Rangers and the Scottish Cup 1933/34 to 1935/36
Feature by Ayrshire Billy Boy
Updated Sunday, 22nd April 2007
The first three-in-a-row (part 1)
Thus far on our journey with Rangers and the Scottish Cup, some notable highs and lows have been covered. In this instalment, what will come under focus is Rangers' achievement in winning the Cup for three successive years, a feat that no Club had achieved since Queen's Park in 1882. Vale of Leven were another Club who had accomplished this between 1877-1879 with their last success being due to Rangers famously refusing to appear for the replay on a point of principle and the Cup being awarded to their opponents in the final. Therefore, if we look at it purely from a footballing perspective, only Queen's Park could say they won the Cup on the field of play in three successive years, a feat they achieved twice with the second instance being 1880 - 1882. As for Rangers, they had only ever successfully defended the Cup once - in 1898 - so therefore were about to embark on a journey never before undertaken by any Rangers players.
After winning the Grand Slam in 1930, Rangers had enjoyed one success in the competition, a 3-0 win over Kilmarnock in 1932. Defeat to Dundee in the second round in 1931 and in the semi-final to Kilmarnock in 1933 meant when Rangers began their quest for Cup glory in the season of 1933/34 they were not doing so as holders.
The first game in this particular segment in itself turned out to be a game that went down in Ibrox folklore although few would have predicted that would have been the case when lowly Blairgowrie came calling to Ibrox on Saturday 20th January 1934 in the first round. A rather low crowd of 5,000 were in attendance, every one of them expecting a comfortable Rangers passage to the next stage. However, few would have predicted that a goalscoring record would be set that day and one is left to ponder at the thoughts of those who decided to give the game a miss when the action unfolded.
The man at the centre of the future attention, Jimmy Fleming, got things rolling after a mere 30 seconds, finishing off a quick passing move between Willie Nicholson and Alec Venters. Nicholson himself doubled the advantage on 6 minutes, finishing off a flowing move that involved all five Rangers forwards. The game was over as a contest on 10 minutes, Fleming heading in a Bobby Main cross. Fleming completed his hat-trick on 30 minutes making it 4-0 overall as he finished off a move between himself and Nicholson. One minute before half-time, Fleming netted another as he tapped in an Alec Venters knock-down.
With the game done and dusted at half-time, Rangers could possibly have been forgiven for easing off in the second half but for the second 45 minutes they displayed a ruthless professionalism and went on to create two separate records. Sadly reports of the goals are sketchy at best meaning fuller descriptions of the goals are proving elusive for the time being but they have been minuted so the modern day observer can at least follow the passage of scoring without the added bonus of having an accompanying description.
Alec Venters shot home fiercely on 56 minutes to make it 6-0 and a minute later Jimmy Fleming made it 7. A Doc Marshall effort on 59 minutes was followed by another double from Fleming on 60 and 62 to reach double figures. Doc Marshall on 66 minutes made it 11-0 then the crowd had to wait 14 minutes for the 12th, this one another counter from Venters. Blairgowrie netted a penalty on 86 minutes to provide at least one scrap of consolation before another two from Jimmy Fleming on 88 and 89 minutes brought the score to 14-1. With almost the last kick of the ball the visitors netted their second, leaving a full time score of 14-2 in Rangers' favour.
Jimmy Fleming's incredible personal haul of nine goals in one game set a record for a Rangers player that will surely never be broken. Likewise, the team's 14 goals set a record for goals scored in one particular game if not a record winning margin. Again, it is doubtful if that will ever be bettered or equalled in a competitive fixture. Fleming then netted another 5 in Rangers' following league fixture, a 6-0 win at Dens Park. On the same day another Rangers goalscoring legend in Sammy English scored twice for Liverpool in their 3-0 derby win over Tranmere Rovers. In the intervening period, Rangers learned that they would face a short trip across Glasgow in the second round to face Third Lanark at Cathkin Park.
Rangers took to the field at Cathkin on Saturday 3rd February 1934 in front of a crowd of 27,038. Jerry Dawson played his part in the Rangers goal to ensure the sides went in 0-0 at the break. A tense stalemate was broken on 70 minutes, Jimmy Smith capitalising on a goalmouth scramble. The same player eased Rangers' concerns on 85 minutes with a chipped effort and finished off his own and the game's scoring on 89 minutes with a clever flick.
With a potentially tricky hurdle overcome, Rangers were handed a stern task in round 3 with a home tie against Hearts. Predictions beforehand spoke of an 85,000 attendance and while the eventual crowd did not reach that level, a still-respectable 67,543 turned up on Saturday February 17th. In terms of quality on show, though, both sets of fans went home disappointed in having watched a dour, tense goalless draw. The replay the following Wednesday at Tynecastle, however, produced a record for a midweek game in Edinburgh, 47,453 in attendance. Rangers began the replay in a much more positive sense than in the first game. Such was the quality of their play, one contemporary observer was moved to describe it as 'artistry' especially with the fact that the game was played amid a fierce win. Even with their dominance of the game, Rangers had to wait until the 44th minutes before taking the lead, Bob McPhail heading in despite plentiful claims by the Hearts players for offside. The hosts levelled the game in the second half before on 78 minutes jimmy Fleming got the winner from a Bobby Main cross. Having negotiated yet another awkward obstacle, Rangers were then presented with another in the form of an Aberdeen visit to Ibrox for the quarter final which took place on Saturday March 3rd.
53,000 watched a tense but exciting affair with Aberdeen unable to capitalise on Rangers' somewhat hesitant play. Both teams had goals chalked off in the first half before, in the 44th minute, Bob McPhail's shot was saved by the goalkeeper with Jimmy Smith showing bravery and determination to throw himself between a ruck of players to score. The following picture shows the goal being scored, Smith being the one furthest to the right on the ground.
Thus, with a 1-0 win, Rangers progressed to the semi-final where they learned they would face St Johnstone at Hampden despite efforts on the part of some SFA members to have the game played at Tynecastle. The other semi-finalists, St Mirren and Motherwell would instead play their game in Edinburgh at Hearts' ground leaving the onlooker searching for the logic that dictated a Renfrewshire team and a Lanarkshire one should be made to travel to the east coast.
In the week building up to the semi-final, speculation suggested the great Davie Meiklejohn was in the frame for the Arsenal job while Rangers gave themselves a psychological edge over their opponents by beating them 3-0 at Ibrox 7 days prior to the engagement at Hampden. Predictions in the media suggested a Rangers - Motherwell final was the most likely outcome of the two semi-finals.
The games took place on the last day on March in 1934 and 60,119 were at Hampden for the Rangers game. An evenly balanced first half produced no goals but say Jerry Dawson in good form. Rangers' cause was hampered by an injury to Jimmy Smith on 65 minutes, necessitating his temporary absence from the action. After he returned, Rangers forced a corner on 84 minutes which was taken by Jimmy Simpson and headed in by Doc Marshall. With so little time remaining there was no way back for the visitors from Perth and the solitary goal took Rangers into their 17th final where they would face St Mirren who had defeated Motherwell in a surprise 3-1 win in the Capital in front of a crowd of around 28,000.
In between the semis and the final, and moving away briefly from the subject matter, Doc Marshall was the only Rangers player in the Scotland team as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Wembley on 14th April. The following Saturday, however, was Cup Final day which provided anticipation for those at Ibrox. Such was the interest surrounding the game that around 80 trains were chartered to take passengers to Hampden - some from as far away as Wick in the Highlands and plenty ex-pat Scots making the journey from the Kent coast in the south of England. They helped boost the attendance to a very respectable 113,400 who then watched a very one-sided game. The Rangers Captain, Davie Meiklejohn is pictured below shaking hands with his opposing number immediately prior to kick-off.
Even with Rangers so much on top, St Mirren did still manage to hold out for 34 minutes. McPhail saw a 30 yard shot well saved then the same player hit the side netting. Rangers then had a goal disallowed due to a Jimmy Smith foul on the goalkeeper. St Mirren then themselves had a goal chalked off for offside. Rangers, however, made the breakthrough 11 minutes before half time when a Bobby main corner punched away by the goalkeeper who then did the same when the ball was returned back into the area. From the second punch, Willie Nicholson, from 25 yards, carefully lobbed the ball into the unguarded goal, giving Rangers a lead they would never look like losing. Bob McPhail then doubled Rangers' lead on 40 minutes, pouncing on the rebound from a one-handed save. An interval lead of 2-0 saw Rangers in a comfortable position.
10 minutes after the restart, Bobby Main produced a fine individual goal, initially gaining possession from a poor defensive clearance to then dribble past two defenders and slot the ball home. Six minutes later Jimmy Smith negated any hopes St Mirren had of an unlikely comeback by shooting a low drive home and Willie Nicholson wrapped up the scoring and made it 5-0 to Rangers with a fierce shot from a Bob McPhail pass.
A 5-0 win for Rangers thus equalled the record set for a Cup Final winning margin, a record that was set away back in 1888 as Renton defeated Cambuslang 6-1. Four days after the Final, Rangers clinched the Double with a 3-1 win at Brockville then went on to win the Charity Cup ensuring a first team clean sweep of trophies, the Glasgow Cup having been won in October. For good measure, Rangers defeated Arsenal home and away in a British Championship decider. All in all it was a highly successful season for all at Rangers with the picture below showing the Scottish Cup instalment of the quartet of trophies won that season.