Bill Struth - The Wonder Years - Part 5 - The Long Road Ends
Feature by The Govanhill Gub
Updated Saturday, 1st July 2006
As the 50th Anniversary of Bill Struth death looms and a new season begins the Gub closes the curtain on the Bill Struth story.The immediate post WW2 era was a boom time for British football with attendances going through the roof everywhere thanks to a football crazy public only too eager to get back to the normality of everyday living. Rangers, under the astute management of Struth, approached that era in fine fettle.
20 - So the twentieth official league season of Bill Struth's managerial reign kicked off at Fir Park, the scene of many a titanic league encounter in his time in charge. A 30,000 crowd saw Rangers get off to a flier with a 4-2 win thanks to goals from Duncanson (2), Thornton & Waddell. The next match versus Hibs at Ibrox was to show the shape of things to come as the visitors walked away somewhat fortuitously with the points with a 2-1 victory.
There were a couple of away losses at Aberdeen and Partick to keep the support's dreams firmly on the ground. Between those two losses there was an away fixture at CP and the attendance was given as 28,000. Celtic had decided to up the prices for this match and the Supporters' Associations of both clubs joined together and asked for a boycott.
Not for the first time has the Rangers support missed a golden opportunity. Even now sixty years down the line this scribbler cannot understand why the Rangers support of that time didn't just decide to go to that game en masse and really rub the noses of that shower into the dirt?
A fortnight after that post war visit to CP on league duty there was another trophy up for grabs. There was now the League Cup to be competed for and Rangers romped home in their section comprising three other teams; St Mirren, Queens Park and Morton. No doubt Bill Struth had his eye on making history by becoming the first manager to win this trophy.
All sectional games were won, Dundee Utd were despatched at the Q/F stage and Hibs, now by far and away the strongest opponents, domestically, were to be the semi final opponents. A League Cup attendance record; a staggering 125,154 saw Rangers win this particular tie with ease. They were three goals up at half time, and played almost the whole second half with ten men as Waddell had pulled a muscle. A Hibs goal twelve minutes from time was their only consolation.
Aberdeen were to be Rangers opponents for that first League Cup final and all 134,000 Hampden tickets were sold. However on the weekend of the match a freak blizzard swept Glasgow and a mere 82,000 attended the final itself and Rangers won in a canter. They had the advantage of the wind in the first half and were three goals (Gillick, Williamson &Duncanson) to the good at half time. Another goal in the 57th minute by Duncanson put the tie beyond all doubt.
Before then however the Glasgow Cup had been lost; Clyde winning 4-2 at Ibrox after a 2-2 draw at Shawfield. The aggregate crowds for these two ties were just under 70,000.
The short lived Scottish Cup campaign also brought about some huge attendance figures. There were over 74,500 at Ibrox to see the side squeeze home by two gaols to one against Clyde; Duncanson and Thornton doing the needful. There was a huge 95,000 at Ibrox for the next round to see Hibs get a 0-0 draw, and just fewer than 49,000 at Easter Rd witnessed the home side win the replay 2-0.
As ever, the league title was the thing that was aspired to first and foremost and a long and searching campaign saw Rangers just edge out their Edinburgh rivals by two points, although the goal average was also very much on Rangers side. All that was left was for the side to lift the Charity Cup and a Caskie goal at Ibrox saw of Celtic in the final after Thistle had been routed in the semi by four goals to nil.
Manager's Report Card. League title won. That was now NINE consecutive league titles won under this man Struth. The inaugural League Cup also in the Ibrox trophy cabinet and the Charity Cup lifted also.
The bottom line is, Struth was now the absolute King of the Ibrox castle and this was demonstrated that very summer of 1947, when his influence helped a coalition of other shareholders into out-manoeuvring Chairman, Jimmy Bowie in an infamous Boardroom coup.
21 - Season 1947/48 saw no reason why Rangers fans should be despondent about life and there were 80,000 at Ibrox on the first day of the season to see two goals by Billy Williamson put Celtic to the sword in the first match of League Cup section C.
They won the section with ease and then Stenhousemuir were dismissed in the quarter finals by two goals to nil at Ibrox. However their neighbours Falkirk weren't so accommodating in the next round and a last gasp goal by ex Rangers Archie Aikman dumped Rangers out of a final berth. Three months later, Rangers blitzed the same side 5-1 at Brockville in the league. Such is life.
By this time the Glasgow Cup was back at Ibrox. There were 50,000 at Ibrox when a Willie Thornton goal eliminated Thistle in the first round. There were 47,000 at Hampden for the 4-1 final romp against Third Lanark. In between times Queens Park had been defeated 3-1 in the semi final replay after a 2-2 draw first time around.
However, matters were to take a turn for the worst on the league front. Despite a smashing 4-0 Ne'erday battering of Celtic at CP to start the year off in the most delightful way; the wheels came off the league campaign at Easter Rd at the end of the month when Hibs snatched a last gasp winner before 52,000. This was to be the catalyst to a disastrous run in for the title. Of the last ten league counters played, only four were won and nine points were dropped all in. Hibs would lift the championship by two points.
The Scottish Cup however threw some consolation Rangers way as the old trophy made its way back to Ibrox for the first time in twelve years and boy oh boy the fans came out in their droves to enjoy the splendour of it all. Never has a club been supported as Rangers were that season in a cup campaign.
The first two rounds saw Stranraer away and Leith at Ibrox taken care of. There were 68,000 at Ibrox to see Thistle duly dumped in Rd 3 by three goals. East Fife then brought out a 90,000 Ibrox crowd in the quarter final and a Jimmy Duncanson strike eased the light blues into the semi final. And it was Hibs who now stood between Rangers and their tenth Scottish Cup final under Bill Struth's management.
Once more I am going to slip out from behind mere statistics and tell you that my old man, who was at the game, remembers clearly to this day kids being passed overhead by adults down to the front of the terracing. My granda who was at all three Hampden record attendance matches (Scotland v England & Aberdeen v Celtic both in 1937 plus of course this Rangers v Hibs tie) told me that he had never before witnessed the crushing that went on that semi final day.
Very well, history will show that on March 27th, 1948, 143,570 turned up at Hampden and witnessed a Willie Thornton goal separate the sides. To give an indication as to how massive this crowd was, and the 'pull of The Rangers' Celtic played Morton that day at Ibrox in the other semi final and 80,000 were in attendance. Now, 80,000 for a domestic semi final is a mighty fine crowd by anybody's standards. But it was 63,000 LESS than the throng that had congregated at Mount Florida. Just think, 63,000 as a crowd in modern day Britain would be something to boast about never mind be the shortfall.
If you think that the crowds were about to dry up that season then you can think again. Just fewer than 132,000 turned up for the final and they saw a Morton side that finished third bottom in the league take a 2nd minute lead, only for Tory Gillick to restore parity ten minutes later.
However, nearly two thousand more turned up for the replay and the crowd, given as 133,750 easily stands as a British domestic midweek record. Again, as my old man recalls, he can still see Billy Williamson appearing out of the 'glaur' as the light faded with less than five minutes of extra time left to dive and head a Rutherford cross into the pokey at the Kings Park end of Hampden. So the aggregate final crowd came to 265,725. Again, easily a British record.
There was an anti climax when a mere 69,500 turned up at Hampden the following month to see Williamson and Duncanson share the spoils between them in the Charity Cup final 'do' against Celtic. Thistle had been despatched in the previous round.
Manager's Report Card; what a silly way to lose the league. Tsk, tsk, tsk indeed. However an 'Iron Curtain' defence had now taken shape and it is still talked about to this day; Brown, Young, Shaw. McColl, Woodburn & Cox. We will NEVER see their likes again. Oh, and there was a pleasant 3-0 win at Benfica in a prestige friendly in the February. It was made all the sweeter for Willie Waddell as he met his wife to be, an air Stewardess, on the flight.
22 - The opening to season 1948/49 took Rangers back to Fir Park and 35,000 witnessed an early Thornton goal cancelled out late in the second half and Willie Woodburn ordered off. The 'Iron Curtain' defence then leaked three goals at Ibrox to Falkirk but counters by Gillick (2) Thornton and Willie Findlay saved the day. Normality defence wise was resumed thereafter and a Findlay goal at Celtic Park was complimented by a clean sheet.
A month later however three goals were lost at CP in a League Cup sectional tie; Findlay again scoring Rangers goal. This was the third disastrous result on the trot in a section also involving Clyde and Hibs. With three games played Rangers had drawn against the 'Bully Wee 'at home and away to Hibs. Defeat at CP was the last straw. Or so people thought.
However the section began to swing Rangers way. A Waddell hat trick at Shawfield was complimented with Hibs winning the battle of the greens elsewhere. Next up was Hibs at Ibrox and over 76,000 saw Willie Thornton once again be the difference between the sides. While that was happening Clyde were tupping Celtic 6-3 at CP.
So within the span of 180 minutes football, Celtic's three point lead had been overtaken. The last sectional tie was Celtic at Ibrox and 105,000 turned up at Ibrox on an autumn day to witness two King Billy's; Williamson and Waddell score the vital counters against a disputed McPhail penalty for Celtic. Purely on a game by game ratio, Billy Williamson had a fantastic scoring record against Celtic.
The quarter final was a home tie against St Mirren and once again a Thornton goal kept the home support sweet. Dundee, who would gradually become Rangers main challengers on the league front, were swept away 4-1 in the semi final. A preposterous 40-50 yard back headed goal from Jimmy Duncanson being the highlight of the match. The final was wrapped up in the springtime against Raith Rovers and goals by Gillick and Paton had the Rangers support gambolling home smiling.
The Glasgow Cup had been lost meantime. After beating Third Lanark in the league at Ibrox on the 4th September at Ibrox, the same team thrashed Rangers 4-1 at Cathkin Park the following Wednesday.
Back to matters league wise; Hibs, as was to be expected were always dangerous opponents and on their next visit to Ibrox after the League Cup tie they scored four first half goals to take the precious championship points back to the capital. The Rangers goals scored by Thornton and Gillick were mere consolations.
The by now almost obligatory traditional Ne'erday triumph over Celtic saw Jimmy Duncanson trip the light blue fantastic with a hat trick. Thornton, who opened the scoring in the third minute, scored the other Rangers goal. Now I personally have read newspaper reports of this game and in one of them, a journalist, talking about a proposed Scotland tour in the following summer asked; 'Why don't we just send this Rangers team instead?' Changed days we live in nowadays. And not necessarily for the better!
However, starting at Dens Park two days later another lapse in playing standards came about with five points being dropped out of the next eight. Was lightning about to strike for the second season in succession?
Well, with Hibs fading out of the race altogether it all came down to the last day with Rangers at Albion Rovers and Dundee, a point to the good, at Falkirk. Rangers did their bit at Coatbridge with Thornton and Duncanson reversing their Ne'erday scoring roles and Rangers ran out comfortable winners by four goals to one.
With the points all but done and dusted at half time (Rovers 0 v Rangers 3) all thoughts turned to Brockville. A Dundee victory would land them the title, however Falkirk, who actually finished above Celtic in the league that season were 'nobody's mugs' and they wiped the floor with the 'Dee' men; winning by that same 4-1 margin. Rangers were champions once again. And just to make it all the sweeter, the Falkirk goalkeeper - ex Ranger, Jerry Dawson, saved a penalty during the match.
The Scottish Cup meanwhile had been garnered in a very emphatic fashion. There was a 6-1 victory over Elgin in the first round. This was followed up by a three goal routing of Motherwell at Fir Park, which begat a 4-0 battering of Thistle at Ibrox in front of 65,000. Which led to a victory over East Fife, managed by ex Ranger, Scot Symon, thanks to a Thornton hat trick in front of just under 105,000 at the semi final stage.
Clyde were the final opponents and a mere 120,000 turned up to see George Young score a brace, Jimmy Duncanson and Billy Williamson net the other strikes in a comfortable 4-1 victory.
I mentioned Billy Williamson's scoring record against Celtic earlier. Well he was even better in the Scottish Cup. He played only one Scottish Cup tie in season 1947/48 and that was the final replay when he scored the only goal of the game. In this season of 1948/49, he played only one Scottish Cup tie and that was the final and once again he scored. So 'Sailor's' two season Scottish Cup record was two games, two goals, two winner's medals. Not a bad haul.
The Charity Cup was lost at the first hurdle when Thistle came to Ibrox and beat the light blues by one goal to nil.
Manager's Report Card - Well, you just knew it had to be William Struth who recorded the first 'Triple Crown' in Scottish football history. The League, Scottish Cup and League Cup all safely tucked away in the Ibrox trophy cabinet. I'm sure those who helped him defeat Jimmy Bowie in that boardroom coup two years earlier had a quiet sense of satisfaction among them.
23 - Rangers first competitive match in season 1949/50 was at Celtic Park in a League Cup tie and the home side won this one 3-2 with a certain 'Irishman' called Charlie Tully being one of the main instigators in the win.
It was to be a strange tournament for the light blues. They won the return Ibrox tie 2-0 in front of 95,000; a game remembered mostly for the Cox-Tully incident on the half hour. What happened was the 'Marvel fae Darvel' fouled Tully, who then retaliated.
This wasn't good enough for the Celtic support who wanted Cox sent off and when that didn't happen a 'bottle party' broke out at the Celtic end. You do have to wonder; if Tully was able to kick back at Sammy Cox after the original foul, then it couldn't have been all that bad in the first place surely?
As I say, that game was won and Rangers also headed the section also comprising St Mirren and Aberdeen. In the Q/F 1st leg, Cowdenbeath shocked the whole country with a 3-2 win at Ibrox. This was the first time ever that a team from a lower division had won at Ibrox in a competitive match. The 2nd leg was also a nerve jangler and it needed an Eddie Rutherford goal on time up to equalise on aggregate. Sammy Cox, who had scored Rangers first goal, added another in extra time to take the light blues through.
Another set of fifers, East Fife were the semi final opponents and they beat Rangers in a competitive match for the first time in their history with a goal nine minutes from the end of extra time. It was a tourney of unwanted firsts for the team.
Meanwhile back on league duty Rangers and Hibs slugged it out all season long. Celtic were demolished 4-0 at Ibrox early doors. The CSA demanded a boycott of this match because of the Cox/Tully incident previously (they're an awfy touchy bunch) and only 64,000 bears turned up to see Rutherford, Findlay, Waddell and that man Williamson yet again score the goals.
There was a real thriller at the start of December as Rangers just edged out Clyde by the odd goal in nine at Ibrox and the following week the defence was still in a festive mood shipping another four goals at Fir Park. There were no replies that day from the forward line however.
Boiling point was reached on the penultimate day of the season when a post war league attendance record of 102,000 was set when Hibs came to Ibrox. The Iron Curtain defence was at its best that day and the resulting 0-0 draw meant that Rangers only required a draw at Cathkin Park in the final match to clinch the league title yet again. They did exactly that with Paton and Williamson netting the vital strikes in front of 33,000.
The Glasgow Cup was won yet again; Williamson and Findlay netting the goals at CP in the semi final to take Rangers through. Ninety three thousand people took in the final and replay against Clyde with Gillick scoring two goals in a 2-1 win. The first match had ended up 2-2.
The Charity Cup had a 'Hollywood' theme as Danny Kaye was introduced to the sides before kick off in front of 81,000. The result in this the last game of the season was exactly as the one, which kick started the season; 3-2 to Celtic.
Interspersed between the two old Glasgow trophies, Rangers had their sights set on a third consecutive Scottish Cup triumph and this was to prove more of a protracted tournament than the previous season.
After a smashing 4-2 win at Motherwell, Cowdenbeath were made to pay for that season's previous misdemeanours when they were thrashed 8-0 at Ibrox. However it then took three games to see off Raith Rovers at the Q/F stage and two games to get rid of Queen of the South in the semi final.
East Fife were to be yet again their Hampden opponents but there was to be no repeat of their previous League Cup performance. Willie Findlay opened the scoring in just thirty seconds and it was rampant Rangers from then on. Willie Thornton scored two in as many minutes in the second half and had another disallowed. Scot Symon said it was the best ever Rangers performance he had ever seen and the majority of the 120,000 crowd went home singing about the light blues.
Incidentally, the 'Iron Curtain' defence was in place for the three consecutive Scottish Cup final triumphs. Willie Woodburn missed one Scottish Cup tie versus East Fife at Ibrox in 47/48. As a unit they played in every tie of 1948/49 and Jock Shaw missed out on the Cowdenbeath tie at Ibrox in 49/50. Twenty cup ties spanning three years and only two changes of personnel in that time. It was a marvellous record of consistency.
Manager's Report Card. What else is there left to say? If we take the liberty of including the WW2 years then this was Rangers 24th league title in the thirty years of Bill Struth's management. Another treble Scottish Cup triumph had been achieved. Only the second time it had happened in the 20th Century. The first time was also a Rangers/Struth production. The only nagging doubt there could be was that the time was marching on and as we know, it waits for no man. Especially a man who was in failing heath.
24 - This season started off with a Rangers victory at Greenock in the League Cup, however the section, also including Aberdeen and Clyde saw the light blues failing to reach the knock out stages for the first time ever. Sectional defeats home and away to Aberdeen proving to be the deciding factor.
The league form was patchy to say the least. Of the first seven league matches played, three were lost. One at CP when the side was 2-1 up with only ten minutes left to play. A 2-1 defeat at Firhill and then a home defeat against Aberdeen meaning the men from the Granite City had beaten Rangers three times within the first two months of the season.
There were another two defeats in December, at Shawfield and then Dens Park to leave Rangers well behind in the race for the title. Ne'erday as ever, in an odd year provided some Old Firm comfort with a Waddell goal separating the sides. Partick however, came to Ibrox next and grabbed a 3-1 win, to give them a double league win over Rangers that season.
Rangers were never really at the races this season and a final day 4-1 defeat at Easter Rd meant that Rangers finished in second place, a massive ten points behind the men from the capital.
That same Hibs team was in smash and grab form in the Scottish Cup with a 3-2 win at Ibrox in front of over 102,000. Again, this was a game in which Rangers had been leading just after half time. There were gaps in the Iron Curtain defence as there had never been previously.
In the Glasgow Cup, Thistle yet again proved to be too good for Rangers putting the light blues out at the semi final stage. There was a modicum of revenge in the Charity Cup when two Willie Findlay goals won the day. Incidentally, there were 70,000 in attendance at Hampden in the 1st round at Hampden to see Thornton and Findlay goals ease Rangers through the Old Firm tie.
Manager's report card - There can be no getting away from it; Bill Struth was getting on in years and things just were not what they used to be. However the wily old fox still had a good eye for a striker and Ulsterman, Billy Simpson, who had been brought to the club in the October from Linfield for a then club record fee of £11,500, proved that was still the case.
25 - Once again the League Cup kick started season 1951/52. The other teams in the section were East Fife, Queen of the South and Aberdeen. The reds of course had won the league cup section the year previous but there was no repeat this time and Rangers came out on top. Aberdeen in fact ended up in bottom place. The same team however had defeated Rangers in the St Mungo Cup in the July.
Dunfermline were defeated 3-2 on aggregate at the quarter final stage and Celtic were blown away 3-0 in the semi final at Hampden with Rangers best performance for many a day. Rangers were a Willie Findlay goal to the good at half time in the final against Dundee in front of over 90,000 and then equalised on the 88th minute thanks to a George Young goal. However a last minute Dundee goal gave them their first domestic trophy since winning the Scottish Cup at Ibrox in 1910.
Both the Glasgow Cups were disappointing that season with Clyde putting Rangers out of the Glasgow Cup in the first round and Third Lanark taking Rangers scalp at the semi final stage in the Charity Cup.
The league, a forlorn hope a year earlier could and indeed should have been won. However five points dropped in the last four league ties, allowed Hibs to retain their title. January saw a topsy turvy start to the year. A delightful 4-1 battering of Celtic at CP on Ne'erday was quickly followed up by two 2-1 defeats; to Dundee at home and away to East Fife.
The Scottish Cup was not to throw up any consolation for the Rangers support. Elgin City and Arbroath were duly despatched, but a late Motherwell equaliser in front of 82,000 at Ibrox in the Q/F meant a Fir Park replay and over 36,000 crammed into the ground and watched Motherwell score a late goal to register a 2-1 victory. By this time Jock Shaw had been more or less weaned out of the side and a young left back called Johnny Little came into replace him.
Manager's Report Card - This was a significant season alright. This was the first time in Bill Struth's 32 years at the helm that Rangers had went two full years without winning the title. It was also the only barren season he would have apart from season 1925/26, which was a lifetime away. This was now five years after the Ibrox boardroom coup. A penny for the thoughts of the main players in that 'coup' at this point? A penny also, for the thoughts of the deposed Jimmy Bowie?
26 - Season 1952/53 could not have started in a more disastrous fashion for both the club and goalkeeper, Bobby Brown. A severe first day 5-0 tonking at Tynecastle in the League Cup, where the terrible trio of Conn, Wardhaugh and Bauld tore the Iron Curtain to shreds meant that goalkeeper Brown would take no further part in the season's proceedings. A young goalkeeper called George Niven would take his place four days later.
The team rallied however in a section that also involved Motherwell and Aberdeen yet again. Four of the next five section ties were won and Rangers went forward to the Q/F stage two points ahead of Hearts. They would get to the semi final but a Kilmarnock goal two minutes from time took the Ayrshire men through to the final. That was Cowdenbeath in 1949 and now Kilmarnock three years later. Clubs from a lower division beating Bill Struth's charges twice in three years? Something wasn't quite right.
The league campaign started off as something of a mixed bag with Celtic (away) Hibs (home) and East Fife (away) administering three defeats in the first five games. However the team steadied the ship somewhat and it would be another five months (March) before Rangers tasted defeat again; Clyde nabbing both points in a 2-1 win at Ibrox.
Billy Simpson had already ushered in 'the bells' with the only goal of the Ne'erday fixture at Ibrox - well, after all it was an odd year - and a Derek Grierson (another poacher supreme spied by the wily old Struth and brought to Ibrox as Thornton reached the veteran stage) equalising goal at Easter Rd in the middle of the month in front of 60,000 kept Rangers in the title hunt.
Once again it came down to a last day decider and Rangers kept their nerves at Palmerston with a Willie Waddell goal 15 minutes from the end making sure that the league trophy was back in its rightful place. But this time it was by the tightest of squeezes on goal average. George Niven not withstanding, Young, McColl, Woodburn and Cox had worked the oracle in defence yet again.
The Glasgow and Charity Cups were nothing to write home about this season. Thistle defeated Rangers in the final in front of a 46,000 crowd and Queens Park won on the toss of a coin in the first round of the Charity Cup.
The Scottish Cup was a fairly simple affair up until the final. Arbroath, Dundee, Morton and Celtic were all routinely dismissed. (There was 43,000 at Dens and 95,000 for Celtic at Ibrox) There was then a healthy 116,000 at Hampden to see Rangers kill off Hearts challenge at the semi final stage.
Come cup final day, Rangers found themselves up against it early on when George Niven was stretchered off with a head wound. George Young then tended goal. An early John Prentice goal had given Rangers the lead but Aberdeen equalised late on; by this time Niven was back on the park.
The replay once more saw this Aberdeen take the game to Rangers and it was on one of the Gers' few forays up the park in the first half, just before half time that Billy Simpson scored the only goal of the game. There were more than 243,000 attended both games.
Manager's Report Card - Another league title, another Scottish Cup gathered. Bill Struth's seventh League and Scottish Cup double. Yet the spine of this side was growing old. Young, McColl, Woodburn and Cox were still there, as was Waddell from the immediate post war era. Rangers were eliminated from the Coronation Cup in the first round, Man Utd winning this match before 75,000
27 - No one else knew it at the time, apart from a certain few possibly, but the 1953/54 season was to be the end of an era both for the club and Bill Struth; a managerial career spanning 34 years was about to come to an end.
All seemed well early on; the League Cup section saw Rangers sail past Hearts, Raith Rovers and Hamilton. Five matches were won, the Tynecastle tie drawn. Twenty two goals were scored for the loss of only four.
Ayr Utd were accounted for in the Q/Finals just, the aggregate score being 6-5 to the light blues. These matches saw the introduction of a young full back called Eric Caldow. Partick Thistle were next up in a Hampden semi final and ran out surprise 2-0 winners in front of 48,000.
The Glasgow Cup run started off at Shawfield. Next up was an Ibrox date with Celtic which ended in a draw and was followed up with a smashing 4-0 victory in the CP replay. Third Lanark were defeated 3-0 in the final. This would prove to be the last trophy Rangers won under Bill Struth.
The league form was indifferent to say the least. Of the first eleven matches played only four were won and losses at Stirling Albion, Dundee, Queen of the South and at home to Hearts meant that Rangers were trailing almost from the very start of the campaign.
A Ne'erday Old Firm defeat, the first in the east end of Glasgow since 1938, was a severe blow at a time when Rangers were beginning to play catch up. This defeat sparked a mini run of three wins on the trot but a defeat at East Fife was basically the final straw. There would be only four more league wins that season and Rangers ended a distant nine points behind winners, Celtic.
The Scottish Cup campaign could be termed a disaster. After a 2-0 home win against Queens Park it needed two games to beat Kilmarnock and three to get past Third Lanark. Berwick were blasted at Ibrox in the quarter final so it was to be Aberdeen, last season's beaten finalists who would be the semi final opponents.
For the Rangers support in the colossal Hampden crowd of 110,000 there was to be no repeat of the heroics of the previous term. If Rangers had luck on their side then, they had none this time around.
Goalkeeper Bobby Brown was injured in the second minute and left back Johnny Little struggled for the majority of the match after a first half knock. Aberdeen two goals to the good at half time were in no mood for sympathy. They routed Rangers, and although three of their goals came in the last seven minutes against their demoralised opponents; a 6-0 victory tells its own story.
The Charity Cup was to offer nothing by way consolation. Even a 1st round win over 'Double' winners Celtic wasn't enough to win the day. Although Queens Park were eased by at the semi final stage thanks to goals by Derek Grierson and Billy Simpson; Third Lanark would prove too good at the final hurdle and that was it. Bill Struth's last season had gone out; not with a bang but with a whimper.
The club then embarked on a tour of North America. They won the first seven matches of the tour then on the fifth of June 1954, lost 4-1 to Chelsea. Billy Simpson scored Rangers consolation strike and therefore holds the honour of being the last Rangers player to score under Bill Struth's management. The Ulsterman scored the last domestic goal also.
Rangers achieved a no score draw against the same opposition the following day bringing the tour to a close. On 15/6/1954 Bill Struth stood down as Rangers manager. Scot Symon who had moved from East Fife to Preston North End and had taken them to the FA Cup final that same season was appointed to take over the reigns.
Bill Struth oversaw the most sustained period of success, not only in Rangers history but in British football. He is by far and away the greatest manager this island has ever produced. But if there is a downside to his time in charge; then in my opinion it would have been his refusal to at least give Rangers Chairman Jimmy Bowie's proposal that he step down as manager back in 1947 some consideration.
Of course this is easy to say when you can see both points of view 60 years after the fact in the cold light of day. Bowie could see that the great man was not getting any younger and his health was beginning to falter. Struth like any other man who had achieved greatness probably thought that he, and he alone, would know when to step down. Alex Ferguson is possibly a comparison in the modern day; although Struth at the time was about ten years older than Ferguson is at the present time.
Again, with hindsight you have to say that in all probability events would prove that Jimmy Bowie was correct. The real tragedy for me is that Jimmy Bowie cared passionately about bringing through and nurturing youth. His statement when the Main Stand opened in 1929; "This is our magnificent new Main Stand; it holds 10,000 and we could fill it ten times over with young boys who want to play for The Rangers" says it all.
Furthermore, with the Iron Curtain defence already in place, a steadfast support and barely any opposition from Celtic you have to wonder how it would all have panned out if the club had embarked on a real emphasis on youth as Matt Busby would do in spectacular fashion a decade later down in Manchester. But that is something for better and shrewder judges of the club than me to write about.
However, the above is only my opinion and should not detract away from the majesty of Bill Struth's managerial reign at Ibrox. And when you consider how much he was revered by his players even by the ever dwindling band that is left in the present day then it tells you everything you need to know about the man.
It is my contention that Bill Struth was and remains the greatest manager in world football history. I sincerely hope you all have enjoyed reading about the club's achievements under his guidance as much as I have writing about them.
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