The Hoodoo Busters of 1928

By Ayrshire Billy Boy
Last updated : 09 April 2007

With the rather masochistic look at the Hoodoo thankfully over it's time to turn our attention to one of the most momentous events in Rangers' history: the breaking of the jinx! While this generation of Bears will remember Helicopter Sunday, it's not unreasonable to assume that those in attendance in 1928 reminisced at length of the time Rangers won the Scottish Cup for the first time in a quarter of a century. Indeed, many adult Rangers fans at Hampden that spring day would have grown up not having seen in their lifetimes Rangers lifting the famous trophy. It truly was a pivotal moment in the Club's development and the elation it brought to everybody whose sympathies were at Ibrox is on a par with that felt by this generation on May 22nd 2005. Researching it was an uplifting experience as it provided an historical link with a chapter in our Club's story that is the stuff of legends. Therefore, this amateur series of Rangers and the Scottish Cup is, in this instance, dedicated as a tribute to the men who engraved their names forever in the treasure trove of memories Rangers have provided to so many over the years. This chapter is devoted to them in grateful thanks and appreciation from a Rangers fan in 2007, 79 years after the event.

The draw for the first round sent Rangers to Firs Park to face East Stirling. An eye-opening fact is that that ground was equipped to handle 25,000 people. With every respect to East Stirling, it's very surprising that a team who have spent almost their entire existence in the lower reaches once had a capacity that, were it to exist today, would be the fourth biggest in Scotland. In the event, the torrential rain that fell when Rangers made the journey on Saturday January 21st 1928 limited the crowd to just under 6,000. (A number, incidentally, that was almost double that which was at Celtic's home game on the same day.)

The water that fell turned the pitch into something of a quagmire with many onlookers of the opinion that football of any standard on it would be impossible. Rangers, however, turned in an exceptional display. The rout began on 17 minutes when Jimmy Fleming scored from a Tully Craig pass. Rangers then turned the screw and Bob McPhail, Andy Cunningham, Sandy Archibald and Tommy Muirhead all had shots saved in quick succession by a goalkeeper performing heroics in the East Stirling goal. The inevitable second, though, was only delayed until the 25th minute when Fleming again scored, this time sweeping an Archibald cross into the net. Half time arrived with no further scoring but the game was put beyond any doubt on the 48th minute mark when Bob McPhail scored a penalty after Alan Morton had been fouled in the box. Morton then provided Sandy Archibald with a cross to get the fourth. Andy Cunningham netted the fifth with a 'lightning strike' (sadly journalists back then were not averse to the use of the awful puns so beloved by today's scribblers); and Jimmy Fleming burst through the defence near the end to get his hat-trick, the team's sixth and the game's final goal. It's also maybe worth noting that Duncan Yuill made his debut in the Rangers goal, deputising for Tom Hamilton after signing from Dumbarton the Tuesday before the game.

Rangers were therefore off and running. A hat-trick from a striker and a clean sheet for a debutant goalkeeper in a 6-0 away victory in a tournament that had provided no end of heartbreak in previous years was a very acceptable start and one Rangers hoped to build upon. They were given the chance to do just that when the draw for round two provided a home tie against Cowdenbeath at a time when newspapers were pointing out on a more regular basis than before that it was now a quarter of a century since a Rangers Captain held the Cup aloft.

The game on Saturday 4th February attracted a crowd of 32,000 and provided takings of £1,200. Before the game kicked off the band played Onward Christian Soldiers as a tribute to the recently deceased Earl Haig in a stark indication of how society and attitudes have changed throughout the years. What then followed as the football got under way was an exceptionally exciting game.

Cowdenbeath shocked the home crowd with a goal on 23 minutes; however, they only held their advantage for four minutes when Bob McPhail headed in an Archibald cross. Almost immediately after, Jimmy Fleming headed in an Alan Morton cross and just after the half hour McPhail burst through the defence and scored with a powerful shot the keeper got his hand to but could not prevent the ball entering the net. Three minutes after that Cowdenbeath pulled one back and left a half time score of 3-2 in favour of Rangers. With five goals in little over ten minutes, it's easy to see why the reporting on the game enthused about the excitement generated. Rangers had the chance to extend their lead a minute after the restart but Bob McPhail saw his penalty saved by the goalkeeper, an award given because of a foul on Alan Morton. Cowdenbeath pressed their more illustrious opponents in their quest for an equaliser, causing several anxious moments for the contemporary Rangers. It wasn't until fifteen minutes before the end that the fans could relax when McPhail again netted after a Tommy Muirhead shot came off the bar. The referee ignored claims from the Fifers that it should be disallowed on the grounds of offside, decreeing that Alan Morton, the basis of the claims, was not interfering with play. The game ended 4-2 to Rangers and gave them another favourable draw, away to King's Park in Stirlingshire.

Financial inducements then saw the game switched to Ibrox, a fixture Rangers prepared for at their traditional base of Turnberry. On February 18th, a crowd of 20,000 who paid £1,000 gate receipts saw Rangers make heavy weather of the game. The crowd, incidentally, included a party of 100 travelling Canadian farmers who were given complimentary seats in the grand stand.

The visitors delighted their 700 travelling supporters by taking a wind-assisted 28th minute lead which they held till half time, doubtless providing the Rangers support with fears the bogey was about to strike again. However, Alan Morton, the best player on the park, equalised on 52 minutes after capitalising on poor defending. The same player netted the second on 77 minutes and, after Tom Hamilton protected Rangers' advantage by a fine save, the result was secured on 83 minutes When Cunningham scored after being put through by Bob McPhail. A 3-1 win that was a lot harder than it should have been ensured Rangers went into the draw for the quarter final which sent them to Coatbridge to play Albion Rovers, one of the teams that had played their unwelcome part in the Rangers jinx.

With the hosts' ground capable of holding 30,000, there was little discomfort for the 24,000 who provided takings of £970. An upset, however, was never really on the cards although it took Rangers until 70 minutes to score the game's only goal, Cunningham netting after McPhail surged forward, veered sharply to the right and fired the ball across the face of goal. Such was the one-sidedness of the game that the Rangers goalkeeper, Tom Hamilton, did not touch the ball one single time during the entire second half. With Rangers almost able to reach out and put one hand on the elusive trophy, many at Ibrox were beginning to dare to hope that this was, at long last, going to be their year.

The draw for the semi-final paired Rangers with Hibernian and also produced a Glasgow derby, Queen's Park being given the dubious honour of taking on Celtic. The improbably named Owen Brannigan of Hibernian proposed that Edinburgh should get to host one of the games and it was subsequently unanimously voted to host the east-west encounter at Tynecastle and for Ibrox to host the other. A proposal that any replays took place on the same grounds was passed by a majority of 19-3.

Rangers took to the field at hearts' ground on Saturday March 24th in front of a crowd of 43, 129 who contributed to an income of £1,812 although questions were asked why supporters were subject to crushing at the venue when the 70,000 capacity Murrayfield was lying empty. Rangers had lost 2-1 to Hibs at Easter Road the previous Saturday but were still favourites to advance to the final. In the event an average Rangers performance was still enough to send them comfortably into the final at the expense of a dreadful Edinburgh side.

Rangers went one up and never looked back after two minutes. Slack goalkeeping by ex-Ranger Willie Robb allowed an aimless punt by Sandy Archibald creep into the goal at the post and McPhail doubled the lead on 30 minutes following a goalmouth scramble. Half time came and went with no more scoring; but on the hour Alan Morton helped make it 3-0 Rangers by sending in a corner that was headed on by Sandy Archibald and headed into the goal by Jimmy Simpson. With their place in the final comfortably assured, Rangers played out time and the game ended 3-0 to the Royal Blues, as they were occasionally referred to by contemporary observers. Celtic's 2-1 win over Queen's Park meant the first Rangers - Celtic final since the infamous, inconclusive 1909 final was Rangers' last barrier to overcome. Attention, though, was switched to the forthcoming England - Scotland game at Wembley the following Saturday. It is of course a source of pride to Rangers that one of their players - Alan Morton - played a pivotal role in Scotland's most famous victory.

One of the quirks of the 1928 Final was that in the weeks running up to it, Rangers and Celtic were having something of a see-saw battle with regard to leadership of the table. Motherwell, too, were in the reckoning in third place, due in part to their remarkable record in taking seven out a possible eight points from their fixtures against the top pair. To detour from the topic briefly, and not having records at hand, Motherwell's consistency against Rangers and Celtic that season must surely be one of a handful of similar instances. However, to return to the topic at hand, the situation was that both Rangers and Celtic had designs on the Double although there were rumours that the Ibrox directors would, given the choice, forsake the League if it meant success in the Cup. Also at that time, a rather unusual transfer out of Ibrox was being attempted with Rangers asking for offers for the 5,000 capacity Grand Stand.

On the Thursday prior to the Final, Tommy Muirhead was ruled out of the Rangers team with Jock Buchanan taking his place. It was also noted that day that out of the players who took part in Rangers' first final, a second replay 3-2 defeat to Vale of Leven in 1877, only Moses McNeil and Tom Vallance were still alive. One is left to ponder on the thoughts of these giants of Rangers' past as their descendants aimed to end a jinx that stretched back so many years.

Cartoons referring to Rangers carrying something of a demon on their backs appeared in the press in the days leading up to the April 14th Final as the significance of the occasion grew and grew. As can be seen from Davie Meiklejohn's note messages of good luck arrived from one-time Rangers players as the desire to make and end history at the same time reached enormous proportions. Such a desire was evidently a part of the support's emotions as Rangers are reported to have received a louder roar from the 118, 115 crowd than Celtic got, possibly suggesting Rangers had a numerical advantage in the attendance.

Celtic won the toss and kicked into the wind, provoking a chant of 'we lost the toss, we'll win the Cup' from some prophetic Rangers fans of the day. An even first half that produced no goals was given a place in the history of Rangers all to itself thanks to a wonder save from Tom Hamilton. According to Bob McPhail a shot from Pat Connelly looked a goal all the way made a stupendous save. Whether future events would have been different had the ball went in is impossible to judge; but the fact is Rangers went in level at the break and still with a chance of creating more legends.

Ten minutes after the interval, Jimmy Fleming dodged past the onrushing Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson and sent the ball goalward only for Willie McStay to use his hand to keep it out although there were protests that the ball had actually crossed the line before this illegal action. The responsibility for the penalty fell to the legendary Captain Davie Meiklejohn. Again according to Bob McPhail, at 4.01pm, the ball was duly despatched into the Celtic goal. Having the nerve to take such a monumental spot-kick emphasises the character and strength of spirit in the then Rangers leader. Carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire generation of Rangers fans on his shoulders, he wrote himself into the affection of every Rangers fan who ever lived by his courage and gave the team belief that they were indeed going to end the bogey.

The dream became more of a reality on 68 minutes after Bob McPhail slotted home from two yards after a goalmouth scramble and two minutes later the Rangers were in ecstasy when Sandy Archibald - who had a brilliant game - raced away from the trailing Celtic defenders and netted the third. This goal also provoked a 'thinning' of the crowd in the Celtic end as they deserted their team proving that some things indeed never do change. The win was secured on 78 minutes when Archibald capped a terrific personal afternoon by scoring a goal with a carefully measured, accurate and powerful shot to complete a comprehensive and thoroughly deserved 4-0 win.

It was a game in which Rangers excelled. Hamilton and Archibald have been mentioned while Meiklejohn never gave Jimmy McGrory a kick of the ball all afternoon. Morton was a constant menace with his skills and trickery while the power of Bob McPhail was always a threat. However, this is not about individuals. This was a day in which Rangers at long last ended their Hoodoo. This was a day a generation of Rangers fans had literally waited a lifetime to see. Cables of congratulations were recieved from exiled Scots in Pennsylvania and Toronto while those present on the Hampden terracing saltured their heroes with the strains of The Bonnie Wells o' Wearie. This was the day in which Rangers defeated Celtic 4-0 to win the Scottish Cup for the first time in 25 years. The following week a 5-1 home win over Kilmarnock meant the first Double in the Club's history.

As mentioned at the beginning, this article is intended as a tribute to those eleven men who made history that famous day. We hope it is a fitting one.

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