Mark Hateley

By Adam Robertson
 September 13, 2020

Mark Hateley - Lethal Cocktail of Elegance and Violence
Mark Hateley

Mark Hateley - Lethal Cocktail of Elegance and Violence

I’ve been privileged to see many great players in my 40 years following the Gers that picking one to write about was a bit like when a teacher asks a Primary school class to draw a picture of something – your mind fills up with a thousand options all at once. In the end I decided to pay homage to a modern great who maybe doesn’t get the attention he deserves. You see, when people talk about Rangers in the 90s, they offer two players as examples of world-class players we had, namely Gascoigne and Laudrup. And while this is understandable, it’s also unfair on another who I would argue was up there with the best – Mark Hateley.

The big man was a lethal cocktail of elegance and violence. He was incredibly powerful, wonderful in the air but perfectly comfortable taking a ball in to feet with his back to goal. He scored goals, all sorts of goals – headers, howitzers, tap-ins, it didn’t matter. He bullied opposition defences and goalkeepers with an ease that looked almost cruel at times. And he did it, he always did it, when you needed him to.

His background was palpably different from most British footballers. After serving his apprenticeship at Coventry he moved on to Portsmouth, where 22 goals in 1983/84 saw him attract the attention of AC Milan. Serie A was by far the strongest league in those days and an offer to go play there was not to be taken lightly. Italian football has always been slightly in awe of the traditional British target man striker, and in Hateley they saw a golden opportunity to marry his astonishing physicality to their more technical style of play. He played with another future Ranger in Ray Wilkins in what was a lean period for the Rossoneri, though highlights included a San Siro derby winner against Internazionale. After three years, it was time to move on when Milan brought in a replacement striker for him – a young Dutchman named Marco Van Basten.

He moved to Monaco where his goal record was good – when he played. In his three seasons he suffered a serious knee injury and a series of accompanying niggles which kept him out from over half the side’s matches.  In 1990, Graeme Souness – who’d tried to buy him when he left Milan – secured him at the second attempt and brought him to Rangers for £1m, or to put it another way, one twelfth of Tore Andre Flo. And at first, we didn’t like him.

There were two reasons for this. The first was that Souness already had Mo Johnston and Ally McCoist, both of whom were great and who had a terrific partnership. It was clear that someone had to be dropped to accommodate the new arrival and that man, staggeringly, was Ally. Now as Ally was slightly more popular in Govan at that time than free money given out by a nude model, this annoyed the fans a bit. Secondly, Mark was initially rubbish. Still not fit, he struggled to find any rhythm.

Souness left, and Hateley’s arrival as a Ranger was in the 1991 League decider with Aberdeen. His two goals that day – and battering of the Sheep defence – won him a place in our hearts and set the template for the next five years, where he rampaged all over Scottish (and European) football for us. God, he was great. Exhilarating, scary, consistent – he was everything you want in a forward.

He left for QPR in 1996, miffed at having fallen behind Oleg Salenko in the pecking order. However, there was to be a coda to his time at Ibrox when he answered a plea from Walter Smith to help out during an injury crisis at the tail end of the NIAR season. He did just that, collecting 6th Championship medal.

Of course, we remember the daft Versace suits and the frankly-ludicrous skullet hairdo as well. But we forgave him for looking like a blind man had dressed him using only a tin of paint and a set of shears. He hammered our rivals, every one of them with a grace matched only by his bloodthirsty rampaging. They called him Atilla, but he was more like a Viking; wild, dangerous, focused and impossible to stop.  He’s made his home in Scotland and continues to be a regular face in our game. There isn’t a season that goes by where I think ‘I wish we could find another Big Mark’ – but the truth is he was an original. I’m just grateful to have witnessed him fling Scottish football about like an empty tracksuit.

He’s a true Rangers legend. All hail the big man.

David Edgar - @ibroxrocks

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