Six of the best in Inverness

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Bobby Williamson rounds Inverness Caley keeper Billy MacDonald to score one of his two goals as Rangers run out comfortable winners at the old Telford Street Park ground. The late Ian Redford, who also scored on this day, watches on.

On the 20 May, 2015, Inverness Caledonian Thistle experienced the greatest moment in their then 21 year old history by lifting the Scottish Cup at Hampden, thanks to an 87th minute goal from James Vincent securing a 2-1 win against Falkirk. That Caley Thistle were down to ten men and had been since the 75th minute sending off of Carl Tremaco merely added to the glory of the occasion.

But the long journey to that glorious day at Scotland’s national stadium, which started back in 1994, had not come without its casualties. As is well known, the formation of Inverness Caledonian Thistle was the result of a merger between the two major Highland League sides from the city: Inverness Caley and Inverness Thistle. The merger materialised after both clubs applied to join the Scottish Football League when two places became available in 1994. The SFL hinted to both clubs that a joint application would have more chance of success, and so the decision to submit a single application was taken. When the SFL confirmed the joint application had been successful, both parties pushed ahead with the proposition to turn two clubs into one.

The merger, however, was not welcomed by all, and there were some bitter scenes during the process – with Thistle fans in particular feeling that their club was being erased from history. Thistle had applied to join the SFL in the 70s and had lost out by one vote. Caley fans felt that by 1994 they were a big enough club in their own right to secure a successful application. It was a bitter feud, with many gripes on both sides. The most vociferous supporters on both camps swore at the time that they would never to support the new club – and remained true to their word.

Twenty three years on from that angry scenario, Inverness Caley Thistle have gone from strength to strength and it could be argued that the decision to merge has proved a fruitful one. Rangers head to the Highlands and the Tulloch Caledonian Thistle Stadium on Friday in search of a much needed win in a campaign that started to unravel some time ago. Inverness Caley Thistle, as always, will aim to make it a tricky fixture for Rangers.

But it is worth noting that Rangers travelled to the city of Inverness on footballing business long before the two clubs of yesteryear became the one that we know today. One such game came in the Fourth Round of the Scottish Cup in February, 1984 – against Inverness Caley.

Rangers headed to the Highlands in the early weeks of 1984 in a rejuvenated spirit. The start of the campaign had been disastrous and had led to manager John Greig leaving the club. Attempts to woo Alex Ferguson from Aberdeen, and then Jim Mclean from Dundee Utd, had proved unsuccessful and, in an unexpected turn of events, Rangers turned to Jock Wallace, who had left the club suddenly in 1978 after securing a glorious treble, to restore the club to its former glory.

Results since Wallace’s arrival in October had improved and Rangers had slowly started to climb the table, but the gap between them and the title chasers was already looking insurmountable by February and the club would finish the season a massive 15 points behind eventual winners Aberdeen in fourth place behind Celtic and Dundee Utd respectively.

The harsh reality was that the Scottish Cup and League Cup represented the clubs best, if not only chances of securing silverware. Victory at Inverness and a place in the quarter-final draw was vital.

The hardy bunch of Bears who made the journey north to be part of the 5,500 crowd at Telford Street Park lived in interesting times. It was five years since Margaret Thatcher had been elected and her attack on the heavy industries was about to hit its peak with the miners’ strike, which started three weeks after this fixture on March 12. The dispute would last for over a year and be one of the bitterest industrial disputes in UK history, and one that arguably still has ramifications to this day.

The comedy world would mourn the loss of two legends in Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe who both died in this year. Top selling albums in the UK included Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen and the self-titled debut album from The Smiths. The top three grossing films of the year were Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters and Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom.

On the day of the match, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” was half-way through its five week stay at number one in the charts, although you would be unable to listen to the hit on the radio due to then DJ and future UKIP mouthpiece Mike Read banning it due to its “suggestive lyrics”. As I said, they were interesting times, but let’s get back to the football.

John McClelland led the Rangers side out on what was an unseasonably dry and sunny day in the Highlands. Rangers, in their white away kit, fielded a strong side but it was the Highlanders who had most of the early play, with the home crowd being the far more boisterous of the two sets of supporters.

In the 14th minute, Caley had two great chances to score – they would prove to be the only real chances they had on the day.

Firstly, ex-Rangers star Billy Urquhart hit a powerful shot which Peter McCloy done well to tip over the bar. From the resultant corner it was Urquhart again who was causing problems, this time rising to meet the ball and head powerfully past the despairing McCloy – only for Bobby Russell to head it off the line. Rangers took heed of the warning and upped through the gears.

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Billy Urquhart’s header beats Peter McCloy – only for Bobby Russell to head it off the line. (Picture courtesy of Old Rangers Pics)

The first goal came in 25 minutes from the late Ian Redford. Running on to a delayed pass from Robert Prytz, he hammered the ball home from 15 yards. After a shaky start on a dry and bumpy pitch, Rangers were on their way.

The second goal – which effectively killed the tie – came in the 32nd minute. Davie Cooper was dispossessed by Caley sweeper Peter Corbett, only for the stopper to carelessly give possession away to Ian Redford. Redford quickly sent the ball back into the Caley box where Williamson rose to loop a header over Caley keeper Billy MacDonald. The teams went it a half-time with those two goals separating them.

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Bobby Williamson directs his header past Caley keeper Billy MacDonald to put Rangers 2-0 up.

Caley fans hoping for a response from their team in the second-half would prove to be bitterly disappointed. Instead Rangers strolled to another four goals. Bobby Russell securing the third with a powerful header.

Williamson’s second would be Rangers’ fourth. The striker being the first one to react to a great shot from Sandy Clark that had rebounded off the post. With the tie well and truly over it was just about how many Rangers could score, and when there are goals to be had it was very unlikely that a young Ally McCoist would pass up the opportunity to have himself a piece of the action.

So it would prove to be on this day with the young striker bagging two in the latter stages. It is worth noting that McCoist’s first big achievement in a Rangers jersey, a hatrick in that seasons League Cup Final against Celtic, was only a few weeks away. The striking legend was about to be born.

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Ally McCoist gets in on the scoring at Inverness to make it 5-0. A bigger achievement was lying in wait for the young striker at Hampden a few weeks later.

So Rangers cruised through and would go on to meet Dundee in the quarter-finals where our involvement in the tournament would end. The club would finish the season with only the League Cup to show for their efforts – but given the dire situation the club had been in when Wallace returned, this was seen as decent foundation for greater achievements to come.

A similar score this Friday night would do nicely!

Scottish Cup, Fourth Round

Telford Street Park, 19 February, 1984

Inverness Caley 0 Rangers 6

Scorers:  

Redford (25)

Williamson (32, 77)

Russell (68)

McCoist (78, 87)

Teams:

Caley: MacDonald, Davidson, Mann, Dewar (Gibson 69), Summers, Corbett, Lisle, Mackintosh (Baxter 65), Urquhart, Docherty, Robinson

Rangers: McCloy, Nicholl, Dawson, (McPherson 70), McClelland, Paterson, Redford, Russell (Clark 75), Prytz, Williamson, McCoist, Cooper

Ref – H Young (Larkhall)

Ticket to Ride: A Dire Day at Dens

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A Bad Day at the Office: Jim Leighton smothers the ball to defy Stuart McCall as Rangers lose a seven goal thriller. They would go on for 44 games without defeat after this game. (Photo courtesy of Old Rangers Pics)

There is nothing like a good away day. Over the years I have had a fair few, not as many as probably should have, but there have been seasons when I made my way to most games home and away.

An away day is a different experience to a home game. It somehow feels more tribal by virtue of the fact that you are the interlopers, temporarily invading some town or city in some far corner of the country – or further – in order to support the Teddy Bears.

On the 15 August, 1992, I made such a journey to Dundee, and specifically to Dens Park to cheer on Rangers in that glorious 1992/93 season.

1992 was a good year for me. I was young – 19 – and had a job which provided me with enough disposable income to most things I enjoyed. I had just had my first foreign holiday the month before when myself and three mates partied in Magaluf for a fortnight, and overall I felt fairly happy with my lot.

So I headed to Dundee on the Grangemouth supporters club – which I believe at one point was the biggest supporters club in the country – with a work colleague called Colin Runcieman. Colin was as good a Rangers man as you could meet. He travelled every week – home and away – on the Grangemouth bus and he had asked me to join him on this day.

Colin was a few years older than me – 28 – but his marriage had recently ended and so he had sought the company of my mates and I on nights out to stave off the cabin fever of sitting in the house all alone. A thoroughly decent guy, his prowess with the ladies should not go unnoted, despite being bald and sporting a rather unimpressive moustache. On more nights than not, Colin left nightclubs early with a girl – whilst us young guns displayed as much scoring ability as a blindfolded Sebo!

For some reason, we had tickets for the Dundee end. My memory is too hazy to remember why that was, but we sat behind the goal – with colours safely tucked in the jacket – amongst the Dundee support. You can actually see us in the video footage provided. When Dundee score their two goals in the first half, we’re the two sad looking souls towards the corner flag whose arses are sat firmly on the wooden benches during the celebrations!

The game itself was a cracker – if somewhat poor in the result department. Dundee boasted some big hitters in their side including former Everton star Kevin Radcliffe, former Aberdeen keeper Jim Leighton and future Rangers star Billy Dodds. They were managed at the time by Simon Stainrod, who had made a name for himself in Scotland at Falkirk, and who decided for reasons that only he can explain to wear a rather ridiculous looking hat whilst he stood in the dugout that day.

Dundee took an early lead through Dutchman Ivo den Bieman, much to the visible disgust of Colin and I, in the 16th minute from a corner kick. Rangers hit back quite quickly though through an Ally McCoist free-kick. Rangers were to go behind again, however, in the 33rd minute when Ian Gilzean, son of Spurs legend Alan Gilzean, scored a header after Ally Maxwell, making his Premier League debut for Rangers in place of the injured Andy Goram, failed to clear his lines with a weak punch.

Rangers came back again, however, through McCoist after Stuart McCall worked a nice one-two and put a danger cross across the face of Jim Leighton’s goal which McCoist met and put away.

The teams went in at half-time level at 2-2 and Colin and I felt we should move as our non-celebration during Dundee’s two goals had aroused the suspicions of the Dundee young team who had been looking over and pointing at us. So we made our way to a more discreet spot towards the back of the stand.

It didn’t take long in the second-half for Dundee to regain the league through Billy Dodds. It was starting to look like this was not going to be Rangers’ day. No matter how many times we came back – Dundee just scored again.

Walter Smith made a change, bringing on Ian Ferguson for Stuart McCall, and within a few moments the move paid off. Some good work on the flank by Ally McCoist set up a header for Hateley, who knocked it back across the face of goal for Ferguson to come rushing in and hammer the ball into the net. With only ten minutes remaining, it looked like we had saved the day yet again – showing the battling qualities that would epitomise the team that season.

However this would be one day when Lady Luck would shine the other way, due to a bizarre penalty award against Richard Gough for a “foul” against Gilzean. Gough remained remarkably calm in accepting this bizarre decision – Ian Ferguson less so who talked himself into the book for his protests.

Billy Dodds dispatched the penalty for his second goal in the game and a fourth comeback was beyond Rangers in the remaining six minutes and we succumbed to our first defeat of the season.

Incredibly, however, it would be a full six months before we lost another game as the club went on a 44 game unbeaten run – which included a ten game run in a Champions League campaign that saw us come within a goal of the final. The next defeat would come in March at Celtic Park – a game I also attended, but that’s a story for another day!

On the bus home we dispensed with the usual radio phone-in and tuned into Radio One where Dave Lee Travis was interviewing Michael Hutchence of INXS to discuss their new album Welcome to Wherever You Are. At that time I was a huge INXS fan, so this seemed a decent way to deal with an unexpected defeat.

On arriving home Colin and I changed and headed out for a night on the town. I can’t quite recall how it went, but I’m pretty sure Colin left our chosen nightspot early with a young lady, and I left alone to jeers of Sebo! Sebo! Sebo!

The Diary

The end finally comes for Warburton

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The Warburton Era has ended – but we’ll always have THAT day at Hampden.

It has felt for a while that it was coming, and sure enough it did. Although Friday nights events could best be descried as muddled – and at worst shambolic – the result was that Mark Warburton and his staff have now vacated their posts at Ibrox.

As I said, it feels like his reign had gone past the point of no return a while ago, but the heavy defeat to Hearts seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many supporters and apparently the Board also.

This has created a debate around how much support Warburton received to make a fist of it this season. That, for me though, misses the point entirely. Given the gulf in terms of finances it was always going to be a tough call to put in a serious challenge to Celtic this season. It seems the Boards view was that this would be a season of consolidation, with second place and qualification for Europe the main priority.

In this respect Warburton has been supported enough in terms of the other clubs challenging for second place. Yet despite this, the season has been an unmitigated disaster.

We have dropped fourteen points in total to clubs like Hamilton, Kilmarnock, Ross County (three times) and St Johnstone (twice). We have also suffered defeat at every away fixture to top four clubs – with two heavy defeats in there to Celtic and Hearts.

To make matters worse we have only scored six more goals than we have conceded, and have only scored more than two goals in a league game once this season, against Kilmarnock at Ibrox in October.

Such statistics are, frankly, not good enough.

But it could be argued that the signs were there in the latter part of last season in the Championship that Warburton was not all that we had hoped for.

Warburton won 11 out of his first 11 league games in Scotland – scoring 24 goals in the process and conceding a mere six.

However, the wheels came off in dramatic style from November to December with the club playing seven games, winning three, losing two and drawing two. There was a steadying of the ship from January to March, where we won ten out eleven fixtures. But crucially the swashbuckling style of the first eleven games had been suffocated and teams, who has sussed out Rangers style of play, were proving harder to break down. In six of these eleven fixtures up to March, we won games by 2-0 on two occasions and 1-0 on four. A far cry from the free-scoring early season form.

From March until May we won only two of our remaining eight fixtures, whilst losing three and drawing three. We also conceded more goals (16) than we scored (15).

There will be those who will argue that the season was already over by March and that players weren’t motivated as much as they had been at the seasons start, but I genuinely felt at the time that Rangers under Warburton had been sussed. Another statistic to back this argument up would be that our best performances and results in the latter part of last season came against Premiership opposition in Dundee and Celtic – two clubs that had not been exposed to Rangers style of play at that time.

But there can be little argument that, after the first eleven games in Warburton’s Rangers career, it has been a slow and steady decline both in terms of results and performances.

Add to that his poor dealings in the transfer market, then it was only a matter of time before a parting of the ways.

Sitting watching the game on Sunday against Morton it struck me that our best two players are Kenny Miller and Barrie McKay – two players who were already at the club when he arrived. That, in my opinion, is a pretty damming statistic.

But we should not forget the good stuff that Warburton brought. The football in those first eleven games was a joy to watch – even if it was in second tier. And he gave us that memorable semi-final victory against Celtic in April. A day I shall always treasure as it was my boys first game against Celtic.

But it felt like what happened on Friday had been coming for a while. So we thank Warburton for his efforts and move forward to the next stage in our history with a new manager.

Who that’ll be is down to the Board. But you get the feeling that this is a crucial appointment and one they can’t afford to get wrong.

Over to you, Mr King.

 

Morton memories

After the announcement of Friday night of Warburton’s departure it immediately became just about getting a result against Morton on Sunday. This was achieved, thankfully, even if it wasn’t the easiest on the eye. But cup games are all about getting a result – so you have to hand it to Graeme Murty for getting us through the fixture after being thrown in at the deep end so unceremoniously on Friday night.

Rangers against Morton at Ibrox has always had a special place in my heart as they were the opposition when I took in my first game back in early 80s.

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The imposing figure of Colin Jackson – the first image I recall from my first visit to Ibrox.

Rangers won 3-1 and my only real memory of the game is seeing Colin Jackson stride up the park from my seat in the Copland front – which seemed so new at the time that you could positively smell the paint in the place!

Games against Morton also remind me of one famous occasion at Cappielow in 1985 in the Scottish Cup.

The game ended 3-3 and would go to a replay, one which would see Rangers cruise through relatively comfortably with a 3-1 win.

But the game at Cappielow is the easily the more interesting of the two fixtures due to the conditions in which it was played. If you’re on the youngish side, you simply won’t believe that the game was allowed to go ahead. But if you’re of a similar vintage to me, it will bring back memories of players ditching their boots for trainers and the then traditional white ball being binned for an orange one in order to defy the weather conditions and get the fixture played.

It evokes memories of when football seemed, well, simpler. Back in the days before metatarsal injuries, under-armour, ticket prices that would make your eyes water and when you could get change from a tenner for two pies and Bovril!

I wouldn’t happen today

There can be little doubt that the advent of social media has made a huge impact on football supporters.

Nowadays we all seemed to perennially hooked into to various forums discussing the big topics. Long gone are the days when you woke up to any surprises on the back page of the paper.

I have to say I have not always found the direction the new media has taken us to be a positive one. Views that were maybe kept under wraps previously are now aired without fear of repercussion by many an anonymous poster on Twitter or Facebook etc. It has undoubtedly changed the landscape, and not always for the better.

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John Grieg and Davie Provan lead a host of famous stars from the past up Broomloan Rd. The old high flats and many a crane in the background at the shipyards are, of course, no more.

That said, however, it does occasionally provide the odd gem – and such a scenario occurred last week when I saw a photo emerge on social media showing the Rangers squad from the late 70s/early 80s pound the streets of Govan.

The photo shows John Grieg and Davie Provan lead a host of names up Broomloan Rd, with the old high flats and Albion training ground in the background. It is also interesting to note how many cranes are view from the shipyards in Govan – sadly many of these cranes have long since disappeared.

Given the direction the players are heading it is possible they are heading to Bellahouston Park, where it was not uncommon for Rangers to train at  – especially during pre-season training.

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The classic top which was left at Bellahouston Park after training session there in the early 80s.

Indeed another fan recently posted a photo of an old Rangers away top (pictured above) which he owns, claiming that it was left behind at Bellahouston Park by the players after a training session. The fan saw his opportunity to own a wee piece of Rangers memorabilia – and took it.

Of course, such a scenario is almost impossible today. The players are all tucked up and safe from prying eyes at the training facility at Auchenhowie, so the chances of seeing the squad pounding past you on Paisley Rd West are non-existent – as are the chances of taking the dog for a walk and finding some of Kenny Miller’s training kit!

Changed days!

Sound and Vision: 40 Years of Low

Bowie’s masterpiece is 40 today. Colin Armstrong looks at its recording and impact.

January 2017 was always going to be a big month in the Bowie Universe.

Firstly, the eighth of the month saw what would have been the late icons 70th birthday. The same date also represents the first anniversary of Bowie’s iconic final studio album, Blackstar.

The tenth of the month brought about the first anniversary of Bowie’s sudden and unexpected death. Granted, rumours about Bowie’s health had been circulating since the star removed himself from public view and stopped working in 2003 after suffering from a heart attack, but the abrupt and unexpected arrival of The Next Day in 2013 and the subsequent release of Blackstar last year had given most the belief that Bowie, if not totally free from ill-health, was far from knocking on deaths door.

Almost immediately after his death Blackstar saw its significance rise substantially as the apparent lyrical references contained within the album, which appeared to signify that Bowie was informing the masses of his illness and fate, were noticed.

Listening to Blackstar now with the benefit of hindsight, it is almost impossible to come to any conclusion other than Bowie was writing about his own impending death. Lyrics contained within the tracks “Blackstar”, “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give it All Away” are particularly strong in lending weight to the notion that Bowie was using his art to deal with knowledge that his life would soon be coming to an end.

But nobody should have been surprised that Bowie would choose to use real life subjects, even one as grim as death, and use it in his music. Bowie has always had the ability to use his current life situation and turn it in to great, and on occasions, ground breaking music. Arguably the best example of this was on an album which commemorates its 40th anniversary today (14 January): Low.

Low is undeniably one of Bowie’s masterpieces. An album which was not fully appreciated at the time, it has rightfully grown over the years to be considered a classic in every aspect and, like Blackstar, the beauty and genius of the album comes from Bowie’s mental state and his desire to do something new.

On the face of it 1976 was a good year for Bowie. He had released the album Station to Station in January of that year and had starred in Nicolas Roeg’s film The Man Who Fell to Earth, which was released in March. The reality, though, was somewhat different.

Bowie’s mental state at this period could be best described as fraught. His marriage to his erratic wife Angie had reached a point of no return, he was in a legal dispute with his then manager Michael Lippman and his excessive drug use had turned him into a paranoid wreck of a man who was obsessed with the occult and Hitler, had become convinced that the Rolling Stones were sending him messages through their album covers and lived almost entirely on a diet of cocaine, milk and red peppers.

Bowie had become increasingly aware that he was pushing his physical and mental state to the absolute limit and hatched a plan with friend and sidekick Iggy Pop to move to Europe and away from the excess of LA. The move would eventually see him settle in Berlin and the period would be considered one of Bowie’s most productive.

Bowie set sail to Europe, and specifically Cannes, on 27 March 1976. The initial plan, at the suggestion of his wife Angie and his lawyer, was to settle in Switzerland for tax reasons, but he would eventually find his way to Berlin.

Before that however he would end up at the Cháteau D Hėrouville studio just outside of Paris to produce Iggy Pop’s The Idiot album. The studio was one that Bowie was familiar with having recorded Pin Ups there in 1973. When the production work on Iggy’s album was completed he started to focus on Low.

Bowie employed the services of long-time collaborator Tony Visconti to co-produce the album and also brought in guitarist Carlos Alomar, who had also worked with Bowie on Young Americans and Station to Station, but Bowie felt he needed something different and decided to give Brian Eno, formerly of Roxy Music, a call.

Bowie had been a huge fan of Eno’s Discreet Music album and saw him as the man he needed to help create the new sound that he was looking for.  Eno was approached and asked if he would be interested in being involved in working with Bowie.

Bowie and Visconti were keen to get Eno on board, but were equally keen to see what Eno could “bring to the table”. Eno informed the pair that he had an Eventide Harmoniser, a machine that acted as a digital delay unit and could delay a sound and change its pitch. When asked what the machine done, Eno famously replied “it fucks with the fabric of time”. Bowie and Visconti could not disguise their excitement – all the pieces were now in place for Low.

All the artists involved in the Low sessions described them as being “relaxed”, however they also concede that it was obvious Bowie had a lot of ongoing personal issues and the tension that created was coming out in the songs. One example of this is the track “Breaking Glass”.

During one of the recording sessions Angie, who was becoming increasingly desperate the more aware she became that her marriage to Bowie was fast approaching its end, had turned up to the studio with her “boyfriend” Roy Martin. It was a move designed to get a reaction and it worked. A huge fight broke out in the studio and the sound of shattering glass was heard as a glass was thrown across the studio during the mêlée. The second verse “Breaking Glass” where Bowie asks us to not “look at the carpet” is apparently a reference to the time in LA when Bowie would regularly draw occult images on the floor, much to Angie’s despair. The song ends one minute and 54 seconds in with Bowie telling the protagonist that they’re “such a wonderful person – but you’ve got problems”. In length, content and style, the song literally feels like a fight.

Other tracks on Low are littered with similar references. “Always Crashing in the Same Car” reflects the time that Bowie crashed his Mercedes in Switzerland, a car he was apparently trying to sell at the time to ease his day-today cash flow issues. ”Be My Wife” describes the bleak and lonely life Bowie had found himself in and “A New Career in a New Town”, although an instrumental, as a title accurately describes Bowie’s situation at the time. From beginning to end the album encapsulates the mental state of Bowie at the time. It is a bleak album, appropriately titled which captures the uncertainty Bowie was feeling at the time perfectly. But Low is not just a classic for this reason alone.

The daring nature of releasing an album which was largely instrumental, or contained lyrics which could be best described as “non-language”, is a vital factor in setting it apart. Bowie’s fascination with Michael Rother of Neu!, and previously of Kraftwerk, had been the catalyst for inviting Eno along to sessions, which subsequently opened the door for Bowie to achieving the “ambient” sound he had been craving. It was a masterstroke and one that delivered a classic album.

Book Contributions

Ten days that Shook Rangers

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This unique book looks at ten of the most shocking days in the history of a great Scottish institution. The ten authors, a mixture of fans, academics and journalists, examine these events without fear or favour. and often arrive at surprising conclusions.

The subjects covered include the boardroom coup of 1947 that changed the character of Rangers forever, the astonishing lifetime ban on Willie Woodburn, the year Rangers should have won the European Cup, the brutal sacking of manager Scot Symon, a Rangers legend, what really caused the Ibrox disaster of 1971, the infamous 1980 Scottish Cup final when Old Firm fans fought a massed battle on the Hampden pitch, the seismic excitement caused by the arrival of Graeme Souness, the historic signing of Mo Johnston, how Rangers capitulated to an anti-Rangers (and anti-Protestant) media in the Donald Findlay affair and the fallout from Dick Advocaat’s costly regime and the impact made by his successor, Alex McLeish.

Colin Armstrong explores the most sensational signing in the Rangers’ history bar none – the signing of Maurice Johnston. Picking his way through the confusing chronology of Johnston’s arrival, Armstrong notes the impact it had on some very entrenched ideals down the Copland Rd – and perhaps more interestingly, the effect it had at Parkhead.

Armstrong claims that despite resistance of some Rangers fans to Johnston’s signing, it was in fact the Celtic supporters who were most put out by a Catholic opting to ply his trade at Ibrox.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0954743164/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_RiELybA8P9KXV

Follow We Will: The Fall and Rise of Rangers

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The saga of Rangers is a tragic one. It is the story of the fall of one of Scotland’s most prestigious football clubs. A tale of hate and accusations. One which blurred truth with speculation and turned a trial into a witch-hunt.

Yet it is also a tale of loyalty in the face of unprecedented adversity. In Follow We Will: The Fall and Rise of Rangers we hear the story of the fans. Within these essays and interviews is the uplifting tale of how they rallied to protect the club they loved and how now, against all odds, they are helping to put it back together.

Follow We Will is an informative, emotional reminder that we are indeed a football nation.

In his chapter in the book, Armstrong speaks to Lee Wallace about what it was like to sign for the then Champions of Scotland, only to find himself in the third tier of Scottish football within a year.

http://www.luath.co.uk/follow-we-will-the-fall-and-rise-of-rangers.html

All royalties arising from sales of this book will be donated to the Rangers Charity Foundation

Born Under a Union Flag: Rangers, Britain and Scottish Independence

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A book about the relationship of a football club to a political decision? On one level this is madness. But in Scotland it makes perfect sense.

What do Rangers mean to Scotland and what does Scotland mean to Rangers?
What do Rangers mean to Britain and what does Britain mean to Rangers?
How does the club and the game interact with the world around it?

Questioning how British and Scottish identities fit into supporting Rangers, Born Under the Union Flag provides the first solid exploration of the relationship between sport and national identity.

In the book, Armstrong presents the reason why he went from a traditional pro-unionist, Royalist and supporter of a United Kingdom, to someone who felt he had no option but to vote yes in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

A must-read for anyone interested in Rangers, the history of Scottish football, or the independence debate.

http://www.luath.co.uk/born-under-a-union-flag-rangers-the-union-scottish-independence.html

The Diary

Hearts defeat raises more questions about Warburton

It was a night to forget at Tynecastle on Wednesday night as Rangers turned out yet another turgid performance against Hearts.

For the second successive visit to the stadium, Rangers put in a performance that was woeful, gutless and lacked leadership both on and off the park to such an extent that questions now must be asked about Mark Warburton’s ability to lead the club in the right direction.

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Mark Warburton looks on as Rangers slump to an embarrassing defeat at Tynecastle on Wednesday.

What makes the mauling all the more worrying is the fact that we again appear to be incapable of learning from previous mistakes. It’s the same issues, week-in and week-out with little sign that the problems that are directly developing from our style of play are being recognised as a problem.

The first goal was yet another moment of embarrassing defending from Rob Kiernan who was caught in front of his man and under the ball as it was put into the box. What Andy Halliday was thinking for the second goal only he will know. The third and fourth goals were not much better and every one of them could be described as cheap and goals that the Hearts didn’t have to work exceptionally hard or be overly creative for.

The result has surely put Mark Warburton’s future in doubt – if it wasn’t already.

The result has also split opinion on who is to blame, with many pointing to Warburton and others pointing to Dave King and the board.

For me, however, there is an element of blame in both camps. It is not hard to argue that Warburton faces a near impossible task to match Celtic on the park given their current spending power. The board, it could be argued, have gotten exactly what they paid for – a team that will probably be the best of the rest.

That said, however, Warburton’s recent dips into the transfer market have been nothing short of a calamity, his summer signings in particular.

Barton and Krancjar for varying reasons are already distant memories, Crooks and Windass don’t look up to the job – the former already shipped out on loan – and Rossiter appears to be perennially “two weeks away” from fitness. The only summer buy you could reasonably argue that has been a success is Clint Hill.

Tommy Burns famously commented that when he got the Celtic job that Rangers were like a “runaway train” which was almost impossible to stop. The roles are now reversed and it is Warburton who faces the unenviable task of halting a Celtic side that is head and shoulder above the rest in terms of spending power.

However, Warburton does not come out of the situation free of blame and you would have to ask the question that is Rangers were the benefactors of serious investment tomorrow, would you trust Warburton to spend that money wisely?

I have to say, my own view is that I would take some convincing to let him loose on the transfer market with serious money.

However, whatever your views are on Warburton, Wednesday felt like the beginning of the end of the Warburton era. I might be wrong, but I’ve been down this road before and when you start to get that feeling you tend to be right. Time will tell.

The Hampden (Up)Roar

I must say, I had a mighty chuckle to myself when I came across the tweet below from Henry Winter of The Times.

I was totally unaware that the SFA were planning another bid to hold a European final at Hampden on the back of the Champions’ League final in 2002 and the Uefa Cup final in 2007. If they are successful in the bid it will mean that Scotland has held three European finals at that particular stadium in the last 15 years.

Now lets go back in time to the 20 year preceding that night at Hampden when Zinedine Zidane scored THAT goal. For the majority of that time there was only one ground fit enough to hold a European final in Scotland – and for a long period between the early 80s and the mid 90s it was the best stadium in the UK, let along Scotland.

Yet, bizarrely, there was never a European final held at Ibrox. That in itself is bad enough, but when you consider that there was never a bid from the SFA to hold a European final at Ibrox, then it really does make you wonder. If you think I’m being a tad oversensitive, you should take a look at some of the stadiums which were awarded European finals in that period.

Since Hampden was redeveloped into the overrated sub-cauldron it is today, it has been regularly touted by the SFA for finals of this stature. Now it is 30 plus years since Ibrox was redeveloped. There have been modifications in that time, such as the Club Deck and the filling of the corners at either end of the Govan stand, but overall it is hard to argue with the notion that it is an ageing stadium. But regardless of age, I’d still easily rank Ibrox miles ahead of Hampden. Yet here we are: Ibrox no European finals; Hampden two, going on three.

I suppose it represents another example of that pro-Rangers – now pro-Sevco – bias from this country’s football governing bodies that we keep hearing about!

The joy of six.

My Friday evenings are usually much of a muchness. Home in the early evening just in time to allow the missus to head out for her nightshift, get the kids to bed and then relax with a beer, some music and some web based Rangers action.

It was on one of these Friday nights fairly recently that I discovered the a clip on YouTube of the Rangers in action at Coasters area in Falkirk in the first ever Tennent’s Sixes tournament in 1984.

Those of you who are too young to remember, Scottish football in the 80s and 90s went through a period of obsession with indoor football. The idea was originally based on the fact that January – when the Tennent’s Sixes was annual held – was a period of high inactivity for footballers and fans due to the weather. So we all headed indoors to various arenas around the country to watch some six-a-side action.

 

The first one at Coasters in Falkirk, however, always sticks out for me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the final against Dundee was a genuinely great game to watch. I implore you to watch it. Rangers are 4-2 down with a few minutes left and go on to win 6-4.

Secondly, the game is also good to see a very young Derek Ferguson and Billy Davies turning out for Rangers. It is also a reminder of just how good a player Davie Cooper was. He is involved in most things that are good for Rangers in this footage.

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The victories Rangers squad with the first ever Tennent’s Sixes trophy – Man2Man’s “Male Stripper” bellows in the background!

Finally, the venue would become one that was very familiar to me. I lived in Cumbernauld at the time of the tournament in January of ’84 – but by that September the family had moved to Falkirk and Coasters would be an arena I would both play many game of football on and spend many a teenage Saturday night skating around in my Bauer Turbo’s whilst such 80’s classics as Man2Mans “Male Stripper” and New Order’s “Blue Monday” boomed out from the sound system.

The arena is till there today, but nowadays instead of one “big” park it has been carved up into four “wee” ones. Another example of capitalism killing something good about football!

But my own rush of nostalgia aside, you should indulge in the clip. Even if it is just for the white away top, white shorts and red socks combo that Rangers wear in the final, it’s definitely worth watching.