It is always sad to lose a member of the Rangers family but, at just fifty-three, the recent death of Ian Redford was sadder than most. Life can be so unfair at times and, having had more than his fair share of hard knocks, it is tragic that it should all end for a fit, athletic young man in a remote spot of woodland.
Fitness always was Ian's strong point, he could run for ever and he could play a bit too. A Scottish Cup winners medal and two League Cups, the most memorable being in 1981 when he came off the bench to net the last minute winner against Dundee United, was a fair haul from his five years at Ibrox, remembering that his spell at our club was hardly one of our more successful. And he was a stand-out during Dundee United's run to the UEFA Cup Final in 1986-87, then picked up another League Cup medal and won the First Division with Raith Rovers.
Like so many of his era, Ian was unfortunate to arrive at Ibrox at a time when the team was in transition. He became Scotland's most expensive player when John Greig splashed out £210,000 to take him from Dundee to Rangers early in 1980 and the fee perhaps weighed heavily on him as the team struggled for consistency. I felt the Russell-Bett-Redford midfield trio had all the makings of being something special but, for all its youthful promise, the lack of an experienced 'minder' often saw them hustled out of their stride. The arrival of Cammy Fraser was geared to add steel to the midfield line but, as Jock Wallace sought to tinker with Greig's squad, the team lost direction and Ian suffered as much as anyone.
Having got to know him personally when he first arrived at Ibrox, Ian certainly bought into the Rangers culture, he was aware that he was at a very special football club and was always conscious of what was expected of him. The Saturday night after-match routine usually involved a gathering at Zak's, a Sauchiehall Street pub close to Charing Cross (God knows what it is called now), Johnstone, Dawson, Cooper, Russell, MacDonald, Stevens, McAdam and Stewart were regulars, as was a Partick Thistle contingent of Rough, Welsh, Whittaker. Anderson, O'Hara and Higgins.
Hardly surprisingly, fans were keen to join in, the patter was great, I'm sure I've got a pile of pics stashed away somewhere and the one thing which struck me about it all was that, for all their 'star' status, these were just normal blokes who liked a pint and a laugh like the rest of us.
And when Rangers were in Dortmund on UEFA Cup business in 1982, having discovered the team was staying at the Novotel on the outskirts of town, a crowd of us went along after the match, an excellent 0-0 draw, and the Zak's group reconvened at the bar. My pal Phil from Halifax was on the phone over the weekend, remembering that night with great affection and also with a touch of sadness because so much of it was spent in Ian Redford's company.
Our friendship extended beyond his Rangers days. Ian got light-hearted abuse for scoring the winner for Dundee United when they won 3-2 at Ibrox early in Souness' first season but it was hugs and kisses all round eight years later when, having seen the Gers romp to a 3-0 win at Tannadice, on the way home we had a pint or two in Errol and bumped into Ian, just a week after Raith Rovers' memorable League Cup win over you-know-how.
As is so often the way of things, we lost touch over the years and, after his autobiography was released at the tail end of last year, I vowed to re-establish contact. Sadly, I never got round to doing it and that will bother me for some time to come. My thoughts, and those of the entire Rangers family, are with his family at this time.