Promoting The Rangers Story
From the formative days, this Club didn't accept second best. The well-established Queen's Park would only offer their second string XI for a game but The Rangers refused. They worked hard and in those days were very much a family Club. Peter Campbell was joined by his brother, John, and the first of the Rangers legends, Tom Vallance, was joined by his brother, Alex. A third McNeil brother, William, also became involved.
Within just five years, this young Club, formed in the most modest of conditions well before league football had been thought of, reached the final of the country's premier tournament: The Scottish Cup. Their opponents were the great Vale of Leven, a club also formed in 1872 and who defeated Queen's Park in the quarter final.
A young Rangers XI played against the Vale in March of 1877 and the game ended in a draw. It took a second replay to decide a winner and the Friday night match that finally saw a victor drew a crowd of 8,000, following the record-breaking 12,000 and 15,000 from the previous two matches. Reports from the day suggest the play of The Rangers captivated the crowd:
"The Rangers were now playing with a combination surpassing any of their appearances this season. The play of Vallance and Gillespie as the back support of the Rangers was certainly something unexpected, even from such good exponents of the game as they are recognised to be."
"The forward runs of Peter Campbell, Messrs McNeil, Watson and Hill, exceeded any of their play shown in the course of this season and without entering into the details of individual exertions, the Rangers, as a team, must be complimented on their exhibition of the passing and dribbling tactics of the game."
The second replay saw Vale of Leven lift the Cup but The Rangers had made their mark on the game. The 1877 Scottish Cup final was the first of the great finals; certainly the first legendary Rangers game and one that was talked about for years. Indeed, in print, quarter of a century later, the game was still remembered fondly by those who witnessed it. Vale may have been victorious on the day but it was Rangers that won over time.
Fast forward some 50 years and this Club, founded out of nothing, played in front of six figure crowds. From nothing, from a borrowed football and street clothes on a public park to a bursting trophy cabinet and some of the biggest crowds any football club in the world had known.
The story of The Rangers is THE greatest story in football. It's a real rags-to-riches, a sporting fairytale.
History doesn't appeal to everyone. Maybe this is due to the way it's taught in schools but the sad fact is that it is often disregarded as dull and unimportant. This couldn't be further from the truth. It defines us. In the case of Rangers, it defines who we are, reaffirms our status and it is what sets us apart from other Clubs. Without this history, football is another Americanised franchise sport; clubs are mere playthings of multi-millionaires with little to distinguish one from the other at a similar level.
This brings us on to a more recent and somewhat controversial topic: the Rangers Hall of Fame. The concept is excellent; we have a great history so let's shout about it. Unfortunately, this went wrong almost from the inception as some true greats of Rangers were left out in favour of more recent, and some would say less deserving players. A Hall of Fame generates debate but I'm sure most will agree that much of the 80s was a forgettable time to be a Rangers supporter so it's only natural that there would be fewer players from this period compared to, say, the 60s or the 90s, right? Only that's not how it worked out.
Instead of having Willie Reid, Robert Hamilton and Iain McMillan in there, we have Ray Wilkins, Mark Hateley and Barry Ferguson. I'm not doubting or criticising Wilkins' or Hateley's contribution to Rangers but it just can't compare in any way with your Meiklejohns or Grays - 69 games compared to near 1,000 games is a mammoth mismatch. Barry Ferguson and other current players shouldn't yet be anywhere near a Hall of Fame. Then there's the inclusion of Terry Butcher and DJ - the former's comments about Davie Cooper should ensure he's as popular around Ibrox as Peter Grant and DJ's sustained failure to defend Rangers when given the chance and his clown act on radio should see him removed, despite his great playing career. Being a Ranger is about more than what happens on the pitch.
It's not just the Hall of Fame that is a major failure in promoting our history properly. In the last couple of decades we have seen only one book of note from Rangers (Rangers - The Managers). Other writers have been commissioned to write for the Club (I'm thinking The Spirit of Ibrox here) and Rangers have promoted other books in the old Rangers shops but we haven't produced anything on the greatest football manager in history: Bill Struth.
Check Amazon and you'll find plenty of books on David Beckham and Jose Mourinho, some on Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, even a few on utter non-entities that played for our city neighbours. But the greatest manager of all time remains a mystery to most people because there has never been anything published about him.
Don't get me wrong here - there are some great books on Rangers out there and it shouldn't always be down to RFC to write about the Club, but Rangers must lead from the front with our story and, at present, they are light years behind the support. Ideally, the Club would have a small team whose job it is to research and produce quality books and articles but that's unlikely to happen any time soon.
In recent years we have seen our history revised by those that shouldn't even be commenting on Rangers. An article suggesting the young lads that founded our Club did so in order to sell replica strips beggars belief to the point that it would be laughable if people weren't believing it. And to have Sandy Jardine, a current employee of the Club, describe our history as "80 years of sectarianism" is frightening. The ultimate example of hero to zero.
When the people in charge of the day-to-day running of our Club comprise of a rugby fan who, no matter how you may want to twist it, is quite simply not a Rangers First And Last man, and a perma-tanned former male model who doesn't have the experience to work at the top of our Club, it's little wonder that Rangers doesn't promote our story.
Those inside Ibrox may wear the Club tie and attend backslapping dinners but they don't appear to care about Rangers beyond their wage packet or share price. The passion amongst the supporters for Rangers and our history is unrivalled. Until the regime departs, it's up to us to promote all that's good about Rangers - no one else will. It's our story and it's a great one. Shout about it!