My Favourite Game
- 10 December 2012
With Rangers celebrating 140 years, we at ‘The Rangers Standard’ thought it would be nice to ask a few fans for their favourite game or moment. For me personally, I have witnessed many great occasions but my own thoughts are similar to Gail Richardson’s at the end so I won’t duplicate them. What I will say is that the sheer joy of Rangers’ survival is a new and welcome perspective. Just before the East Fife match in August my Dad said to me that, "there were times when I thought we would never be here again." He was not alone.
Yet the club they thought (and hoped) would die has not wasted away into nothingness, but has instead found a new energy and purpose. The hunger to get back to the top is greater than ever before and there's a heightened awareness among the club and fans that it's their job to protect the reputation and history of Rangers. Instead of less passion, there is more.
In hindsight maybe this should have been expected. As Carlos Bocanegra astutely points out: "My team-mates over in Spain ask me how 50,000 people come to a Third Division game and I just say 'Hey, it's the Rangers and that's how it is.'"
- John DC Gow
For many years my favorite game would have been my first Old Firm game at Ibrox back in 2000 when the likes of Mols and DeBoer running riot. But times change and it will be a long time till I can feel so much pleasure attending a game as I felt when I was at Ibrox to finally see Rangers just playing football on 'Sell out Saturday' Vs East Stirling. It was a party atmosphere - a celebration of our club making it through such a terrible time...and knowing that we were indeed still the people. Although we ran out 5-1 winners (as we did in the Old Firm game back in 2000) the result this time was immaterial. It was a day of solidarity and the beginning of a great adventure.
Rangers then, Rangers now, Rangers forever.
Rangers 2 – 2 Marseilles, November 1992. It might seem odd to pick a match that Rangers didn’t win when faced with the choice of so many that they did, but for me this match epitomises all that has been best about Rangers teams and what could be so special about those in the future. Rangers were set in the role of pioneers in the first ever Champions’ League group match. We fielded a team made up mainly of Scots with only Mikhailichenko from outside the UK. We were up against a team of the utmost quality, Barthez (with hair), Boli, Desailly, Sauzée, Deschamps, Völler, Boksic and Abédi Pélé.
The quality told and Marseilles raced to a 0-2 lead but true grit and no little quality of our own, saw Rangers pull back that deficit to draw the match in torrential rain. I sat in the Broomloan mesmerised by the quality of the opposition, the never say die attitude that coursed through so many of Walter Smith’s teams and the ability of the Ibrox crowd to raise a team above the limits of what anyone believed possible. The future might just see a team full of home grown, Rangers players take on and match quality European teams again.
My favourite Rangers game is the 3-1 victory against Aberdeen at Ibrox which clinched 8-in-a-row. This game has layers of significance, the most obvious being that it was the penultimate step towards one of the club’s greatest achievements. It also saw one of the great individual Rangers performances as Paul Gascoigne scored a hat-trick, with his first and third goals bookending a magnificent second. Finally, and personally, it is the first Ibrox encounter I can clearly remember.
Brian Irvine put Aberdeen in front but Rangers responded quickly. Brian Laudrup took a corner and played the ball to Gascoigne just outside the penalty area. He drove into the box, muscled his way past Billy Dodds and lifted the ball over the keeper. His second surely rates as one of the greatest goals ever witnessed at Ibrox. He collected the ball in his own half and accelerated away from two Aberdeen players. Bearing down on goal, he had the strength to hold off two more Aberdeen players before stroking the ball into the top corner. The penalty conversion that completed the sequence seemed mundane by comparison. His performance was the perfect marriage of traditional artisan Rangers qualities and erratic footballing artistry.
2008, Artemi Franchi Stadium, sitting in the Main Stand with six friends and one brother who had followed on throughout Europe that season. Fiorentina, UEFA Cup Semi-Final, 2nd leg - be honest you never thought you'd ever see that day!
We were pumped that night, played off the park, yet Fiorentina still couldn’t score. To this day I only remember one clear chance for Rangers when Novo snapped at his shot. Cousin was sent off for a head butt with theatrical reactions, but quite rightly so. We ended up at penalties, and sitting in the Main Stand amongst the Fiorentina fans we decided to link arms, all six of us, like the players do when a penalty shootout begins.
I'm sure many of us have never been as nervous since. Penalties were a blur, Fergie missed, they missed two, then it was the turn of Novo to become a legend. He approached the ball with a walk any gallus Glaswegian would have been proud of and oh how he stroked it home.
I never cry at football but I cried that night, why? Because my 12 year old son was crying with happiness down the phone to me. I have never been so proud, that night made my son, like me, a Ranger for life.
My journey into following Rangers started in August 1988 against our old foes, Celtic. Like most Rangers fans their most memorable game is likely to be their first game. Well, mine wasn’t about to disappoint and to this day I recall just about every kick of the ball, who scored, and the songs sung that day.
I was only ten years old but that never stopped me standing on my seat, swirling my flag around and singing for our favourites to add to the score line. You see, many of us have various views on what it is to be a Rangers fan, each with their own merit of course. For me, my ideals of being a Rangers fan is to be part of a special Rangers family who loves to follow the club. Despite being my first game I felt as though I knew everyone around me. I can recall the two gentlemen beside me as they hoisted me on their shoulders and celebrated one of the most significant results on nine in a row.
Thumping Celtic 5-1, trying to understand my father’s reaction to the result and my young voice all coarse from singing will live with me to my dying days. As my own kids grow up I won’t be slowing in telling them of the day, and where I would expect them to experience a similar, memorable day in Rangers’ glorious history to pass onto future generations.
My Greatest Game: Rangers 3 Celtic 2- May 4th 2002. Rangers were coming to the end of their 130th season in existence when they won the Scottish Cup on a thrilling afternoon at Hampden. This game remains special to me over a decade on from the triumph. Little did I know at that time it would be the last Old Firm match I would view with my Dad. For that reason the day and match really resonate with me. Despite winning the League Cup in March, the Scottish Cup final against Rangers’ most bitter rivals presented Alex McLeish with a perfect opportunity to stamp his status as a legendary manager at Ibrox.
The 90 minutes were filled with tension as the game ebbed and flowed between the two teams. Celtic took the lead through John Hartson but Rangers soon equalised through Peter Lovenkrands. With the scores level at half-time, my Dad and I were full of tension as the second half began. Worse was to follow when Bobo Balde put Celtic back in front five minutes into the second half.
However, Rangers rallied and Barry Ferguson scored one of the greatest free-kicks I have ever seen. And then that heroic moment in the last minute that I will never forget. Ball in from Neil McCann and Lovenkrands heads over Rab Douglas. Cue absolute bedlam. 4th May 2002. A day that will last forever with me as a Rangers fan.
Werder Bremen came to Ibrox with a daunting reputation. Most German clubs do have that about them when they come to Ibrox and after sneaking through against Panathinaikos, it was expected that we might drop out of Europe at this stage.
It was a special night - not only for the result - but Barry Ferguson writing himself in the history books having played in European competition more than every Scottish player, bar Kenny Dalglish. He did not wait long to beat that record, too. Ibrox was at its boisterous best. Charlie Adam nearly took the roof off early doors - but the enigmatic Daniel Cousin took an ambitious shot from 40 yards, only for Wiese to throw into his own net. Maybe it was a late Christmas present from Wiese but he did it again, spilling to Steven Davis early in the second half.
And it could have been more if it had not been for the 6ft 4inch legs of Naldo who made that quite incredible challenge on Lee McCulloch. A stunning result nonetheless which is right up there with one of our best in recent memory. That season had a few, to be fair, like dumping Lyon in France. Little did we know it would be just one scalp on the road to the final. Only now, though, you realise the stature of Rangers in European competition when you look back at some of those bouncing nights at Ibrox that have seen some of the finest teams on the continent go home empty-handed.
Professor Graham Walker
The temptation to revel in the tribal glee of recalling the 5-1 Old Firm game of August 1988 is very great, but I will opt instead for the 4-1 demolition of PSV at Ibrox in October 1999. This was the finest Rangers European performance I have witnessed: fast and fluent football topped with some killer finishing. Michael Mols’s display was sheer artistry – he turned defenders inside out all night, he put us two up with a thrilling diving header, and he capped it all with an individual effort for the fourth that had the place in raptures. Barry Ferguson stroked the ball around with an assurance worthy of Baxter and Souness, and Neil McCann ran riot on the left and chipped in with the third goal.
A certain Derek McInnes did the effective holding job for which manager Dick Advocaat had surprisingly chosen him, and maybe he should have been chosen to do it more often afterwards. Big Amo was inspirational, and headed the all important opener. The only blot on our night was a dodgy penalty converted by one Ruud van Nistelrooy. Ibrox held over 50,000 and the backing for the team was nerve-tingling. It was a glimpse of what may have been possible had Mols not been so cruelly injured in Munich a few weeks later.
Rangers 4 Celtic 4 22nd March 1986. It may seem strange to pick a game we never won but for me this was a day that had everything. My mate and I had secured the tickets very late and just managed to get them and get to the game just on time. The atmosphere was dynamite and it seemed to be raining goals to match the awful weather. We were almost at the front of The Govan Stand and were drenched but honestly did not notice. The emotions were all over the place as a certain Mo Johnston opened the scoring followed by Brian McClair. Are we going to get turned over at home by Celtic? Things changed after Willie McStay got sent off for another lunge at McMinn and a goal from Cammy Fraser got us back in. Within 14 mins of the second half restarting Tommy Burns, Ally McCoist and Robert Fleck had all netted to make it 3 each and Murdo McLeod scored Celtic's fourth to cancel out another Cammy Fraser goal.
It was frantic and frenetic and the when the match was over we returned to our car to discover my mate had lost his car keys. We walked in the main door and explained. There a member of staff actually took us through and out the tunnel and told us to walk around the track and look for our keys. So to top the day off we got discuss the game from a unique perspective and enter and leave by the main door via the tunnel. And we found the keys!
After 35 years as a Rangers supporter, I could be forgiven for having some difficulty identifying my greatest ever Rangers game; after all, I’ve seen quite a few over that time! However, when I was asked to identify my greatest ever Rangers game, it was a ‘no brainer!’ Thursday, 1st May 2008 will forever live in my memory as my greatest ever Rangers experience. I will never forget the excitement and the overwhelming emotion of that UEFA Cup semi-final, second leg tie in the Stadio Artemio Franchi in the picturesque capital of Tuscany.
After a ‘soporific’ 0 – 0 draw at Ibrox, the scene was set for an historic night in Florence. 8,000 travelling Rangers fans joined 37,000 vociferous ‘Viola’ to witness a nail-biting encounter when, for long spells, Rangers were encamped in their own box, repelling attack after attack. We had sweated blood for two long, stamina-sapping hours against the Serie A superstars, and it all came down to a Nacho Novo shoot-out penalty! Who will ever forget those moments? As I pen this piece now, I can feel the goose bumps and that spine-tingling sensation in my back. I am not ashamed to say that I shed tears of joy that night, and when I think of it my eyes inevitably fill up.
Who will ever forget that iconic scene of Nacho clinging to the fence after coolly stepping up to score the winning penalty - who will forget the cry, ‘Brace yourself Manchester – Rangers are coming!’
How can you pick a favourite game? It’s like picking your best Rangers XI. It always changes! Today it is the epic European Cup tie against Dynamo Kiev. My father, brother and I managed to get our usual spot near the stadium. Something was different though. My father’s pace was quicker. The air had and electric charge. Reflection tells me this was my first big European night at Ibrox. Memory affords me the sight of the stadium’s lights coming in to view. I kept asking my dad, do we have a chance? His grimace didn’t give me any comfort.
Inside the ground a constant wall of sound conducted by the East Enclosure greeted us. Rangers started on the front foot. A close range McCoist effort gave early belief. Fortune soon smiled on Rangers when the Kiev goalkeeper rolled the ball off the heels of his own defender and Falco stuck it away. Eruption. Game on.
The noise didn't abate. This was the perfect coming together of team and crowd. We matched every movement with incremental volume. Shortly after the restart a ball in to the back post found Falco who nodded toward McCoist. Bedlam. Some slack defending from Rangers and perhaps the greatest pass back in history served to keep our nerves exposed. When the full time whistle finally blew McCoist was on his knees, spent. We all were.
I consider myself blessed as a Rangers fan to have seen so many great games and great players. For a while I considered choosing Rangers v Illves Tampere from 1986, but if I tell you that my dad’s dad was a Third Lanark fan then you’ll understand why I make no apologies for choosing Rangers 5 – East Stirlingshire 1 on 18 August 2012 as my favourite game. Not for Andy Little’s hat-trick, or Fran Sandaza’s tap in, not even for joy of seeing our captain, a man who embodies loyalty, hit the back of the net. We don’t have a Cooper, or a Laudrup, a Goram or a Gascoigne. I didn’t witness great skill or flair.
We didn’t win anything other than 3 points but this was my favourite game because, after a summer of doubt and fear, I stood between my father and my son and watched the club I love take a step on a long journey back to the top. I have never been more proud to be a Rangers fan. Yes, I savour the memories of European victories, championships and cups won, amazing goals scored but the greatest joy is from simply still being here.
Rangers then. Rangers now. Rangers forever.