The Greatest Ever Ranger, Mr Rangers and My Captain, just some of the words used to describe the legendary John Greig.
To those of you who got to see John Greig play for Rangers, I am truly jealous. Not only did you get to see a squad full of world class players, but you also got to see the best ever player in Rangers history. My grandfather often told me stories about the players of that generation and whenever a story about John Greig come up it was also about how good and professional he was, a true Ranger.
I've read some amazing stories of you guys meeting John Greig. The closet I have ever come to meeting him was when I sat in the Sandy Jardine stand for a game against Hibs. I wandered over just to take a look at the director's box, it was the first time I had sat in that stand, there sat John Greig. He turned around and noticed me staring at him, smiled and turned back to watch the match. You just know those moments where time stands still, that was one of them, I could only imagine what he was thinking. I later phoned my grandfather and told him that John Greig smiled at me during the game, he replied: "No one likes a fucking liar son"...
17 years a player at Ibrox winning 16 trophies, they don't make them like him anymore.
In this new series we look at five stars from a particular country or region. We will provide a detailed insight into their Rangers careers as well as focusing on particular moments that make us remember these stars.
For this edition we are joined by Tom Miller. The Rangers TV commentator, author and all round nice guy will bring his expert knowledge to look at five Scottish players that have pulled on the famous light blue.
"Jim Baxter is the best player to ever play for Rangers".
Well that's what my grandfather always told me. We would sit for hours on end talking about stories of how good Jim Baxter was, his abilities to not only dominate the midfield but usually a whole game.
Baxter went on to play 254 games for Rangers, scoring 24 goals. He would also win countless trophies during his time at Ibrox; ten trophies to be precise. Baxter lifted the Scottish First Division title three times, the Scottish Cup three times and the Scottish League Cup four times.
'Slim Jim' also received his fair share of personal accolades. He was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2000 alongside an esteemed list of club legends such as Moses McNeil, William Waddell, David Meiklejohn, John Greig, Sandy Jardine, Davie Cooper, Ally McCoist, Andy Goram and Brian Laudrup.
He also came 13th in the 1965 Ballon d'Or whilst playing with Sunderland. He was in very good company on nominees list alongside the 1964 Ballon d'Or winner Dennis Law (11th), Bayern Munich's Franz Beckenbauer (17th), Manchester United's Bobby Charlton (5th) and the 1965 winner Eusebio of Benfica.
Baxter was also inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2004 as well as being inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.
Rangers TV host Tom Miller is no stranger when it comes to Jim Baxter. Having grown up watching Baxter play at Ibrox he is able to provide us with some incredible insight into the club legend:
Baxter was a one off! A genius who typified that good old Glasgow word “gallus". Signed by Scot Symon in 1960 after producing a masterclass in the colours of Raith Rovers to give the Kirkcaldy side a win at Ibrox. Symon saw Baxter as the keystone of the team he was building and was so confident his new man would deliver the goods he announced his signing on the eve of the Scottish Cup final. A final Rangers won beating Kilmarnock 2-0 in front of a crowd of 108,017 at Hampden.
Slim Jim or 'Stanley' as he was known to his team mates, won the treble in his first season and played in the first ever European Cup Winners Cup Final that Rangers lost over 2 legs to Fiorentina.
My own first special memory of Jim Baxter was the incredible match against England at Wembley in 1963. I remember being captivated listening to the game unfold with a transistor radio held to my ear. Eric Caldow had been stretchered off with a broken leg, leaving Scotland to play the game out with only 10 men as it was long before the days of substitutes. Baxter thrived on that stage scoring both Scotland's goals in a 2-1 win including converting a penalty kick, which he later confirmed was the first spot kick he had taken in his career.
That gives you an indication to the confidence he had in his own ability. He used to tell Rangers flying winger Davie Wilson; "just you run, I'll find you with a pass". He may have been a bit one footed and was not noted for his heading ability or for making a tackle but for creativity and vision in those halcyon days of the early '60s Jim Baxter had no peers.
Rangers were kings of Scotland and could easily have been kings of Europe too had it not been for the tragedy of the broken leg in Vienna in 1964. Jim's lifestyle was not suited to not being able to express himself on the football field while his fondness for a night out and a refreshment or two, did nothing to aid his recovery during such a lengthy absence.
Jim moved to Sunderland in 1965 and then on to Nottingham Forest but he failed to find the form that he consistently delivered at Rangers, with arguably one exception. That was a return trip to Wembley in 1967, when Scotland again turned over England with Baxter the tormentor in chief of Alf Ramsey`s World Cup winning side.
If we needed any confirmation of Jim Baxter`s qualities the title of my biography on my first footballing hero "Slim Jim - Simply the Best" was inspired by a banner making that statement , held aloft by Celtic fans at Hampden during a cup tie on the week of Jim's untimely death. That says it all!
BOOK: You can find Tom Miller's book "Slim Jim - Simply the Best" here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Slim-Jim-Simply-Tom-Miller/dp/1845027833
The greatest ever Ranger. Not much more needs to be said.
The epitome of a one club man. Greig joined Rangers straight from school and went on to serve the club as player, captain, manager & director. A lifetime committed to his club. As a player he delivered 5 top flight titles, 6 Scottish Cups and 4 League Cups and of course lifted the European Cup Winners Cup in 1972 which remains the Club's finest hour.
John Greig was a leader, a leader of men in the typical style of Rangers greatest ever captains like Bobby Shearer, George Young & Jock Shaw.
Greig's leadership qualities were also recognised by his country and was capped 44 times, on 15 occasions he also captained the side.
With Jim Baxter not travelling owing to the demands of national service John Greig played a big part in the innovative tour of Russia in 1962 and that cemented his place in the side for the following season. Prior to that trip John had made a scoring debut against Airdrie in a league cup tie in September 1961 as an inside forward.
On my first ever trip to see Scotland John Greig made my night. It was 1965 and a floodlight world cup qualifier at Hampden against Italy. Scotland won 1-0 with John Greig scoring the only goal of the game playing the ball out from the edge of his own box in a couple of combinations with Jim Baxter before firing the ball into the net. What made my night extra special was I had travelled to the game on the Boys Brigade bus and won the sweep ! I think I won 5 Shillings which was a fortune to a pre teenager, and of course Scotland won!
John Greig's playing career with Rangers spanned 17 years and in that period, he won 3 trebles. He scored 120 goals which is a remarkable total for a player who was mostly deployed as a half back (midfielder in modern parlance) or even at full back and indeed that was his regular position later in his career.
In the late '60s and early '70s Celtic had dominated the Scottish League but Rangers reversed the trend in 1975. Rangers needed 1 point at Easter Road to clinch the title and stop their biggest rivals claiming 10 in a row. Fate saw Greig miss the game through injury but he was introduced from the bench in the final few minutes to celebrate with his team after Colin Stein's headed goal ensured the championship was Ibrox bound. It was the last ever old First Division as we knew it as the following season the league was being rebranded as The Scottish Premier.
The following season Rangers were treble winners with Greig the skipper appearing in 55 matches and scoring 3 goals.
John Greig is still a regular visitor to Ibrox and I have had the privilege of being in his company on a number of occasions and I remain in awe of the man just as I was when he made me the happiest lad at Hampden that night back in 1965!
Arguably the biggest compliment paid to the late great Davie Cooper came from Dutch icon Ruud Gullit who said "I played against him for Feyenoord in a friendly and I saw this guy & thought he was unbelievable".
"He was one of the greatest players in the world of football".
Davie Cooper would have graced any stage and complimented in any side, anywhere. Yet the shy and quite introverted boy from Hamilton was happy to play for the club he loved and after Ibrox he performed wonders in the claret and amber of Motherwell and inspired them to their Scottish cup success in 1991.
Cooper almost slipped the net of professional football but for the perseverance of Jack Steedman at lowly Clydebank who used all his powers of persuasion to have the 18 year old Davie put pen to paper on his first professional contract.
Roll on 2 years to 1976 when it took 2 replays before Rangers disposed of The Bankies in a League Cup tie and while the Light Blue legions were delighted to see their team progress in the tournament, most were astounded that this creative opposition winger with the Zapata moustache had tortured and repeatedly tantalised Rangers legend John Greig over the 3 games.
It was a no brainer that Jock Wallace would make him a Ranger & while it took to the following summer to get him on board, it was a decision that paid dividends for years to come.
Cooper was joined by Bobby Russell from Shettleston Juniors unbelievably and Gordon Smith from Kilmarnock in 1977 as the new boys for the forthcoming season. They were the injection of youth and enthusiasm into a squad to compliment the qualities of Alex MacDonald, Sandy Jardine, Derek Johnstone & Tommy McLean. The blend worked and the squad clicked almost immediately and the treble was secured for the second time in 3 seasons with Cooper an integral part of the squad playing in 52 games of the 53 game campaign while providing Smith and Johnstone with the ammunition that saw them claim 65 goals between them in that first season with Davie chipping in with 8 goals of his own.
Cooper was a master of the reverse pass giving the 'eyes' to opponents before it became a thing!
Davie enjoyed the successes of that first period with Jock Wallace as Boss and suffered the lows at the club in the early '80s but was a key player again under Graeme Souness when he took over the managerial reigns.
In the navy blue of Scotland Davie also delivered and his conversion of that crucial penalty (having come off the bench for Gordon Strachan) at Ninian Park booked our place at the Mexico World Cup Finals of 1986 but a night of triumph turned into tragedy with the untimely death of Jock Stein.
It's hard to believe that less than 10 years later Davie Cooper himself would no longer be with us, collapsing with a brain haemorrhage while filming a training video at Broadwood stadium. He was only 39 years of age.
Davie Cooper has left a legacy that anyone who saw him play will confirm, it was football in it's purest form.
As Walter Smith said “God gave Coop a talent. He will not have been disappointed with how it was used".
David Cooper legend – taken too soon.
Alistair Murdoch McCoist M.B.E , Rangers all time leading goal scorer.
It may have been a roundabout route that McCoist took to get to Ibrox, arriving via St.Johnstone & Sunderland but what a long term legacy left by John Greig from his time as manager by making McCoist a Ranger.
Of his 15 years at Rangers and he was top scorer in 9. One of only 3 players to collect a medal in every campaign of the sensational 9 in a row era. Richard Gough & Ian Ferguson were the only others. Ally McCoist was the first Scottish player to win the prestigious European Golden Boot award and he even went on to retain it the following season! 27 goals in the white hot atmosphere of Old Firm Derbies and a total of 28 hat tricks for the Light Blues confirms Ally McCoist was a goal scorer supreme – a master of his art – he typified a predator in the penalty box , although he will argue he claimed a few goals from beyond 18 yards too! What also set him apart was the way he did it with a roguish smile on his face, Ally lived to score goals.
It wasn't always plain sailing however for the man who would be later christened Super Ally.
He struggled to settle when he first arrived, he couldn't put a consistent scoring run together and the fans hadn't quite taken him to their hearts. Even when Souness arrived and trophies came with terrific regularity, McCoist had to show extreme character and on many occasion huge levels of patience , as the bold Graeme went into the transfer market like a kid let loose in a sweet shop, signing a plethora of strikers to lead the line, but Ally prevailed and saw them all off, even those who came with huge reputations from south of the border. It was during this time he acquired another nickname “The Judge” ( probably coming courtesy of his great pal Ian Durrant ) as he was on the bench that often!
Strangely, Ally McCoist can look back on his Rangers career and be a bit bewildered that for all the success in a stellar career he only has one Scottish cup winners medal. Incredibly that solitary cup win with Ally in the side came against Airdrie in 1992 and typically the bold McCoist was the man who claimed the crucial 2nd goal in a 2-1 win. The 1998 Scottish cup final was to be Ally's last appearance for Rangers and again he was on the scoresheet but this time there was no happy ending as Rangers went down 2-1 to Hearts.
Ally also picked up 61 caps for Scotland captaining the side on 1 occasion and again it was a game that he left his mark on, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win against Australia. He found the net for his country a further 18 times.
Domestically the League Cup was a tournament that he excelled in and was 9 times a winner with a memorable hat trick in the final of 1983 to beat Celtic. This win came while the club were pretty much still in the doldrums. After lifting the cup it could be argued that the Hampden win and those three goals were the turning point in Ally's Rangers career.
It's fair to see he never really looked back thereafter.
It's well documented that when Ally McCoist took over the managerial reigns he faced challenges no Rangers manager had ever faced before and hugely unlikely any future Rangers manager will ever have to experience in the future.
So let's not judge 'The Judge' on his time as Rangers boss, let's look back at Super Ally the player and his 355 goals, that's a phenomenal record that will not be surpassed – ever!
Barry Ferguson was brought up in the Rangers tradition. Barry was a regular in and around the training ground as a youngster watching his older brother Derek who starred in Rangers midfield in the 1980's. Barry's other hero was Ian Durrant. They were two special talents that Barry tried to model his game on.
2 spells at Rangers playing a total of 431 games and scoring 60 goals. Homegrown talent of the highest quality. Barry joined the club in 1991 as a schoolboy and signed his first professional contract in 1994. He had a rapid rise to the first team, making his debut against Hearts on the last day of season 1996/97 and he never really looked back as he became a top squad regular the following season.
Barry Ferguson captained Rangers in 2000 while only 22 years old & was entrusted with the skippers' armband by four different Ibrox bosses. Barry had terrific captain - manager relationships with Walter Smith (twice!), Dick Advocaat and Alex McLeish. The situation with Paul Le Guen is probably best forgotten but it's quite telling that when the Frenchman moved on after only half a season at Rangers, Barry was reinstated to lead the team out in the next game after Le Guen's departure.
Barry won 5 Scottish titles and was a winner 5 times in both the Scottish and League Cups. Barry was also twice awarded the Player of the Year by the Scottish Football Writers & believe me, they can be a tough bunch to satisfy!
We should remember too in Barry's second spell he led the side to Manchester for the final of the UEFA Cup in May 2008 & on the occasion made his 400th appearance for Rangers.
To give an indication what Rangers means to Barry, you only have to go back and have a look at the footage from the 2002 Scottish Cup final from Hampden. It's the final that's best remembered for Rangers coming from behind to win the cup in thrilling style with that sensational diving header goal from Peter Lovenkrands as the clock hit 90 minutes and everyone inside the national stadium was starting to think about extra time. Yes – it was such a joyous moment for all of a light blue persuasion and a stunning goal to seal the success, and one that everyone fondly remembers but if you recall Rangers were 2-1 down until skipper Ferguson produced a moment of inspiration with skill and technique of the highest order to get Alex
McLeishs's side back on level terms. It took a momentous free kick from Ferguson with 20 minutes still to play to tie the score at 2-2.
Bobo Balde had barged Lorenzo Amoruso at the edge of the box and referee Hugh Dallas immediately awarded a free kick to Rangers. Fernando Ricksen was over the ball but Barry Ferguson pulled rank and took the responsibility in true Rangers captain style. Rab Douglas in the Celtic goal lined up a 6 man defensive wall with a 7th man just alongside. Just minutes before the foul on Amo, Barry had crashed a 30 yard effort off the post with the keeper beaten. Now when the chips were down Ferguson would not be denied. It was the perfect strike, up and down, over the wall, curling away from the diving goalkeeper with pace and movement on the ball and as the ball hit the net Hampden erupted! It was at the Rangers end of the old national stadium to make it even better and the bold Barry took off – shirt off – to celebrate in real style. It was a masterclass all round performance that day from Barry and that equalising goal undoubtably gave Rangers the platform to win the cup.
Barry headed south of the border for a short spell but a horrific knee injury meant he never quite hit the heights he was capable of. Barry's heart was always at
Ibrox though and when he came back in 2005 it wasn't long before he was celebrating again. This time it was helicopter Sunday as Rangers took the title at Easter Road as bookies favourites Celtic, wilted at Fir Park.
On that day Barry wasn't captain as Fernando Ricksen had taken on that role but when you look back at that squad we pretty much had a team of captains.
Barry Ferguson also captained his country and played for Scotland 45 times. It could easily and probably should have been many more.
Barry was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2004. Yes, he can be controversial at times but he is, and always will be, a GREAT RANGER!
Written by Adam Robertson & Tom Miller.