Bill Struth - The Wonder Years - Part 3
Feature by The Govanhill Gub
Updated Monday, 3rd July 2006
Bill Struth had an extra special reason for wanting to win the forthcoming 1931/32 league championship as that would see Rangers match the Celts' 1905 - 1910 record of six on the bounce.
12 - There was one significant addition to the squad, Ulsterman Sam English at centre forward. The league defence started off with two home wins. The side's first away match was at Fir Park of all places and that match brought about a 4-2 defeat.
Despite it all a star had been born. In his first six league matches (he missed the second and third ties out of the first eight) Sam English had scored 12 league goals, including a five goal performance against Morton at Ibrox. The ninth league encounter of the season a 0-0 draw against Celtic at Ibrox on Saturday 5th September 1931 was to see the hapless Sam English, sadly, play a very prominent role.
All in all it had been a topsy turvy start to the season with Celtic, Motherwell and Rangers all having a go at the top spot. On October 17th Rangers lost at home to Queens Park, that shock defeat knocked Rangers off the top spot and it was a position they were never to regain.
The week previously Rangers had beaten the same opposition 3-0 at Hampden before 50,000 in the Glasgow Cup final. That was a protracted tournament all round. After Thirds had been swept away at home in the 1st round; it had taken three games to take care of Celtic in the semi final.
The first game had been played at CP and was marred by the hatred and religious bile of the Celtic support aimed at Sam English. It was so bad that Davie Meiklejohn the Rangers captain had to appeal to the referee and a Celtic official apparently tried to calm the poison down, to no real effect. Well, some things will never change. This match was a 1-1 draw; it was 2-2 in the replay and a Jimmy Smith goal in the third match separated the sides.
The club set about making up lost ground on Motherwell and they did so on Boxing Day when a Sam English goal was the difference between the two sides. That set Rangers up on a winning run of ten league matches.
Motherwell however matched them stride by stride to keep ahead. This was a Motherwell side with three attacking jewels in the left wing pair of Englishman, George Stephenson and Bob Ferrier. They were dovetailed in the middle by Willie McFadyen who scored 52 goals that season and in fact it was the beginning of April before they lost their first point of 1932 and that was at Firhill.
A week before then however Rangers had lost at Cathkin Park by four goals to three. This match was the first in a series of four consecutive away ties for the light blues and they yielded a disappointing three points out of eight. Struth's dreams of a sixth consecutive title had been dashed and they were to finish five points off the pace of that smashing Motherwell side.
Motherwell were also to figure in Rangers quest for the Scottish Cup when a new ground attendance record of 88,000 saw Rangers rise to the occasion in a quarter final tie at Ibrox with goals from Murray and McPhail to win the day. Before then Brechin, Raith Rovers and Hearts at Tynecastle had been disposed of. There were 53,496 crammed into Tynecastle that day.
Hamilton were brushed aside 5-2 in the semi final at CP and Kilmarnock, cup final protagonists from only three years earlier were the opponents. That was now three times the clubs had faced each other in the Scottish Cup final; only Celtic had been Rangers cup final opponents on more occasions.
In the final watched by 112,000, Kilmarnock, who had lost to Rangers at home 3-0 a month before, took the game to Rangers and found themselves a goal to the good at half time but early in the second half a Bob McPhail strike evened the match. And that was how the game ended.
In the replay Jimmy Fleming came in for Alan Morton, who was by now in his last International season and very much a veteran, and he added a wee bit more zip to the attack and there was only ever going to be one winner this time around. Fleming got the opener and another couple from McPhail and Sammy English tied up the contest before 105,000. The west of Scotland was fast running out of grannies.
All that was left was the Charity Cup and a hat-trick from Marshall in the semi final versus Queens Park in a 3-1 victory was matched by Bob McPhail in the final itself versus Thirds. McPhail's goals however were augmented by an English brace and a Fleming single to allow the side to sign off from season 1931/32 with an emphatic 6-1 victory.
Thus the manager's report card for 1931/32 would record the winning of 'The Three Cups'. Back in 1896/97 when the club first achieved this feat it was hailed as a landmark success. In 1932 it was tinged with a sense of failure. Such were the standards now being set for the club under William Struth.
13 - Season 1932/33 would have seen the club determined to get the league title back but the side stuttered to a first day defeat at Paisley. They soon resumed on their winning ways although there were draws against Clyde, Celtic and Motherwell to hamper any thoughts the fans might have had that they would run away with the title. A defeat at Tynecastle in the October then kicked off a winning sequence of six matches on the spin with 23 goals scored for the loss of only 3 in the process.
The Glasgow Cup meanwhile had been garnered once again, Doc Marshall scoring the winning goal against Thistle in the final. Queens Park and Thirds had been defeated en route. This was the first time in nine years that the competition hadn't produced an Old Firm clash of some sort.
Hogmanay, Jan 2nd and Jan 3rd produced three straight draws against Ayr Utd, Celtic and Partick, but that kick-started another series of six straight wins. Another 24 goals were scored but the defence was in a more considerate mood this time around and shed goals in every one of these games; including four to Dundee in an Ibrox thriller which ended up 6-4 to the light blues.
January 1933 was also significant for a couple of reasons. On the seventh of the month, Alan Morton started the day off as a player and scored a goal in a 5-1 romp against Airdrie at Ibrox. After the match he retired as a player and was installed immediately into the Ibrox boardroom. Not a bad day's work.
A fortnight later Rapid Vienna became the first foreign club side to play at Ibrox. There were 56,000 in attendance at Ibrox to see a 3-3 draw; Jimmy Smith bagged a double and Bob McPhail netted the other. Obviously no one knew it at the time but those three goals conceded were the start of an unwanted defensive trend against the continentals!
The Scottish Cup came around as always but was to prove something of a disappointment. Arbroath were defeated but then it took three matches to get rid of the Spiders. However Kilmarnock would earn their Scottish Cup revenge with a 1-0 home win in front of nearly 33,000. Rangers could win the Scottish Cup regularly now under Bill Struth it was retaining the trophy that was proving problematic.
The last seven league matches produced two draws and five wins; with a 6-2 thumping of Kilmarnock at Rugby Park of all places being the pick of the bunch. The league trophy was back at Ibrox with three points to spare from Motherwell. The Charity Cup was won with Thirds, Thistle and finally Queens Park beaten respectively.
Rangers then went on a tour of Germany and Austria. The first four matches played against basically crack German select sides saw Rangers in emphatic form with 5-1, 3-1, 5-0 and 3-2 victories.
I'm going to take a wee liberty here and step out from the purely factual and tell you how my granda explained it to a 12 year old Govanhill Gub. He said; "The Germans wouldn't let us out of the country till they got a team together that could f****** beat us!" They got their wish in Munich on the 31st May 1933 when the German national side beat Rangers 2-1. This was Rangers first defeat on foreign soil.
The team then travelled to Vienna for a return match with Rapid and lost out by four goals to three. Just think one more chance taken and we'd have been through on the away goals rule. J
So once again the manager's report card achievements read; league title, both the Glasgow Cups retained and the club's reputation enhanced on the continent. Nice one Mr Struth.
The close season saw the sad departure of Sam English and a young chap called Torrance Gillick was snapped up from Petershill. Also to come into the first team frame was Alex (Tony) Venters, signed from Cowdenbeath.
14 - The season started with two home wins and ten goals scored by Jimmy Smith. Four netted in the first match against Airdrie and then six in a 9-1 battering of Ayr Utd. Of the next fourteen league matches eleven were won, two were drawn and the one defeat significantly against that Motherwell side at Fir Park. However the goals were certainly being rattled in with Smith and Bob McPhail taking it in turns for star billing.
There were also two prestige matches played in the early part of the season against Herbert Chapman's champion Arsenal side who were to dominate English football during the 1930s. Smith and McPhail (who else) scored in a 2-0 win at Ibrox. The return at Highbury saw a smashing Rangers victory by three goals to one. A Fleming double and a Doc Marshall strike sending the Scots exiles in the 46,000 London crowd back home very happy. So, in the British Championship, Rangers had beaten the best England had to offer 5-1 on aggregate.
The Glasgow Cup was once more back in the trophy cabinet. Celtic were despatched 2-1 in the Ibrox replay after a 1-1 draw at CP and Clyde defeated in the final at Hampden the two Roberts; Main (who was a useful winger) and McPhail doing the needful.
A 3-1 reverse at Perth on November 18th, was to prove Rangers last domestic loss of the season. The Ne'erday match produced a 2-2 draw at CP and a certain Alex Venters scored one of the goals. But still Motherwell were in pole position. They came to Ibrox in the middle of the month and a 67,000 crowd saw Rangers hit top form and run out 4-2 winners. Fleming and McPhail were at the double in this match. There were goals flying in from all angles.
A week after the Motherwell league match Rangers entertained Blairgowrie on Scottish Cup duty and two records were recorded. Firstly the NINE goals scored by Jimmy Fleming and the 14-2 victory remain Rangers record to this day. Legend has it that the locals gathered in the wee Blairgowrie Post Office to hear the results come through that Saturday. When the 14-2 score line came over, one wag retorted; 'Aye, but wha' fur?'
Back then to League duty; the week after bagging nine in the Scottish Cup, Jimmy Fleming netted five away to Dundee with Smith lending a hand with the other goal in a 6-0 victory. Whatever else Bill Struth had in his armoury, he certainly knew a goalscorer when he saw one.
The last fourteen league matches had seen twelve Rangers victories and two draws, and one of them came about in the last day of the season, away to Queens Park, when the league was already sown up. Rangers finished 4 points ahead of Motherwell and had banged in a club record 118 league goals, just one short of Motherwell's record haul in 1931/32.
The Scottish Cup as ever managed to bring the fans out in vast numbers. Just fewer than 30,000 turned out at Cathkin Park to see a Jimmy Smith hat-trick. Just less than 70,000 at Ibrox in the next round against Hearts to witness a drab 0-0 draw and just under 50,000 at the replay to witness McPhail and Fleming score the goals in a 2-1 win and there were thousands locked out of that match.
Smith in the Q/F against Aberdeen and Marshall in the S/F against St Johnstone were the lone Rangers marksmen on both occasions and so it was St Mirren, who had recorded a shock S/F win over Motherwell who would be our opponents. Unfortunately for them, they found Rangers still in that rich vein of goal scoring form and two goals from Nicholson and a goal apiece from McPhail, Main and Smith gave Rangers a resounding 5-0 triumph. These 'even' years were now proving to be lucky omens in the Scottish Cup. That was now 28, 30, 32 and now 34.
So that was three competitions entered and all three trophies safely tucked away at Ibrox. (Well four if you count the British Championship) Was another Grand Slam coming down the PRW? Well, Thistle were beaten 7-4 on corners in the semi final of the Charity Cup with the score after extra time at one goal apiece.
So once again it was you know who in the final. They stood in the way of another Ibrox clean sweep. They had made the usual carping noises about the way the 1930 Charity Cup had been won on the toss of the coin. Well, they had no cause for complaint this time as a Bobby Main goal won the day, won the Charity Cup and won the Grand Slam yet again for Rangers. It is worth noting that Bobby Main scored in all three of the Cup finals that year. Surely some sort of record?
So yet again, the club had won all the major trophies there was to be won under this man Struth. Here is how Rangers' Historian, John Allan viewed the splendour of it all;
"Season 1933/34 stood out in neon lights, sparkling in another Clean Sweep which found us winning once more the league and the three cups. No opposition could withstand our volcanic power. Our supporters, who followed us throughout the country, roared their joy as we galloped ahead with only two defeats in 50 matches. Records had to be rewritten. New space found in the clouds as the side produced the pyrotechnics. Some of the half-back and forward play was as colourful as anything seen from the best in Europe or South America. The air danced with sunshine when our boys hit the crest, and the mystique of Ibrox had the whole country talking."
So, 1933/34 Manger's Report card looked something like this; another domestic Clean Sweep and Champions of Britain. One hundred and fifty one domestic goals were fired in plus another five against Arsenal making it a grand total of 156 for the season. What else is there left to say?
The summer of 1934 saw Rangers lose the services of one of the mainstays of the side over the previous eight years, when Jimmy (Doc) Marshall was transferred to Arsenal. The Doc had been working in Glasgow Royal Infirmary since his graduation and he left to take up an appointment in London. One hundred and fifty goals for what would nowadays be termed a midfielder in just 259 appearances tells you all you need to know about his worth to the side.
15 - Jimmy Smith kicked started the season off in a pretty impressive manner banging in six goals at Dunfermline on the opening day of the season and then Motherwell were put to the sword at Ibrox, which was a good thing. Once again there were a couple of defeats at Dundee and Shawfield along the way to force home the point that the players were only human.
The defeat against Clyde came a week after the team had surrendered the Glasgow Cup to Partick, after defeating Celtic in the semi final. At this point in the season Rapid and Man City had been defeated at Ibrox. The Man City match was a home and away British Cup winner's event, and the team would lose 4-2 at Maine Rd. More importantly a 1-1 draw had been secured at Highbury. Rangers had also defeated Celtic 4-0 in Jimmy McGrory's benefit match. The goalscorers that day were Gillick, Main, Fiddes and Kinnear, which tells us that the team was always evolving.
December did not start well at all; a home draw against Hamilton was followed up by a 4-1 clattering at Tynecastle and the following week Rangers lost their first home match in three years against Kilmarnock. Dunfermline were next and were thumped 8-1 with Jimmy Smith scoring another four, making it ten goals against the same opposition in the league.
There was a 2-2 draw at Motherwell on the 29th of December and a whopping 83,000 turned up on Ne'erday and saw Rangers resume their customary New Year OF winning ways with a 2-1 win, Gillick and Venters netting the light blue goals. The following day produced something of a hangover with a 1-0 defeat at Thistle. That was now two defeats on the spin to the 'Harry Wraggs'. This however prompted an eight game winning surge towards the title. It was finally won at Aberdeen with three games to spare.
Now to the Scottish Cup; could the club retain the trophy for the first time in the 20th century? Well the draw was more than favourable with Cowdenbeath, Thirds and St Mirren all defeated at Ibrox. The toughest tie imaginable waited in the quarter final however as Rangers were sent to Fir Park. Well, there was no stopping Rangers as Jimmy Smith scored all four goals in a 4-1 rout in front of 30,000.
Hearts who had ran out handsome winners the last time the clubs had met a few months earlier lay in wait in the semi final. There were 102,000 at Hampden to see Gillick score in a 1-1 draw and 90,000 at the replay to see Rangers run out 2-0 victors with McPhail and Main getting the vital counters. A rather smaller 88,000 turned out to see Rangers finally retain the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1898 with Jimmy Smith at the double against Hamilton in the final.
Thirds were beaten in the Charity Cup at Ibrox and so to Partick Thistle in the final. For the third time in a row that season they beat Rangers 1-0. I think it would be safe to say however that after finally retaining the Scottish Cup, this would not have been a high priority for the support.
Manager's Report Card; League title and the Scottish Cup, finally, finally at the stadium for two consecutive seasons. You do have to wonder what the Rangers support thought of this man Struth. That was now fifteen years he had been in charge and there was scarcely a club record that hadn't been smashed to smithereens. The number of league titles, Glasgow and Charity Cups won were all record achievements. The Scottish Cup bogey had been well and truly laid and now the cup had been retained for the first time in the 20th century.
So what were the targets for the forthcoming season? Obviously the title once again, but the notion that the club who could not win the Scottish Cup for a full quarter of a century now had the chance to win it three times in a row, which had not been achieved thus far in the 20th Century, must have been a giddy thought.
Three significant departures had come about in the previous season with Jimmy Fleming, Sandy Archibald and Tully Craig all taking their leave of the club.
16 - But time waits for no man and as the club set about trying to get a fourth league title on the trot it has to be said that Jimmy Smith was up for the challenge. In the first eight league matches played; which produced six wins and two draws, the big man had banged in 14 goals.
The ninth counter saw an unexpected Celtic victory at Ibrox, their first since Bill Struth's inaugural season 14 years previously. Jimmy Smith scored again incidentally and Davie Meiklejohn had the chance to snatch a point in the dying minutes of the match but missed from the penalty spot.
Meantime, Sheffield Wednesday had been defeated 3-1 on aggregate in the British Cup Winners double header (1-1 away & 2-0 at Ibrox) and Arsenal got a 2-2 result at Ibrox.
The Glasgow Cup was all about the number two. Two nil against Queens in the 1st rd (McPhail, Smith) , the same result versus Clyde in the semi (Meiklejohn, Gillick) and once more in the final against Celtic in front of 50,000 at Hampden.(Fiddes and Gillick)
But dropped points here and there had allowed Celtic to open up a handy lead in the title race and it was do or die stuff for Rangers when the traditional Ne'erday match came around. Jimmy Smith (yes him again) warmed up for the Ne'erday visit to CP with five goals against Ayr Utd at Ibrox on the 28th December. That same month saw the last appearance for the time being of Tory Gillick in a Rangers strip and he signed off with a goal in a 2-1 victory at St Johnstone. He went to Everton for a then club record fee of £8,000.
The Ne'erday match was a classic; if you are a bluenose that is. Rangers found themselves 3-1 down in the first half and Davie Meiklejohn marshalled his team. "All we can do now lads, is go forward" And that they did. They nabbed a goal back on half time and eventually won the match 4-3 thanks to Smith and McPhail doubles.
The league race was back on and that Ne'erday clash was part of a winning sequence of five on the trot. A draw against Motherwell at home hampered any progress made but prompted another winning sequence of six league wins but a defeat at Hamilton meant that the tide was turning very much Celtic's way.
Once again the January winds ushered in another Scottish Cup and all Ibrox eyes were fixed on that tantalising, glittering three-in-a-row prize. East Fife were beaten at home and then came three away ties in a row at Albion Rovers, St Mirren and Aberdeen. The results in Rangers favour were 3-1, 2-1 and 1-0 respectively before crowds of 27,000, 43,000 and 41,000.
Clyde were brushed away in the semi final at Hampden before 56,000 and Third Lanark , who had defeated Rangers 3-1 in the clubs' only other Scottish Cup final appearance now stood between Rangers and some Scottish Cup history.
Just under Ninety-thousand saw Bob McPhail score within the first two minutes of the match and that would prove to be the winner. So there they all were once again; the club and the support. Just nine years previously, back in 1927 the club couldn't buy a Scottish Cup triumph. Now here they were with six victories within the ensuing period and including the first three-in-a-row of the century for good measure. Only the Rangers supporters who were there that day could tell you if it was all worth waiting for.
For Dougie Gray and Bob McPhail in particular it was a memorable day. Both had now created a club record of 6 Scottish Cup badges, which stands to this day. (John Greig joined this particular club 42 years later) But McPhail with his earlier gong from his Airdrie days had now won seven to match the 20th century record haul of Jimmy McMenemy, ex Celtic and Thistle; who ironically enough won his seventh medal, against Rangers back in Struth's first season in charge.
It was not all sweetness and light however because just four days later the championship was finally surrendered to Celtic after a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle. This was Celtic's first championship win in ten years and just to compound the misery they ran out 4-2 winners in the OF Charity Cup after Thirds and Clyde had been eliminated at Ibrox en route to the final.
Manager's Report Card; into each life a little rain must fall. League title lost and defeated in the Charity Cup to the same opponents. However the Glasgow Cup was won but most importantly of all the Scottish Cup regained AGAIN! A league title lost, balanced against an historical achievement. You pays your money you takes your choice?
17 - So season 1936/37 saw the team try and regain the league title the club had come to regards as its own personal property for only the fourth time in the Struth era. There was a first day stumble at Dens Park when a 0-0 draw was recorded but it was December 5th, some 16 league matches later before the club tasted defeat and that was a 5-2 drubbing at Tynecastle. In between times Messrs Smith and McPhail were finding the net on a regular basis.
Hearts were also to defeat Rangers at Ibrox on Jan 4th to complete a league double over the light blues. Before then however 95,000 were present on Ne'erday to see the almost obligatory Ibrox Ne'erday OF win; a Venters goal separating the sides. The following day a Davie Kinnear goal was enough to collect the points from Firhill. Oh and lest we forget, there was a 16 year old called Willie Thornton in the Rangers line up that day. He had made his debut on the same ground ten months earlier for Rangers reserves alongside a fifteen year old winger called Willie Waddell.
After that Hearts defeat the club went on another long undefeated run and lost on the final day of the season at Shawfield. The league had been well sewn up by then however by a 7 points margin from nearest challengers, Aberdeen. The Ibrox fixture between the sides saw 60,000 in attendance. It must be the first and last time Aberdeen found themselves a popular draw in Govan.
The Glasgow Cup was still in the trophy room. After Queens Park had been brushed aside in the 1st rd, 65,000 were at Ibrox for the semi final and that formidable pairing, Smith and McPhail did the needful once again in a 2-1 win. They scored the goals in a 2-2 draw against Thistle in the final but they were swept away 6-1 in the replay with Smith scoring a hat trick in this match along with goals from McPhail, Main and Kinnear.
Herbert Chapman recorded an early season victory over Bill Struth when Rangers went down 2-1 at Highbury. Before then a McPhail hat trick and a Davie Kinnear counter had secured a 4-1 Ibrox victory over Austria Vienna.
January of course brought about the Scottish Cup and after three previous wins on the trot could Rangers make outright Scottish Cup history in becoming the first side to win it on four consecutive occasions? Well, it didn't take long for all at the club to find out. They were knocked out by Queen of the South at the very first hurdle. The same scenario was repeated in the Charity Cup with Queens Park recording an emphatic 3-0 victory at Ibrox.
So 1936/37 Manager's Report Card would show the league title back home and the Glasgow Cup also still in place. But once again I'm sure Bill Struth realised he now had a side that was approaching transition at a great speed of knots. Sure, the regulars in Dawson, Simpson and Brown were still there but Davie Meiklejohn, who might very well be the greatest captain in Rangers history, was now out of the Ibrox scene. Also, Bob McPhail was starting to reach the veteran stage.
18 - All in all 1937/38 was a start/stop sort of campaign; it started quite well and then it stopped! Despite the fact that it took seventeen games before a league game was actually lost and that was once again to Hearts at Ibrox (this time by three goals to nil) there had already been seven draws to make sure there was no papering over the cracks.
The season had started off brightly enough with regards to the Old Firm fixture. On September 11th, Celtic were cast asunder 3-1 at Ibrox in the league with a Venters double and one from 17 year old Thornton before 80,000. On the 27th of the month Rangers visited CP on Glasgow Cup semi final duty and came away with as 2-1 victors; Smith and Venters scoring the goals in front of an audience of 55,000. The same pair scored the goals that won the cup against Thirds at Hampden with 40,000 looking on.
That aforementioned Hearts defeat was the catalyst and start to a fourteen match sequence that would see the defence of the league title well and truly blown apart. Of the 28 points up for grabs only 13 were mustered and this run included defeats at Thistle, Dundee (losing 6-1) and Kilmarnock and also a 3-0 Ne'erday drubbing at CP.
For the record, the CP fixture was attended by 83,500, which is Celtic's home record attendance. Others have suggested that the crowd that day was in fact 92,000. But like so much of Celtic's history that has been shown up to be so much hogwash. What can you say? From the moment of their inception, they have been shown to be liars. They get away with it though because of a complicit Scottish press.
There was always the Scottish Cup there to be won, and this was an 'even' year after all. Alloa, Queen of the South and Falkirk were all despatched, which left Rangers at the semi final stage and facing a Kilmarnock side that had been thumped 4-1 at Ibrox in the league but had beaten Rangers just a month previously at Rugby Park.
Seventy thousand turned up and watched Rangers run the show but also witness Killie batter them on the break and score a last minute winner into the bargain. The final score was 4-3. Kilmarnock would then find themselves on the receiving end of Scottish Cup history, losing to 2nd Division East Fife in the final.
It was that kind of season and the club was to finish 12 points behind Celtic and in third place at that, the lowest for twelve seasons. There was no respite either in the Charity Cup as the high flying Celts ran out 2-0 winners in the OF final.
The club truly was in a transitional period the likes of which it had never been in the Struth era. The decade had started with players like Meiklejohn, Morton and McPhail as the mainstays and augmented by the likes of Jimmy Simpson and George Brown in the half back line and Jimmy Marshall and Jimmy Fleming up front. Only Simpson, Brown and McPhail remained and they were all coming to the end of their careers.
There are a few other talking points from 1937/38. In the October Rangers played at Stoke City to raise money for the Holditch Colliery Disaster. As a mark of respect that club issued Rangers with the 'Loving Cup' which had been created to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V. The 'Loving Cup' is still used to this day when the reigning Monarch is toasted after the first home game of the New Year.
Then at the end of the season Ibrox hosted the Empire Exhibition Tournament and it saw Rangers turfed out in the first round against Everton. You have to wonder how the two 1930s Grand Slam teams would have performed. As I say, it had been that kind of season.
Last but certainly not least, an enthusiastic, some might say, 'Tigerish' full back had been signed from Airdrie by the name of Jock Shaw for the princely sum of £2,000, a half back from Portsmouth called Scot Symon and also a forward called Jimmy Duncanson. They would all make their mark at Ibrox in the years to come.
19 - This term would see another three youngsters all make a lasting impression and cement their reputations and credentials in the eyes of the Ibrox support. All three were called William, and all three would become kings in their own special way. They were Messrs, Thornton, Waddell and Woodburn.
Willie Thornton had already made his way into the first team over the last 18 months and Willie Waddell made an immediate splash at the start of 1938/39 in the almost customary early season prestige match against Arsenal. There were 41,000 in attendance to watch the 17 year old score the only goal of the contest on his Rangers first team debut.
Willie Woodburn's route to the top would be more arduous. After missing the opening day of the season he played in the next eight consecutive league matches. Unfortunately one of them was a 6-2 thumping at Celtic Park. He was dropped a few games after that but would fight his way back into the side as the season drew to a climax. The rest as they say is history.
The six goals lost at CP meant that in the calendar year of 1938 Rangers had lost that number of goals on two separate occasions. You can only imagine the mood of the Rangers support at this time? But they needn't have worried as the side steadied thereafter and in fact sustained only another three league defeats in the rest of the campaign at Kilmarnock and Hamilton, and the third, at Aberdeen, on the last day of the season was immaterial anyway.
The league had been regained by eleven points and key matches in this sequence would have been a smashing 3-1 win at Tynecastle, not always the happiest of hunting grounds for Rangers in the league, and 5-2 batterings of Hibs and Aberdeen at home. There was of course the small matter of the Ibrox Ne'erday OF match and a British club ground attendance record of 118, 730 rolled up to Ibrox on Jan 2nd 1939 to see Davie Kinnear and Tony Venters score the Rangers goals in a 2-1 win.
The toast for Rangers fans at this time of the year must have been 'Tony' Venters. This was his third consecutive goal in the traditional fixture at Ibrox and he had scored at CP in January 1934 also. March 28th 1939 is also a day that should be singled out. At Shawfield on that far off day Bob McPhail scored his last ever first team goal for The Rangers in a 1-1 draw.
The three cups were by and large up and down affairs. The Glasgow Cup was prized from the Ibrox vaults after a 3-2 defeat at Ibrox against Queens Park in a 1st rd replay after a 0-0 draw; Venters, who scored 38 goals that season and Fiddes being the Rangers marksmen.
The Scottish Cup saw Venters yet again score the only goal at Kirkcaldy in a 1-0 win. Seventy five thousand then turned up at Ibrox for the next round versus Hamilton and two Lyness goals were the difference between the sides. Next up was Clyde at Ibrox and they astounded one and all with a 4-1 win. Lyness once again scored for the light blues but 'Gillie' Martin secured a wee bit of history by scoring all four of his side's goals before 63,000.
The Charity Cup produced another triumph. Queens were defeated in the S/F and 30,000 saw the team win 7-4 on corners after a stale 0-0 draw against Thirds in the final at Hampden. Not the best way to win I suppose, but them were the rules.
Manager's Report Card; League title back home, which was nice given the fact the man at the helm really was going through a period of introducing young blood into the side. And the fact that Shaw, Woodburn and Waddell were blooded into a league winning side plus earning a Charity Cup medal into the bargain should be taken into consideration also.
William Struth v Willie Maley
Obviously in the present day we have the benefit of history and hindsight to help and guide us but although no one knew it at the time, season 1938/39 was to see the end of the rivalry between what have come to be regarded as Old Firm managerial superpowers.
A couple of years ago, in an article about Old Firm managers and the effect their successes have on their adversaries across the city, Alan Davidson at the Evening Times, told us that Bill Struth and Willie Maley; 'Just about broke even' when pitting their wits against each other.
Now I can just about accept that a rabid Celtic fan, eager to defend his club's ahem, honour could and would want to perpetrate such utter trash. What I refuse to accept however is that a so called respected, impartial and knowledgeable journalist such as Davidson, with the facts at his fingertips, would want to?
Not only do Davidson's 'more or less broke even' words, constitute possibly the most preposterous statement EVER in the annals of Scots football journalism, more importantly they highlight a despicable and wilful lie.
The facts are simply these. Struth and Maley measured up to each other for nineteen full consecutive seasons from 1920/21 - 1938/39 inclusive. Their respective records read as follows;
Scottish League - Rangers/Struth 14 v Celtic/Maley 4 - The league title statistics alone warrant the rest of the contest null and void.
Scottish Cup - Rangers/Struth 6 v Celtic/Maley 6
Glasgow Cup - Rangers/Struth 11 v Celtic/Maley 6
Glasgow Charity Cup - Rangers/Struth 11 v Celtic/Maley 6
Furthermore, of the 38 league fixtures played within the period, Rangers/Struth had 20 victories compared to a mere 6 by Celtic/Maley. And two of Maley's succeses were in the same calendar year of 1938.
Yet, according to Alan Davidson these statistics equate to both men just about breaking even? Rather than 'breaking even' this must equate to the biggest sporting mismatch of all time.
Of course some of you may wonder why I had to dredge the Struth v Maley head to head stuff up. Well, the bottom line is this. If the Scottish media are prepared to print such tosh then who else will confront it? Laugh by all means at Davidson's shamateur, cowardly and outrageous journalism. Dismiss at your peril, the motives behind such an outrageous abuse of the facts.
I believe this is another appropriate time to take leave of Mr Struth and his transitional, evolving squad of players.
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