6 August 2008

Rangers FC…..R.I.P.

It was the great Bill Shankly, ex-manager of Liverpool who once said that ‘Football was not a matter of life and death…it was more important than that’, and in Glasgow that statement is so true.

I cannot recall how I changed my allegiance from Clyde FC to Rangers but it was about the age of 11 or 12 and I also cannot remember if there was any of the usual fall-out when a family member switches from one team to another. However, once I’d switched I did everything to get to every home game at Ibrox, sneaking under or through the turnstiles whenever I could.

I do however remember the glory days when Rangers swept everything before them with the great side which I can still recount today, Ritchie, Shearer, Caldow, Greig, McKinnon, Baxter etc etc. I can remember the signing of Colin Stein, one of the greatest centre forwards I have ever seen. He scored eight goals in his first three games for the club and I was at Ibrox when he faced his previous team, Hibs, and scored a hat-trick against them in his second game.

I remember the interminable trips by car to Leeds and Newcastle to see if Rangers could overcome English opposition in the Fair Cities Cup (the precursor of the European Cup Winners Cup) and watched Rangers fans disgrace themselves as they have been doing down the ages.

Then I got married and found my father-in-law was a closet Celtic supporter and had been waiting for his eldest daughter to marry a football man so he could start going to the football, and that we did, every Saturday. One weekend at Celtic Park when his team were at home and the following weekend when Rangers were at home. It was a thoroughly enjoyable few years but scarred forever by the Ibrox Disaster of the 2nd January 1971 when I was 20 and had attended the game with my father-in-law and brother-in-law Paul whom I had successfully converted to Rangers - one of the few Catholics to support the Protestant team. This is not the place to go into the details of that terrible event in Rangers’, and Scottish Football’s history but I was seconds from death and indeed felt people dying beneath my feet as I was swept over them. 66 people died that afternoon.

On a happier note, Rangers won their first European trophy the following year and my support never wavered. The next revolution was when Graeme Souness took over the side and immediately started signing the best players in the UK, something like Chelsea did a couple of years ago. We won the league nine years in a row and it was magic.

Coming right up-to-date, Rangers were dumped out of the primary European competition last night playing what many regarded as an Eastern-European pub side. That says it all. Tan phoned me to commiserate or was it to gloat and I had to admit to him that the football played by Rangers was so awful that I switched TV channels to watch ‘River Cottage’ which again says it all.

The photograph accompanying this blog is a classic one. Duncan Ferguson, an ex-Rangers player grabbing an opponent by the throat. He was that sort of guy !

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