Posted: 1/2/2011
Title: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

Blog:                                                                                                                         

          It was 2nd January 1971, and the Glasgow derby at Ibrox Park (now Ibrox Stadium)  between Rangers and Celtic. With a minute to go and Rangers fans streaming out via stairway 13, there was a roar from the packed crowd of 100,000 when Celtic made it 1-0, andfans turned round to return and see what had happened. A minute later Colin Stein equalised 1-1..

        One fan tripped and many fell over. 66 fans died that day, the youngest, Nigel Pickup  just 8 years old. Last May I visited Ibrox and photographed the memorial plaque on the wall, below the John Grieg statue. Today, exactly 40 years on, they had a pre match tribute at the derby match, won this day 2-0 by Celtic. John Greig  and his opposite number on that fateful day, Billy McNeil, led the teams out this afternoon. Celtic club captain McNeil did not play in the match due to injury.

        On the original day I had been leaving Bloomfield Road in Blackpool when I learned of the tragedy on the radio. My only Glasgow derby had been about 3 years earlier. I was in the main Ibrox stand, The Bill Struth Stand and blue,white and red bedecked fans were friendly and passing around flasks of whisky. I enjoyed my visit.

      A very lucky young man in 1971 was current Ibrox boss Walter Smith who was then a player with Dundee United. His manager Jerry Kerr had dropped him from their match that day so he came down to Glasgow and went to the derby with his brother. In 1968 I had been correspondent for 'The Dundee Courier' when Dundee United had played under the name Dallas Tornado at the Cotton Bowl in the old USA League,for runner to the NASL.

     He was 20 years old I think at the time, and I hadn't realized how famous he would become. He managed Scotland, Everton, assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and is now in his second spell at Rangers.

      He had left early by that staircase, and in a time before there was instant news, he had returned to a Glasgow suburb and his parents house in a fans special bus, to be greeted by anxious family trying to determine who would never return home. Former Rangers and Scotland star Willie Waddell was general manager and helped turn Ibrox into a UEFA 5 star all seater stadium with a reduced capacity of 50,000.

     Back in 1902 on April 5th, Scotland played England. In the 51st minute a stand collapsed and 25 died with 517 injured. The match continued.  On September 16th, 1961, 2 people were killed in the crush on stairway 13, the Copland Road stand, near the subway station. and improvements were made, but obviously not enough.

 

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