Legends – Thanks For The Memories

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By David Herd

There’s an old expression ‘once a Ranger, always a Ranger’. When a Rangers “Legends” squad was announced for the annual charity match at Ibrox against a World Legends side, fair to say that the old faces who would be on view in royal blue would have worn the famous colours a lot more than once.

In fact, the 25-man squad, which was managed by Alex McLeish, racked up a total of 3161 appearances for the club in their vastly different Ibrox careers. Leading the way in the appearance stakes was skipper Barry Ferguson, his 428 games for the club putting him way out in front of his teammates. The only other player to reach 300 appearances was Kenny Miller, and he hit that milestone in the very last game of his 3-time Ibrox career against Dundee in April 2018. At the other end of the scale, there was one player given the Legend title after a solitary first-team game in a cold League Cup tie in 2007 against East Fife. Barry was given the night off that evening, but the 4-0 win was a landmark occasion for goalkeeper Roy Carroll who fulfilled a boyhood dream at the same time as ensuring he became one of the few goalkeepers in club history never to concede a goal.

Ferguson, unsurprisingly, also won the most trophies as a Rangers player, lifting 5 titles amongst his 15 major honours over his two spells at the club. All but 4 of the squad have been a Scottish champion at least once, with Jorg Albertz going furthest back as a member of iconic team of 1996/97 who won the title for the 9th successive season. Meanwhile, we had a reminder of our most recent title party in the shape of Jermain Defoe, and who could forget his late goals in Ibrox wins over Celtic and Aberdeen as we brought number 55 home after years of pain. There were members of every title winning season in between.

Possibly the most incredible and unexpected win out of all these was in May 2005, when a certain helicopter changed direction from Motherwell to Edinburgh. This current season looks a forlorn hope in the title race, with that stubborn 9-point gap refusing to shrink regardless of how many wins the team rack up. But seeing 5 of the Easter Road heroes from that afternoon in Ronald Waterreus, Shota Arveladze, Barry Ferguson, Alex Rae and Marvin Andrews was nearly enough to make me Keep Believing for a little while longer at least. There was even the same manager in our dugout again.

Of course, you win nothing without goals. And what an array of striking options Alex McLeish had to choose from today. Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller were the only 2 strikers on the pitch with 100 or more goals for Rangers in their careers, but there were a good few others with decent strike rates in shorter careers. What would we give now for a Jelavic (36 goals in 55 games) a Defoe (32 goals from just 32 starts plus 42 sub appearances) or a Rod Wallace (55 in 120). And maybe even more useful in the current team would be regular goals from midfield, The Hammer’s 82 Rangers goals and Ronald de Boer’s 39 strikes would give Michael Beale the kind of options he now just dreams about.

Looking at the squad, plenty of them scored against “The Other Mob”, imagine the dressing room banter as 17 of them claimed the best Old Firm goal.

  • Albertz with his jaw-dropping free kick in the New Year win in 1997
  • McCann rounding the keeper at Parkhead to clinch the title in 1999
  • Wallace, whose cup final winner won Rangers a treble in 1999
  • Johansson scoring after just two minutes in a 4-2 destruction of the John Barnes Celtic in 1999
  • Amoruso’s towering header as the enemy were thrashed 5-1 in 2000
  • Ferguson with an unstoppable Scottish Cup final free kick in 2002
  • Lovenkrands, the Hampden nemesis of Celtic, especially his last-minute winner in that same 2002 final
  • De Boer silencing the Parkhead hordes with a header just a minute after they had taken the lead later in 2002
  • Arveladze with an extra-time League Cup winner that broke a losing run against them in 2004 and gave us belief again
  • Vignal with a 25 yarder that Rab Douglas helped into the net in a crucial win in 2005
  • Boyd with his only goal against them in 2007 as Walter returned to start the comeback
  • Adam with an impudent low free kick in that same 2007 win
  • Mendes with his scorcher at Parkhead in his Old Firm debut in 2008
  • Cousin, who rampaged through their defence to open the scoring in that same 2008 win
  • Miller, who made a habit of scoring doubles in these games, the last time a come-from-behind win over Lennon’s Celtic in Walter’s last season in 2010
  • Jelavic and his extra-time winner in the 2011 League Cup final to give Walter a last Hampden victory over them
  • Defoe, the man who put the cherry on top of the icing with his 93rd minute goal as Celtic were dispatched 4-1 and the 55 title party showed no signs of stopping

Memories, are indeed made of this. As are legends.

Perhaps one of the most impressive statistics for the 25-man squad was the sheer number of countries they come from. No fewer than 15 different nationalities were represented, a remarkable confirmation of the pull Ibrox has on the heart even for those with no emotional attachment from birth. Scots were still the biggest group, but proudly wearing their blue shirts again were players from Holland, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Italy, Trinidad, France, Portugal, Germany, Denmark, Georgia, Finland, Croatia, England and Gabon. The vast majority of them all represented their country, with the players amassing a very impressive 992 caps. I’d bet that few in the Ibrox crowd would correctly guess which player won more international caps for their country than any of their teammates. That honour goes to Jonatan Johannson with his 106 appearances for Finland, 5 more than the other centurion in the squad, Marvin Andrews. The most capped Scotsman on view today, was actually the man picking the team!

So, they came from all over Europe and beyond to come back home and play again in front of the Ibrox crowd. It wasn’t the red-hot atmosphere that will have stirred the blood and made lifelong memories, but you could see in many faces that this club means something that needs no explanation to those who understand. They were back where most enjoyed adulation never experienced anywhere else, and where a few really did become legends.

There were a small number who featured in the squad who didn’t appear during the match itself. Presumably the aches and pains of middle age catch up with us all eventually.

But whether on the pitch, or forced to watch from the sidelines, there’s one thing all the ex-players likely agree. There’s not a team like the Glasgow Rangers.

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