Rangers Football Club
No other professional football club in the world can boast 51 league titles and such an abundance of cup honours. The Protestant club are still competing at the highest level and continue to bring success back to the blue half of Glasgow.
The Early Years
Rangers Football Club were founded in 1872 by brothers Moses and Peter McNeill, Peter Campbell and William McBeath. The men had no kit, no ball, no money but all shared a vision of starting a football team and duly named it Rangers, after an English rugby team.
That year Rangers played their first ever game against Callander FC, which ended goalless. The game was played at Flesher’s Haugh on Glasgow Green. The pitch was open to all members of the public, so the teams had to arrive early to guarantee being able to play on a pitch. So amateurish was the match that the players used a second hand ball and had to play in their own clothes, but this soon changed. Rangers wore blue jerseys in their second game against a team called Clyde (not present day Clyde) and the team in blue eased their way to an 11-0 victory.
Although 1872 saw Rangers organise and play their first two games, 1873 is seen as the official year the club was founded. The key moment was the first annual meeting where officers were elected, turning Rangers into an official football club. Formal training sessions got underway with more friendlies being played in what was their first full season. Unfortunately, Rangers were ineligible to play in the Scottish Cup because their application to join the Scottish Football Association was handed in too late.
In 1887, Rangers reached their first Scottish Cup final against Vale of Leven. Bizarrely, the final was played over three games because penalty shoot outs hadn’t been introduced yet. The first game ended 0-0 with the replay ending 1-1, but Vale of Leven beat Rangers in the second replay 3-2. This wasn’t the last time this fixture was to be played out and the two teams were in the cup final again two years later. Like last time, the first game ended in a 1-1 draw but history again repeated itself when Vale of Leven were awarded the cup. Vale of Leven won it by default because Rangers were furious about a goal which was disallowed and subsequently failed to turn up to the replay.
Rangers took part in the English FA Cup and missed out on a place in the final to eventual cup winners Aston Villa, but they were to lift their first piece of silverware in 1891, sharing the league with Dumbarton. It was the second year of the Scottish Football League and Rangers were one of the ten original members. This was to be the first of many championships for Rangers.
The First Old Firm Derby
The Old Firm is one of the most famous derbies in the world and dates back to the late 19th century when Rangers’ rivals Celtic were born. The first encounter between the Catholic and Protestant clubs was on 28th May 1888 at Celtic Park, which Rangers lost 5-2. After this game, the two teams started to dominate Scottish football and pull in record crowds for their clashes.
Remarkably it is suggested that the origin of the ‘Old Firm’ nickname was a newspaper report on the first match, which commented the two teams got on so well "you would believe that they were old firm friends". Alternatively, William J. Murray has said it derives from the benefits of the games for the two sides financially.
The First Double
Before 1928, Rangers had won an astonishing fifteen league titles and four Scottish Cups in 21 years under the guidance of William Wilton, but he could never win both trophies in the same year! Wilton sadly died in a boating accident in May 1920 and William Struth succeeded him. In 1928, Struth managed to win the domestic double, something Wilton never achieved. To top it all off, his Rangers side beat Celtic in the cup final 4-0.
In the 1930s, Rangers continued to enjoy success and followed up their impressive double with three more domestic league and cup doubles that decade. The only thing that could stop Rangers success was the war, which suspended the Scottish League for a number of years.
The First Treble
After the war, Rangers continued where they left off winning league and cup trophies. When the league returned in 1946, a new competition launched called the League Cup, giving Rangers the opportunity to go one better than before and win a treble. It only took two years from the foundation of the League Cup for the footballing giants to record their first treble. Rangers’ success continued in the 50s and 60s, winning seven honours, but they were to take a back seat in the 70s when Old Firm rivals Celtic became top dogs.
Disaster at Ibrox
On Saturday 2 January, 1971, a seemingly quiet Old Firm derby took place at Ibrox. However, the last five minutes were explosive, with Celtic taking a late lead. The game seemed done and dusted until Rangers equalised in the closing stages, sending the 80,000 Rangers fans wild with happiness. These cheers soon turned to screams as the barriers of Stairway 13 collapsed. This tragic event was the darkest day in Rangers history, claiming the lives of 66 people and injuring a further 140.
The following year was one of the better years in the club history after they won European Cup Winners Cup. It wasn’t the first time the club had reached the final, having been runners-up in 1961 and 1967. Rangers had beaten a strong Bayern Munich side, led by Franz Beckenbauer, in the semi-finals and only Dynamo Moscow stood between them and the cup.
The team from Glasgow escaped with a hard fought 3-2 victory but the win was marred by pitch invasions after the game, resulting in Rangers being banned from the competition the following season. Nevertheless, this day will always be remembered for Rangers finally picking up the trophy which had eluded them twice before.
The Late 1970s Onwards
1975 saw the formation of the Scottish Premier League and, needless to say, Rangers were one of the big guns. Immediately, Rangers sent out a message to the rest of Scotland by winning their third treble in 1978.
Success continued throughout the 1980s with a further nine trophies but this was nothing compared to the 1990s. Under the tutelage of Walter Smiths, Rangers were near unstoppable as they won a remarkable 18 trophies. Players such as Ally McCoist, Andy Goram, Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup made the 90s special for the Gers, who picked up seven successive league titles and won domestic treble in 1992/1993.
The 21st Century
Now in the 21st century, the Old Firm rivalry is hotter than ever, with both Glasgow clubs sharing the trophies. This also saw the debut of a number of big stars (past, present or future) such as Gennaro Gattusso, Gio van Bronckhorst, Stefan Klos, Ronald DeBoer, Stephane Guivarc’h and Colin Hendry. The bulk of the big names brought to the club were by Dutchman Dick Advocaat, who also attracted a few trophies during his tenure.
In 2001, Advocaat took a backseat, becoming the Director of Football at Rangers before leaving to become Holland’s manager in 2002. Alex McLeish took the managers job and made a big impact at the club. In the 2002/03 season, he managed to pick up all three trophies in Scotland.
Walter Smith is now manager of Rangers with legend Ally McCoist as his right hand man. Competing in the Champions League again this season, Rangers are looking to continue to keep filling up the trophy room at Ibrox.
- Scottish League – Winners (1891, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1918, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2005)
- Scottish Cup – Winners (1894, 1897, 1898, 1903, 1928, 1930, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003)
- Scottish League Cup – Winners (1947, 1949, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2005)
- European Cup Winners Cup – Winners (1972), Runners-up (1961, 1967)
- Biggest Win – 13-0 (vs. Possilpark, October 6, 1877) (vs. Uddingston, November 10, 1877) (vs. Kelvinside, September 28, 1889) (all in Scottish Cup)
- Most Goals In A Game – 14-2 (vs. Blairgowrie, Scottish Cup, 1934)
- Biggest Loss – 1-7 (vs. Celtic, Scottish Cup Final, October 19, 1957)
- Highest Attendance at Ibrox – 118,567 (vs. Celtic, Division One, January 2, 1939)
- Biggest Transfer Fee Paid – £12.5 million (to Chelsea for Tore Andre Flo, November 2000)
- Biggest Transfer Fee Received – £8.5 million (to Arsenal for Giovanni van Bronckhorst, July 2001)
- Most Appearances – John Greig (755, 1960-1978)
- Most Goals – Ally McCoist (355, 1983-1998)