Bill Struth - The Wonder Years - Part 2
Feature by The Govanhill Gub
Updated Tuesday, 4th July 2006
Bill Struth The Wonder Years #2
Given Rangers overall league record, the club limping into their lowest ever league placing of sixth in season 1925/26 has to be considered a mere blip, but the injury situation apart the manager must have realised that some players were fast approaching the veteran stage and that new blood would have to be introduced into the team.
Indeed Mr Struth pointed this out in the 1926/27 'Wee Blue Book' when looking back at the previous term when he maintained that "a season which brings into prominence such promising young players as Hamilton, Gray and Marshall cannot be altogether barren."
These would prove to be prophetic words as the season to come would see goalkeeper Tom Hamilton and Dougie Gray at right back became mostly automatic choices, whilst 'Doc' Marshall and Jimmy Fleming who had been signed from St Johnstone were now regulars in the forward line.
Later in the same report, Mr Struth answered back at press criticism of his injured players that previous term. He wrote; "Much has been said and written of several of Rangers' Internationals having reached the "sere and yellow" stage. Such is entirely a fallacy. Judiciously handled, the players who have worn the club colours so honourably are still capable of vieing with the best in Scottish football today."
Here we have a Rangers manager sticking up for his players and the club in general. Nah, it'll never catch on!
7 - Season 1926/27 started off as something of a mixed bag with the team three points off the pace early on. But an early crunch match came about when a Motherwell side that had came out of the traps in a sprightly fashion were beaten 2-0 at Ibrox to bring the side roaring back into contention.
As ever, the Glasgow Cup came round in September; Thirds and Queens Park were despatched on the way to the final against you know who and they would fall to a late McGrory goal at Hampden in front of 55,000
October was a topsy-turvy month all round. That Glasgow Cup defeat apart; seven goals were scored at Paisley and another eight at Greenock, with Marshall nabbing five of them. They were interspersed however with a home defeat at the hands of Queens Park.
November yielded seven points out of eight, with another Marshall hat-trick in a 6-0 drubbing of Clyde being the highlight. But December was of the bah-humbug variety with the team crashing 4-1 at home to Hamilton and 2-0 at Tannadice on Christmas Day. Not the sort of presents the support would have wanted from Santa.
The New Year however saw the team hit imperious form; Marshall with a late winner at Ibrox versus Celtic sent the Rangers fans home happy. But a sparkling 4-1 win at Motherwell, who were still very much in the running was the pick of the five consecutive league victories recorded that month. The bells had ushered Rangers in two points behind Motherwell and at the end of January they were three points ahead. What a happy Blue start to the year indeed.
January also saw Rangers fire in four goals away to Leith in the Scottish Cup. Yup it was that time of the year again. The draw was kind as two more home ties saw St Mirren blitzed 6-0 before 56,000 and revenge taken against Hamilton for that earlier league defeat with a 4-0 win in front of 53,000.
The quarter final tie saw Sandy Archibald score at Brockville but it needed a late Billy McCandless penalty to save Rangers blushes. Later in the dressing room Mr Struth asked Billy what he'd have done if he had missed the penalty. "I'd have walked it all the way home to Belfast boss" was his reply. Given that Belfast was a ten hour sail from the Broomielaw that was one hell of a walk.
Anyway, surely Falkirk at home would be a formality? Well, 80,000 rolled up to see such an event but were left stunned when just six minutes from the end of extra time, ex Celtic legend, Patsy Gallagher had a hand in Falkirk's shock win with a pass through to the Falkirk centre, Mason to score the only goal of the game. Forget conspiracy theories, Masonic or otherwise, that was now a full twenty-four years since the club had won the Scottish Cup. How much longer would the Rangers support have to wait to see the old cup back at Ibrox?
Once again in this Struth era, the entire club had to get over their shattered Scottish Cup dreams and get on with the job of securing the title. Funnily enough, you-know-who, the winners of the Scottish Cup were to prove helpful in how the league panned out. They paraded the Scottish Cup before the league match against Rangers in the April but all this did was spur Rangers on to a 1-0 win; Jimmy Fleming scoring the solitary goal.
Two days later, Celtic defeated Motherwell leaving Rangers three points ahead with two games to play, which was mighty neighbourly of them. Rangers of course did all that was required and ran out league champions by five points from a Motherwell side that was beginning to shape into formidable opponents.
Incidentally, on the same day that Celtic helped Rangers secure another title, Mr Struth made it up to them by securing the services of that 'greetin' faced pup from Airdrie, a certain Robert McPhail.
It didn't take Bob McPhail long to win himself into the hearts and minds of the Rangers support. Two goals, alongside counters from Fleming and Archibald, in a 4-1 battering of Celtic in the Charity Cup, the following month, did that for him. In the final against Partick Thistle, it was 3-3 at full time, with a chap called Hair scoring two of Thistle's goals. In extra time he bagged another three to make it 6-3 for the 'Harry Wraggs'. So here we had; one man, one game and five goals against Rangers? That must be some sort of record.
Manager's Report Card. Okay, okay we know about the injuries and the serious need of new blood. The records will show; one solitary title and no cups to show for the season's efforts. Who cares? Here we have in William Struth a man who sticks up for the club. That means more than mere baubles surely? Season 1926/27 would have to be looked at as an overall success I would think.
Therefore, after the barren season of 1925/26, the club had got itself back into the groove with the title back at its natural home. But before talking about the 'fitba' of 1927/28, I think it is worth noting how Bill Struth viewed what was to be a landmark forthcoming season for the club and himself, when looking back at the previous term's achievements.
His manager's report in the 1927/28 'WBB' started off; "In our last issue I felt constrained to animadvert upon the criticism which had been directed at several of the Rangers players during the preceding season and I look upon the achievements of 1926/27 as a complete vindication of the policy which at the time was advocated,
and also as conclusive evidence that the poor results sustained in 1925/26 were entirely due to serious injuries sustained by several of the players and not on the account of 'Anno Domini' as many critics implied."
As we have already witnessed, Bill Struth did know that a new infusion of blood, legs, energy and skill was required after the 'Annus Horriblis' of 25/26. And the fact that four new players became regulars thereafter rather proves the point. But look at how he still stood up in print for those charges of his that he considered had been wronged by the press. And people wonder why Rangers players gave their all for the man?
Mr Struth also made a plea to the support to cut out foul language thus; "Ever since their inception, the club have always had very high ideals - ideals which sometimes have been difficult to live up to, and all must make a determined effort to eradicate this bad language during our matches so that the good name of the club shall remain unsullied."
8 - Very well, then let us get to 1927/28, Struth's eighth year in charge. The league campaign started quite decently to say the least. There were six wins on the trot before a draw at Motherwell put the hand brakes on. The side meandered back into their winning ways although a loss away to Queens Park was something of a shock in the October.
That loss to the 'spiders' came at the end of a month that had saw Rangers lose 2-1 to Celtic in the Glasgow Cup final before just over 84,000 and then see the light blues gain revenge the following week at Ibrox in the league; a Jimmy Fleming goal ensuring the points. In the Glasgow Cup semi-final, the same had Jimmy Fleming created a then new club record of scoring six goals against Clyde at Ibrox.
The following two months of November and December saw Rangers bang in form. Nine games played, seven won and two drawn with 28 goals battered into various opposition pokeys. However, January saw the team crash back down to earth at CP with a 1-0 reverse. It was Celtic's first home OF Ne'erday win in 14 years. Even if it did happen on the second day of the month!
It was a stop-start, stuttering next few months with other losses at Motherwell at home in the February and away to Hibs in the middle of March. But the following week the team were designated to play Hibs, also in Edinburgh, but this time in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Tynecastle.
Forty-five thousand turned up to see Rangers in capital form and bring raindrops down on Leith with a no nonsense 3-0 win. The goalscorers that day were Archibald, McPhail and a young Jimmy Simpson. The team had reached this point via East Stirling, Cowdenbeath, Kings Park and Albion Rovers.
Back then to league business and the race with Celtic was running neck and neck until the Easter weekend. Rangers won both their counters against Hamilton and Dunfermline. Celtic in contrast lost both of theirs at Motherwell and Airdrie. The league was now, all set to play for.
Meantime there was the little matter of a Scottish Cup final against Celtic to get out of the way. Over 118,000, a then Scottish record, turned up on an April Saturday in 1928 to see the following Rangers side take to the Hampden pitch. Hamilton, Gray and Hamilton. Buchanan, Meiklejohn and Craig. Archibald, Cunningham, Fleming, McPhail and Morton.
By all accounts, the Celts who had had booked the wind had the best of the play in the first period but apart from a Connolly strike, which produced a marvellous Tom Hamilton save they had nothing to show for their superiority.
Rangers rang in the changes ten minutes into the second half when Jimmy Fleming's 'goal' was handled on the line by a Celtic player. It should have been a goal, and afterwards, the referee admitted as much, but it was instead a penalty. So what to do? Twenty five years had passed since the Gers had won the Scottish Cup; who wanted to take on this responsibility? Cometh the hour cometh the man. Davie Meiklejohn, captain that day took on the responsibility.
Meiklejohn scored and from then on Rangers took total command. McPhail scored around the 68th minute mark and Sandy Archibald scored just minutes thereafter. He added the icing to the cake with five minutes to go.
So there they all were; the club and the support. A quarter of a century of heartbreak, of being stunned and humiliated, of being the butt of music hall jokes and it was all instantly forgotten. Davie Meiklejohn was later to say that night; "We have won it at last - we can do it again." A shrewd man that Mr Meiklejohn.
The league was officially wrapped up three days later with a 5-1 demolition of Kilmarnock. And the Charity Cup captured also with a 3-1 victory over Queens Park at Parkhead. The Celts had been eliminated a week earlier.
So, the 1927/28 managerial report card read; one league title, one Scottish Cup and one Charity Cup. I'm pretty sure that the Scottish Cup win and the first 'League and Scottish Cup double' in the club's history more than made up for the loss of the Glasgow Cup. Way to go Mr Struth.
The club then embarked on a tour of North America. They played ten games, won seven, drew the other three, scored forty-six goals and conceded seven. Bob McPhail chipping in with 14 of these goals and Jimmy Fleming with 9 being the tour's hottest tickets. Rumour has it; Alan Morton even took his bowler hat off on the journey home.
Nineteen twenty-eight was a rather momentous year for the club in many ways. The first league and Scottish Cup 'double'. The first Scottish Cup for quarter of a century on the park and off it something rather grander altogether was happening. Yes, the Main Stand that we still admire, love and cherish today was taking shape. Mr Struth said that it would last longer than all of us. It wasn't just in footballing matters that the man knew his onions.
9 - To say season 1928/29 saw the side in scintillating form in the league would be to do the team a major disservice. Of the first thirty league matches played, twenty-seven were won and the other three drawn. And these draws were all at home. By the time of the first league defeat the following March, at Hamilton of all places, Rangers were 17 points ahead of Celtic in second place.
The only downside at this point in the entire season was a 2-1 reversal to Celtic at Ibrox in the Glasgow Cup at the start of the season (September) before 80,000. However revenge was taken in the league at CP the following month.
January 1st 1929 was an historic day for the club and 60,000 saw the magnificent new Main Stand opened by Lord Provost, David Mason. Jimmy Fleming with a double and Archibald netted the three goals that had the side on easy street. Incidentally, there were also 60,000 watching on at Hampden that same month to see Rangers beat Queens Park 4-0 on league duty with McPhail netting a hat-trick and Fleming with a solitary counter.
The defence of the Scottish Cup was routine with an 11-1 battering of Edinburgh City at home starting off proceedings. This was followed by a home win over Partick then a win against Clyde at Shawfield. There were 101,000 in aggregate at these two 'all Glasgow' ties. Dundee Utd in another home tie and then St Mirren at Hampden were despatched and so Rangers were once more in a Scottish Cup final. This time Kilmarnock lay in wait.
Rangers, who had beaten their opponents home and away in the league, started off very much taking the game to Killie. And then on 17 minutes, Tully Craig had the chance to put the light blues ahead from the spot. He missed however and therefore went into the history books as the first player to miss a penalty in a Scottish Cup final.
So half time found the teams all square despite Rangers being well on top and missing a penalty into the bargain. It must have all seemed pretty familiar for the Rangers support in the 114,000 crowd, especially when Kilmarnock scored early in the second half.
With twenty minutes left to play Kilmarnock scored again and the cup was theirs. All that was left was for Jock Buchanan to become the first player to be sent off in a Scottish Cup final; for dissent, just before the final whistle. That was two unwanted Scottish Cup final firsts for the club in the same match.
With the league well and truly sown up the team turned its attention to the Charity Cup. Thistle and Third Lanark were despatched along the way. The final was played at Ibrox and 25,000 turned up to witness a 4-2 win against you know who, with Muirhead and Marshall scoring two apiece.
Manager's Report Card read League and Charity Cup both retained. I wonder what Mr Struth has up his sleeve for the next season?
The 1929/30 season's Wee Blue Book saw Mr Struth congratulate, first his players for their league performance the previous term and then Kilmarnock for their Scottish Cup victory over the club. He said; "On the day's play they won deservedly, and no congratulations were more sincere than those of the Rangers officials and players."
He then went onto accentuate the positives of the new Main Stand thus; "The new structure and the executive offices, resting rooms and dressing rooms etc, are second to none in the football world." How right he was.
10 - Very well then, season 1929/30, Struth's tenth in charge, saw the club start off with a tough away match at Motherwell, but goals by Archibald and Fleming in front of 25,000 saw the visitors emerge with the points. Kilmarnock were to prove the 1929 bogey team once more in the eighth league encounter with a 1-0 win at Rugby Park in September.
The end of that month saw 48,000 turn up at Firhill for the Glasgow Cup semi final and be thrilled (well, the away support anyway) with a goal apiece from Marshall and Meiklejohn. Seventy four thousand turned up at Hampden to witness a 0-0 draw with Celtic in the final, with Meiklejohn missing a penalty. Four days later 41,000 turned up for the replay and saw Rangers hit top form. Jimmy Fleming scored a hat-trick and Sandy Archibald the other as the Glasgow Cup was brought back to Ibrox for the first time in five years.
Ten days later Rangers entertained the same opponents at home on league duty. Meiklejohn, Buchanan and Bob Hamilton the full back were injured. Messrs Gray, Craig, Muirhead and Morton were on International duty. The club could have asked for a postponement of the match but decided to go with a shadow X1. They emerged victorious by virtue of a solitary Nicholson strike.
This was part of a sequence of results stemming from that Glasgow Cup win, which saw the club win fifteen and draw two of the next seventeen league games. Included in this run was a first Ne'erday win at CP for twenty eight years. Alan Morton and George Brown scoring the vital goals in a 2-1 win. December and January were very good months all told with eight matches played and all eight won. Twenty five goals were scored in the process for the loss of only seven.
As always, the New Year brought that hardy perennial, the Scottish Cup, back on the menu. The first round played on 13/1/1930 saw an astonishing 95,722 on the Hampden slopes to watch Queens Park and Rangers contest the tie and a Bob McPhail goal was the difference between the two sides.
Cowdenbeath burst the coupons with a 2-2 draw at Ibrox in the following round. However they were put to the sword 3-0 in the replay. Next up was the hardest draw of all, away to Motherwell but the side put in an irresistible shift and spanked the home side 5-2 before just under 28,000.
Montrose were despatched in the following round which meant a date with Hearts in the semi-final. A mere 92,000 turned out this time and once again they watched Rangers turn on the style. Fleming with three and McPhail with the other counter doing the needful in a 4-1 win.
That match took place on 22/3/1930; this is how a journalist called, 'Ivanhoe', looked at that Hampden event, the following week;
The Weekly Record (29/3/30)
'Popularity of Rangers'
'Loud was the cheer accorded Heart of Midlothian when the Tynecastle side took the field at Hampden. A warming shout, thousands of lusty lunged supporters made it so. Made one feel and rightly that the challengers from the east would not lack vocal encouragement during the next ninety pulsating moments and jauntily the Edinburgh players responded. They were with friends and felt it!
BUT, when Rangers appeared!!!! NEVER in all my experience have I heard such a yell of exultation greeting a football team. It was terrific, awe-inspiring, ear splitting, unforgetable.'
The following week saw the league title clinched for the 18th time. Two, 3-0 wins away to Ayr and at home to Clyde was all that was required. The title had been wrapped up with five games to go.
Partick Thistle were the Scottish Cup final opponents but Alan Morton had sustained an injury playing for Scotland at Wembley the week previous so his replacement was Willie Nicholson who had scored that vital counter against Celtic earlier in the season.
By all accounts it was a rather dreary game and how the 107,000 who were at the match (basically 80,000 more than had watched the two sides in the final at CP nine years previously) viewed the scene was anybody's guess.
However, 103,000 of them (a then midweek record) were suitably convinced to come back out for the replay. Whichever way you look at it that was an awful lot of grannies who had died. In mourning or not, the crowd saw Morton restored to the Rangers side and then retire within the first twenty minutes.
Doc Marshall opened the scoring for ten men Rangers and Torbett equalised for Thistle. However, if the Thistle players had their minds on another Scottish Cup trinket, their hopes were dashed when Tully Craig's speculative lob four minutes from time was mishandled by the Partick goalkeeper looking up at the Hampden sun and that was then Rangers with three trophies out of three back in the in the Ibrox cabinet. Could the club now complete the Grand Slam for the first in their history?
Partick were once again put to the sword in the first round and Thirds in the semi-final. You know who lined up against Rangers in the final. Rangers were 2-1 up thanks to Marshall and Fleming when the Celts nabbed a last gasp equaliser. Extra time was played and there were no further goals.
So the final was tied on goals and corners, which meant that the competition would be decided on the toss of a coin. Rangers won the toss, so that was the Grand Slam achieved. But there was more because the reserves also won all there was to be won at their level with the league (a certain youngster called Jimmy Smith took the eye, scoring 51 goals) and cup. So the records will show that in season 1929/30, Rangers FC won everything that they competed for.
Manager's Report Card. I'm definitely convinced this fella Struth has the potential to last the distance.
Incidentally 550,515 fans saw Rangers play seven cup ties at Hampden that season. In the Scottish Cup 398,969 fans turned out to see Rangers play just four Scottish cup ties. In the Glasgow Cup 115,899 came out for the final and replay v Celtic and a rather small 35,647 in the Charity Cup final, which was always regarded as the lesser of the two competitions.
Two stalwarts in Tommy Muirhead and Billy McCandless left the club at the end of the season and the club once again embarked on a tour of North America. Fourteen games were played and all were won. Jimmy Smith (with 18) and Jimmy Fleming (with 13) nabbed almost half of the 68 goals scored on the tour. Rumour has it; Alan Morton loosened his tie on the journey going.
However which way you look at it, season 1930/31 was always going to end in some sort of disappointment. You simply cannot top perfection, and 1929/30 was absolute perfection. Indeed Mr Struth asked a question 'in Biblical fashion' in his managerial Report at the start of 30/31; "What manner of men are clad in Light Blue raiment?
However, there were no laurels to be rested upon; the club's previous best league winning sequence was four-in-a-row, which came about. This season could see Struth and his charges better that club record.
11 - After the previous season's heroics, the start to 1930/31 could be considered somewhat sluggish. Of the first eleven league matches played, there were three draws and two defeats, including one at CP that would have induced some good old fashioned consternation amongst the support. The Glasgow Cup was also surrendered in the final against Celtic before 72,000 at Hampden, Jimmy Smith scoring in a 2-1 defeat.
November however saw the team back in the groove and the following eight league games yielded all sixteen points. Hearts brought Rangers back down to earth just after Christmas but an Alan Morton goal in front of 83,500 at Ne'erday sent the Rangers support back home once again celebrating the bells. That was now five straight Ibrox Ne'erday Old Firm wins for the club under Struth.
January however also saw the club lose their grasp of the Scottish Cup. Armadale were soundly whipped in the first round but a 2-1 reversal at home to Dundee meant that two of the previous season's Grand Slam trophies had now left the Stadium. The Dundee match was played under atrocious conditions with a continual deluge of rain making Ibrox something of a quagmire. There were no complaints from Ibrox however. The conditions were the same for both clubs.
So it was back to league duty for the team and after a defeat at Broomfield at the start of February, the team then went on an unbeaten streak of the thirteen matches remaining, including nine wins on the trot. They eventually won a hard fought title slog by two points from Celtic to create a new club record of five consecutive championship victories on the trot.
Celtic were defeated on corners in the Charity Cup 1st round and Thistle in the semi final. Smith and Marshall scored the goals that mattered as the side ran out eventual 2-1 winners against Queens Park at Hampden in the final.
So, the1930/31 Managerial Report Card saw half a Grand Slam retained, or lost, depending on how full your glass was. The main thing however was the retention of the title, so who could complain with that?
I think this is another appropriate time to leave Bill Struth and his players. The five year record was;
Five titles, a then club record.
Two Scottish Cups, the hoodoo was smashed and then some.
One Glasgow Cup
Four Charity Cups
Oh, and thousands upon thousands of very, happy bluenoses.
The Govanhill Gub.
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