By Johnny Bluet
When I was 16 years old, I left school. That was in June 1974. Once I was able to earn enough money of my own, I decided to do what I had wanted to do against my parents’ wishes: Go and watch The Rangers every week. A home game was a time-consuming 180+ mile round-trip every fortnight and in the final season of what was the old Scottish First Division, I missed only 2 fixtures out of 34 played: Morton at home on Saturday 5th October and away to Partick Thistle on New Year’s Day, 1975. The latter fixture was unavoidably missed due to suffering from a bout of influenza, but Morton at home was demoted in preference to attending Liverpool’s visit to a much closer destination, Carlisle United.
Carlisle United had a good side then and I witnessed them more or less clinching promotion on the final Saturday of league fixtures in season 1973/74 against Aston Villa. Interest in Carlisle’s fortunes had helped establish a short-lived but reasonably well-supported Carlisle United supporters club in my locality and I decided I would join them for the day. Well, almost. In addition to wearing one of many Rangers scarves I had, I wound a red and white bar scarf around my wrist and made my way to where the bulk of the visiting support was, opposite the main stand. Once inside, I vividly recall Liverpool supporters frequently bursting into a call-and-response style chant: ‘Rangers!; Celtic!; Rangers!; Celtic!’… Straight and to the point, reflecting their Scottish allegiances, but simultaneously being collectively unbiased. Another chant doing the rounds that day was, ‘Keegan, Keegan, Show Us Your Wife’, which I think made reference to the ink being not quite dry on King Kev’s marriage certificate.
Liverpool players took to the field in their customary red shirts and shorts but looked a little unfamiliar wearing white socks due to what would’ve been a clash with the hosts’ red socks. By that time, my favourite manager of all time had been succeeded by Bob Paisley and, so far as I’m aware, I was never in close proximity to the great man. However, I do take a degree of satisfaction from the fact that when he was young and growing up in Glenbuck, the inimitable Mr Shankly was a Rangers supporter.
The game was a tight affair with Liverpool narrowly defeating their plucky hosts by virtue of a 36th minute goal scored by Mr Shankly’s last recruit to the fields of Anfield Road, Ray Kennedy. And the Match of the Day cameras were there to capture it. The first time I went to see Liverpool, Ray Kennedy made all the difference. The goal might not have been a thing of beauty, but it secured the two points for Liverpool. And Ray Kennedy had made all the difference. The story goes that Ray Kennedy reminded Shanks of Rocky Marciano. Unforgettable.
My companion that day was a nephew of Angus and Malcolm Young. His name was Fraser, who I had recently met and befriended while travelling to college, and had not long since moved from Glasgow to Hawick with his mother, Jenny, and older brother Stevie. I persuaded him to come with me and he swapped his Rangers scarf with some Red for a silk-like effort which proclaimed Liverpool FA Cup Winners 1974. Unlike Fraser, and despite being asked by other Reds, I couldn’t bear to be separated from my Rangers scarf. And that’s still the case.
But on the day I swapped Rangers for Liverpool, Ray Kennedy made the difference. Unforgettable