The Grand Slam of 1929/30
Feature by Ayrshire Billy Boy
Updated Sunday, 8th April 2007
With the Glasgow Cup forming an important part of the footballing calendar back then, Rangers were anxious to break Celtic' 3 year stranglehold on it. On Saturday October 12th 1929 they had the chance to do just that. However, in front of a crowd of 74,399, Rangers passed up on the chance to end the final at the first attempt as the game ended 0-0. In an almost identical situation to his legendary penalty of the Scottish Cup Final of 1928, Davie Meiklejohn had the chance to score in that manner in the 26th minute following a Sandy Archibald shot that was handled on the line by the Celtic defender Denis McCallum. History, sadly, did not entirely repeat itself as this time John Thompson in the Celtic goal punched Meik's shot away. The accompanying image suggests a penalty that was hit straight at the goalkeeper. Later on in the game, Rangers came close to settling things as Jimmy Fleming hit the bar.
Aberdeen 11 18
Rangers 10 15
Hearts 10 14
Killie 10 14
Celtic 8 13
The Rangers Alliance XI, in their game, drew 2-2 at Motherwell ensuring they were chasing a team from Aberdeen as well.
The Glasgow Cup replay took place at 3.30pm on Wednesday 16th October, the afternoon kick off ensuring the attendance was kept to 41,500. Those present, though, watched a game in which Rangers, according to Jacky Robertson in the Daily Record, were, "The superior team from first to last. The score does not reflect their superiority" as they ran up an emphatic 4-0 success.
As in the last time they defeated Celtic by such a scoreline in a final, Rangers lost the toss and played into a breeze. The Ibrox men, though, quickly mastered the conditions, keeping the ball on the ground. Their first goal arrived on 28 minutes, Jimmy Fleming catching a ball on the turn perfectly to score, ending a move began Tully Craig who slipped the ball to Alan Morton who, in turn skipped past two Celtic defenders before laying it off top Archie McPherson to centre it to Fleming for the final product.
With Davie Meiklejohn marking Jimmy McGrory out of the game, Celtic's main threat was neutralised leaving the Rangers forwards to inflict serious punishment at the other end. Three minutes after half time, Fleming got his own and his team's second with a powerful shot from an Alan Morton cross. Five minutes later the game was all but over as Sandy Archibald shot home after Thompson fisted away a net-bound header from Fleming. Fleming, though, was not to be denied his hat-trick which duly arrived on 80 minutes as he instinctively shot home a clever Archibald back-heel. The four goals ensured an easy Rangers win, their eighteenth Glasgow Cup triumph and the first on their path to immortality. The foiled Celtic player on both occasions in the following images is McGrory, finding his path to the Rangers goal blocked in the first instance by Tom Hamilton and then, not for the last time in that particular game, by Davie Meiklejohn.
With the celebrations hardly died down 24 hours later, in another stark indication of how times have changed over the course of three generations, Bill Struth announced that the Rangers - Celtic game scheduled for Ibrox on 26th October, would still go ahead despite no fewer than five Rangers players - Dougie Gray, Tommy Muirhead, Tully Craig, Alan Morton and Davie Meiklejohn - had been selected to represent Scotland against Wales in Cardiff the same afternoon.
Rangers made their second trip to Firhill within three weeks on Saturday 19th October, this time on League business. A poacher's goal by Jimmy Fleming strengthened Rangers' quest for top place which was also aided by Aberdeen and Hearts drawing 2-2 in front of a Tynecastle crowd of 35,000. On the debit side, however, and in keeping with the season, Bob 'Newry' Hamilton was injured badly in England's 3-0 win in Belfast. The Rangers Alliance team took advantage of Aberdeen's 2-1 loss at home to Partick Thistle to go top by a point - having played a game more - thanks to a 3-0 home win against Nithsdale Wanderers.
When the date for Celtic's visit to Ibrox arrived, Rangers took to the field minus SIX first team players: the five who had been picked for Scotland (although Meiklejohn had withdrawn from that game due to injury); and Bob Hamilton who had failed to recover from the injury he had sustained on international duty for Ireland. Celtic were not without their troubles: McGrory was missing and a cold virus had weakened some of their numbers but that should in no way detract from the gargantuan effort put in by the shadow Rangers side who, in front of 50,000, won against all the odds 1-0 thanks to a Willie Nicholson shot after 75 minutes. All thoughts of remaining in second place two points behind Aberdeen due to their 1-0 win at Dundee were swept aside as player and fan alike celebrated a wonderful triumph. Such jubilations are reported to have been evident among the Rangers playing contingent in Cardiff as news of Rangers' superlative effort made its way to Wales, crowning for many what was a wonderful double following Scotland's 4-2 triumph there. To round off a memorable day for all in blue, the Rangers Alliance team won 5-0 at Beith.
This was a memorable season in almost every sense for numerous Rangers players and, with that in mind, it is important to acknowledge the part they played in triumphs that meant more to previous generations than to this one. The week after Rangers' victory over Celtic, Ibrox staged an inter-league encounter between Scotland and England. That 50,000 paid into the game displays the importance placed on it by the Scottish public. Five Rangers were on show: Tully Craig, Dougie Gray, Sandy Archibald, Tommy Muirhead and Alan Morton. All played a part in Scotland's 2-1 win, the first such victory over - to use the language of the time - the Saxon since 1914. One, however, did just a bit more than the others. A watching Englishman commented there was little to separate the teams but that, "England just did not Have an Alan Morton." Even now, 78 years after the event the fact that a guest referred to a Rangers player in such a manner is a source of considerable pride to all who follow the team in modern times.
In the only other fixture that had an interest for those of light Blue leanings that day, Aberdeen's Alliance XI swamped their Motherwell opponents 10-1 to strengthen their grip on the top spot.
Rangers resumed League duty the following Saturday at home to Hamilton Academical. An early Archibald goal was countered by an equaliser before Jimmy Fleming netted three in succession before a late, meaningless second for the visitors. Aberdeen won 2-0 at home to Cowdenbeath leaving themselves two points clear of Rangers having played two games more. The Rangers second string won 2-1 at Hamilton leaving them in their tussle with Aberdeen one point behind.
The following week everything went Rangers' way. 12,000 watched as Rangers slaughtered Ayr United 9-0. it had been suggested that the traditional Rangers method was to comfortably beat their opponents without humiliating them; but that a bad foul on Alan Morton during the game ensured they extracted maximum revenge. A 4-0 lead at half time was attained through a Doc Marshall goal coming between an opening Fleming double and the completion of his hat-trick. Fleming netted his fourth just after the break and further goals from Sandy Archibald, George Brown, Marshall and Archibald again finished the scoring. On top of that, Aberdeen had lost to St Mirren meaning Rangers went top on goal average and had two games in hand on second place. To rub salt in a gaping wound, the Rangers Alliance XI won 5-1 in their mirror fixture of the first team's although remained a point behind Aberdeen, their reserves achieving what the first could not and beat their Paisley opponents.
The following week, as a reward for their efforts, Rangers were accorded a couple of days to recuperate at Turnberry and Bob Ireland - one of the heroes of the 1-0 win over Celtic - departed for Liverpool.
At Shawfield on 23rd November, Rangers stumbled to a 3-3 draw. After being 2-0 up via goals from George Brown and Alan Morton, some casualness allowed Clyde to pull a goal back. Jimmy Fleming restored the two goal advantage but a spirited fightback by the hosts ensured parity at the end. Aberdeen's 4-2 win at Tannadice put them one point clear on 25 points although Rangers had played two games less. Celtic had forced themselves into the reckoning, establishing themselves on 22 points in third place.
The race for the Alliance title continued apace, Rangers winning 2-1 against Airdrie at Ibrox and Aberdeen winning 7-2 against Beith. After 15games each Aberdeen had 26 points, one ahead of Rangers. The following Monday Rangers held their annual dance in Glasgow's Grosvenor Hotel.
On the Saturday following the Club's Annual Dance, Rangers dropped what may have proven to have been another vital point in the race for the Championship. In front of 18,000 at Cappielow, a 32nd minute Jimmy Fleming header and a second by the same player on 65 minutes following some 'bewildering' dribbling by Alan Morton appeared to have secured the points. Morton, though, in what in all honesty was an admirable fightback, refused to throw in the towel and in the remaining 25 minutes of the game scored two goals to emerge with a share of the points. This slip by Rangers allowed Aberdeen to stretch their points advantage at the top to two points by virtue of their own 4-2 win at home to Hamilton. There was good news, however, for Rangers: Bob McPhail made a return in the Alliance XI's 5-0 home win over Falkirk and in that league, Aberdeen lost 3-1 at Hamilton meaning Rangers went a point clear at the top. When all was said and done it was not a calamitous weekend for Rangers. They still had two games in hand on Aberdeen, the pivotal figure of Bob McPhail was on his way back; and even though nobody was privy to future events, the draw at Morton was to be the last league points Rangers would drop for the foreseeable future in a run that would encompass a long-overdue Ne'erday success at Parkhead.
The first of the long run of successive League victories occurred on Saturday 7th December 1929 when Dundee were visitors to Ibrox. An own goal followed by efforts from Tully Craig and Jimmy Fleming had the points secured by half time. While Dundee gave themselves some consolation with a goal soon after the restart, there was little or no chance of a shock and Sandy Archibald finished the scoring near the end to round off a satisfactory 4-1 win in front of 12,000 satisfied fans. The league position, however, remained unchanged as Aberdeen - who had been tipped to drop points in December - defeated Hibs 2-0 at Pittodrie. In the Alliance league, the improbable parallel struggle between the same teams' second XI moved in Rangers' favour without them actually kicking a ball. Their trip to Nithsdale Wanderers was cancelled but Aberdeen went down 1-0 at Easter Road handing Rangers with another potentially vital game in hand.