Green's TV interview, Whittaker said he was not expecting any late hitch in his move to Norwich.
'I think it will be OK,' he said. 'As far as I'm aware, the SFA are holding my registration because the old club was liquidated and the new club hasn't got the registrations yet. So the registration has been applied for and I hope now it will be granted and I can continue with my career.'
Whittaker admitted, however, there had been a lack of clear advice from the SFA.
'There was a lot of uncertainty about it all towards the end and not a lot of information coming our way,' he said, in a story appearing on the Daily Mail website. 'We would try to find out stuff from the administrators and the SFA but no one was forthcoming with answers. I think that was because they didn't really know. This is an unprecedented situation.'
Whittaker expects to start training with his new City team-mates next week, when they begin their pre-season preparations.
Reported to have walked away one year into a five-year contract with Rangers worth �20,000 per week, Whittaker admitted: 'It was a bit of a risk for me. I had a long contract at Rangers and I could have changed it over. But we didn't have any idea what level of football the club would be able to offer us. Privately, I was always confident and hopeful there would be something out there for me. So I was willing to take that chance.
'The competition in England will be harder than it was in the SPL. Every game will be as tough as the last one and it's going to be a very different challenge to the one I've been used to with Rangers in Scotland. I have played in the SPL all my career and sometimes you can get a bit stale. In England, you play the other teams twice, home and away. That is definitely a very different challenge.'