Mark Hateley

By Adam Robertson
 September 18, 2020

Mark Hateley - Unplayable

Mark Hateley - Unplayable

It’s probably just as well that social media wasn’t a thing back in 1990, both for Mark Hateley and for us. As far as Hateley goes: can you imagine the Instagram photos of his fashion choices? For our part, and I’m not blaming everyone here, it may have been hard to take back (far quicker to delete) some of the passionate and premature pronouncements on this new striker we had signed because for a while there Big Mark was not a popular man. It shows what we know. 

Because Mark Hateley had a spell of football where he was as close to utterly unplayable as anyone I’ve ever seen at Rangers. A combination of pace, power, ability to strike with both feet and out-jump and outmuscle any opponent in the air: the kind of player that would exist only as a glitch or cheat in early versions of a football computer game (Hello, fellow kids). 

That he couldn’t keep it up was as much to do with injury as anything else, but it won’t hurt his reputation going forward that he 1) played in a very good Rangers team 2) played in an all-timer Rangers strip and 3) played (some of the time at least) with one of the best finishers we’ve had at the club. And then later with Ally McCoist. 

(As an aside, and a serious one at that: Images of Rangers from the early 1990s –with that Adidas Equipment training wear and the fabulous home strip – belong either in the National Museum or the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.) 

Rangers came so close in that inaugural Champions League campaign to what would have been at the time a remarkable European final and what nearly 30 years later would appear to be an alien feat. His equaliser in the frankly preposterous comeback at Ibrox against Marseille was a fine moment but unfortunately for us, and for big Mark, his absence from the key return match and the final game at home v CSKA Moscow (after a red card v Club Brugge) did little to assist our efforts, even if we could not have known at the time that the filthy French were up to no good. C’est la vie, as those music legends said. 

Hateley’s ‘the big boys are playing now’ goal at Elland Road in the qualifying rounds was a good example of the strengths he often demonstrated and not a little typical of his attitude towards opponents who set off the battle fever. Big Jock – the one who was a good man – would have loved him in a Rangers team. 

It was, of course, the next season that big Mark would sweep the POTY awards and finish as the top scorer in the country; the award given to him by the writers’ association was the first time that a non-Scot had collected it and sits near the middle of a nice six-in-a-row spell for the players of the club. In the middle of the actual season Hateley scored a glorious goal amid a comedy performance by the Celtic defence, where both the laws of offside and the responsibilities of the central defence were cast aside as Rangers romped to an early 2-0 advantage and would win 4-2 (going on seven) as Jhuan Ghuy threw a (thankfully not deep-fried) Mars bar at the guilty men in the Celtic directors’ box. 

One of Hateley’s oddest contributions was as a simple bogeyman, thrust into a derby match in 1997 where, after a shock return worthy of the WWE, he managed to scramble the minds of the Celtic defence and despite (because of?) the red card that accompanied said shenanigans the damage was done, as Rangers managed to win 1-0 and effectively end any lingering hopes of Celtic stopping 9IAR. 

But when I close my eyes and think of Mark Hateley (maybe I should rephrase that) it is always going to be the league decider in 1991 against Aberdeen; both goals, every last element of his talent and prowess on display and – at least for once – a semi-decent haircut. Who can say what might have happened to Walter Smith – or to Rangers – had that game gone against them. There was certainly a bit of a sliding doors element to it all, when you consider the path both clubs took thereafter. But watch back the highlights, linger on that opening goal and the mismatched reality of it all, and perish the thought of negativity. Mark Hateley was having none of it.

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