In the days before the term 'legend' was branded about so cheaply, the Rangers support were lucky to have seen some of football's greats grace the Ibrox turf: Alec Smith, Neilly Gibson, Davie Meiklejohn and Alan Morton, to name a few. In 1925 the Light Blues signed a young right back from Aberdeenshire that would dedicate his entire professional career to the club. More than two decades and 940 games later, Dougie Gray, without question, has his place amongst the Ibrox legends.
As a schoolboy with Kitty Brewster, Gray gained experience in various positions around the pitch, even playing at left-back for the Boys Brigade side. After forming his own team, the Osborne, with his brother Ernest, who would later play for Everton, Dougie signed for Cattofield as a junior and was a regular at outside right; later forming a partnership with his brother for the Junior Muggiemoss before Ernest's move down south.
It was a local cup tie against Richmond at Pittodrie that saw Gray finally move to right-back after he was asked to stand in as a replacement. Dougie performed so well, he would go on to make his name in the position.
Rangers weren't the first team to notice the talents of the youngster. Hull manager Billy McCracken offered Gray the chance to play against the Corinthians (on Christmas Day!) and Dougie was asked to stay after just one senior appearance; an offer he declined.
A debut for Scotland juniors against Wales at Bangor saw other clubs take note. Arsenal, Cowdenbeath, St Mirren, Hearts and Raith Rovers all expressed an interest, but it was after a second junior international that Bill Struth and James Bowie approached the youngster. Gray was made an offer and asked to consider it for a day.
Chairman Joseph Buchanan and manager Bill Struth arrived in Aberdeen the following Monday and, after a short discussion, Dougie Gray signed for the Rangers. Arriving at Ibrox on 27 July 1925, he would remain a Rangers player for 22 years.
Despite being the longest-serving player and appearing more times in the light blue than anyone else, Dougie Gray once played against Rangers and, what's more, he was on the winning side. This sole appearance against the Gers came in a Stirling Charity Cup match when King's Park, short of a player, asked Rangers for Gray. King's Park won by four corners to three after a 3-3 draw, and Gray earned himself a winner's medal. His feelings on defeating the Rangers are unknown.
Bill Struth once commented that Dougie Gray followed the ball more intently than any other player he had known. It was this, coupled with a partnership with the Rangers 'keeper, that allowed Gray to save the team on so many occasions. A technique tested with Willie Robb, improved with Tom Hamilton and perfected with Jerry Dawson, Gray gave the 'keeper the confidence to leave his goal because he would be there to make the clearance if the goalie was beaten.
A great example of this was during a wartime League match away to Falkirk. The opposition forward was through on goal and neither Gray or Jock Shaw could close him down in time. Jerry Dawson raced from his goal line to narrow the chances for the striker, safe in the knowledge that Dougie Gray would be back in time to cover the goal line. As Gray saw the 'keeper closing down the centre forward, he charged toward the goalmouth. The Falkirk striker lobbed the ball over Dawson's head and it landed safely at the feet of Gray to make a clearance.
As the player said himself "It wasn't luck. It was simply the perfection of a plan."
Despite playing 940 games for Rangers, astonishingly, even for a right back, Gray scored only two goals. Strangely, these two goals both came within a few weeks of each other and, what's more, they were both penalties: the first in a 3-3 draw with Airdrie (04/10/1930); the second in a 7-1 defeat of Morton at Ibrox (22/11/1930).
Even back in the day when players were more loyal to a club, 22 years with one club makes Dougie Gray almost unique and, with Rangers, he was lucky enough to be a part of some great teams. In all, he amassed 16 League Championships (including wartime) and six Scottish Cup medals.