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STRIP SEARCH; UEFA CUP FINAL 2008 READY RANGERS IN MANCHESTER Shelves left bare as Gers fans grab tops for big game UEFA CUP COUNTDOWN ..

Byline: By Lauren Crooks

FANATICAL Rangers supporters have stripped shops of the club's home tops ahead of the UEFA Cup final.

Demand for the shirts has soared as supporters gear up to show their backing during the match with Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday.

But last-minute buyers could be disappointed because most shops in Scotland are now completely sold out of regular sizes after selling more than 100 a day.

Retailers have no idea whether they will get more of the shirts - reduced to half-price at pounds 18 - before the big game.

And they have even had to turn away customers for shirt printing because excited fans have bought up all the 0 and 8 transfers.

Fans want "Manchester 08" on the back of their shirts ahead of the crunch at the City of Manchester Stadium.

JJB Sports, the main suppliers of the kits, have been overwhelmed.

Their Glasgow stores are down to their last couple of home tops and are having to send away disappointed fans.

Manager Michelle Lamont said: "We have nothing left. The tops flew out the door straight after the semifinal win against Fiorentina.

"We do have polo shirts and scarves and other things for fans, but the replica shirts went like hotcakes.

"I'm not sure there are even any left in our warehouses, but I'm hoping we will get more in soon."

At JJB in the city's Silverburn centre, manager Michael Canning said: "The Rangers top is a popular one anyway.

"But because of the final, we've have had a lot more demand for the strip."

Scott Murphy, 20, yesterday managed to grab the last size large at Sports World in Argyle Street, Glasgow. He said: "I've been everywhere looking for this, and someone told me there was one left here so I rushed over.

"I'm going to be on holiday on Wednesday. I'm gutted I am missing going to Manchester.

"But I'm going to get 'Manchester 08' printed on the back so I can celebrate while I'm away."

Anne Montgomery bought 20 extra large shirts for fellow members of the Nithsdale Rangers Supporters Club.

The strips were so heavy she had to arrange to leave them behind the counter for collection later.

She said: "There are five coachloads of us going to Manchester, including my eight-year-old son Max."

Richard Lindsay, 25, of East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, thought he would easily get a shirt in time for the game.

But he said: "I'mheading down to Manchester with a couple of friends so I'm pretty disappointed that I can't get a top.

"There are loads of other T-shirts and things, but I haven't seen anything I want. Away tops and older tops are OK, but I'd prefer this season's blue home strip.

"I knew they'd go fast, but I didn't think every single one in my size would be gone already."

Stock is also running low at JJB shops in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

Even the Rangers online store can only offer the top in extra large or junior sizes. Cheryl Merrilees, assistant manager of the Rangers Shop in Falkirk, said: "We have been absolutely inundated with calls and customers looking for the top.

"At the moment, we only have three shirts left, but they are XXXL and bigger and we haven't heard if we will get more in. We were selling hundreds each day."

It's not just the shirt that is proving difficult for fans to get their hands on. Many stores have completely run out of number eight transfers as fans rush to print "Manchester 08" on their backs.

Cheryl added: "We are printing 60 or more a day.

"The demand is just huge. We have had to start mixing the letters, but people are not fussy.

"As long as they have a printed shirt, they are happy." Gordon Charlton, manager of Greaves Sports in Glasgow's Gordon Street, has had the same problem.

He said yesterday: "I have never seen so many people in with their shirt to have it printed.

"Manchester 08 has been the most popular, and we've heard that lots of the shops have run out of eights.

"We did run out for a short while, but we're back on top of it now."

The current Rangers home top has been slashed to half price in most stores as the season comes to an end. The club will release a new strip this summer.

But fans who couldn't get their hands on home tops have not been downhearted.

Instead, they will be sporting novelty T-shirts, including one that reads "God Bless Nacho Novo" in tribute to the striker whose penalty got them to the final.

CAPTION(S):

READY, TEDDY, GO: Gers kits are flying off the shelves, left, and many fans have had their strip printed with Manchester 08 GARRY McHARG
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 12, 2008
Words:799
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