The 1967 European Cup Winners Cup Final had been a major disappointment for The Rangers. The club, competing in their second European Final had great expectations that this would be their year. The Final, held in un-neutral Nuremberg, resulted in a 1-0 defeat after extra-time at the hands of old foes Bayern Munich. Poor team selection and tactics were much to blame for the defeat and the result was possibly the beginning of the end for manager Scot Symon.
The following few years were full of turmoil for the Ibrox club. Manager Symon was sacked in November 1967. His successor David White, always playing catch up with Celtic, lasted two years and departed amid accusations of poor discipline at Ibrox.
The new management team was former Rangers winger Willie Waddell (who had won the League with Kilmarnock in 1965) and Jock Wallace (former Berwick goalkeeper and Hearts coach). Their first couple of seasons in charge were disappointing but did produce a League Cup win in 1970 courtesy of a goal from the young Derek Johnstone. There was also the distress of the 1971 Ibrox Disaster and the consequences which had to be dealt with.
Defeat at the hands of Celtic (who had also won the League) in the replayed 1971 Scottish Cup Final meant entry into the next season's European Cup Winners Cup.
First Leg - 15th September 1971
Rangers had suffered a disastrous start to their domestic season. Two morale denting defeats in Scotland at the hands of Celtic and Patrick Thistle, shortly before the first leg, put further pressure on the Ibrox club to succeed in Europe.
Willie Waddell, on his scouting trip to the fiercely proud Breton town of Rennes, had identified Keruzore and veteran French International midfielder Andre Betta as the Rennes danger men. Waddell deployed strict man-to-man marking for the match at the picturesque Parc des Sports. In particular this involved Alex MacDonald, Sandy Jardine and Willie Mathieson being deployed against midfielder Raymond Keruzore and the two talented Rennes wingers. The emphasis for the away matches was not so much on winning but on not losing. Attacks would be cautious with Colin Stein and Willie Johnston pulling the strings in attack but protected and supported by a four man midfield wall.
The tactics worked superbly in the match on French soil which was watched by 20,000 fans. The playmakers in the Rennes team were effectively taken out of the game by the Rangers' tactics. Willie Johnston scored after sixty-eight minutes to give Rangers the lead but Rennes substitute Redon equalised with ten minutes remaining. The match finished in a 1-1 draw but The Rangers had a vital away goal.
Rennes manager Jean Prouff was less than complimentary about Rangers style of play. "That was not football - it was anti-football. They came here only to stop us playing football. We will come to Glasgow and show how football should be played."
Second Leg - 28th September 1971
Before the return leg Prouff resorted to making more mischief making comments in the press aimed at upsetting Rangers.
A crowd of 40,000 watched the return match at Ibrox. Willie Henderson returned at outside-right and Rangers once again were cautious in attack but plugged away and were rewarded with a 37th minute Alex MacDonald goal. Rangers had several good chances in the second-half and Colin Stein hit the bar. This was enough to win the match and gave The Rangers a 2-1 victory over the tie and progression into the second round. Prouff was forced to admit Rangers were the better team and deserved to progress.
The Rangers gained great confidence from this result. Confidence in their ability to beat good European teams, for Rennes were no push-over and confidence in the tactics deployed over the two-legs.