The first three-in-a-row (part 3)

Before the Cup campaign of 1935/36 began, the country had been plunged into mourning with the death of King George V. After a lengthy and protracted debate in footballing circles, it was decided - not without criticism - that the games should go ahead as scheduled. Rangers, therefore, were under the impression their first round tie with East Fife at Ibrox would go ahead on the planned date of Saturday 25th January. In the event, frost saw the cancellation of the game and the rescheduling of it to the following Wednesday for an afternoon kick off, a factor undoubtedly in the low crowd of 3,000 that turned up for it. A low-key game was reflected in the low-key reports of it, merely stating that Jimmy Smith opened the scoring on 19 minutes, netting another just after the break and Alec Venters hitting the third on 55 minutes before a late consolation. The draw for the next round presented Rangers with a trip to Albion Rovers while the Club was honoured on February 4th when Bill Struth was made a Justice of the Peace.

Albion Rovers had played their unwelcome part in extending Rangers' infamous hoodoo in the past and were making confident noises about the 1936 encounter. Their ground was said to be equipped to hold an astonishing 50,000 but little more than half that - 27,500 - paid on February 8th to see a game reduced to farcical levels due to the frozen pitch it was played on. Indeed, the perils of playing on such a surface were evident after only 60 seconds when Jimmy Simpson had to be taken off after falling and banging his head on the ground. Taking advantage of their numerical superiority the hosts forced a 7th minute penalty; but were unable to capitalise, the effort going wide.

Simpson returned to the action after 10 minutes but was little more than a passenger at outside right. Rovers then took a 35th minute lead, a lead they held until 25 minutes before the game's end when Jimmy Smith headed in a Jimmy Turnbull cross. Rangers then got in front on 72 minutes, Smith again scoring, this time knocking in a Simpson centre from close range. The game and Smith's hat-trick was wrapped up on 84 minutes as he knocked the ball in from a McPhail free kick. Therefore, Rangers had successfully negotiated a difficult tie and the draw for round three sent them on the short journey to Paisley to face St Mirren.

A huge crowd of 43,308 were at Love Street on Saturday February 22nd and saw Rangers take the game to their hosts incessantly from the very beginning, McPhail hitting the post from 20 yards early on. Despite doing almost all the pressing, Rangers went in level at 0-0 with their opponents at the break. The crucial first goal, though, came on 60 minutes, McPhail scoring with a perfectly timed header from a Jimmy Smith flick; and, in the process, generated a row about the offide rule that rumbled on fordays. 7 minutes later the same to players repeated the trick, this time Smith heading in from a McPhail knock-on. With a 2-0 lead Rangers appeared to be comfortable but St Mirren got one back on 77 minutes and made Rangers sweat until the final whistle denoted their passage into the quarter-finals.

Rangers' opponents in the last eight were Aberdeen, Rangers having to make the long journey north. The distance did not deter a huge Rangers support making up a high percentage of the 41,663 that were in attendance. Five trains filled with Rangers fans of the day left Glasgow on the day of the game while countless others made the trip by car or bus. Indeed, Aberdeen was awash with red, white and blue from 7am onwards on the day of the game as Rangers fans arrived, many having driven through the night and woke the local residents up to the strains of "Follow, Follow, we will follow Rangers". As well as those methods, Rangers fans were organising themselves into bus parties on a regular basis at this time, one specific example being the Merkland Street Social Club in Partick who ran a bus to the game, possibly acting as some form of ancestor to the Partick Loyal RSC that is in existence in this day and age. In a rather strange issue of timetabling their trip, though, those wishing to travel with them were to note the bus was leaving Partick at 6-30am on the day of the game but was not due to leave Aberdeen until 4am on the Sunday morning!

The many that made the trip, though, were glad that they did at the end of Rangers' 1-0 win. Delirious Rangers fans - in scenes reminiscent of later times - swarmed onto the park at the final whistle and carried their heroes shoulder-high off the park. Prior to the game kicking off, as the Light Blue multitudes indulged in the anthems of that day and this one, and in a stark indicator of the change in times, the Rangers support began a chorus of God Save The King, a tune that was then taken up by the home supporters in the crowd. One is left to wonder at what the contemporary Aberdonians would make of the behaviour of their descendants at Pittodrie in this day and age.

A goalless first half saw Aberdeen looking slightly like the more likely to score, their forwards giving Gray and Meiklejohn a torrid time at the Rangers back. Rangers weathered the storm with Alec Venters in particular coming on to an exceptional game although a replay looked inevitable as neither side took advantage of the chances that presented themselves. Six minutes from time, however, a golden opportunity for Rangers to take a huge leap into the semi-final emerged as a penalty was awarded. To the laments of the Rangers fans in the ground, Davie Meiklejohn saw his effort saved and the crowd began to prepare themselves for a replay. Barely two minutes after the penalty, though, Jimmy Turnbull swept in a Jimmy Smith pass and, by the narrowest of margins, Rangers found themselves in the last four of the Cup, their opponents being Clyde with the game taking place at Hampden. Third Lanark would take on Falkirk at Tynecastle in the other game.

A relatively small crowd for a Glasgow derby turned up at Hampden on Saturday March 28th. Only 56,243 were there to witness a totally one-sided affair as Rangers dismantled their Glasgow neighbours. Rangers were ahead as early as the four-minute mark as Davie Meiklejohn charged forward and, as the Clyde defence backed away from him, hit a powerful shot from all of 30 yards that flew into the net. Jimmy Smith then had a goal disallowed for offside as Rangers continued their relentless attacks although they had to do so without their Captain for a spell, Meiklejohn going off injured and then returning but being unable to contribute much. A scene from the game is included below:

Rangers doubled their lead on 40 minutes and essentially secured their route into the final as Dougie Gray and Alec Venters combined to break up a rare Clyde attacks and passed the ball forward. Bob McPhail ran onto it and lobbed the ball towards goal, causing the goalkeeper to suffer an almighty blunder as he dropped the ball into the goal. A 2-0 half-time lead was, going by the pattern of play, enough to see Rangers through although they made sure on 47 minutes, Bobby Main speeding into knock the ball beyond the goalkeeper and into the net as he was about to pick it up.

Rangers were thus in their third successive Scottish Cup Final for, rather poetically, the third time after 1896-98 and 1903-05. They would face another Glasgow team, Third Lanark, who defeated Falkirk 3-1 in front of 47,796 in Edinburgh in their own semi-final.

The Wednesday after their march into the final, Rangers received some disappointing news from the SFA who decreed that only Hampden would be allocated international fixtures and Cup Finals for the next 20 years, citing the reasons that King's Park and Mount Florida train stations could cope with 40 special trains for a big fixture, Ibrox station having the capacity for just 25. Bill Struth challenged the decision by pointing out the planned introduction of a new train line in the Ibrox area but to no avail.

The Saturday after that, Jerry Dawson, Jimmy Simpson, Alec Venters and George Brown made up an impressive Rangers contingent in Scotland's 1-1 draw with England at Hampden in front of a 130,000 crowd with an estimated 50,000 locked out. The same players then, on April 13th - the Monday before the Final - helped Rangers to a 3-1 win over their Final opponents at Cathkin Park. However, Rangers' hopes of an unprecedented third successive double began to fade following defeat at Hamilton giving Celtic the chance to establish themselves at the top of the table in the run in to the League finale.

Be that as it may, Rangers were on the verge of history on April 18th 1936 as they lined up in front of 88,859 at Hampden. The game is described as being poor with little skill or imagination on show. The game started brightly for Rangers, however, with Bob McPhail - pictured below receiving congratulations after his goal - scoring after just two minutes, hustling his opponent in the Thirds defence to win possession and run on to score from a tight angle. Meiklejohn then came close to scoring on 44 minutes directly from a corner but the ball drifted just over.

An uneventful second half came alive in the last 6 minutes. First, Jerry Dawson produced a miraculous save to prevent an equaliser and Jimmy Smith missed a glorious chance two minutes before the end, ensuring Rangers fans, players and directors were kept sweating right up until the whistle. When the whistle came, it signified that Rangers were, for the first time ever, winners of the Scottish Cup for the third successive year. While we can pay our own tributes in 2007 to the heroes of the past, it is perhaps fitting to use the words of Jimmy Bowie from the dinner Rangers held to celebrate their achievement: "You have made a record for modern times. By winning the Cup three times in succession is something of which we are all very proud."

Little was he aware that Rangers would go on to repeat this feat not just once, but twice. The first of these will be the next feature of this series.