Ibrox braced for protests over sale of Cuellar to Villa

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The Independent Football

The Rangers Supporters Trust have warned the club's chairman, Sir David Murray, that they expect a demonstration against the sale of Carlos Cuellar at today's game against Hearts.

Sir David accused those who suggest there is a conspiracy behind the sale of the defender of trying to cause "mayhem" at Ibrox. He insisted he and his fellow administrators did nothing wrong in agreeing to include a £7.8m release clause in the player's contract when he joined from Osasuna last summer.

That clause was triggered by Aston Villa this week, with Cuellar choosing to leave rather than accept vastly improved terms. Some fans have demanded resignations and there are rumours of protests this afternoon.

An RST spokesman, David Edgar, said: "Sadly, I still believe there will be protests on Saturday. The RST are not in favour of it and will not encourage it, but I can see something unorganised happening."

But Sir David said: "I know there have been a lot of questions asked: 'Was he forced out the door?' etc, etc. But the clear fact is we sent out on the website an honest statement by the chief executive [Martin Bain] explaining the situation. But then people want to read into it and put their own twist on it; there's not a lot we can do."

Pedro Mendes will go straight into the Rangers squad after his £3m move to Ibrox. But his fellow new recruit, the Spanish youngster Aaron Niguez Esclapez, will not be involved as he is short of match fitness. David Weir returns from suspension, but Nacho Novo is banned.

Celtic are on the cusp of signing the defender – and one-time Rangers target – Glenn Loovens after moving close to completing a deal with Cardiff. Rangers had been linked with Loovens as a replacement for Cuellar, but it is believed the Dutchman is now set to secure a move to the defending Scottish Premier League champions.

The fee for Loovens is believed to be about £2m to £2.5m, and providing Celtic close out the deal it would be a blow to a Gers side who have endured a torrid first week of the season.

If the Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, can complete the deal early today, the 24-year-old Loovens may even be an outside bet to face Dundee United.

The Dundee United midfielder Danny Swanson is suspended after being red-carded in a reserve game against Hamilton. His place is likely to be taken by Prince Buaben. The winger Craig Conway (foot) and defender Keith Watson (knee) are the only players ruled out through injury.

Shunsuke Nakamura returns to the Celtic squad after injury. His fellow midfielder Barry Robson has a virus and left-back Lee Naylor has a knock, but Strachan is hopeful both will be fit.