Tom Forsyth

By Bearsden Bear
Last updated : 11 July 2006
This honour, in my humble opinion, should be awarded to that stalwart of the great Rangers sides of the seventies, Tom Forsyth.

Modest by nature, “Big Tam” signed for Rangers in October 1972 for the princely sum of £40,000 – and went on to become of Jock Wallace's best-ever signings.

I know for a fact that the night before he signed for the club, he literally could not sleep, such was his excitement at the prospect of signing for the mighty Glasgow Rangers, the then current holders of the European Cup Winners' Cup. However, that side was breaking up then, and Jock Wallace had decided that he wished to sign a different type of player as sweeper, from the accomplished Dave Smith, who had quite rightly earned the Player of the Year Award the previous season.

So, in keeping with the best Rangers tradition, he signed a player who played in a different position – and Tom Forsyth came to us as an established midfielder.

Every Rangers fan remembers him scoring the winner in the Cup Final in his first season, from about a foot out, but it was the timing of his tackles that I have not seen equalled to this day. So many defenders now only put in half-hearted tackles, and if that doesn't win the ball, they simply foul their opponent! Not so with big Tam!

The number of times I saw him win balls he simply had no right to win – far less than 50/50 ones – was unbelievable. Celtic's hero at that time was Kenny Dalglish, but I can't remember him ever getting the better of Tom Forsyth. Indeed, I personally believe that was one of the reasons he pissed off to England.

He never let Scotland down either, and although there was a big Press campaign for the two central defender roles to go to McQueen and Buchan, the statistics clearly show that Scotland lost the fewest goals when Forsyth played. At the time, Tommy Docherty was orchestrating a campaign to have Martin Buchan in the Scotland team, rather than Tom Forsyth, and publicly compared him to a carthorse. Well, the odious fat turd put both feet in it that time – just a few days before Scotland took on England at Hampden in 1976.

England scored first, but Scotland, with Forsyth and Jackson at the heart of the defence, stormed back to lead 2-1, and in the last minute, England striker Mike Channon bursts through for the equaliser. Just as the English commentators (can't remember any English fans coming to Hampden in those days) were getting ready to shout “Goal!” Forsyth makes an exquisite tackle just on the edge of the box – a fraction of a second later, and he wouldn't have got the ball, a fraction of a second earlier, and it would have been a penalty for sure.

For once, the tv pundits had to nationally dissect and then praise the skill of a Rangers player, and seemed quite surprised by the courage and precision of the tackle. I was there that day, and I can honestly say it was no surprise to me – I had seen him do it so many times before. The man was simply a master of his trade.

The king of radio commentators, David Francey, had Docherty in his commentary box that day as a summariser. After the tackle, I know for a fact that David put his hand over the mike, and said to Docherty, “Not bad for a carthorse, eh?”

Watching him play for Rangers, was an inspiration for me. He was totally committed, and never let us down off the park, either. I also believe he was an inspiration to his team-mates, both with his timing, and never-say-die attitude.

The nearest I have seen to him in a Rangers jersey since was John Brown, and the fact that John Brown never quite reached the heights of Tom Forsyth is certainly no criticism. Tom now enjoys the quiet life, playing bowls, and representing (I believe) Stonehouse Bowling Club in many matches, but his heart will always be at Ibrox.

How we could use a modern-day Tom Forsyth now . . .

Bearsden Bear


Tom Forsyth will be a guest at the Rangers Supporters Trust Bastille Night on Friday 14 July.

See http://www.rangerssupporterstrust.co.uk for more information.

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