Rangers and the Scottish Cup: The First Triumph
Feature by Ayrshire Billy Boy
Updated Sunday, 1st April 2007
Rangers have enjoyed something of a love-hate relationship with the Scottish Cup over the years.
It's provided us with some unforgettable days and legendary results as well as some lows that, sadly, are a part of our Club's history that can't be ignored if we are to look comprehensively at Rangers' development. With all this in mind, Ayrshire Billy Boy begins a series on the subject in hand with a look at how Rangers won the Cup for the first time away back in 1894.
Rangers first entered the Scottish Cup in 1874 but, despite reaching the final in 1877 and 1879 had yet to win it outright in 1894. This meant it was actually the first of two occasions in the Club's history that they would go 20 years and over without winning it, a remarkable statistic.
The Complete Record described the Scottish Cup as being an 'obsession' with Rangers by the time they kicked off the 1893/94 bid off with a home tie against Cowlairs on Saturday 25th November, 1893. It was a tie the Glasgow Evening News was predicting would be a struggle for Rangers which isn't a particularly unreasonable assessment given Cowlairs' respectable finish of second behind Hibernian in the Scottish second division and the fact they were the league's second top scorers - again behind Hibs - with an impressive tally of 75 goals in a mere 18 games. Rangers were struggling in some respects in the top division so therefore it isn't out of the question that a team on a run in division two would fancy their chances against an upper level team who were not flying on all cylinders.
Any such apprehensions on the part of Rangers, however, were surely dispelled after they found themselves 2-0 up after 20 minutes. Kicking off in front of a Glasgow derby crowd of 8,000 and with a strong wind at their backs, John 'Kitey' McPherson opened the scoring before David Boyd headed a second on 20 minutes and repeated the trick before half time to give an interval lead of 3-0 to Rangers. An own-goal on 55 minutes killed off any lingering hopes Cowlairs might have had of staging an unlikely comeback. Hugh McCreadie scored either side of Boyd completing his hat-trick and Neilly Kerr scored the eighth and final goal rounding off a highly impressive display in which, according to contemporary reports, Rangers 'completely outplayed' their opponents. An 8-0 win is an 8-0 win regardless of opposition and it would surely have given the team confidence that they would be able to at last cross the final hurdle after two decades of trying.
The next round, played on Saturday 16th December, brought Leith across the country to Glasgow and attracted a crowd of 3,000. Again, a Glasgow newspaper predicted a struggle for Rangers, with the Evening Times this time actually going as far as to predict a victory for Leith unless Rangers were at their best. Leith had posted an 11-2 win over a team called Orion in the previous round and could not be disregarded by the Govan team, even though they had struggled since their arrival in the Scottish league in 1891 (finishing a point behind Rangers in their debut season, incidentally.)
Rangers kicked off against a slight breeze with goalkeeper David Haddow producing a fine save to stop Leith from taking a first-half lead before John McPherson opened the scoring for Rangers. The opening half of the game ended 1-0 to Rangers with their defence well on top and neutralising any threat from Leith 's attacking force. Ranges wrapped things up in the second half with a headed goal from Blyth ensuring a safe passage into the quarter finals, the draw for which sent Rangers across the city to face Clyde. (A team, incidentally, who were promoted to division one at the season's end despite finishing third in division two.)
The game took place on Saturday January 13th 1894 before a crowd that was eventually given as 10,000, despite there actually being a much smaller attendance to witness the kick off, the crowd reaching its maximum close to half time. Those who witnessed the opening period in its entirety would have seen Rangers taking a tenth minute lead via a Jimmy Steel shot from a pass from John McPherson. Steel notched a second before half time after a McPherson shot had been fumbled by the Clyde keeper.
After 53 minutes, John McPherson scored for the third tie in succession with a long shot. Again, Rangers' defence is said to have been too much for their opponents to attack successfully and on 65 minutes, Rangers increased their lead with Steel scoring his third after 'rushing the goalkeeper through the goal', a possible description of a then valid goal being scored by an attacking player shoulder charging the goalkeeper beyond the goal-line. Steel then rounded off a highly successful day with a goal near the end, scored by 'the finest shot of the day.'
Rangers were therefore in the semi-final as part of al all-Glasgow quartet, Queens Park, Third Lanark and Celtic being the other three. The luck of the draw paired Rangers with Queens Park at Ibrox for a game that took place on Saturday February 3rd 1894. A large crowd of 15,000 watched the visitors from the south side take a lead they held until Boyd scored for Rangers in the second half, necessitating a replay. Rangers are said to have had the best of play but were unable to breach the visitors' defence until 3 minutes from the end when a chance presented itself to McCreadie who, unfortunately, squandered it.
The replay took place the following week at Hampden in front of an attendance of 16,000. The game would decide who met Celtic in the final, they having got there by dint of a 5-3 win over Third Lanark.
Rangers kicked off the game into a stiff breeze, with heavy rain also falling throughout. The Rangers forwards are described as going into an intensely exciting game in a determined fashion, shooting at every available opportunity, their work up front defined as 'brilliant' by one contemporary observer. Ironically, it was defender Nicol Smith who headed in Rangers' opener on 21 minutes, however. Despite his defensive partnership with Jock Drummond also being noted for its efforts, Queens Park equalised on the stroke of half time as the ball glanced of Haddow's foot. Rangers, however, gained the upper hand again shortly after half-time with McPherson keeping up his record of scoring in every round - if not every game - and the final place was sealed after a goal by Steel that finished off an incisive, sharp breakaway by Rangers.
17,000, therefore, turned up at Hampden on Saturday 17th February to see Rangers lift the Scottish Cup for the first time in their history. Rangers' attacking play gave them a lot of confidence if no concrete breakthrough as half time arrived with no goals for either side. Andrew McCreadie is said to have been playing exceptionally well defensively and the work by the Rangers forwards encouraging their supporters.
The pressure brought its rewards on 55 minutes as Hugh McCreadie scored the first goal of the day and provoked scenes of 'indescribable enthusiasm' both on and off the pitch. John Barker doubled the advantage ten minutes later with an 'unsaveable' shot. John McPherson then completed a remarkable personal achievement by scoring the third following an exceptional, fluid passing movement by Rangers, meaning he had scored in every round of the competition. This particular goal ensured the cup was in fact heading to the home of Rangers for the first time. A consolation goal by Maley on 75 minutes following a goalmouth scramble was of little consequence.
So Rangers lifted the Scottish Cup for the very first time. Given Rangers' somewhat erratic involvement in this competition it should come as little surprise that their first defence of it ended in the opening round of the following season, going down 2-1 at home to Hearts. However, the team of 1894 had immortalised themselves by being the first Rangers team to win it. As time would show, though, they were neither the last team to beak a hoodoo, nor were they the last team to beat Celtic in a final that is a part of the Ibrox folklore and the talk of legends. At this time, let's just imagine the triumph enjoyed by the first of our Club's teams to have lifted the Scottish cup and leave the talk of future achievements for another time. For posterity, that famous eleven was: Haddow; Smith, Drummond; Marshall, A. McCreadie, Marshall; H. McCreadie, Gray, McPherson, Barker, Kerr.
Yours in Rangers,
AYRSHIRE BILLY BOY