By Alistair Aird
Rangers became the first British club to reach a European Final in the inaugural season on the European Cup Winners’ Cup. They faced Ferencvaros (won 6-4 on aggregate), Borussia Monchengladbach (won 11-0 on aggregate), Wolverhampton Wanderers (won 3-1 on aggregate) and AC Fiorentina (lost 4-1 on aggregate).
The complete record was:
The 20 goals were scored by seven different players. The top marksmen were Alex Scott, Jimmy Millar and Ralph Brand. They all scored five goals. Three of Brand’s goals came in the thumping 8-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach thus carving a niche in our history by becoming the first Rangers player to score a hat-trick in a European tie.Scot Symon used 14 different players, eight of whom played in all eight ties. The ever presents were Bobby Shearer, Eric Caldow, Harold Davis, Bill Paterson, Jim Baxter, Alex Scott, Ralph Brand and Davie Wilson.
Rangers reached the Final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup again six years later. The journey started with a 1-1 draw away from home against Glentoran and ended on a frustrating night in Nuremburg when Franz Roth scored the only goal of the game against Bayern Munich in extra time.
Borussia Dortmund, Real Zaragoza, and Slavia Sofia were the other teams that provided the opposition en-route to the final. And the Zaragoza game featured a ‘first’ for Rangers. After winning the first leg 2-0 at Ibrox, Symon’s side lost 2-0 in Spain. At the end of extra time the aggregate scores were tied at 2-2 which meant Rangers’ fate would be determined by a silver two-franc coin. Penalty shoot outs weren’t a thing at that point so in the event of a tie, the referee spun a coin and invited one of the captains to call ‘heads’ or ‘tails’. On this occasion, John Greig called ‘tails’ and that’s the side that was facing up when the coin landed.
The complete record in season 1966/67 was:
Scot Symon used 20 different players this time around, and the 11 goals were scored by nine different players. Dave Smith and George McLean top scored with two apiece. Six of the 20 players used – Johansen, Provan, Dave Smith, Alex Smith, Greig and Henderson – played in all nine matches.
‘In Barcelona in 1972, Colin Stein scored one, Willie Johnston two’
En-route to what is to date our only trophy triumph in Europe, we faced Stade Rennes, Sporting Lisbon, Torino and Bayern Munich before our date with destiny in the Nou Camp in Barcelona against Moscow Dynamo.
The tie with Sporting Lisbon is, of course, infamous. Rangers won 3-2 at Ibrox but lost 4-3 in Lisbon. The ‘away goal’ rule, introduced in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, meant that the goal scored by Willie Henderson in extra time should have seen Rangers through. But the Dutch referee, Laurens van Raavens, was allegedly not aware the ‘away goals’ scored in extra time also counted double. He ordered a penalty shoot out in which Rangers missed all four of the spot kicks taken. Vitor Damas, the Sporting goalkeeper, saved efforts from Jardine, McLean and Stein, while Dave Smith fired his shot wide. Sporting converted two of their penalties and thought they were through to the next round, but they were eventually eliminated when UEFA recognised van Raavens’s error.
The complete record that season reads:
Willie Waddell utilised 17 different players in the glorious run to Barcelona, and 15 of the 16 goals were scored by six different Rangers players. The other goal was an own goal netted in the first leg of the semi final by Bayern Munich’s Rainer Zobel. Of the 17 players used, five – McCloy, Jardine, Mathieson, McDonald, and Stein – played in each of the nine matches.
‘Defending in depth’ perfectly sums up the road to Manchester in 2008. But it was an approach that paid dividends as the campaign gathered momentum after Panathinaikos were eliminated on the ‘away goal’ rule. Werder Bremen succumbed at Ibrox, although it took a breath-taking save from Allan McGregor in Germany to ensure Rangers made it through to the last eight. A wonderful solo goal from Steven Whittaker saw us navigate our way beyond Sporting Lisbon before Manchester was told to brace itself as Rangers were coming when Nacho Novo rolled home the decisive spot kick in Florence. Unfortunately, an excellent Zenit St Petersburg were a class above in the final, winning 2-0.
Our complete record that season was:
Remarkably, the five goals were netted by five different players, Novo, Cousin, Davis, Darcheville and Whittaker. The only teams to breach the defensive line were Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen and Zenit.
Walter called upon 21 different players during the UEFA Cup run, with four of them – Papac, Hemdani, Davis and McCulloch – playing in each of the nine matches.
Final number five is upon us. Remarkably, Rangers are once again in a major European Final, an encounter that will be Europa League match number 17 for the season. And the excitement for this one is at fever pitch, with a genuine belief that James Tavernier will become only the second Rangers captain to lay his hands on one of the top club honours in the European game.
A campaign that started badly – after battling past Alashkert to make the group stages, the opening two matches were lost, and no goals were scored – has the prospect of ending in immortality.
The complete record this season ahead of the clash with Eintracht Frankfurt is:
Six of the seven wins and 16 of the 23 goals have come at Ibrox, our home becoming a formidable and frenzied fortress on a Thursday evening.
Rangers have used a total of 27 players thus far – and myriad tactical formations – but only one, Joe Aribo, has appeared in each of the 16 matches. Aribo, who is likely to be the attacking focal point in Seville if Kemar Roofe isn’t declared fit, has started 14 times, and come off the bench in Lyon and Braga.
22 of the 23 goals have been scored by nine different Rangers players. And just like back in 72, an own goal was netted in Germany, Dortmund’s Dan Axel-Zagadou the culprit this time around. Our top scorer and indeed the top scorer in the whole tournament, is, of course, James Tavernier. Our captain has notched seven goals in 14 appearances, a remarkable ratio even more extraordinary when you consider he is a right back!
We’ve dared to dream, now we are on the cusp of that dream becoming a reality. Rangers FC – Europa League Winners 2021/22 has a rather nice ring to it. And on that note, the concluding message is one of defiance – bring it home boys – as the quest for Europa League glory continues into the home straight.