The Promised Land: The Story of Darkness on the Edge of Town

Bruce Springsteen in 1978.

It has often been commented on that it is hugely ironic that the man who best represents blue-collared, working-class America in the arts is a man who has never had a proper job in his life. It is an irony that is not lost on Bruce Springsteen. He is also very aware that his nickname, The Boss, also carries a certain amount of irony given he’s never had one in the traditional sense.

Bruce Springsteen’s life changed immeasurably and permanently in 1975 with the release of Born to Run, an album which saved and arguably still defines his career to this day. After years of trying and falling short, he had finally hit on the formula – on what was arguably his last throw of the dice – which brought him the success and critical acclaim he had craved. Nothing, it seemed, could blot his apparently permanently sun kissed horizon. He was up and running and nothing could stop him, or so he thought. However, by the time Springsteen came to record Born to Run’s follow-up, Darkness on the Edge of Town, he had found out the hard way, and to his own financial cost, that fame and success can sometimes be a double-edged sword.

Within a year of Born to Run being released Springsteen was in a heavy legal dispute with his manager Mike Appel to regain the rights to his own songs, which he had unknowingly and naively signed away on a contract he didn’t even take the time to read. As Springsteen became increasingly suspicious about his deal with Mike Appel he sought counsel in John Landau, a music critic whom Springsteen had befriended and was beginning to trust above anyone else.

Landau agreed to help and arranged for his attorney to review the contracts which Springsteen had signed, and as suspected they were heavily weighted against Springsteen and in favour of Appel.

To suggest that Springsteen was being taken for a ride is an understatement. In fact such was the poor nature of practically every clause in Springsteen’s contracts that top entertainment lawyer David Benjamin – who Landau had brought in and who would later take on Springsteen’s legal work – audibly gasped in disbelief when he read them. Benjamin suspected that the contracts were so loaded with ‘every trick in the book’ that it was highly unlikely that a relative novice to management like Appel could be responsible and suggested that Appel’s lawyer, Jules Kruz, was more likely to be the man behind them. However, regardless of who the culprit was, Springsteen’s sense of injustice and paranoia had been pricked by the revelations and he wanted out. Landau took over responsibility for looking after Springsteen’s affairs – starting a working relationship that is still running to this very day – and the legal battle to release Springsteen from the cash draining deals with Appel began.

The process was long (10 months of courtroom exchanges) and arduous, and it meant that Springsteen and the E Street Band – which included the likes of Roy Bittan, Clarence Clemons and long-term collaborator Steve Van Zandt – didn’t enter the studio until June 1977 to begin work on Darkness on the Edge of Town.

The sessions started in Atlantic Studios in midtown Manhattan and latterly moved to the Record Plant. Landau and Van Zandt oversaw production duties. The sessions were long and blighted by technical issues, the first being a faulty rigging in the studio which impacted on the sound of Max Weinberg’s drums – an issue that was never really fixed.

Springsteen was aware of the pressure he was under to deliver an album of similar magnitude to Born to Run and confided in Elvis Costello that he was feeling the heat stating: “In the end my music was always about identity, identity, identity. Who am I? Where do I belong? What is the code I am trying to live by?” The fact was that by this point Springsteen was unsure of himself and couldn’t answer any of these questions.

The switch in mindset on Darkness…. is obvious. On Born to Run Springsteen promised us that we’d “get to that place” and “walk in the sun” and told his sweetheart Mary in ‘Thunder Road’ that they were in a town ‘full of losers’ and needed to get away in order to attain their hopes and dreams. On Darkness… Springsteen seems to be offering hints that he had chased his dreams successfully and came out of the experience bruised and questioning the point of it all.

In ‘Adam Raised a Cain’, a song that charts Springsteen’s troubled relationship with his father, he tells us: “Daddy worked his whole life for nothing but the pain. Now he walks these empty rooms looking for something to blame. But you inherit the sins, you inherit the flames.”

In ‘Factory’ Springsteen sounds even bleaker: “Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain, I see my daddy walking through them factory gates in the rain. Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life, The working, the working, just the working life.”

The overriding sense on Darkness… is one that Springsteen – the boy who has never had a job in his life – has discovered a sense of what it is like to face the daily toil of the steel mill, the factory or the kitchen. To put the effort in and get very little back. He has discovered what it is really like to be powerless in the land of the free. For the first time his optimism has been pierced, and he is shaken as a result.

Although he has never had a job, Springsteen’s childhood meant he was well versed in how working class communities operated, stating in his autobiography: “My sisters and I grew up in blue-collar neighbourhoods, somewhat integrated, filled with factory workers, cops, firemen, long-distance truck drivers. I never saw a man leave the house in a jacket and tie unless it was a Sunday or he was in trouble. If you came knocking at our door with a suit on, you were immediately under suspicion. You wanted something.”  The experience with Appel appears to have reawakened Springsteen’s inbred working class suspicion of authority. The result being that the hopes and dreams of Born to Run are replaced on Darkness… with a more sinister realisation of what working world can do to you. There is anger and hurt on this album – something that wasn’t prevalent on Born to Run. However, despite the overriding bleak mood of Darkness…  , it does provide one glimpse of optimism on ‘The Promised Land’ – a song borne out of a road trip with Van Zandt and photographer Eric Meola.

All three flew to Salt Lake City, jumped in a red 1965 Ford Galaxie 500XL convertible and headed for the deserts of Utah, driving fully 30 hours and investigating every nook and cranny of the seemingly endless desert. When they stopped at a small gas station, Meola took the opportunity to take out the camera and take some shots. One showed Springsteen leaning on the car, the enormous emptiness of the desert sprawling behind him with a huge and extremely dark storm cloud hanging in the horizon.

Meola’s iconic image of Springsteen in the Utah desert. The inspiration for the song ‘The Promised Land’ brews in the distance.

All three of them watched the storm from a safe distance, Meola claimed he had never seen anything like it. They then drove further up the dusty road before sleeping in the car overnight. All through that hot and humid night there were dogs howling in one of the streets of the small town where they had settled. In the morning they headed back to Salt Lake City for the flight home.

Meola returned with several iconic images, but Springsteen also came back with inspiration and used the events of that night as the foundation for ‘The Promised Land’.

Lyrics like “On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert”, “The dogs on Main Street howl ‘Cause they understand” and “There’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor, I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm” are directly derived from the road trip with Van Zandt and Meola, and despite ‘The Promised Land’ encapsulating a lot of the overall bleakness of Darkness… – “ I’ve done my best to live the right way, I get up every morning and go to work each day, But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold, Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode” – the song’s overall mood is one of defiance and belief that there is something better out there.

By the time the recording session for Darkness… finished, Springsteen and his band had amassed 70 songs – although only ten would make the final cut.  Most were discarded, some were handed to other artists (most famously with ‘Because the Night’ going to Patti Smith) and some appeared in Springsteen’s next album, The River.

Darkness… was released on 2 June 1978 to lukewarm reviews. Jon Tobler stated in his review for ZigZag that: “I refuse to allow any sentiment to colour my feeling that this album is pretty ordinary”. Peter Silverton commented in Sounds that Springsteen “sounds a frightened man”. Such reviews, however, did not prevent the NME naming it as its album of the year ahead The Jam’s All Mod Cons, Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model and Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings & Food.

Darkness on the Edge of Town is a pivotal album in the Springsteen roster. Despite appreciation for it being slow on its release, it was a strong enough album to convince the wider public that Born to Run wasn’t a fluke. It also displayed a level of anger and sense of injustice surrounding class inequality that Springsteen wouldn’t revisit to the same degree until 2012 and Wrecking Ball.

But the main thing about Darkness… is Springsteen’s own realisation that, despite being the boy from the blue-collared neighbourhood who avoided having to do a proper job, he was not immune to the feeling of despair and vulnerability that was par for the course for working class America.

As Pete Silverton said: “He sounds a frightened man”.

 

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.

 

 

The Diary

Delight in Dingwall

It was far from convincing at times, but it can’t be denied that Rangers securing three points on Sunday in Dingwall against Ross County was very welcome.

Rangers, and Pedro Caixinha in particularly, had been under a bit of pressure after dropping five points in two consecutive home games against Hibs and then Hearts. So victory against the Highlanders came at the right time.

There were definitely some positives to take from Sunday. The goal-scoring form of Alfredo Morelos is a definitely something to take heart from. The Columbian’s two goals took his total to five in seven games for Rangers – a very decent foundation for better things, we hope.

It was also good to see Eduardo Herrera get off the mark. The big Mexican has looked laboured at times since arriving at Ibrox. Netting his first goal will hopefully give him some confidence and the springboard to go and get some more.

Causes for concern are still there though and we are definitely still a work in progress.

The fleeting appearances of Carlos Peña continue to raise more questions than answers. It is early days, but as things stand there is little evidence to suggest he is worth the £2.7m we forked out for the Mexican internationalist. Hopefully as the games tot up and his fitness improves he’ll become the player we all want him to be.

I also have concerns about Fabio Cardoso who has still to really convince at the heart of the defence, and I would also like to see more of the Graham Dorrans we saw on the opening game of the season at Motherwell.  But these are kinks that can hopefully be ironed out.

It’s undoubtedly been a stuttering start to the campaign, but September provides a great opportunity for Rangers to gain a good few points. With Dundee at home and Thistle and Hamilton away in the league, there is an opportunity to get maximum points from these games. Win our other home game in September against our cherished neighbours from across the city and all of a sudden it’s been a real good month and Pedro has gone some way to convincing the doubters.

 

Pedro bites back

We all know that Chris Sutton is a buffoon. He acted like one as player – particularly when he claimed on live TV that Dunfermline had chucked in the towel deliberately against Rangers in the last game of the 2002/03 campaign to hand Alex McLeish’s men the title – and he continues to act like one in his punditry role.

His style of being deliberately and needlessly controversial is tedious and his patter with his partner in crime Terry Butcher is truly awful. BT Sports could do a lot worse than to review the pundits covering their Scottish coverage.

But regardless of how crass Sutton can be, even I was taken aback by his questioning of Pedro Caixinha on Sunday at Dingwall. At times during his aggressive and obnoxious grilling of Pedro you had to remind yourself that Rangers had indeed won the game – and not only that, closed the gap on Celtic by two points.

Compare and contrast Sutton and BT’s attack on Pedro, whose team had won, compared with Sky’s line of questioning of Arsène Wenger, whose team had been thumped again, produced a woeful performance and had lost their second game in a row. Wenger was asked some difficult questions – but they were relevant to the game and were asked respectfully.

Sutton’s line of questioning focused on Pedro’s squad compared to Celtic’s – a team that weren’t even playing on the day. That tells you all you need to know about his motivation. What made it worse was that two former Rangers players – one a so called legend – stood there and said nothing to back Pedro up.

Admittedly Pedro doesn’t help himself at times. His needless and crass comments on Michael O’Halloran are testament to that. But that is no excuse for the bankrupt pig farmer to blatantly attempt to undermine and humiliate him live on TV.

As stated earlier, BT Sports would do well to review what it is they want from their pundits, because in this world of free streams of almost any game you want to watch being plentiful, the gutter standard of Sutton and Butcher will drive many BT subscribers elsewhere.

The best there is, was and ever will be

Last week saw the draw for this season’s Champions League. Unfortunately we are still some way off participating in this tournament, however it is worth noting that this year sees the 25th anniversary of Rangers momentous and unbeaten European campaign of 92/93 when they became the first British club to compete the in the revamped Champions League.

The run would see Rangers go on a ten game unbeaten run and come within a GOAL of reaching the final where they would have taken on the mighty but ailing AC Milan.

The campaign would also see Rangers defeat the champions of England Leeds Utd – home and away – and go two games undefeated against eventual winners and European footballs biggest spenders at the time, Marseille. And remember, all this with a three foreigner rule forbidding you from buying in foreign exports. Now that’s what I call ‘invincible’.

The season will forever be my favourite as Rangers supporter, and it gave me most memorable evening at Ibrox in the game against Leeds Utd. I know Ibrox can noisy on most big European nights, but this was another level. A truly marvellous occasion that I take great pride in being part of.

Those famous European nights will not go without comment on this site over the next few months – so keep your eye out for some great Champions League memories!

Last orders: The story of Be Here Now

On 11 August 1996, Oasis played the first of their two monumental gigs at Knebworth. On that infamous weekend, over a quarter of a million people would watch this band of working-class scallies from Burnage, Manchester who had taken the country by storm since the release of their debut album Definitely Maybe two years previously.

The gigs were supposed to represent the next step in the seemingly eternal upward trajectory of the band. In truth, it would represent the peak of their powers, fame and musical relevance. Within a year they would release Be Here Now, an album that would prove to be the beginning of the end as far as the mania that surrounded Oasis was concerned.

Oasis had seemingly taken to the outrageous levels of celebrity with ease, but the reality was that the excess that had consumed the band since their arrival to the mainstream had taken its toll. The drugs, decadence, hedonism and excess had pushed the band to their individual and collective mental limits. Released 20 years ago this week, Be Here Now was the result of that excess.  Overblown, over produced, too extravagant and too self-indulgent, it was the first sign that the party had gone on for too long.

The first exposure of Be Here Now came at the Knebworth gigs – as well as their appearance at Balloch in Loch Lomond. The set-list for the behemoth events  included ‘My Big Mouth’ and ‘The Girl in the Dirty Shirt’. Both were received positively. If these songs were a sign of things to come then surely the Oasis bandwagon would keep on rolling?

 

Saturday 3rd August 1996: Oasis come on stage at Loch Lomond

However all was not entirely well within the camp. The constant feuding between the Gallagher brothers was an ever present of the Oasis circus, but as the pressure and exposure reached Beatlemania heights, the fights became more intense and things came to a head on the eve of a U.S tour in late ’96 when Liam Gallagher refused to set foot on a plane and left the band at the departure lounge at Heathrow airport. As had happened countless times previously, a reconciliation was reached – but not before Noel walked out of the same tour and flew back to England.

With hindsight, one of the main problems with Be Here Now is that it was recorded directly after the frenzy that had followed (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?. It was felt by Alan McGee at Creation and Noel Gallagher that they should strike with their third album whilst the hype was still at its peak. But that proved to be easier said than done and with the benefit of hindsight it seems obvious that a break from the madness could have benefited Oasis.

With all that came with (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – touring, promotion, endless appearances and interviews – Gallagher had not written anything new in eight months. When he did sit down to start Be Here Now he discovered he had writers block, and fear and doubt gripped Gallagher for the first time.

There was a time when Gallagher was so confident and consistent in his writing powers that he would casually disregard genuinely great songs as B sides. Now in the middle of the biggest party of his life and financially secure, he found the motivation to write hard to come by. It took a break in Mustique with regular producer Owen Morris for Gallagher to finally sit down and start writing. But even then the experience was different, with Gallagher having to be disciplined and committed in order to get the songs out. For the first time in Gallagher’s life, writing felt like a job rather than escapism.

“You’ve now released three albums, Noel – how many of them are good?”

 

Recording started in Abbey Rd, however due to excessive press intrusion the sessions were scrapped and the band decamped to Ridge Farm in Surrey. But even away from the capital and all that it has to offer, Oasis could not free themselves from the bloated excess that had now come to define them.

Noel Gallagher initially said of the sessions that it felt like being in a band again. However as the years rolled past the true extent of the excessive cocaine use at Ridge Farm would come to light. In terms of the end product, Oasis were careering down the wrong path with no one within the band, the wider circle or the record label willing enough or capable enough of stopping them.

The result of this was the two main problems with Be Here Now: layer upon layer of heavy guitars – and an average track time of over six minutes. If there is an album that is a metaphor for the overbearing, overly loud guy on a night out who just doesn’t know when it’s time to stop, Be Here Now is it.

The first product of the sessions released for public consumption was the single ‘D’You Know What I Mean’, which was received well. The single was almost like a ‘return to arms’ statement – a theme that was extended to the military-esque style video. But despite the single reaching No 1 – and shifting 750,000 copies – there were signs contained within it of what was to come. Lasting over six minutes with excessive distortion, Morse code and guitars, the warning signs were there.

Even the album cover became an exercise in excess. Originally planned to have four individual shots of the band members – with Liam making a cameo appearance in each shot to ensure all five band members were accounted for, things soon had to change when concerns started to grow about the cost of such a cover. Ideas from individual band members for their shots ranged from relaxing by a swimming pool with a Rolls Royce submerged in it, to lying on a beach in St Lucia. The former – by Bonehead – was deemed a great idea and would make the final cut of the revamped proposal which would be a single shot of all the band members.

The shoot for the cover took place at Stocks Hotel in Hertfordshire, which was the former home of Playboy magnate, Victor Lownes. The first problem for the shoot was that the hotel was a working hotel, and so it soon became besieged when word of Oasis’ attendance became public. Secondly, the excess that followed Oasis wherever they went kicked in again and alcohol consumption reached levels that made it almost impossible to work. By early evening, the shoot had become a chaotic shambles.

Sitting by your pool on your classic Zündapp Bella scooter, whilst admiring the semi-submerged classic Rolls Royce – just another normal day in the world of Oasis.

It was widely believed that the cover held many cryptic messages. Bonehead is holding a giant Yale key in the style of a guitar, Noel is looking through a telescope at giant inflated globe, Liam is standing next classic Zündapp Bella scooter… All these things led to speculation about the hidden messages within.

But the reality was they were all props selected at random. The only messages that could be described as cryptic were the license plate on the submerged Rolls Royce (SYO 724F) which is the same as the police van that appears on the cover for The Beatles’ Abbey Road album, and the calendar which shows Thursday, 21 August – the date the album would be released.

Critically the album done very well. However this was largely down to most of the music press being lukewarm in their reception to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?  When it had gone on to be a huge success, reviewers overcompensated with their assessment of Be Here Now in a bid to avoid further embarrassment – only to get it catastrophically wrong for a second time. Q magazine gave it five stars and basically described it as the best thing in the history of mankind ever, but within the hype there were reviewers who weren’t convinced.

Simon Williams at the NME wrote: “Be Here Now is one of the daftest records ever made…tacky and grotesquely over-the-top, Oasis have blithely carried on doing what they always have done…the only difference now is that the songs are louder, longer and a darn sight more expensive”.

Fans were also unconvinced and after the early promising sales, the album started to slow. Not only that, within a few months thousands of copies flooded the second-hand market as unconvinced fans relieved themselves of the chore of having to listen to it again.

History will never look back kindly on Be Here Now. But it has its own legacy. Firstly, it halted the juggernaut that was Oasis almost overnight. Instead of the album taking the band on to new, never before reached levels of hysteria, the spotlight moved away from Oasis almost completely and would never to return.

Secondly, it was the first chink in the armour of Britpop and the hope and positivity that surrounded youth culture at that time. Within three years of the album’s release the hedonistic 90s were gone, Robbie Williams and Coldplay dominated the charts and New Labour had turned out to be Old Tory under a different banner. Within ten years of its release, the banks crumbled and we headed into more austere times where the youth of today’s idea of having it large involves securing two shifts in the same week at their zero hour contract, minimum wage job in a bid to afford the £120 to see Ed Sheeran play live.

The band themselves would never recapture the glory days of Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? From Be Here Now onwards they would only show fleeting glimpses of what they were once capable of, most tellingly on 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth, before eventually crashing and burning in 2009.

Be Here Now is neither Oasis’ best or worst album. But it’s a significant one that deserves its place in history. It was the beginning of the end of Oasis and in a wider context a major mood changer. The previous year at those famous Knebworth gigs youth culture had seemed invincible and in control of its own future. Be Here Now’s lasting legacy could be that it exposed a chink of doubt in that invincibility, and allowed normal service to be resumed.

Joining the vinyl revolution.

There is a scene in T2: Trainspotting, the extremely enjoyable sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s original classic novel, where Renton, Sick Boy and Spud revisit the spot in the highlands where Renton famously declared that it is “shite being Scottish”.

The journey has been retraced to pay respect and homage to Tommy, their departed friend from the first movie who made the original journey with them 20 years previously.

Bored and unmoved by the experience, Sick Boy takes the opportunity to have a pop at Renton and accuses him of being “a tourist in your own youth”.

The comment is a salient one and it highlights the films main theme: obsession with the past.

The theme reoccurs constantly throughout the film and this is heightened by a sense that all the main protagonists from the original have a deep sense of unfulfillment with middle-age and all that it has brought them; loss, insecurity, health issues and a realisation of their own mortality. This is what makes the film connect with its audience, particularly with the forty-somethings of today who were the twenty-somethings of two decades ago when the original swept on to our cinema screens.

It is certainly what resonated most with me when I watched it for the first time, and it is a theme I had thought about long before T2 hit the cinemas in January.  At the age of 44, I am discovering the hard way that there are more and more things that I used to do, or at least take for granted, that have now started to feel uncomfortable because of my age.

Clubbing, for example, is completely off the agenda these days – and has been for some time. On the very rare occasions over the last five/ten years that I have found myself in a club I have felt old, out of sorts and very uncomfortable. If there is any hope of me being a “tourist in my own youth”, it’s not going to be at some trendy city nightspot.

Playing football has also started to feel very different in recent years – especially since I hit 40. At my weekly five-a-side game, for example, I now feel a bit-part player where once I had an impact. Also, I move very differently these days – and not in a way that I can claim to enjoy. I am obviously slower, that’s a given, but there is also the fact that when I run now I literally look like my dad – all his mannerisms are there. Mannerisms, I should add, I used to mock.

I also now have to deal with young players who can’t kick their own arses getting the better of me because they’re quicker and fitter. This is arguably the most frustrating of all the things that middle-age has brought me – that and the three days of aching limbs after a game.

Also, whenever I put a football top on for the fives these days, I look like a fat old man in a football top – again, the type of fat old man in a football top I used mock.

Even the humble trainer is not guaranteed to survive middle-age. Noel Gallagher commented a year-or-two back that any man over the age of fifty shouldn’t be wearing trainers. I have to say that I agree with him on this, and even although I’m six years off that number I am already starting feel uncomfortable in a training shoe – unless, of course, it’s my Adidas Samba’s at the aforementioned fives, which is the mandatory trainer for any man over 40 still kicking a ball.

All-in-all it is fair to say that middle-age has felt pretty bleak so far, and that the mood in T2 is certainly one I can relate to. To paraphrase Renton – “It’s shite being middle aged!”

The realisation of middle-age hits Sick Boy, Renton and Spud in T2: Trainspotting.

Thankfully, however, I have recently discovered – or rediscovered – a salvation which will allow me to be a tourist in my own youth without the indignity having to run like ma da at the fives, wear clothes that are twenty years too young for me or hang around a city nightspot like some sad, seedy devotee of Peter Stringfellow – and that salvation is vinyl.

As many of you will be aware, vinyl has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years. A format that was once considered dead and only for the use of luddites and hipsters, is apparently now cooler than a June afternoon in Glasgow.

My journey back to the past started when the missus bought me a record player earlier this year for my birthday. Middle-age has brought me an ability to be unimaginably unmoved by presents I receive at birthdays and Xmas, but I must say that opening this genuinely put a smile on my face – both in terms of the surprise and, most importantly, the opportunity it presented.

My first foray into vinyl occurred 37 years ago in 1980 when Adam Ant released the single ‘Dog Eat Dog’. I was very young at the time – seven – but it opened a new world to me. Initially I was probably more struck by the look of Adam Ant than I was by the sound; the Hussar jacket, the stripe across the nose, the cane…it all called out to me in a way nothing else had at that point in my life.

But gradually the music also got to me, particularly the multiple waves of drumbeats and the Native American screams and yelps. The seeds for my love of music were sown.

Where it all began: Adam Ant

The King of the Wild Frontier album – from which the ‘Dog Eat Dog’ single was taken – was duly procured, although initially on cassette, and I was off and running in terms of a music collection.

The next stage was acquiring a record player, which my dad got for me, as well as a rake of old 45” singles from a work colleague who no longer wanted them, which included some gems like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ELO’s ‘Livin’ Thing’ on blue vinyl.

For the next two or three years I collected vinyl – mostly singles – ferociously. Adam Ant was the fuel that powered my interest but I also bought several other notable releases including ‘A Town Called Malice’ by The Jam, ‘Senses Working Overtime’ by XTC, ‘I Could be Happy’ by Altered Images and ‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk. I may not yet have been in double figures in terms of age, but I was already displaying an admirable taste in music.

But by 1983 I had lost a bit of interest. Adam and the Ants had crashed and burned, his solo career turned out to be very disappointing and I satisfied myself with getting my music fix every Thursday night on Top of the Pops rather than physically adding to my collection.

The bug to buy again never really returned until the late 80s. In August ’89, at the tender age of 16, I started my first full-time job and took out a hire purchase agreement on a Sony stereo system. By then, however, vinyl was on the way out – replaced by the CD. As if to prove this the vinyl section in Sleeves, my local record shop, was vastly reduced to allow room for the new, superior format.

See that is good thing to about joining the current vinyl revolution, not only does it allow me to be a ‘tourist in my own youth’ without suffering any indignity, but it also allows me the opportunity to recapture what was arguably denied, or at the very least cut short, back in the day due to the assent of the compact disc.

Since I received the record player I have made a weekly jaunt to Record Fayre in Glasgow’s Trongate and slowly but surely started to rebuild a vinyl collection. I have also frequented Fopp and HMV to pick up re-issues, but they tend to be more costly than the second-hand market – and they don’t provide the same sense of nostalgia.

I also recently popped along to a record fair in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Sports Centre. If you’re considering getting back into vinyl I would advise caution at such events. These are the equivalent of an opium field to a junky to those newly reacquainted with vinyl. Within five minutes of entering the place I could have re-mortgaged the house – twice!

My new Wednesday lunchtime hangout: Record Fayre in Glasgow’s Trongate.

I have only been to one so far but my overall advice would be have a budget, stick to it and try and shop about. The urge to buy the first decent thing you find is overwhelming, but given the overall environment is one of being quite over-priced, you might just save a few bob if you apply some patience and look about before making a purchase. I came away with second-hand copies of Bowie’s Low and The Beatles’ Rubber Soul for not too outrageous a price. So they can provide a good hunting ground, but common sense needs to be applied or you could spend a fortune on overpriced goods.

Even on a recent family holiday to north Wales I succumbed to the call of vinyl. With the family enjoying the sun on the beach in Rhyl, I sneaked off to visit to record shop I had Googled prior to the visit. Again I done not too badly, coming away with Springsteen’s Born in the USA, The Stranglers’ Rattus Norvegicus and Let it Be by The Beatles – not to mention a few original 45” singles by the Fab Four.

The delve back into the format of the past has also provided me with the opportunity to have more shared experiences with my daughter. Despite only being nine she has taken an interest in music, with Little Mix being to her what Adam Ant was to me – not to mention her taking a wee shine to The Beatles. So we have had a couple of days out in the record shops of Glasgow having a shared experience that might not have been were it not for vinyl.

A recent article in the NME suggested that the current increase in vinyl sales was a bit of a con. The article claimed the format remains inferior in terms of sound quality, still has the age old issues of jumping etc, is over-priced and all-in-all is a bit of a scam.

Are these accusations true? Maybe. There is certainly merit in more than one of the accusations. However it feels that my current interest in vinyl – which could legitimately be called a mid-life-crisis – will go on for some time yet.

Is that foolish of me? Maybe.

Do I care? Not one bit.

Am I writing this on returning from HMV with a vinyl copy of The Ramones’ self-titled debut album? You can bet your life on it!

Wallace returns to haunt Rangers again

Rangers keeper Jim Stewart thwarts Motherwell’s Bruce Cleland. (Picture courtesy of @oldrangerspics)

Football has always enjoyed a habit of allowing fate to hand out head-to-head scenarios that have that wee bit extra spice. Where a game looks like it will initially be just a routine fixture, the footballing gods have frequently found a way of adding an edge to proceedings. This was definitely the case on 4 September 1982, when Rangers travelled to Fir Park for their opening league fixture of the 1982/83 campaign.

For John Greig and his troops the trip to Fir Park wouldn’t just represent a game against the newly promoted Lanarkshire side – it would represent a game against a Motherwell side now managed by former Gers manager Jock Wallace in his first game in Scotland since returning from Leicester.

Rangers were trying to improve on the relatively poor season of 81/82 where the club had finished third, won the League Cup and lost the Scottish Cup Final to Aberdeen in a 4-1 extra-time drubbing.

Rangers had been busy in the close-season, securing Craig Patterson from Hibs, Robert Prytz from Malmo and Dave MacKinnon from Partick Thistle in an attempt to invigorate what had been considered an ageing squad. Sandy Clark would also arrive from West Ham.

Despite the new arrivals all the focus was on a face from the past in Wallace on the opening day, the man who had dramatically walked out on Rangers four years previously after securing a famous treble. John Greig, Wallace’s captain throughout his time in charge at Ibrox, had been handed the job of managing Rangers after Wallace’s sudden exit and was still in charge at Ibrox, which added that little bit extra to what was an already interesting fixture. Wallace and Greig shook hands warmly before proceedings – although there was undeniably an awkwardness between the pair.

In the build-up to game Big Jock said: “I’ve been away from Ibrox for four years and it’s difficult to say how I feel about facing them. But the last time I managed a team against them was at Berwick – don’t forget that”.

The clash between Wallace and Grieg added to the occasion and that was reflected in the crowd, which was a healthy 19,159. In fact such was the size of the crowd that there was an overspill at one end of the ground, with many supporters spilling over the barriers and onto the park. The game itself was a cracker, producing four goals and a late comeback by the newly promoted side.

Wallace and Greig in happier times during their time together at Ibrox.

Rangers started well and had a very early chance when a Cooper corner was met by Colin McAdam, only for Motherwell goalkeeper Hugh Sproat to make a point-blank save. However Rangers wouldn’t wait too long before they took the lead.

Seven minutes in, John MacDonald was put clean through on goal and was fouled by Alex Forsyth. New signing Prytz stuck the penalty away and Rangers were off to a flyer.

Rangers continued to push and could have gone 2-0 up when Sproat came out of his box to head a clearance which landed at the feet of Robert Prytz about 35 yards from goal. The Swede reacted quickly, but his long-distance lob into an empty net went slightly over the bar. With no other goals scored the sides went in at half-time with only the one goal between them.

Robert Prytz puts Rangers 1-0 up and scores his first league goal for Rangers. (Picture courtesy of @oldrangerspics)

Rangers continued to push for the killer second goal in the second-half and after 65 minutes it seemed like the points would be heading to Ibrox.

Davie Cooper picked up the ball on the left-hand side and ran at two defenders, going past one and nutmegging the other before laying it off to Ian Redford who fired home and put Rangers into an apparently unassailable lead.

Rangers had other chances to put the game to bed. John MacDonald was creative down the left-hand side, beating two defenders before cutting in and lofting ball over Sproat, only for his effort to be headed off the line. The headed clearance didn’t go far and eventually found its way to Cooper who also attempted to loft the ball beyond Sproat, only to see his effort come off the bar. Rangers would rue missing these guilt-edged chances.

With 15 minutes to go the game would be turned on its head as Motherwell struck back and set up a very interesting end to the game. A long-ball into the box seemed harmless enough, but the Rangers defence switched off and Cleland, who had started the game on the bench and had not long entered proceedings, beat Jim Stewart to the ball and made the score 2-1.

From a seemingly untouchable position, Rangers suddenly found themselves in a game – and all those earlier missed opportunities now looked like they could be costly. And so it would be.

With 11 minutes remaining, Rangers conceded again. A free-kick thrown in from the right-hand side was met by Joe Carson, whose header went in off the post. Rangers had blown their lead and now faced the real prospect of dropping points on the opening day of the season.

Despite all their efforts, Rangers couldn’t find a winner. Even when Motherwell were reduced to ten men in the closing minutes, after goalscorer Joe Carson was dismissed for kicking John MacDonald, Rangers failed to muster the goal which would have secured the victory.

After the game John Greig was obviously frustrated at the result and commented: “We produced a lot of good things and the team did well, and I thought we had done enough to win. We dominated the match and should have had it well a truly sewn up.

“Somehow though, we allowed Motherwell to get two goals, and they were only in our penalty box area on a few occasions”.

An obviously emotional Wallace said: “I was pleased with the way we fought back after losing two daft goals”.

Wallace’s stay at Motherwell would last just over a year. Rangers under Greig would struggle again throughout 82/83 and would finish the season trophy-less. A difficult start to the following year’s campaign would see Greig relieved of his duties and Wallace reinstated as the manager of the club he loved.