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I LOVE BEING A STAR AT IBROX BUT ENGLAND IS A TOTALLY NEW PLANET; Whitty admits he'd be tempted to follow mate Thommo south.

Byline: JAMES TRAYNOR

STEVEN WHITTAKER watched his best mate kevin Thomson head for England and admitted he'd also relish the chance to move south.

But that doesn't mean he's ready to start banging on Walter Smith's door demanding a transfer.

The 26-year-old isn't the type to scream from the rooftops. Instead he intends to buckle down and make people sit up and take notice of him because of his form.

And the first person he wants to impress is Rangers manager Walter Smith followed by Scotland boss Craig Levein.

Whittaker, who has five caps, said: "Every player from a young age wants to play in England.

"It is a big stage and a different challenge but whether or not the opportunities arrive is down to the individual's own path.

"It might not be for everyone but I guess a lot of players would want the chance. It's a different planet down there, especially the Premiership.

"The Championship teams are not as good as Rangers and Celtic but it depends on the club you are going to.

"Teams such as Middlesbrough have targets to get into the Premiership so if you were joining one of the top six sides in Championship then you'd still be trying to fulfil your ambition because these clubs are trying to get into the top league in the world.

"When I first moved to Rangers I realised the history of the place was massive. My ambition was to help continue that and I think I have by being part of a team which has won trophies.

"But I'd love to help them again in Europe and further my own international ambitions by playing well and showing good form for the manager and Rangers.

Push

"I have been fairly successful winning trophies here and I want to continue that into next season. Hopefully that will help me on the international front and although I have put my foot in the door I would like to push it open even further under Craig Levein.

"So it's all about doing everything I can for Rangers but if moving to the Premiership were to become an option I'd look at it. But I must stress I am happy here."

So too was Whittaker's pal Thomson but the Ibrox club took Middlesbrough's pounds 2million and he was off - leaving a gap in Smith's squad and an empty seat in Whittaker's car.

The pair travelled together to and from Murray Park every day and Whittaker revealed he'll miss the company.

He said: "The journeys will be a little longer now without Tommo and I was sad to see him go.

"I've played in the same teams as him since we were 17 and have only been six months apart in football since he joined Rangers from Hibs before me.

"We always travelled back and forward and were together all the time taking turns to drive so it will certainly be different now.

"We are quite close and spoke about personal things and him moving on but he always showed great determination at Rangers so I suppose I always thought he might go somewhere else."

Whittaker, signed from the Easter Road club for pounds 2m in 2007, and the other Rangers players have gone to Sydney where they will play Blackburn, Sydney FC and AEK Athens as part of their preparations for the defence of their SPL championship but the defender knows his season could be one of constant change.

He has often been used in midfield but if he had his choice he would always play right-back.

Comfortable

He said: "I know we have Kirk Broadfoot at right-back as well but he can also play as a centre-half or somewhere else in the backline like me.

"Or I can play in front of him but my best form has always been at right-back and I got my move from Hibs by playing there.

"I've been in the midfield, on the right and left but when played consistently it's definitely been at full-back.

"That's where I'm more comfortable but if I'm asked to play elsewhere I will. I just want to play and because we lost some big players over the summer others will have to step forward and fill their boots.

"Someone has to get us goals and win us games.

"Everyone will have to step up to the plate and hopefully we will strengthen the squad between now and the new season and start building again.

"We would all like to do better in Europe but a big part of playing for Rangers is about having the right mentality and that is where Walter has been so successful.

"He drums his messages into the players and gets the best from them because here it's all about winning games.

"Some have the mentality to cope with the demands but others just can't handle it."

Rangers return from Sydney at the beginning of next month and turn their attention to a challenge match against Newcastle at Ibrox on Saturday, August 7.

Kick off is 1pm and tickets are on sale now from the ticket hotline on 0871 702 1972, online at rangers.co.uk and from Rangers Ticket Centre.

Public sale tickets are priced at pounds 20 for adults, pounds 12 for concessions and just pounds 5 for kids. All juvenile season ticket holders can take in the game for free.

Adult season holder tickets are priced at pounds 16 and concession season holder tickets are just pounds 10. Hospitality packages are also available call 0871 702 1972*.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 21, 2010
Words:937
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