Posted: 5/10/2011


        Taking the short one block walk from Ibrox underground station I pass souvenir sellars with flags, T shirts, pins, scarves and more.  "True Blue", "No Surrender". "Keep Ulster Protestant", "Simply The Best", "King Billy on the Wall" and, believe it or not,  "William & Kate",

        There were also some special T shirts with a large photo of manager Walter Smith, on the occasion of his very last home game at Ibrox Stadium, before he hands over to his assistant Ally McCoist. There were also some very sectarion ones comparing Bin Laden to Celtic.

         It's now an all seater stadium with 50,000 plus capacity and a UEFA 5 Star rating, although the historic front brick and glass Main Stand is protected and preserved. In one corner near the old staircase where 66 fans were crushed to death on January 2nd 1971,  99 years after the club was born, are some memorials to those who lost their lives, plus a full size statue of former club captain that season, John Greig.

          The official programme was a Walter Smith souvenir issue, which I picked up in the press room, then took my seat in the Waddell Suite and front row of the press box.  It was not your usual end of season boring match. Indeed it had passion, skill, a packed crowd singing songs throughout and opponents Dundee United, The Arabs, who must be commended for trying to compete. 'We Will Follow, We Will Follow Rangers', 'We are the People', and other club songs were sung throughout with glee. 55 Scottish titles, 33 Scottish Cups, 27 League Cups, 1 European Cup Winners Cup....

          Only one more match, away at Kilmarnock on Sunday, four points clear of Celtic, who visit Hearts in Edinburgh on Wednesday, one and the tightest of championship races. In the club museum there is an amusing letter written on Rangers letterhead 28th August 1962 and signed by then manager Scot Symon.

          It was a response to a letter from Jack Smith, Walter's dad, regretting that his 14 year old son, recovering from a broken leg, could not sit on the track next to the pitch. The police would not allow it and he might be struck by the ball.  Symon wished the boy a speedy recovery.

         Recover he did, and he signed for Dundee United and then joined their coaching staff and later of course Rangers. Also a spell helping Alex Ferguson coach Scotland at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, after the unfortunate collapse and death of Jock Stein at Ninian Park in a qualifier against Wales. (it happened about 20 feet in front of me). He also helped Ferguson at Old Trafford, and a spell managing Scotland

        I saw him play as a 20 year old when Dundee United, under manager Jerry Kerr, became Dallas Tornado for the summer of 1967 in the old United Soccer Association.   I was a 'stringer', reporting for 'The Dundee Courier'.  Sir Alex also recently revealed that in 1985 after 8 glorious years at Aberdeen, he was looking for a new challenge and Arsenal asked him to succeed Don Howe and he would have asked Walter to be his assistant. As it was they were committed to Scotland and Walter had promised to join Rangers. Can you imagine then as Gunners??

        Nikica Jelavic opened the score with a classic header as he rose high and mightily to head in a cross from Steven Whittaker. Four minutes it was game over as Kyle Lafferty banged in the second from  Steven Naismith's pass. There were less than 200 orange clad United fans in one corner and they were as quiet as mice.  The Light Blues of Rangers(well, lighter than the dark blue of Scotland anyway) were magnificent and so were the fans. I had the perfect view from the front row of the press box and enjoyed every minute., my first visit to Ibrox since 1978.

       To top it all off, Rangers Man of the Match was announced as WALTER SMITH !!  He did a lap of honour with his team and assistants and what looked like a bunch of tiny grandchildren, and went down the tunnel to a standing ovation.