Dortmund follow in the footsteps of Munich and Monchengladbach in Ibrox vanquishing

Derek Johnstone and John McClelland prepare for a corner in the famous victory over Dortmund (Picture Courtesy of Old Rangers Pics)

 

It is fair to say that Rangers have a decent record against German sides in European competition. Of all the stronger footballing nations we have travelled to, Germany is arguably where Rangers have fared best.

Our first encounter against a German side came in season 59/60 when we met Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-final of the European Cup.  We were dealt a harsh footballing lesson by the Germans on this occasion – beat 12-4 on aggregate – and denied the opportunity to take on the mighty Real Madrid at Hampden in the final as a result.

We got some payback the following season when we defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach 11-0 over two legs in the quarter-final of European Cup Winners’ Cup – with the bulk of the goals coming in an impressive 8-0 home victory. This campaign would see Rangers go on to become the first British club to reach a European final, losing over two legs to ACF Fiorentina.

We would meet German opposition twice in 1966/67 European Cup Winners’ Cup campaign where we would reach our second European final. We famously lost to Bayern Munich in the finale in Nuremberg, but we had overcome Dortmund again earlier in the competition.

Rangers would gain revenge for the ’67 defeat by Bayern five years later in the semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, in what is arguably the greatest result in the club’s history when we defeated the Bavarians, who included the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller, 2-0 to reach the European Cup Winners’ Cup final in Barcelona. Obviously the result over Moscow Dynamo in the final carries the achievement and the glory of actually winning the tournament, but the victory over a Munich side that would go on to dominate European football for years, winning three consecutive European Cups between 1974 and 1976, not to mention provide the bulk of the German international side that would win the 1974 World Cup, sits as arguably the best result secured by any Scottish club in Europe.

There has also been the notable defeats of Bayer Leverkusen by Dick Advocaat’s side in the Uefa Cup in 1998 and the defeat of Werder Bremen on our way to the Uefa Cup Final in 2008.

We seem to be attracted to German sides in European competition and so it would be the case again in 1982 when Rangers were drawn against Borussia Dortmund in the first round of the Uefa Cup. Over the two legs Rangers would yet again overcome their more glamorous Bundesliga rivals.

Rangers earned a good result in the away leg in Germany, where they secured a 0-0 draw and gave themselves a great opportunity of finishing the job off in Glasgow and progressing to the next round.

That is how things would play out in the second-leg at Ibrox, but not without a few scares during another great European night in Govan.

Borussia started well and very nearly scored in the first minute of the match after Heinz Eggeling hit a shot straight at Jim Stewart in the Rangers goal. A few minutes later Stewart had to save Rangers again when he ran off his line to stop Turkish internationalist Erdel Keser from running straight through on goal.

After the early scares, however, Rangers settled and slowly started to build momentum – but even then they had to be wary of Dortmund’s ability to hit on the counter-attack.

Towards the end of the first-half Robert Prytz brought out a tremendous save from Eike Immel in the Dortmund goal. From the save, however, Rangers found themselves exposed to yet another counter-attack and Jim Stewart was called into action again, diving at the feet of Keser to prevent the Germans from scoring the crucial away goal they so desperately wanted.

The nerves which surrounded the occasion for Rangers were settled somewhat when they took the lead on the night and in the tie just before the break, thanks to a goal from Davie Cooper.

Davie Cooper opened the scoring and provided the assist for the crucial second goal.

 

Robert Prytz was involved in some good work on the left-hand side and sent over a cross into the box which was nodded down by Derek Johnstone to Bobby Russell. Russell took aim and his shot was deflected across the face of the goal to Davie Cooper who poked the ball into the empty net against a backdrop of claims of offside from the Dortmund defence.

The second-half was more of the same, with Rangers mostly dictating but very aware of the fact that one goal would be enough to see the Germans go through. That made for a tense second 45 minutes and more than one scary moment.

Early on in the second-half Jim Stewart would be called into action again, denying Siegrief Bonighausen the goal that would offer the Germans parity on the night and a route to the next round via the away goals rule.

Then Derek Johnstone came close with a great header which pulled out a fantastic save from Dortmund keeper Immel. The game and tie was as finely balanced as could be and things would not be settled until the 87th minute thanks to Derek Johnstone.

Davie Cooper was again involved in some good work on the right wing, dummying his opponent and going past him to the byline before sending in a fantastic cross with his right foot, which was usually reserved for the prime purpose of standing on. The cross was met by Derek Johnstone at the back post and slammed into the net past the helpless Immel to give Rangers the breathing room in the tie they had so craved.

Dave McKinnon was one of Rangers star performers on the night.

With a two goal lead and only a few minutes to play, there was no way back for the Germans and Rangers would progress to the next round, much to the delight of the sell-out 44,500 crowd crammed into Ibrox.

It had been a fantastic performance and result on the night, with Dave McKinnon, Robert Prytz and Jim Bett worthy of special mentions for their outstanding contributions.

After getting past a German side in the first round Rangers deserved a break in the second-round draw. But fate was to send them to Germany again, this time to face Cologne, a side which included the infamous Harald Schumacher within its ranks, who is best remembered for his shocking challenge on Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup semi-final in Seville between France and Germany.

Rangers would win the first-leg of the tie against Cologne 2-1, thanks to goals from Johnstone again and Ulsterman John McClelland. The Ibrox crowd made their feelings regarding Schumacher well known, booing the keeper loudly on the night.

However Rangers would suffer a crushing 5-0 defeat in the second-leg in Germany and exit the competition at the second-round stage 6-2 on aggregate.

The Dairy: Rangers cast as also-rans again in Old Firm

There was a strong and horrible feeling of déjà vu when leaving Ibrox on Saturday afternoon after another miserable showing against our greatest rivals. There can be little doubt that we Rangers supporters have had more of our fair share of black eyes in recent years. Saturday felt like yet another to add to what feels like an endless line of them at the moment.

The scoreline said 2-0, but in all honesty this could have been another mauling akin to the one Celtic dished out to us in April, particularly in the second-half where Rangers were woefully exposed all over the park. Granted Rangers were dealt a couple of injury blows beforehand, but even still the manner of the defeat was hard to take.

The result leaves Rangers in fifth place and already eight points behind Celtic, six behind Aberdeen and moored in a place that raises more questions over Pedro Caixinha. After the woeful performances in his previous two Old Firm games the form continued on Saturday. The first-half suggested that Rangers could make a fight of it, and were it not for a baffling decision by Craig Thomson not to award a penalty for a tackle on Morelos 13 minutes into the first-half then the game may have taken a different turn.

However the second-half performance was weak and Celtic could have easily added to their tally as they made what seemed a continual progression towards Wes Foderingham’s goal.

But the fact of the matter is that this game alone has not brought questions on Caixinha’s ability to lead Rangers. Nobody really expects Rangers to match Celtic over a season in the current climate. However there must be a concern that Rangers went into this game already five points behind their city rivals after only six games. The main worry for Caixinha is that his side has struggled against the rest, particularly at home where we have won only one of our four games, and that was against a woeful Dundee side.

Take that victory against Neil McCann’s side, and the 6-0 drubbing of Dunfermline in the Betfred Cup, out of the equation and you are left with scrappy and unconvincing performances and results.

Rangers went to Firhill last Friday night with the chance to go top of the league – if only for a short period. But yet again Caixinha’s men choked, dropped points against a very average Thistle side and went into the game on Saturday against Celtic on the back-foot.

Against Celtic Caixinha was let down by more than one of his summer signings, with Graham Dorrans in particular proving to be a big disappointment in his first Old Firm game. But Carlos Pena must also come under the spotlight. The man signed for £2.7m has yet to show anything since arriving in the summer. Too easily brushed off the ball and hesitant and wasteful with possession, he looked way off representing any kind of value for the big money spent on him. I keep hearing the argument that he needs to get fit. Well he has been here for three months now with little sign of that improving.

Pedro has now entered the phase where he has to start winning consistently very soon or he will be up against it. The Betfred Cup semi-final draw provides him with a big opportunity to reach a final. If he can do that and win the next few league games he will ease some of the pressure which is building on him.

The manner of defeat was pretty emphatic but that does not mean that there were not reasons to question some of Craig Thomson’s refereeing of the game. The decision not to award a penalty was, as mentioned earlier, baffling. More so when you consider the same referee awarded Celtic a penalty in an almost identical position a few years back for a tackle by Steven Davis on Anthony Stokes. Famously McGregor saved the spot-kick, but it does point to a worrying lack of consistency in Thomson’s refereeing, other than his ability to make the wrong call. How Thomson saw Morelos’s tackle on Boyata as worthy of the games first booking was equally as puzzling.

You also have to wonder how Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths escaped any kind of censure for their conduct on the park – especially when it came to gesturing to the home support.

Brown in particular has taken advantage of Rangers’ recent woes. A man who used to be anonymous in these games at Ibrox now roams around unchallenged as if he owns the place. If Rangers are going to start having an impact in these games, someone is going to have to meet Brown head-on and put him back in his box. That nobody done that on Saturday is hard to take.

Another issue on Saturday was the behaviour of the Celtic support housed in the Broomloan Rd stand. A support that is continually offended by chants by their oldest rivals seemed quite happy to belt out some ditty about Rangers’ kit man Jimmy Bell being an “orange bastard” etc. In indulging in such behaviour they expose their hypocrisy and that the foundations of the moral high ground they perpetually populate are built on sand.

There was also the issue of a flare being aimed at Wes Foderingham after they scored the first goal, and the continual refusal to return the ball whenever it went into their end – only for it to be thrown back on the park when the replacement ball arrived.

The flare incident is one worthy of watching in terms of any ramifications for Celtic. Rangers volunteered to pay for the damage to Falkirk’s pitch after a flare landed on their new playing surface in Scottish Cup match between the clubs in 2013. The incident caused quite a stir in the media at the time with Mark Guidi in the Daily Record describing the Rangers supporters involved in the incident as “hooligans”.  Given the amount of Uefa fines the Celtic support has attracted recently, it will be interesting to see how the likes of the Record and others view this latest pyro incident. You would imagine there would be a healthy amount of criticism due. I won’t hold my breath though.

However such incidents detract from the real issue. Rangers simply weren’t good enough on Saturday and, young Ross McCrorie aside, who was excellent and arguably the only positive to come out of the game for Rangers, most of the players in that team need to take a long hard look at themselves in terms of how they performed on Saturday – and indeed since the season started.

Saturday was yet another sore one to take. And Rangers yet again have the look of a club that is drifting aimlessly towards mediocrity and uncertainty. Already out of Europe, trailing significantly in the league and facing a tricky semi-final tie in the Betfred Cup, we have the very real prospect of heading into the new year with only one trophy available to us in terms of winning. I don’t care how far behind them we are in financial terms, that is simply unacceptable.

The Invincibles

Picture courtesy of @oldrangerspics

There was, in all honesty, little indication of what was about to unfold. The usual anticipation at dining at the top table of European football was there – and there was a little extra spice and anticipation injected due to the new ‘Champions League’ format. But the truth of the matter is that when Rangers took to the field to face Danish champions Lyngby on 16 September 1992, nobody had any indication of the outstanding European campaign that was about to unfold.

In all Rangers would play ten games in their Champions League campaign of 92/93. They would win six, draw four, lose none and come within one goal of the final in Munich. They would go unbeaten in two enthralling encounters against the eventual winners Marseille – and would beat the English champions Leeds Utd home and away.

The campaign is unprecedented in terms of amount of games unbeaten in Europe by a Scottish club. In their relative campaigns that led to European glory in Barcelona, Lisbon and Gothenburg; Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen would suffer defeat on route to their finest hour, as would Rangers, Celtic and Dundee Utd on their respective journeys to their Uefa Cup final appearances.

To go on such a campaign and not even get a crack at the final feels particularly cruel, more so when you consider the shady shenanigans of Bernard Tapie and Marseille. But the fact that glory ultimately eluded this campaign should not diminish anything from the accomplishment itself.

The campaign started fairly routinely against Danish champions Lyngby. The first leg at Ibrox was secured with a convincing 2-0 win, with Peter Huistra and Mark Hateley bagging the goals. The away leg was a fairly similar affair with Ian Durrant getting the only goal and securing the win and a berth in the second round knock-out stage.

Who Rangers would play next became a subject of conjecture due to a critical error on behalf of VfB Stuttgart in their first-round tie against Leeds Utd. With a 3-0 first-leg win secured, Stuttgart suffered a 4-1 defeat at Elland Road – putting them through on away goals. However in the closing minutes of the game Stuttgart fielded an ineligible player – bringing on a fourth foreigner and breaching Uefa’s three foreigner rule. The game was awarded to Leeds Utd by the same scoreline as the first-leg and the tie declared a draw.

Rather than throwing Stuttgart out of the competition, the ruling body ordered a one-off play-off match between the two clubs in a neutral ground – Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium. When Leeds Utd secured the victory in the Catalan capital with a 2-1 scoreline, a ‘Best of British’ feast was secured between the champions of Scotland and England.

People often talk about their favourite atmosphere at Ibrox, many of those of us lucky enough to have been there the night Leeds Utd rolled into town will cite this as the night that couldn’t be topped in terms of drama and atmosphere.

The game would be one of the all-time European classics to be held at the famous old ground – with Rangers securing a home victory to take to the second-leg thanks to goals by McCoist and an own goal from Leeds keeper John Lukic, but only after coming back from an early Gary McAllister strike.

The second-leg tie at Elland Road would go down as one the greatest nights in Rangers’ European history. Written off completely by the English press in particular, Rangers went down to face the champions of England to a backdrop of the game being a routine victory for the Yorkshire side. But Rangers took an early lead through Mark Hateley, which cancelled out United’s away goal at Ibrox, and left Rangers sitting pretty in the tie.

Leeds had a fine side at the time and their stars included the aforementioned Gary McAllister, current Scotland boss Gordon Strachan, the late Gary Speed and Frenchman Eric Cantona. Cantona in particular would go on a mission to get Leeds into the group stages – only to be denied time and again by Andy Goram, who arguably put in his best performance in a Rangers jersey.

Done and dusted: McCoist puts Rangers 2-1 up Elland Road (4-1 up on agg) and secures Rangers’ place as the first British club to play in the Champions League.

The battling spirit that defined this side came to the fore on this night as Rangers dug in to ensure their place in the first ever Champions’ League group stage. Time and again they defied Leeds and then on the hour mark came the moment that sealed the tie. Rangers broke up the park on the counter through Ian Durrant, who sent Hateley away down the left-hand side. The big Englishman looked up and sent in a magnificent cross for his strike partner Ally McCoist who headed past Lukic and killed off the tie. A late Eric Cantona goal would prove to be nothing but a consolation for Leeds and Rangers progressed. After the game the team was joined in the away dressing room celebrations by Sir Alex Ferguson. “You couldn’t have seen a prouder Scot” said John Brown on Sir Alex’s mood that evening.

Rangers had secured their place in the first ever group stage of the Champions League in fantastic fashion. Unlike today, however, only champions entered the competition and so there were only two groups of four. Rangers were drawn in Group A with Marseille, Club Brugge and CSKA Moscow. Group B compromised of AC Milan, IFK Göteborg, Porto and PSV Eindhoven. The winner of each group would meet in the final in Munich.

The first game of the group was against the big spenders in Europe at that time, Marseille. And it was not difficult to see that French side were strong contenders for the competition outright as they gave Rangers a footballing lesson for most of the game, taking a 2-0 lead through Alen Bokšić and Rudi Vőller, which in all honesty could have been a lot more.

But just when all was seemingly lost, Rangers pulled a result out of the jaws of defeat. On 75 minutes Walter Smith introduced Gary McSwegan to the fray, replacing Trevor Steven, and within a minute he had made a huge impact by scoring a marvellous header that brought Rangers right back into the match when they were seemingly out if it.

A now seriously re-invigorated Rangers sensed that there was a result in the offing where previously there had been none, and with eight minutes remaining Mark Hateley scored the equaliser that secured Rangers a point.

Gary McSwegan celebrates his goal against Marseille at Ibrox.

Next stop was Bochum in Germany to take on CSKA Moscow. Due to the severe weather in Russia the game was switched to a neutral venue – and at their first time of asking Rangers secured a Champions League victory on foreign soil with a an early Ian Ferguson goal securing the three points.

Then came the double-header against Club Brugge. The away leg came first where Rangers would again battle back from a losing position to secure a point. Tomasz Dziubinski scored right on half-time to give Brugge the lead, but Rangers came storming back in second-half and Peter Huistra scored a deserved equaliser on 73 minutes.

Now at the half-way stage of the group, Rangers were sitting joint top of the table with Marseille.

Ian Ferguson celebrates scoring the goal that secured an away win for Rangers in the Champions League at the first time of asking.

The second-part of the double header would prove to be crucial and costly in equal measures. The game itself was another cracker. Rangers took the lead on 41 minutes through Ian Durrant, but the game, and indeed the campaign, was turned on its head when Mark Hateley was sent off just before half-time.

Things got even worse for Rangers just seven minutes after the restart when Lorenzo Staelens pulled Brugge level and left Rangers in a precarious position. However fate was to be behind the Glasgow giants yet again.

With 18 minutes remaining, Scott Nisbet threw in a cross that was deflected on the way in to the box. The deflection put a wicked spin on the ball and as it bounced in the penalty box it inexplicably changed direction and went over a bemused Dany Verlinden’s head in the Brugge goal – and gave Rangers a crucial 2-1 lead, which they held on to.

Ian Durrant, who had an outstanding campaign, celebrates scoring against Brugge.

Rangers then headed to the south of France to meet Marseille. The French champions were top of Group A but only on goal difference, which meant if there was a winner in this game then they were through to the final. Rangers, however, were handicapped by the suspension of Mark Hateley after his sending off against Brugge. Given the magnitude of what was at stake, this was a big miss.

Marseille started well and took the lead on 18 minutes through Franck Sauzée. The French side looked up for the game and had a other chances to go further ahead, the signs started to look ominous for Rangers. But as they had done so often in this campaign, they dug deep and came out with another moment to treasure early in the second-half.

Trevor Steven swept in a corner which was headed out towards the edge of the box, where the on-running Ian Durrant hit an outrageous shot with the outside of his right foot into the far corner of Fabien Barthez’s goal. In the remainder of the match both teams came close to securing the goal which would have booked their place in the first Champions League final – but yet again the teams couldn’t be separated and so it was down to the last game to decide the group.

Durrant again celebrates a vital Champions League goal – this time in Marseille. If Rangers had scored another on the night they were in the final.

Rangers would play host to CSKA Moscow and Marseille would head to Brugge. Again the atmosphere at Ibrox was electric when both teams came out of the tunnel. After nine games in a bruising campaign, Rangers were potentially 90 minutes away from a European Cup final – but their luck was just about to run out.

Marseille got the early goal they needed in Brugge to settle any nerves they may have been feeling – thanks to an early Bokšić strike.

Rangers, meanwhile, struggled to break down the CSKA defence – with chance after chance going begging. Ally McCoist missed several key chances, Trevor Francis hit the bar when it seemed easier to score and even John Brown brought out a huge save from Evgeni Plotnikov, who had an inspired night in the CSKA goal. No matter how hard they tried, Rangers just couldn’t get the goal to secure the victory.

It was all academic in the end, however, as Marseille held on to their 1-0 lead in Brugge and secured their place in the final, where they would beat AC Milan thanks to a goal by future Ranger Basile Boli.

A dejected Ally McCoist and Richard Gough after the final group game against CSKA Moscow.

After the final whistle against CSKA the disappointment was palpable, but there was still a sense of pride at the enormous achievement the players had secured with their efforts. To go ten games undefeated in Europe – against the calibre of players and clubs Rangers came up against in that campaign – was incredible. One more goal in Marseille would have done it – in fact swapping a draw in the group stage for a win from the knock-out stages would have got Rangers there too. But it wasn’t to be.

Given how football has gone over the last 25 years you have to wonder if the 92/93 campaign won’t only represent the last time Rangers come close to winning Europe’s top prize, but the last time a Scottish club puts in a serious challenge for the big cup.

Domestically Rangers would secure a famous treble in 92/93 – but it is the European campaign that brings most pride from that magnificent season. They were a side that just didn’t know when they were beaten – regardless of the opposition.

Francis of Govan

Trevor Francis turns out for Rangers debut against Dunfermline – 12 September 1987.

In these days of £200m transfer fees and wages that resemble the turnover of a medium sized company, it is hard to imagine that back in annals of footballing history the first million pound transfer in this country would cause shock and a decent amount of outrage.  But that is exactly what happened in 1979 when Trevor Francis signed for Nottingham Forest.

Brian Clough would claim that the deal was for £999,999 – in an attempt to ease the pressure and expectation that would come for Francis as the first British million pound player. But with VAT and other sundries, the deal would reach an outlay of £1.18m.

Francis and Clough at the press conference to announce the million pound move.

Francis was presented to the media in bizarre fashion after completing his historic move – with Clough wearing a bright red sports jacket and holding a squash racket, and treating the whole thing as an inconvenience on his social commitments for the day. Francis would famously score the goal that won Forest the European Cup in Munich against a Malmo side that contained Robert Prytz within its ranks. But that golden moment aside, the general feeling is one of Francis buckling under the burden of the huge transfer fee and failing to reach the heights expected of him at Forest.

He would move to Manchester City in 1981, before moving again to Italy and Sampdoria in 1982. Two years later he would be joined by Graeme Souness in Italy, where a friendship would blossom and the seeds for Francis eventually moving to Ibrox in 1987 were sown.

Souness and Francis at Sampdoria.

Francis signed for Rangers from Atlanta in 1987 for a fee of £75,000. Some way off the huge money that Forest paid for eight years previously – and some way off the money Rangers were spending at that specific time. But Souness knew the player well and felt he was getting a bargain. Francis made his debut for Rangers against Dunfermline at Ibrox on 12 September, 1987.

Now aged 34, the club had decided to protect themselves a little and put the veteran on a then unique ‘pay-as-you-play’ deal. After this impressive debut there was a feeling he would earn well as he put in a marvellous performance in front of 39,749 spectators on a gloriously sunny early autumn day at Ibrox.

With one eye on the impending journey to Kiev to face Dynamo in the first round of the European Cup, Rangers re-introduced Terry Butcher to the starting line-up, who had been out recently through injury. A few weeks later his season would be over after a leg break against Aberdeen.

Rangers, and particularly Ally McCoist, were on rampant form on the day and the Fifers would fail to warm the gloves of Chris Woods and wouldn’t  muster a shot on target in the entire game.

The first goal came as early as the fifth minute, and would set the tone for the rest of the match. Ian McCall won the ball in the middle of the park and sent Robert Fleck through on the inside-left channel. Fleck held the play up, beat his man and sent the ball into the box where McCoist would head it in off the post.

The game then became about Trevor Francis as he showed the Ibrox crowd a little of what had made Brian Clough spend all that money all those years ago. Time and again he caused havoc on the right wing, putting in a tremendous shift and ensuring his debut was a success.

Rangers didn’t need to wait too long for goal number two, with it arriving just before the half-hour mark.

Derek Ferguson, who would put in another classy display on the day, sent a lovely pass into the box for McCoist who lobbed Westwater from close in. Rangers were 2-0 up and on easy street.

There is little doubt that season 87/88 was the season that McCoist truly came to the fore. Always a consistent goal-scorer, he had somehow not managed to convince many of his wares. This would be the season that would change and he would make the number nine jersey his own for a few seasons thereafter.

Rangers went in at half-time 2-0 up, Dunfermline looked like they knew already there was no way back.

The second-half continued to be the procession to the Pars’ goal that the first-half had been, with Rangers having more than one chance to extend the lead. But the third wouldn’t arrive until the 79th minute – thanks to that man McCoist again.

Souness, who had come on to replace Durrant, picked up a loose ball and sent a perfect curving pass through to McCoist who ran in on goal and put the ball past the helpless Westwater for the third time. His hatrick completed, the goal brought McCoist’s tally for the season to 14 in seven games – not to mention two goals on international duty. The day was meant to be about the arrival of Francis, but the limelight had been stolen slightly by the Rangers number nine.

Cooper came on to replace McCoist with ten minutes to go. Souness deciding to protect his goal-scorer for critical forthcoming Euro tie and allow Cooper, who was ineligible for the trip to Kiev, a run-out in the final few minutes.

Cooper’s first contribution nearly brought the debut goal for Francis the whole crowd was hoping for. Delivering a defence splitting pass that put the Englishman in on goal, Francis blasted his effort high-and-wide into the Copland Rd stand and the chance was gone. The goal-scoring wasn’t complete though.

On the 85th minute came what was arguably be the moment of the match when the player-manager got in on the act with a goal of outrageous beauty.

Picking up a weak clearance around 20 yards from goal, Souness pulled his foot back and set himself up to shoot. Two despairing challenges came in to block the effort, but Souness simply touched the ball past the despairing defenders, walked in on Westwater and passed the ball into the net with a neat left-foot finish and to make the final score a convincing 4-0.

Souness was delighted with the result and the contribution of his new signing commenting: “He did well, didn’t he? He’s an experienced player and he’ll get better. He’ll prove to be a real asset for us”. That, unfortunately, wouldn’t be the case. Francis would mostly struggle at Ibrox in his short career there and he was moved on in March 1988 – a mere six months after signing – with only 18 appearances under his belt an no goals to his name. His greatest moment would come in the Skol Cup final victory against Aberdeen, scoring his penalty in the shootout and putting the supporters through the emotional wringer by famously taking a one-step run-up before despatching it past Jim Leighton.

The game against Dunfermline had an interested spectator in Valeri Lobanovski, the Dynamo Kiev coach, but he found the trip mainly unhelpful stating: “The opposition was weak, so it wasn’t the match to assess Rangers properly”.

He would find out the hard way over the next two weeks just how good Rangers were.

Rangers and Scotland

Lee Wallace turns out for Scotland – something that many in the Tartan Army are not in favour of.

 

I have to admit that in all my years of having an interest in football I can’t really recall a time when I felt as much apathy towards Scotland taking on England at Wembley as I did last month.

Such a fixture has traditionally set the heart racing a wee bit, and injected a sense of patriotism seldom seen when Scotland play against other sides. But this occasion felt oddly flat in terms of excitement for what is the oldest footballing rivalry in the world. The reason for such a lack of interest can be put down to one of many things.

Certainly there has been a deep malaise about all things Scotland since we somehow managed to not qualify for the Euro’s in the summer. It is still difficult to understand how we allowed a plodding Republic of Ireland side to pip us to the play-off spot.

To be the only nation from the UK not to be at the finals in France was embarrassing, and results thereafter seem to indicate that Gordon Strachan has taken the nation as far as he can. That he has re-adopted his sarcastic answer and tone policy when dealing with difficult questions from the media would add weight to that view.

Another reason I felt a level of apathy about the fixture was the nonsense decision to have Scotland playing in their pink away kit. That said, as much as a nonsense that decision was, it was no worse a decision than the one made by whoever in the SFA approved a Scotland home kit design with white sleeves! Such stuff might seem trivial, but I genuinely get miffed at kit designs these days. Maybe it’s an age thing, but the general feeling I have with kits these days is one of how difficult can it be to design a simple kit without resorting to gimmicks, fluorescent colours and designs that would make you question the eyesight of the person who designed it.

The above issues all played their part in my apathy, but there was also a deeper rooted reason for feeling far removed from any excitement over Scotland taking on the ‘Auld Enemy’. One that is related to the general view from supporters of other clubs and the Tartan Army towards Rangers.

Now traditionally, as the biggest club in Scotland, we have always had a certain level of distain and even hatred aimed towards us. I had always felt, however, there was a limit to how far that hatred would go. In recent years I would suggest that has changed.

Certainly in the last year or two there have been enough incidents to make you feel that not only is there a hatred towards Rangers, but it has manifested itself into a feeling that acts of violence against Rangers supporters are legitimate and acceptable.

Two primary school aged Rangers supporters getting bottled in separate Old Firm games certainly indicates a sense of “fair game” when it comes to those of us who have noses tinged with blue.

The disgraceful scenes at Motherwell in the Championship play-off last year were also a sign of the “it’s acceptable if it’s Rangers” mentality that is sweeping the nation.

The chaos at the Scottish Cup Final is probably the greatest example of this mentality. My own experience at the game was one that can only be described as fearful, due to me being there with my 11 year old son.

The minute the Hibs fans came on the park I knew what was about to unfold. I knew they would make their way down to the Rangers end and look for trouble – and they did. What I didn’t see at the time, though, was the several assaults on players and staff – this was due to me making a hasty exit with young boy who was bemused at why I was practically dragging out the stadium with great haste. The full scale of what had evolved only came to light when I saw the TV footage later that evening.

But the fact that the Hibs fans felt it was necessary to come on the park at all says everything you need to know about the mentality amongst the fans of other clubs when it comes to Rangers.

Would they have come on like that if they had just beat Inverness Caley Thistle? Of course they wouldn’t have. The reason they came on is because they felt validated in going on to create havoc and assault players purely because it was Rangers. I’m not even convinced they would have come on park in such a manner if they’d played Hearts that day.

Another reason for feeling peripheral when it comes to the Scotland set-up has been the treatment of Rangers players by the SFA and, specifically, the Tartan Army. Certainly with the latter there are blatant contradictions when it comes to dishing out abuse to players who have “abandoned their country”.

For instance, back in his Everton days Davie Weir walked out on Scotland when Berti Vogts was in charge. He returned a while later to not so much as a ripple of resentment from the Tartan Army.

Same goes for Scott Brown who came out of “international retirement” for the glamour game at Wembley. It appears nobody had any issue with the fact he’d walked out but now wanted back in. It seems even less of an issue that he put in a display weaker than Tesco Value tea!

Compare Weir and Brown’s experience to that of Kris Boyd’s, who walked out of the Scotland set-up under Craig Levein whilst a Rangers player. When he came back into the fold he was roundly booed by the Tartan Army for his “betrayal”.

If you want a more recent example compare Brown’s experience to that of Lee Wallace, who has never indicated that he doesn’t want to be considered for selection for his country – and yet is persona non grata amongst the Tartan Army and whose name was booed by a fair percentage of them at a recent game. They even have their own “Lee Wallace is a Grass” banner.

Go back further and you can compare the inconsistencies in Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor’s experiences after their booze and gesture shame a few years back. The former was told to go away and never return for his part in the shenanigans. When a possible reintroduction for Ferguson was mooted further down the line there was outright mutiny within the ranks of the Tartan Army. Ferguson, sensing this, decided against looking at the possibility of returning.

McGregor was also roundly despised by the Tartan Army until he left Rangers in the summer of 2012 when financial calamity hit the club. From this point onwards he seems to have been bestowed upon him a new found acceptance to the fold. A strange stance to take given McGregor’s and Ferguson’s crimes were identical.

Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor commit  a similar offence – McGregor would be allowed back in to the fold, Ferguson wouldn’t be.

All of the above show that the relationship between Rangers and Scotland is now a very fractured and complex one, and one heavily influenced by a shifting constitutional and political landscape. If I’m honest, I get that. I also get that we’re a unionist club and that in this current climate a lot of people don’t like the union or anything that is affiliated with it. What I don’t get is how far people are prepared to take things.

I don’t get that they’re prepared to boo players who are representing their country purely because of the football club they play for. I don’t get that some feel validated in invading pitches and assaulting players because of the club they play for. I really don’t get that at least two people thought it was acceptable to put a bottle in a two young boys faces because of the club they support.

Some will argue that some of the above are isolated incidents. I would question that and argue that there is a deep rooted and unhealthy hatred towards Rangers in this country that bordering on being out of control. And whilst it remains that way I would suggest the relationship between Rangers and Scotland – one that was once a very strong one – will remain fractured for some time.