History of Rangers F.C.
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Rangers Football Club, formed in 1872, were the first association football club in the world to win more than fifty national league titles, currently 54. The club is also the most honoured in the world, winning 115 trophies in total.
This article tells the story of the club from its beginnings covering the European Cup Winners Cup success, the 1902 and 1971 Ibrox disasters, the Nine in a Row league championship wins, and the financial insolvency of the early 2010s, which led to a relaunch in the lower tiers of Scottish football.
- 1 Formation and early years (1872–1899)
- 2 The Wilton years (1899–1920)
- 3 Struth's era (1920–1954)
- 4 Under Symon (1954–1967)
- 5 White takes charge (1967–1969)
- 6 Waddell era: European success and national tragedy (1969–1972)
- 7 Wallace becomes manager (1972–1978)
- 8 John Greig, from captain to manager (1978–1983)
- 9 Return of Wallace (1983–1986)
- 10 The Souness Revolution (1986–1991)
- 11 Smith's tenure (1991–1998)
- 12 The Little General (1998–2001)
- 13 Financial constraints under McLeish (2001–2006)
- 14 Paul Le Guen (2006–2007)
- 15 Smith's return (2007–2011)
- 16 McCoist's tenure, liquidation and relaunch (2011–2015)
- 17 Boardroom changes and top tier return (2015–)
- 18 References
- 19 External links
Formation and early years (1872–1899)
In February 1872, the club was formed by a group of rowing enthusiasts, brothers, Moses McNeil and Peter McNeil, Peter Campbell and William McBeath, saw a group of men playing football on Glasgow Green's Flesher's Haugh. David Hill was also a founder member.
Indeed, the team's first game was at Flesher's Haugh in May 1872 against Callander, which resulted in a 0–0 draw. Moses McNeil suggested the name Rangers after seeing the name Swindon Rangers in a book about English Rugby. Rangers only played two matches in their birth year and their second match, with the team donned in light blue shirts, was a comprehensive 11–0 win over a team named Clyde (not the present Clyde).
Rangers began to grow into a more formal football club and in 1876, for the first time, a player was called up to play international football as Moses McNeil made his Scotland debut against Wales.
The 1890–91 season saw the inception of the Scottish Football League, and Rangers were one of ten original members. By this time Rangers were playing at the first Ibrox Stadium. Rangers' first ever league match took place on 16 August 1890 and resulted in a 5–2 victory over Heart of Midlothian. After finishing equal-top with Dumbarton a play-off was held at Cathkin Park to decide the who would be champions. The match finished 2–2 and the title was shared for the only time in its history, the first of Rangers' world record 54 championships.
Rangers had to wait until 1894 to taste their first Scottish Cup success after losing to Vale of Leven in 1877 and 1879 but finally lifted the trophy for the first time after a 3–1 win over Celtic. Rangers even came close to winning the English FA Cup in 1887 when they lost to Aston Villa in the semi-final.
Rangers ended the nineteenth century with further Scottish Cup wins 1897 and 1898 and a League Championship win in 1899 during which they won every one of their 18 league matches. Rangers formally became a limited company on 27 May 1899 and the then match secretary William Wilton was appointed as the club's first manager. This also enabled Ibrox stadium to be constructed that same year. The club also appointed its first board of directors under the chairmanship of James Henderson. By the turn of the century Rangers had won two league titles and three Scottish Cups and were well on their way to becoming one of Scotland's top clubs.
The Wilton years (1899–1920)
Rangers were in the ascendancy at the turn of the century, winning the championship seven times between 1900 and 1918 (with four League title in a row). The season of 1898–99 was particularly memorable, in that it saw the Gers win all 18 league games to establish a perfect record. This feat has yet to be repeated by the club, although the team did go through the 2013–14 season unbeaten.
However, between 1902 and 1910, Celtic took over as the dominant force, and though Rangers had the chance to foil a third League and Cup double in 1909, the Scottish FA withheld the Cup due to disgraceful scenes after a pitch invasion by drunken fans. The Hampden Riot of 1909 had written itself a sorry page in the history books, and both clubs were ordered to compensate hosts Queen's Park for the damage caused by their so-called fans.
Having lost the title in 1919 they responded in 1920 with one of the best seasons in their history as manager William Wilton and his right-hand man Bill Struth retained the title netting 106 goals in 42 league games. However, in May 1920 the club's first ever manager, William Wilton, died in a boating accident and Bill Struth was subsequently appointed manager.
Struth's era (1920–1954)
The key statistic of the 1930s was three consecutive Scottish Cup wins from 1934, 1935, 1936. History was there to be made in 1937 when they set out on the trail of a fourth win, only to lose in the First round to lowly Queen of the South. Ironically, this was the first Rangers game ever to be immortalised on film.
The post-war seasons saw Rangers well on top, but not before a boardroom coup in the summer of 1947. The board of Rangers had previously been an amateur body made up of former players, but when chairman James Bowie suggested a 71-year-old Struth retire in order to allow a younger man to take charge, a revolution occurred. Bowie was forced out the chair and was said never to have set foot in Ibrox ever again such was his disdain for the circumstances of his departure.
Struth went on to steer Rangers to 18 league championships, 10 Scottish Cups and 2 League Cups in his 34-year tenure as manager. He was also the first Rangers manager to win the domestic treble when it was achieved for the first time in Scottish football history in season 1948–49, the success based on the so-called Iron Curtain defence which remained virtually unchanged from 1946 to 1953.
After Bill Struth collected two more domestic doubles in 1950 and 1953, Scot Symon was appointed as Rangers third manager on 15 June 1954.
Under Symon (1954–1967)
This section needs expansion with: more detail on Symon's tenure - a spell that includes a domestic treble and two European finals (the section below on David White's two years in charge is lengthier than the two sections covering Bill Struth and Scott Symon combined!). You can help by adding to it. (June 2015)
Symon continued Struth's success by winning six league championships, five Scottish Cups and four League Cups. He also became the second manager to win the domestic treble in season 1963–64. Another purple patch began at the end of the 1950s: from 1957 until 1965. Rangers achieved four league titles, plus an equal number of wins in both League and Scottish Cups. This was the era of Slim Jim Baxter, a superb ballplayer who was by turns exhilarating and exasperating.
However, Baxter was to depart for England in 1965, there was a player who had been a first–team regular for the past couple of seasons who would mature into an inspirational leader, a stalwart in the dark blue of Scotland and would eventually manage the club. John Greig was that man, and though Rangers would play out the decade in the shadow of their European Cup – winning neighbours, the foundations were being laid for future success.
In the 1956–57 season Symon took Rangers into the European Cup for the first time but it ended abruptly, going out on to French team OGC Nice. The following season saw Rangers suffer their worst ever defeat by their arch rivals Celtic, losing 7–1 in the League Cup final of 1957. They did however reach the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1960 losing eventually to German club Eintracht Frankfurt by a record aggregate 12–4 for a Scottish team. In 1961 Rangers became the first British team to reach a European final when they contested the Cup Winners' Cup final against Italian side Fiorentina, only to lose 4–1 on aggregate. Rangers suffered yet more despair in the final of the same competition in 1967, losing 1–0 after extra time to FC Bayern Munich.
Following the death of incumbent chairman John Wilson in 1963, Rangers appointed John Lawrence to succeed him. Lawrence had been on the board of Rangers since the mid-1950s and would remain in charge for a decade before resigned to become honorary president. During his tenure as chairman, Lawrence oversaw two of the most pivotal events namely the 1971 Ibrox disaster and the European Cup Winners' Cup Final fifteen months later. His legacy continued in the shape of his grandson, Lawrence Marlborough who inherited his shareholding and was appointed vice-chairman in 1979. Marlborough would go on to revitalise the fortunes of the club in the 1980s before selling his stake in the company that owned the club to David Murray in 1988.
After these disappointments, the pressure was on Symon and he paid the penalty of Celtic's success in Scotland and Europe in October 1967, giving way to his former assistant Davie White after rejecting a move to make him general manager with White in charge of team affairs.
White takes charge (1967–1969)
David White was installed as Rangers' fourth manager on 1 November 1967. He had initially come to Rangers as assistant to manager Symon as part of a grooming process, giving him time to learn the ropes and take over when he was ready. However, it didn't turn out that way and the responsibility came too early. White was on his own and in charge after just five months at the club and just 34 years old.
When White took up the reins at Rangers, the team had failed to win the league championship in three seasons, the longest title drought in 50 years. He also happened to be up against one of the greatest ever Celtic managers, in Jock Stein, and teams, the 1967 European Cup Final side. White started incredibly well and went on to win 19 of his first 20 league matches in charge, amassing 39 out of a possible 40 points. The only blemish was a 2–2 draw at Celtic Park on 2 January, which happened to be the side's third game in only four days.
The Scottish Cup gave White his first defeat as Rangers manager. A third round replay against Hearts on 13 March looked to be heading for extra time, when in the 87th minute, Donald Ford struck the winner for Hearts. Rangers were out the Cup. Incredibly, this was White's only loss in his first 30 domestic games in charge. A couple of draws in April, and White's first league defeat in the final minute of the final game of the season, 3–2 at home to Aberdeen, cost Rangers the title by two points. Despite accumulating the highest percentage of points won by any Rangers side since Bill Struth's first season and collecting 61 points, which would have won the title in 11 of the past 12 seasons, Rangers were beaten by Celtic. Their Old Firm rivals amassed 63 points and following the Ne'erday derby draw gone on to win all of their remaining league fixtures.
In the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup campaign that season Rangers reached the quarter-finals, meeting Leeds United in March 1968. After a 0–0 draw at Ibrox, two goals in six minutes at Elland Road in the second leg were enough to see Leeds progress 2–0 aggregate. Leeds United went on to win the Fairs Cup.
The 1968–69 season was to be White's one and only full season in charge at the club. He made two major signings at the start of the season. The first was when he broke the Scottish transfer record and outbid the English Champions Everton to buy Colin Stein from Hibernian for £100,000. Secondly he paid St Johnstone £50,000 for Alex MacDonald. The league campaign till the end of November was inconsistent, 4 draws and 3 defeats from 13 matches, although the side did win the first Old Firm match 4–2 at Celtic Park. Rangers went on a run from December until April where they lost only once in all competitions, 3–2 away to Airdrieonians in the league.
The seemed to be unstoppable, an example being one week in the middle of March (15th–22nd), when Rangers beat Clyde 6–0 at Ibrox in the league on the Saturday, with Stein scoring hat-trick before being sent-off, four days later the side beat Athletic Bilbao 4–1 at home in the Fairs Cup then followed this three days later by hammering Aberdeen 6–1 in the Scottish Cup semi-final. Stein's disciplinary record caught up with him and he was suspended from the end of March until the end of the season. Without his goals the team dropped six points from the final six league games and conceded the title to Celtic by five points.
The route to the 1969 Scottish Cup Final saw Rangers dispose of Hibernian, Hearts and Airdrieonians before meeting Aberdeen in the semi-final. In the final, with Stein suspended, White opted to play Alex Ferguson rather than Sandy Jardine, purely because of the aerial threat of Billy McNeill at corners. Ferguson was blamed for a goal that Rangers conceded only two minutes into the match in which he was designated to mark goalscorer McNeill. Two horrendous mistakes from Örjan Persson and Norrie Martin minutes before the interval, were both seized upon by the 20-year-old George Connolly, resulted in two goals to give Celtic a 3–0 lead at half-time. Rangers lost the game 0–4 and Ferguson was subsequently forced to play for the club's junior side.
The Fairs Cup proved fertile once again. Rangers went all the way to the semi-finals, defeating FK Vojvodina (2–1 on aggregate), Dundalk (9–1 on aggregate), DWS Amsterdam (4–1 on aggregate), Bilbao (4–3 on aggregate) before losing 0–2 to Newcastle United on aggregate. The tie was basically lost at Ibrox as Rangers were held to a 0–0 draw, despite numerous chances and yet another missed penalty from Andy Penman. Newcastle United went on to win the trophy.
Having brought the legendary Jim Baxter back home at the start of the 1969–70 season, White's faith was repaid immediately when in his first game back at Ibrox, Baxter masterminded a famous 2–1 comeback victory over Celtic in the League Cup sectional round that had the crowd in raptures. In the Cup Winners Cup we beat Steau 2–0 at home, and held out in Bucharest for a 0–0 draw where White cleverly employed John Greig in a sweeper's role.
In the second round, despite losing 1–3 away to Górnik Zabrze, confidence was still high that the Rangers could overcome them at Ibrox. He was promising to, "attack, attack, attack!" in order to progress. Baxter scored a stunning goal after 18 minutes, and it all looked to be going to plan as Rangers sustained pressure continued for the first hour, and then the game changed. Gornik started to play and scored three quite brilliant goals in the final half hour as they toyed with Rangers, looking as if they could score at will. Gornik were applauded off the park. The next day, 27 November 1969, White's assistant Willie Thornton took over as caretaker and the club began to look for a new manager.
The lack of honours during White's reign at Ibrox, however, masks the fact that he did improve the team during a difficult period. Celtic, under Stein, were at the peak of their success and White, as Rangers' first track suit manager working on the pitch with the players every day, did not fail through any lack of tactical knowledge. In his two seasons in charge Rangers had finished 2 points and 5 points behind Celtic. White was replaced by Willie Waddell, the former Rangers legendary winger, who had also won the Championship as a manager in 1965 with Kilmarnock, before returning to journalism with the Daily Express, where he was heavily critical of Rangers, and White in particular, referring to him as 'the Boy David'.
With Waddell in charge, the next three seasons saw Rangers finish 12, 15 and 16 points adrift of Celtic in the Championship – 2 points for a win back then. The team also failed to beat Celtic in 10 of the 11 games it played with Waddell at the helm.
Waddell era: European success and national tragedy (1969–1972)
William Waddell, a former player who had made himself a name both in journalism and as the manager of Kilmarnock's championship-winning side of 1964–65, was appointed as Rangers manager on 8 December the same year. In 1972 he guided Rangers to their first, and to date only, European triumph when they defeated Dynamo Moscow 3–2 in the Cup Winners' Cup final at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. Due to a pitch invasion at the end of the match, the team were presented with the trophy in the dressing room. Following pressure exerted by the Spanish Government of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, UEFA banned Rangers from defending the cup. This was perceived by some as a disproportionate and politically motivated decision, as evidenced by Barcelona's decision to invite Rangers to participate in their pre-season Trofeo Joan Gamper tournament (named after the club's founder) in 1974, alongside the Basque team Athletic Club de Bilbao. The triumph in the European Cup Winners' Cup came less than two years after the 1971 Ibrox disaster, when 66 people died leaving the east terrace at staircase 13.
Within weeks of their European success, Waddell moved to the general manager position and his coach Jock Wallace was appointed as manager. The reasons for the 51-year-old Waddell relinquishing the reins at Rangers were never fully explained but he probably saw the coaching of players as a younger mans job. He also became determined to complete the reconstruction of Ibrox Stadium.
Waddell's spell can only be seen as a unique achievement. In just little over two years he had enforced discipline and order to the club. This in turn brought European success and broke the dominance of Celtic, if only in the League Cup. Waddell also oversaw the recovery after the second Ibrox disaster, helping the families of the victims and forging strong links with supports' clubs.
Wallace becomes manager (1972–1978)
Jock Wallace's managership of Rangers saw the club achieve a period of sustained success. His first season as manager, 1972–73 was the club's centenary year. After taking over the first-team managers position on 31 May 1972, Wallace set about reshaping the side. He moved on Colin Stein and Willie Johnston to Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion respectively, bringing in Quinton Young, Joe Mason and Tom Forsyth.
After a stuttering start to the league campaign, three defeats and a draw from the first six matches, the sides fortunes greatly improved. From October to the end of the season Rangers suffered only one league defeat, at home to Hearts on 2 December 1972, and went on a run of sixteen wins. However this run was not enough to become league champions as the side finished second, one point behind Celtic.
In the cup competitions, the Scottish Cup campaign was to culminate in a 3–2 win over Celtic. The final was attended by Princess Alexandra along with 122,714 other spectators. It was Rangers first Scottish Cup win in seven years. The League Cup run was ended in the semi-finals at the hands of Hibernian after a 1–0 defeat.
This season also saw compete in the first ever European Super Cup. The side played the European Cup holders Ajax in January 1973. The Dutch side were the only continental opposition the side faced that season due to the club's European competition ban. In the end Ajax proved to strong and recorded a 6–3 aggregate win, with Rangers losing 1–3 at Ibrox and 3–2 in Amsterdam.
In the summer of 1973 Rangers chairman John Lawerence retired and was replaced by vice-chairman Matt Taylor.
A nine-year period of Celtic dominance in the league was ended in 1974–75 as Rangers captured what was to be the last championship of its kind. The new ten-team Scottish Premier Division saw Rangers crowned inaugural champions, as part of a triumphant domestic treble. A barren subsequent season in 1976–77.
Wallace presided over the club's fourth domestic treble and second in three years in 1977–78. During the close season Rangers spent heavily in the transfer market, bringing in Davie Cooper from Clydebank for £100,000 and Gordon Smith from Kilmarnock for £65,000. They were joined at the club by Bobby Russell who arrived from Shettleston Juniors for free.
Despite these expensive signings the side did not make the best start to the league campaign, losing the opening two matches to Aberdeen and Hibernian. Order was restored the following week with a 4–0 defeat of Partick Thistle. A resounding 3–2 win over Celtic in the first Old Firm match of the season set the tone of the season. Rangers had been 2–0 down at half-time but recovered to win the game after outclassing Jock Stein's side in the second 45 minutes. In March 1978, second placed Aberdeen won 3–0 at Ibrox to set up a tense title run in. Rangers dropped seven points from twenty-one but held on winning the final four fixtures and the league.
The League Cup was won by defeating Celtic 2–1 after extra time. Goals from season new boys Davie Cooper and Gordon Smith completed the first leg of the treble. The 2–1 1978 Scottish Cup Final win over Aberdeen made Wallace the only Rangers' manager to win two domestic treble's. Surprisingly despite this unprecedented success Wallace resigned from his position on 23 May 1978. The reason for his departure was never revealed but it is widely believed that a breakdown in the working relationship between Wallace and general manager William Waddell was the cause. At a time when Ibrox Park was undergoing extensive redevelopment the transfer budget was to suffer. Waddell was suspected of vetoing many signings, Alan Hansen from Partick Thistle and David Narey from Dundee United among them, in favour of investing in the rebuilding project.
The burst of success under Wallace in the mid-1970s saw Rangers once again established as Scotland's most successful club. When Wallace, suddenly and unexpectedly, announced his resignation, Rangers turned to another of the stalwarts of the great side of the mid-to-late 1970s, the captain John Greig.
John Greig, from captain to manager (1978–1983)
After the departure of Wallace the board acted quickly to replace the void with club captain Greig being promoted to first-team manager. Greig took a phone call on the day of Wallace's resignation from general manager Waddell. Greig was playing golf with teammate Sandy Jardine when Waddell called him to offer him the job. On 24 May 1978 Greig was confirmed as the seventh manager of Rangers.
Greig's tenure began promisingly. The 1978–79 season could so easily have mirrored the previous. Despite a fixture pile-up which resulted from the club playing three league games in nearly three months, and some overly negative tactics from Greig, Rangers came close to winning a quadruple of trophies. Unfortunately it was not to be and the season ended with just the domestic cup double.
Wallace's treble-winning team of the previous season performed ably in the European Cup. Rangers eliminated Juventus after defeating the Italians 2–1 on aggregate – the first time Rangers had ever recovered from a first-leg defeat to win a two-legged European tie. Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, the then UEFA Cup holders, were overcome in the next round (the club's first home defeat in European competition), before an injury-stricken Rangers side lost to Cologne at the quarter-final stage.
The early season league form was terrible as the team failed to win any of the first six league matches but a run was put together. Things began to unravel, however, as leadership of the league evaporated. The team had to settle for second place behind champions Celtic. The pivotal match was a 4–2 Old Firm defeat a Parkhead. There was success for Greig in the national cup competitions. Victory in the 1979 Scottish Cup Final over Hibernian required a second replay to separate the sides before Rangers eventually won 3–2. The 1979 Scottish League Cup Final ended in a 2–1 win for Rangers over a strong Aberdeen with goals from Alex MacDonald and Colin Jackson.
The following the season finished trophyless. Rangers finished an embarrassing fifth in the league, eleven points behind champions Aberdeen. The main cause for such a poor showing in the league was pointed at the team's away form, only ten points from eighteen matches. Aberdeen also knocked Rangers out of the Scottish League Cup over a two-legged third round tie. Rangers did reach the 1980 Scottish Cup Final only to lose out to Old Firm rivals Celtic, 1–0 thanks to a deflected George McCluskey shot in extra time. The European Cup Winner's Cup campaign was ended by the eventual winners Valencia CF after having seen off Lilliestrom and Fortuna Düsseldorf in previous rounds.
The summer of 1980 saw Greig bring in Jim Bett from Lokeren for £150,000. Bett was joined by Colin McAdam a £165,000 signing from Partick Thistle. The side got off to a good start in the league, going on a fifteen match unbeaten run, including two Old Firm wins, was to end in November. A disastrous run in November and December all but ended the title challenge as the team finished third, twelve points behind champions Celtic. The League Cup campaign was halted after a controversial defeat by Aberdeen in a match where the Dons were awarded two contentious penalties. Due to having no European participation, Rangers entered the Anglo-Scottish Cup which led to humiliation and embarrassment at the hands of English minnows, Chesterfield. The third division side held Rangers to a 1–1 draw at Ibrox before defeating Rangers 3–0 in the away leg at Saltergate. Rangers did win the 1981 Scottish Cup Final after beating Dundee United 4–1 in a final replay. After a tedious 0–0 draw where Ian Redford missed a last minute penalty, Rangers won the replay with goals from Davie Cooper, a John MacDonald double and Bobby Russell.
Greig's fourth season in charge, 1981–82, ended yet again without the league championship. Rangers finished third, twelve points behind Old Firm rivals Celtic who were champions. There was an apparent lack of ambition at the club due a lack of transfer funds which were being directed towards the redevelopment of Ibrox Park. There was the surprise signing of Northern Ireland international John McClelland from Mansfield Town. The Ulsterman proved to be a shrewd acquisition and later became the club captain. European participation was halted by Dukla Prague who soundly beat the team 3–0 in Prague and a 2–1 second leg win for Rangers was not enough for the team to progress. The domestic cup competitions provided successful ground as Rangers reached both finals. The team lost the 1982 Scottish Cup Final 4–1 to Aberdeen despite leading for the majority of the match. A late Aberdeen equaliser took the game into extra-time before the Dons added a trio. Rangers did win the 1982 Scottish League Cup Final by defeating Dundee United 2–1 with goals from Davie Cooper and Ian Redford.
Greig made big-money signings in the pre-season 1982–83 with renewed hope that they could at least mount a serious title challenge, but once again, the season ended in trophyless failure. Dave MacKinnon – £30,000 from Partick Thistle, Craig Paterson – £200,000 from Hibernian, Robert Prytz from Malmö FF and Sandy Clark from West Ham United, were all welcomed to the club. The early signs were positive. Rangers reached the 1983 Scottish League Cup Final scoring en route 29 goals in their ten games and eliminated Borussia Dortmund from the UEFA Cup. The opening eight league games saw the side unbeaten but the final match saw Rangers lying in fourth, a massive eighteen points behind champions Dundee United. The team was knocked out of Europe after suffering a 5–0 defeat from Cologne. The 1983 Scottish Cup Final was lost to an Aberdeen side that had won the European Cup Winner's Cup ten days earlier.
The 1983–84 season would signal the end of John Greig's managerial career. The league season began badly, one point from the first four league games, although the team did win their six League Cup games under Greig. A fruitful brief run in the European Cup Winner's Cup saw Rangers win the second round, first leg 2–1 over F.C. Porto after the team's record breaking 18–0 aggregate win over Maltese champions Valletta. After the first nine league games, Greig's team had collected just ten points from twenty-seven. In the end the pressure was too much and Greig resigned from his post on 28 October 1983.
Greig's efforts to restructure the team inherited from Wallace proved, for the most part, fruitless. The early years of the 1980s were ones of repeated frustration as the club continually failed to mount a challenge not only to Celtic, but to the resurgent New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United. The gloom of under-performance in the league was punctuated only by periodic cup triumphs. The Scottish Cup win of 1981, in particular, saw a triumphant performance by the enigmatic winger, Davie Cooper. The League Cup proved fertile territory for Rangers throughout the fallow years of the early 1980s, but it was the failure to add to the league triumph of 1978 that saw the growing pressure on Greig culminate in his resignation as manager in October 1983. During this period attendances at Ibrox dwindled from an average 25,628 in season 1978–79 to 17,681 in 1982–83.
Return of Wallace (1983–1986)
Rangers hoped to rekindle success by bringing Jock Wallace back to the club, following his exile in England with Leicester City. Wallace, though, was not the club's first choice: Jim McLean and Alex Ferguson, the then managers of the New Firm clubs, both rebuffed Rangers' advances. McLean's brother Tommy was appointed caretaker manager and four games passed before a permanent manager was in position.
On 10 November 1983, Jock Wallace was persuaded by the Rangers board to leave Motherwell and return to the club. His aim was to restore the glory years of the treble-winning sides of the late 1970s. Wallace's initial impact was positive, boosting morale and fitness. He made changes to the coaching staff, bringing in Alex Totten as first team coach with Tommy McLean, David Provan and Joe Mason leaving. Wallace also added to the squad during the season, Bobby Williamson arrived from Clydebank, Nicky Walker from old club Motherwell and Stuart Munro from Alloa Athletic.
Wallace's first match in command was at Pittodrie on 12 November 1983. The game ended in a 3–0 defeat but the side went on a 22 match unbeaten run in all competitions until March 1984. Yet, Rangers still ended that season fourth in the league, fifteen points behind champions Aberdeen . The club did win a trophy, the League Cup. The League Cup final was a thrilling extra-time victory over Celtic, with Ally McCoist scoring a hat-tick in a 3–2 win.
The 1984–85 season, Wallace's first full season in charge since his return, was almost a carbon copy of its predecessor. Rangers again finished fourth in the league but it was by a record twenty-one point margin behind champions Aberdeen. This disappointing performance was not caused due to a lack of investment in the playing squad. A total of £495,000 was spent bringing in Iain Ferguson and Cammy Fraser from Dundee, Ted McMinn from Queen of the South and bringing back Derek Johnstone from Chelsea. The club won the Scottish League Cup for the second season in a row defeating Dundee United in the final. A solitary Iain Ferguson strike gave Rangers a 1–0 win.
A reasonable start was made to Wallace's second full season in charge. Five wins out of six matches in the league plus a further two wins in the League Cup. However, things quickly began to sour as a fall out between manager and then club captain, John McClelland saw the latter stripped of the captaincy. McClelland was soon sold to Watford in November 1985 for £265,000. The Ulsterman was missed and the team's form was to suffer. By the turn of the year Rangers were in third position in the league. From 1 January 1986, the side won only a quarter of the remaining sixteen league fixtures. With no hope of a trophy, after defeats in the Scottish Cup third round and the League Cup semi-final, things looked bleak for the club.
So perhaps it came as no surprise that on 7 April 1986, Wallace resigned as manager of the club. He was to jump before being pushed by the then newly appointed Rangers chairman David Holmes. Holmes had gone on record saying that the slump the club was in could not be allowed to go on. Wallace's side might have won the League Cup twice in a row, but the league form remained indifferent. The continuing dominance of the great Aberdeen side of the 1980s, coupled with strong Dundee United and Celtic teams that offered periodic challenges to Aberdeen's ascendancy, placed Wallace under increasing pressure. By the 1985–86 season Rangers had slipped to fifth place in the league and, with little evidence of improvement since the Greig era, it was inevitable that Wallace would be removed as manager. However, the search for Wallace's replacement was a brief one.
The Souness Revolution (1986–1991)
On 7 April 1986, Graeme Souness was appointed as Rangers' first player-manager by chairman David Holmes. Souness had previously been playing in Italy with U.C. Sampdoria and made the move to Glasgow for a £300,000 fee. This was the first of many big money transfer deals to be made at Rangers. Although the first deal Souness was involved with was regarding his backroom staff. He brought in Walter Smith, from Dundee United as his assistant and ex-Coventry City manager Don Mackay as reserve-team coach.
His first match in charge of Rangers was the club's final league fixture of the season on 3 May 1986. Souness and Smith were introduced to the 22,000 crowd at Ibrox and were given a rousing reception. The team then went on to defeat Motherwell 2–0 to clinch the final qualification spot for the following season's UEFA Cup in what had been an otherwise dismal year for the club. Six days later Souness won his trophy at Rangers when they defeated Celtic 3–2 after extra time in the Glasgow Cup final, Ally McCoist scoring a hat-trick in front of over 40,000 fans at Ibrox.
Souness' first flurry into the transfer market over the summer resulted in a £175,000 purchase, Colin West. The investment made in West was small compared to that made in other members of the playing staff. Souness took advantage of the European competition ban imposed by UEFA on English clubs after the Heysel Stadium Disaster. Due to this, plus a sizeable transfer kitty, he was able to attract the cream of English sides talent. The first of many international players arrived in the shape of Chris Woods, followed by the likes of England deputy captain Terry Butcher and former Manchester United defender Jimmy Nicholl.
The 1986–87 season would be the first time in eight seasons that Rangers finished top of the Scottish Premier Division. However, the season began eventfully with player-manager Souness being sent-off in the first league match of the season on 9 August 1986. A violent foul on Hibernian's George McCluskey meant Souness had to watch the 2–1 defeat from the stands. But forty-three matches; thirty-one wins, seven draws and five defeats later Rangers were the champions. The league crown was not Souness' only trophy that season however, a 2–1 win over Celtic gave them a 1986 Scottish League Cup Final win.
That same season, goalkeeper Chris Woods set the then British football shut out record of 1196 minutes. From 26 November 1986, when he conceded a goal in a UEFA Cup 1–1 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach, until 14 games later on 30 January 1987 when Adrian Sprott of Hamilton Academical knocked Rangers out of the Scottish Cup by a single goal.
The following season Rangers could not build on the success of the previous. Despite the arrivals of Trevor Francis, Ray Wilkins, Mark Walters, Mark Falco, John Brown and Richard Gough, who became Scotland's first £1 million player. The title defence began badly, three points from the first ten, that added with injuries and suspensions meant the club finished third, twelve points behind champions Celtic. The League Cup Final victory was the only bright spark that season, although there was a decent run the European Cup with Dynamo Kiev and David White's foes Górnik Zabrze as scalps. A final against Aberdeen saw Rangers win 5–3 on penalties after drawing 3–3. The Scottish Cup ended in the fourth round at the hands of Dunfermline Athletic.
The 1988–89 season was to start what would be one of the most successful spells of Rangers history. When Souness' side regained the league championship by a margin of six points from second-placed Aberdeen, few could predict that would be the first of nine. The club had again invested heavily in the playing staff. Again the club imported players from English sides with Gary Stevens joining from Everton and Kevin Drinkell from Norwich City.
A pre-season spent in Italy was the perfect build-up to the new season. The team were unbeaten in all competitions in August and September, including a 5–1 mauling of Celtic at Ibrox. The initiative gained was never really lost and Rangers collected fifty-six points from thirty-six games, twenty-six of which were victories. The League Cup was again at Ibrox as the side again beat a determined Aberdeen team. The final came just a fortnight after the sides met in the league, Rangers lost 2–1 in the Granite City. During the game Aberdeen's Neil Simpson inflicted a terrible tackle on Rangers midfielder Ian Durrant which left the latter with a knee injury for over three years. But for a 1–0 defeat by Celtic in the 1989 Scottish Cup Final, the treble would have rested at Ibrox that season.
The arrival of businessman David Murray in 1988 continued the Rangers' resurgence. Murray had acquired Rangers for £6 million from the club's then owner, the Nevada-based Lawrence Marlborough on 23 November 1988. History could have been very different however, had he not been rejected by home town club Ayr United. Murray officially became chairman on 2 June 1989, replacing David Holmes.
Murray retained the ambitious strategy he had inherited from Holmes. This was demonstrated on 10 July 1989 when Rangers, acting on Souness' say so, purchased former Celtic striker Mo Johnston from French club FC Nantes for £1.5 million. The fact Rangers signed an ex-Celtic player would have been a big enough story but the fact Johnston was a high-profile Roman Catholic made the move unprecedented. The transfer angered both sides of the Old Firm's support, Rangers' because Johnston was an ex-Celtic player and Catholic. Rangers, seen as the Protestant club in Glasgow, had a policy of not employing Catholics. Celtic fans saw Johnston as a turncoat who had already committed to re-join Celtic from Nantes before Rangers made known their interest.
When the season began, Rangers did not. Three matches played in the league, no wins and two defeats. However, the team slowly got into gear, despite only two wins from the first eight games. New arrival Johnston netted the crucial winner during an Old Firm game on 4 November 1989. Scoring the goal in the dying minutes of the match meant Johnston was all but forgiven by the Rangers support. Come May 1990, Rangers' name was on the trophy for the second time in as many seasons but the club again failed to win the Scottish Cup, losing to Celtic in the fourth round, and for once did not win the League Cup. The side lost to Aberdeen by 2–1 in the final.
The 1990–91 season would be Souness's last season in charge. On 16 April 1991, the fiery Scot departed for his former club Liverpool before the league campaign reached its dramatic culmination, saying he had "gone as far as he would be allowed to go". A last-day victory over Aberdeen at Ibrox gave Rangers Three in a Row. Souness assistant Walter Smith was in charge that day. Before his departure Souness had made sure to fall out with and sell on club captain Terry Butcher and spend big money on striker Mark Hateley, winger Pieter Huistra and forgotten man Oleg Kuznetsov. Sadly for Souness though he was never to win a Scottish Cup with Rangers as the team went down 2–0 to Celtic at Parkhead, for the second season in a row. The 1990 Scottish League Cup Final ended in another victory, however.
The Souness years were marked by both achievement and conflict. Under Souness's stewardship, Rangers' preeminence in the Scottish game was restored. At a time in which English clubs were excluded from European competition, the club also gained arguably a higher profile in the British game than at any time in its history. This was fuelled by the purchase of a succession of English internationals, including Ray Wilkins, Terry Butcher and Chris Woods. It was also fuelled by the controversial signing of Roman Catholic and former Celtic player Mo Johnston, who was persuaded to change his mind at the last minute and sign for Rangers rather than their bitter city rivals. Johnston's signing led to outrage from some fans of the traditionally Protestant club as he became the first high-profile Catholic to sign for Rangers in modern times.
Despite his success, Souness was never part of the Scottish footballing establishment. His manager-ship saw countless run-ins with the footballing authorities. He was sent-off in his debut and suffered more than one touchline ban. Souness's departure met with mixed reactions amongst Rangers supporters. Many were disappointed, some bemoaned what they saw as his betrayal of the club, all however, were united in viewing the Souness revolution as among the most dramatic period in Rangers' history.
Smith's tenure (1991–1998)
The ninth manager of Rangers was a man who had previously worked as assistant to the eighth, Walter Smith. He was appointed manager on 19 April 1991, a day before a crucial Scottish Premier Division match away to St Mirren. Smith guided the side to a 1–0 win and followed that with a similar result at home to Dundee United before a devastating 3–0 loss away to Motherwell nearly derailed the sides championship hopes. A last supreme effort was required if the club was to claim a third league title in succession. The final league game of the season was at home to title challengers Aberdeen, with a draw being all that was needed by the Dons to be crowned champions. A tense match ensured but a Mark Hateley brace in front of a 37,652-strong Ibrox crowd gave Rangers the win and the league championship.
In his first full season in charge, Smith began to make changes. He brought in Archie Knox from Manchester United, as his assistant and also altered the playing personnel. Smith moved on Trevor Steven for a fee of £5.58 million to Olympique Marseille. Amongst those who also left were Chris Woods, Mo Johnston, Mark Walters to Sheffield Wednesday, Everton and Liverpool respectively. Smith, with the financial backing of Chairman David Murray, signed Andy Goram, Alexei Mikhailichenko, Stuart McCall, David Robertson and the perhaps less successful pair of Dale Gordon and Paul Rideout.
A fourth successive championship was secured that season, for the first time in over sixty years. Rangers topped the Division with a total of seventy-two points, nine ahead of second-placed Heart of Midlothian. The side scored one hundred and one goals and were victorious in nineteen of their twenty-two away fixtures. The success continued into the Scottish Cup as Rangers won the 1992 final beating Airdrieonians 2–1 to win the trophy for the first time in eleven years.
The 1992–93 season was arguably one of the most successful in the club's history and the best European campaign since 1972. Not only did the team win the domestic treble but they also came to within one match of the 1993 UEFA Champions League Final. Rangers saw off English First Division champions Leeds United in a tie dubbed the Battle of Britain. Then, in the group stage, Rangers won two matches and drew four but, despite remaining undefeated, went out to the French team Olympique de Marseille, who were later found guilty of match fixing. No foul play was found with regards to the Rangers matches however.
Rangers won the double the following season but missed out on a back-to-back domestic treble after losing in the 1994 Scottish Cup Final to Dundee United. It was a classic giant killing act. United had had a fairly moderate season, winning only eleven of their forty-four league matches. It was United's seventh appearance in a Scottish Cup final, having lost all six of their previous encounters. A forty-seventh minute Craig Brewster goal gave Dundee United a 1–0 win after a sloppy back pass by Dave McPherson. It was a strange end to a very successful domestic season for Rangers.
The 1994–95 season saw Rangers make two big money signings, Basile Boli and Brian Laudrup, for £2.7 million and £2.4 million respectively. The latter proved to be an absolute bargain. Laudrup became a firm fans favourite during his four-year spell with Rangers and was even elected to the Rangers Hall of Fame. Boli on the other hand lasted just one season. The French defender completely failed to adapt to the rigours of the Scottish game. Despite the failure of a rather expensive footballer, Rangers continued to rack up the league titles. The sixth consecutive championship won in style. The club sat top of the Scottish Premier Division on sixty-nine points, a whole fifteen points ahead of second placed Motherwell. Yet both domestic cup competitions ended before the last eight, and the failure to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage meant that to many, the season was almost regarded as a failure.
Rangers won the championship in season 1995–96 with the help of one Paul Gascoigne. The Englishman was signed 10 July 1995 from Italian side Lazio. He made an instant impact at Rangers, running almost the length of the pitch to score in an Old Firm match at Celtic Park, during the fifth league game of the season. On 30 December 1995, in a match against Hibernian, Gascoigne 'booked' referee Dougie Smith. Smith had dropped his yellow card and Gascoigne picked it up and showed it to the official, before returning it. Smith was not amused and booked Gascoigne.
Rangers went on to win the league, clinching the title in the penultimate game of the season against Aberdeen. After Rangers went 1–0 down in the early stages, Gascoigne went on to score a hat-trick to give the club a 3–1 victory and the championship. Joining the league crown in the Ibrox trophy cabinet was the 1996 Scottish Cup which Rangers won after a 5–1 defeat of Hearts. A hat-trick from Gordon Durie and a Brian Laudrup double won Rangers their 27th Scottish Cup win.
In season 1996–97 Rangers went on to win their ninth championship in a row thereby equalling Celtic's achievement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the cup competitions, they were knocked out of the Scottish Cup at the quarter-finals stage, losing 2–0 to Celtic. However, the team won the League Cup, defeating Heart of Midlothian 4–3. The European campaign proved to be a disaster. Although the team qualified for the UEFA Champions League after a fine 10–3 aggregate win over Russian champions Alania Vladikavkaz, they only recorded three points from their six group matches.
The season 1997–98 proved to be Walter Smith's last season as manager and Rangers were unable to win their tenth league championship in a row. The early season form of new signing Marco Negri gave the team fresh impetus but when the manager Walter Smith announced that he would leave the club at the end of the season the team's form dipped. The side finished the league on 72 points, two behind champions Celtic after taking the title race to the last day of the season.
The club ended the season trophy-less for the first time in twelve seasons as they lost the 1998 Scottish Cup Final to Heart of Midlothian 2–1 and were knocked out League Cup in the quarter-finals by Dundee United. In Europe, the club failed to reach the Champions League group stages and they fell at the first hurdle in the UEFA Cup, losing both legs 2–1 to RC Strasbourg. Smith left Rangers and joined Premier League club Everton. Many players from the Nine in a Row era left Rangers including Brian Laudrup, Ally McCoist, Ian Durrant, Stuart McCall and club captain Richard Gough.
The Little General (1998–2001)
Dick Advocaat, nicknamed the Little General, succeeded Walter Smith on 1 June 1998. Advocaat, former manager of PSV Eindhoven, became only Rangers' tenth manager and was the first non-Scot to hold the position. His appointment was viewed as reflecting a desire to begin to challenge Europe's elite clubs. David Murray, the club's owner and chairman, had long proclaimed that Rangers ought to be judged not just in relation to success in Scotland, but on performance in Europe, and especially in the UEFA Champions League. Despite being given resources on a scale never before handed to a Rangers manager, success on a larger stage failed to materialise, and the costly legacy of Advocaat's time at Ibrox was a debt that would cripple the club for years.
The scale of these resources made available to Advocaat initially confirmed that the Rangers management was thinking in bold, European terms. Confronted with a rump of players remaining after Smith's departure, Advocaat was furnished with an unprecedented transfer budget over the coming seasons. In total Advocaat spent over £36 million on new players in his debut season. However, while Advocaat's record in transfer dealings remained mixed throughout his time at Ibrox, at first the club appeared to be beginning to deliver in playing terms, both in Scotland and (less predictably) Europe. Advocaat's first season saw another domestic treble secured. Performance in Europe was promising, with Bayer Leverkusen defeated in a solid, if unspectacular, UEFA Cup run.
In the following season, Advocaat continued to spend big, bringing the likes of Michael Mols and Claudio Reyna to Ibrox. A domestic double was secured in Advocaat's second season. In Europe, too, there were signs of greatly improved performance in the Champions League, as Parma were defeated en route to qualification for the group stages of the competition. During this season, Rangers Football Club Ltd floated on what was the Ofex market
Rangers entered Advocaat's third season emboldened by the capture of five of the six domestic trophies available in his first two years. However, while the club again qualified for the Champions League group stage, performances in the league began rapidly to disintegrate. Further high-profile signings – Tore André Flo for a club record £12 million, and the Dutch internationalist Ronald de Boer on a lavish contract – could not reverse the decline. Morale amongst players and supporters plummeted amidst credible rumours of players unrest and dressing room divides. A worsening financial position exacerbated the gathering gloom. The club failed to win a major competition in the 2000–01 season, as Celtic swept the domestic board. Having continued in similar fashion in 2001–02, and with Martin O'Neill's Celtic side once more running away with the championship, Advocaat resigned as manager and took up a general manager position, which he would leave after only 11 months. Alex McLeish was appointed the new Rangers manager in December 2001.
Advocaat's tenure at Ibrox had been a paradoxical one. On one hand, Advocaat spearheaded the building of Murray Park – a £14m training complex at Auchenhowie which was viewed as essential if the club was to compete with its European peers in nurturing home-grown talent and developing players. On the other hand, with the club deep in financial difficulty, there was no realistic prospect of boosting its fortunes through further expensive player acquisitions. The challenge of restoring the club to supremacy in Scotland looked to be an unenviable one for Alex McLeish.
Financial constraints under McLeish (2001–2006)
Murray appointed ex-Aberdeen defender Alex McLeish as the club's eleventh manager on 11 December 2001, joining McLeish was assistant Andy Watson. Murray's choice of manager was met with a lukewarm reaction amongst many Rangers supporters. Many fans viewed it as symptomatic of the downsizing of the club's ambitions, while others saw in McLeish a manager whose mixed fortunes at Hibernian and Motherwell left him ill-equipped to cope with the demands of managing a high-profile club like Rangers. However, McLeish was the number one managerial target on a four-man shortlist. Others said to be included on the list were the then Ipswich Town manager George Burley, former Germany coach Berti Vogts and George Graham.
Fans concerns were quickly allayed as McLeish's Rangers team began to display a spirit that had been sorely lacking in the twlight of Advocaat's reign. A Scottish Cup and League Cup double in McLeish's first half-season, 2001–02, saw a renewed sense of optimism that Rangers could regain the ascendancy claimed by Celtic under the managership of Martin O'Neill. A dramatic 3–2 defeat of Celtic in the 2002 Scottish Cup Final, orchestrated by Barry Ferguson and marked by a dramatic Peter Løvenkrands last minute winner, was the perfect end to a disappointing season.
In McLeish's first full season as manager, 2002–03, the club won its seventh domestic treble. The Scottish Premier League title was secured after an astonishingly tense run-in. Going into the final round both sides were equal on 94 points but Rangers had a one-goal advantage and sat top of the league. On a dramatic last day, a 6–1 victory over Dunfermline Athletic denied Celtic the title on goal difference after the Parkhead club beat Kilmarnock 4–0. The destination of the title was unknown until the final seconds of this match with both teams level on points and goal difference. Only a last-minute penalty by Mikel Arteta clinched the league for Rangers.
A victory over Celtic in the 2003 Scottish League Cup Final in March, provided the first leg of the club's seventh treble. A somewhat drab and anti-climactic 1–0 victory over Dundee in the 2003 Scottish Cup Final the following May saw a triumphant finalé to the season. It was a near-flawless start to McLeish's reign, ruined only by a poor showing in Europe, which Rangers exited in the first round to minnows Viktoria Žižkov.
The following season, McLeish's initial period as manager proved difficult to sustain. The club's perilous financial position in the wake of the profligacy of the Advocaat era, meant a period of relative austerity. The wage bill had to be slashed as the club embarked on an extensive cost-cutting programme in an attempt to stabilise a mushrooming and unsustainable level of debt. Confronted with a squad of well-paid but ageing players assembled by Advocaat, McLeish was compelled to rebuild without the luxury of the generous transfer kitty enjoyed by some of his predecessors. McLeish was to lose, from his treble winning squad, the inspirational if mistake-prone defender Lorenzo Amoruso, Scottish international winger Neil McCann and, most damagingly of all, club captain Barry Ferguson. In their place McLeish was required to rebuild with only the use of Bosman free transfers and loan siginings.
After a good start to the 2003–04 season which saw the side top of the league and qualify for UEFA Champions League (thanks to a dramatic late goal in Denmark against FC Copenhagen), the loss of Ferguson shortly afterwards led to a dramatic downturn in results and ultimately a trophyless campaign. McLeish's signings of experienced players, such as the Brazilian midfielder Emerson, Norway forward Egil Østenstad and, most damaging of all, the £600,000 signing Nuno Capucho, proved disastrous and have since entered Ibrox folklore as some of the worst players to play for Rangers.
The 2004–05 season started in the same vein, with McLeish making another poor signing in Serbian midfielder, Dragan Mladenovic, for £1m. The Serb would manage less than ten games for the club. On the pitch, the team again fell behind Celtic in the league and exited the Champions League at the qualifying stage. It was rumoured that failure to gain entry into the new UEFA Cup group stage would see McLeish lose his job, but another late goal and a penalty shoot out win over CS Marítimo of Portugal provided him with a stay of execution. After this, his fortunes began to turn again. Mladenovic aside, McLeish had made some canny signings in the summer, such as Nacho Novo, plus the Bosmans Dado Pršo, Jean-Alain Boumsong along with midfielder Alex Rae. Once these players settled in, the team began to recover ground on O'Neill's ageing Celtic side. Boumsong, in particular, was a great success but he was sold in January 2005, after only six months at the club, to then Premier League side Newcastle United (managed by former boss Graeme Souness) for £8m. This cash paved the way for more signings, including Thomas Buffel, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and the return of former captain Barry Ferguson.
The 2005 Scottish League Cup Final in March 2005 ended in a 5–1 victory over Motherwell . The league, however, appeared to have been lost. Despite catching and overtaking Celtic (with two Old Firm wins, including a pivotal 2–0 victory at Celtic Park in what was McLeish's first win there as Rangers manager) nerves seemed to get the better of Rangers. A loss to Celtic in the last derby of the season at Ibrox, handed a five-point lead to their rivals with only four games of remaining, and seemed to end hopes of the title. However, Rangers kept its winnings way and a 3–1 Celtic home loss to Hibernian meant only two points separated the sides going into the final game of the season. Rangers needed to win at Hibernian and hope that Celtic would drop points at Fir Park. In perhaps even more dramatic circumstances than two years previously. , Motherwell overcame a 1–0 deficit with two goals in injury time from Scott McDonald to defeat the Parkhead side, while Rangers edged out a tight 1–0 win at Easter Road. For 89 minutes of the match, Rangers thought their rivals were set for the title, and once news broke of Motherwell's late intervention, ecstasy awaited for the Ibrox legions. Even the helicopter that was carrying the league trophy was on its way to Motherwell so it had to turn around and fly to Edinburgh. That day has passed into Ibrox folklore, becoming known as Helicopter Sunday. McLeish could celebrate his second, and Rangers' 51st, league title.
The 2005–06 season got off to a bad start, with Rangers only winning six league games out of the first 17, being knocked out of the League Cup by Celtic in the process. The period from October through to early December saw the team embark on, statistically, the worst run in their history, going ten games without a win. During this time, however, the club became the first Scottish side to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, yet there was still significant pressure on McLeish from fans due to the club's poor position in the domestic league table. It was widely felt that chairman David Murray would let McLeish go after the European campaign had finished, and a press conference arranged two days after the final group match seemed to confirm this.
However, Murray seemed to undergo a change of heart and stated that McLeish would remain in charge indefinitely, but did concede that domestic results would need to improve. After this announcement, the team improved, helped by the signing from Kilmarnock of Kris Boyd. The side strung together a ten-match unbeaten run. Yet, entering the crucial month of February, which was to feature a must-win Old Firm match and the resumption of European football, this evaporated. Rangers lost 3–0 at home to Hibernian on 4 February to exit the Scottish Cup and end their last realistic hopes of silverware that season. Protests against McLeish and the chairman followed the game. 
Overall, McLeish's four-and-a-half-year spell at Ibrox was a turbulent one, coming as it did after the wastefulness of the Advocaat era. McLeish never enjoyed access to the funds his predecessors had been given, and his managership was marked by wildly fluctuating fortunes, in part caused by forced asset stripping of his best players due to the spectre of debt from Advocaat's spending. The lack of money certainly played its part in McLeish's downfall but it is debatable, based on the money he did have to spend, whether greater sums would have been invested wisely. Indeed, there is an argument that a good proportion of McLeish's signings have been among the worst in the club's entire history. However, history will look back on McLeish's reign, as a period of tremendous transition on and off the pitch.
Paul Le Guen (2006–2007)
After signs that supporter unrest was turning on Murray, on 9 February 2006, two days before the crucial Old Firm match, it was announced that McLeish would leave his position as manager at the end of the 2005–06 season, and on 11 March, it was confirmed that former Lyon manager Paul Le Guen would succeed him at the end of the season. Murray predicted a fruitful reign under Le Guen, describing his capture as "a massive moonbeam of success" for the club and promising, "we’ve got big plans." He announced that the Frenchman would be given significant funds with which to strengthen the squad, with Rangers having announced an arrangement with sports retailer JJB Sports.
Le Guen was well known for unearthing and nurturing young talent and made an immediate splash in the transfer market. The wave of expectation that was created by Le Guen's appointment was immense and he quickly went about building his own team. In the summer of 2006 he made eleven signings (of them only Saša Papac would be playing for the club the following season). Le Guen spent big money on Filip Šebo, which proved to be wasted as the Slovakian only netted twice during the whole campaign. Other signings including Karl Svensson, Libor Sionko and Lionel Letizi simply did not perform, while Jérémy Clément was to be in Glasgow for only six months.
He signed a young South African player Dean Furman from Chelsea, and French youngsters William Stanger and Antoine Ponroy from Rennes. He allowed more experienced players to leave, Alex Rae, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Peter Løvenkrands and Ronald Waterreus.
Rangers' first match under Le Guen was a friendly against Irish Premier League champions Linfield on 6 July 2006 at Windsor Park, Belfast. The side won 2–0 with first-half goals from Kris Boyd and Thomas Buffel. The squad then flew out to South Africa on 9 July for a training camp where they were to play three matches, but defender Fernando Ricksen did not take any part in the tour of South Africa due to what was described by the club as "unacceptable behaviour" on the flight to Johannesburg. He returned to Scotland and was subsequently loaned to Zenit St Petersburg on 9 August. Ricksen never played for the club again as his loan spell in Russia was made permanent.
The Scottish Premier League season opened on 30 July with Le Guen taking his Rangers side to Fir Park where they defeated Motherwell 2–1. In Le Guen's first competitive game at Ibrox, Rangers were held to a 2–2 draw by Dundee United, and were forced to come back from two goals down. On 11 August Rangers signed Manchester United's then 19-year-old winger Lee Martin on loan for a season. Rangers also recruited the services of Austrian Vienna defender Saša Papac while Marvin Andrews, Olivier Bernard, Robert Malcolm and José-Karl Pierre-Fanfan all departed.
With the transfer window closed and five league matches played, Rangers had collected nine points from fifteen. The following two months showed little improvement as the side had sporadic wins and lost the first Old Firm match of the season 2–0. From the seven matches played in September and October 2006, the team won just three and gathered ten points from the twenty-one available.
By mid November, Rangers found themselves in third place, a full fifteen points behind leaders Celtic. The odd win was mixed with regular dropped points as the team struggled to find consistency in the early part of the season. The culmination of this poor form could be seen when the side was embarrassingly knocked out of the League Cup by then First Division side St Johnstone. A dismal 2–0 defeat at Ibrox Stadium on 8 November led to widespread calls for Le Guen to leave.
Following the League Cup defeat, there was a slightly gain in form as the side claimed sixteen points from twenty-one, including a 1–1 Old Firm draw thanks to a late-minute Brahim Hemdani equaliser. Rangers also became the first Scottish club to qualify from the UEFA Cup group stage in December 2006, after wins over Livorno, Maccabi Haifa and Partizan Belgrade. Domestic results and performances, however, continued to be inconsistent and in January 2007, Le Guen controversially stripped midfielder Barry Ferguson of the captaincy
On 4 January 2007, Le Guen left Rangers by mutual consent. This made him the club's shortest-serving manager, and the only one to leave the club without completing a full season in charge. Later that year, sports journalist Graham Spiers published a book which speculated Le Guen left the club because he was being "undermined" by other Rangers personnel. Those named were Ferguson and the then club doctor, Ian McGuinness.
Smith's return (2007–2011)
Following the departure of Paul Le Guen, a number of media sources reported an "understanding" that the new management structure would consist of former Rangers manager Walter Smith and former player Ally McCoist, and the SFA confirmed that Rangers enquired about the availability of the pair. However, on 8 January, the SFA rebuffed Rangers' approach for Smith.
On 10 January 2007, it was announced that Walter Smith was the new manager of Rangers, with Ally McCoist confirmed as assistant manager and Kenny McDowall as first team coach. Smith and his team undertook some serious surgery to the side. He signed experienced defenders David Weir, Ugo Ehiogu and Andy Webster to shore up the rocky backline. This proved to be a steadying influence on the team and they only lost three times until the end of the season, although Webster injured himself during his first training session at the club and did not make his debut until September 2007.
The following summer, Smith made ten signings, including defender Carlos Cuéllar and midfielder Lee McCulloch. The early season priority, qualification for the Champions League group stage, was secured after aggregate victories over the champions of the Montenegrin and Serbian leagues, FK Zeta and Red Star Belgrade respectively. Rangers were drawn in Group E, to play FC Barcelona, French champions Olympique Lyonnais and German champions VfB Stuttgart. The campaign started well for Rangers with two victories, 2–1 at home to Stuttgart and 3–0 against Lyon at the Stade Gerland as well as a 0–0 draw against Barcelona at Ibrox Stadium. They lost match day six against Olympique Lyonnais 3–0, which ended their 2007–08 UEFA Champions League run. The adventure continued as they progressed to the final of the UEFA Cup, defeating Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina along the way. They beat Italian side Fiorentina on penalties to set up a final, in Manchester, against Zenit St. Petersburg, who are managed by former Gers manager Dick Advocaat. The team lost that match 2–0, amid serious disturbances caused by small sections of the 100,000-strong Rangers support. Video evidence was released by the Greater Manchester Police of suspected Rangers fans attacking officers in Manchester city centre following the defeat. An appeal was launched on BBC's Crimewatch program in January 2009 in an attempt to trace 49 men in connection with the riots.
On the domestic front, the race for the Scottish Premier League continued until the final match-day of the season. Both Celtic and Rangers were tied on 86 points going into their games (against Dundee United and Aberdeen respectively) on 22 May 2008, but Celtic were top of the table due to having a better goal difference of 57, four ahead of Rangers. This did not prove to be decisive, as Rangers surrendered their hopes of landing the championship with a 2–0 defeat away to the Dons. The club had had a ten-point lead in late March.
The club appeared in its first final since 2005. They played Dundee United on 16 March 2008 and won the League Cup on penalties. The match was tied 2–2 after extra time, with both goals coming from Kris Boyd who also scored the winning spot kick. They also reached the 2009 Scottish Cup Final, the club's 50th appearance in a Scottish Cup final. The side had beaten St Johnstone 4–3 on penalties in the semi-final after the score was tied at 1–1 after extra time. The final was against Queen of the South and played on 24 May 2008. Rangers won the match 3–2 thanks to goals from DaMarcus Beasley and a double from Kris Boyd.
The 2008–09 season began disastrously as the club exited the UEFA Champions League and European football altogether, losing 2–1 on aggregate to Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas in the second qualifying round. The first leg at Ibrox finished goalless, but the return leg ended in defeat for Rangers after an 87th-minute header from Linas Pilibaitis. The financial consequences of the failures to qualify for the Champions League were revealed when the club posted a loss of £3.9 million for the six months to December 2008, and in March decided to offer staff the option of voluntary redundancy as a way of cutting costs. There was also mounting pressure on the manager to reduce the first team squad from 28 players to a more manageable figure. The player excess was eased slightly with the departures of Chris Burke, Jean-Claude Darcheville and a couple out on loan deals but the increased debt meant that the club needed to find a cash injection. This resulted in the attempted sale of Kris Boyd to Birmingham City, which fell through due to the player's wage demands.
In the first Old Firm game of the season, Rangers won 4–2, with Pedro Mendes scoring his first goal for the club, and Kenny Miller scoring a double against his former employers. However, the team's league form stuttered thereafter. Despite a run of five wins from six matches following the Old Firm victory, the side trailed Celtic by seven points in the league at the turn of the year. For the first few months of 2009' both sides dropped and gained points on the other and Rangers briefly took over top spot of the Scottish Premier League on 21 February after a win against Kilmarnock. The spell as league leaders lasted less than a fortnight. A defeat and a draw, both at home, to Inverness and Hearts respectively, saw Smith's side sit second in the table, one point behind Celtic, at the split. The fourth Old Firm league meeting of the season finished with a 1–0 win to Rangers, thanks to a Steven Davis strike. This meant that, with three league games remaining, Rangers were two points ahead of Celtic. Further twists and turns followed, both Old Firm sides drew their matches against Hibernian at Easter Road, and so Rangers were ahead by two points with one round of matches remaining. Smith's side just needed a win against Dundee United to guarantee the club's 52nd league title. That is exactly what they got, goals from Kyle Lafferty, Pedro Mendes and Kris Boyd sealed a 3–0 win and the club's first league championship in four seasons.
The club played in the finals of both of the domestic cup competitions for the second season running. The 2009 Scottish League Cup Final was reached by defeating Partick Thistle, Hamilton and Falkirk en route but the final ended in a 2–0 defeat at the hands of Old Firm rivals Celtic after extra time. The match was Walter Smith's first ever Old Firm final and was marred by a Kirk Broadfoot sending off deep into extra time for a foul on Aiden McGeady inside the penalty box. Celtic were subsequently awarded a penalty which McGeady himself converted. Rangers qualified for the 2009 Scottish Cup Final after beating St Mirren 3–0 in the semi-final. The second goal of the game was scored by Kris Boyd and was his 100th goal for Rangers. The team faced Falkirk at Hampden Park on 30 May 2009 in what was the club's 51st Scottish Cup Final appearance. A Nacho Novo strike in the first minute of the second half gave Rangers a 1–0 win and completed the domestic double.
The following season saw Rangers financial problems continue. A quiet summer in terms of transfer arrivals contrasted to the outgoings. The club removed eleven players who had made first team appearances from the wage bill on permanent and loan deals. The only addition to the playing staff was Jérôme Rothen on a season loan, Rothen was the first player to sign for the club in over a year. On 26 August, chairman David Murray stepped down and was replaced by non-executive director Alastair Johnston. Johnston stated that one of his main priorities was to find a buyer for owner Murray's shares. On 24 October, Rangers manager Walter Smith was reported to say that Lloyds Banking Group, who the club was in debt to, was "effectively running the club". On 12 November, the extent of the club's financial problems was shown to be £31 million in debt, a rise of £10m from the previous year.
On the field, Rangers' Scottish Premier League title defence got off to a stuttering start, three wins in the league was followed by three draws, the first Old Firm victory of the season was followed by poor performances against St Johnstone and dropped points at home to Hibernian. The side lost their first league match of the season away to Aberdeen on 28 November but then embarked on a six match winning run, scoring 26 goals in the process. At the start of 2010, Rangers sat at the top of the league. The second Old Firm fixture finished in a 1–1 draw. Rangers had a ten-point lead by mid-February. Rangers won the third Old Firm match 1–0 thanks to an injury time winner from Maurice Edu which all but secured the title. The side had to wait nearly two months to be confirmed as champions due to dropping points to St Johnstone and Dundee United. On 25 April, Rangers won their 53rd league title after defeating Hibernian 1–0 at Easter Road.
In the domestic cup competitions, Rangers won the League Cup after a 1–0 victory over St Mirren in the final, despite being reduced to nine men with Danny Wilson and Kevin Thomson being sent off. However, Rangers were unable to retain the Scottish Cup after losing 1–0 to eventual winners Dundee United in a quarter-final replay.
Rangers were seeded in pot two of the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time. The club was drawn against Spanish team Sevilla, German outfit Stuttgart and Romanian champions Unirea Urziceni. A 1–1 away draw in Germany was followed by two consecutive 4–1 defeats at home to Sevilla and Unirea, the latter being regarded as one of the club's worst-ever European results. Rangers were left with a small chance of qualifying from the group after a 1–1 draw in the return leg with Unirea, a match that saw trouble in the Rangers fans section of the stadium. The club was charged by UEFA for inappropriate conduct and following an investigation fined €20,000 plus ordered to pay the cost of repairing the damage to the stadium infrastructure caused by its supporters. The side finished bottom of their group and was knocked out of European football altogether after two defeats in the final two matches.
With financial problems at the club ongoing, summer 2010 began for Rangers with several players leaving the club. With a limited transfer budget and a small squad. Smith had to decide whether to increase the number of playing staff or improve the starting eleven; he opted for quality.
Both sides of the Old Firm began the season with eight league wins in a row, however, with the sides meeting on matchday nine something had to give. Rangers claimed a 3-1 victory over Celtic and took early control of the league. A 1-1 draw at home to Inverness CT the following weekend ended Rangers 100% start to the season and a home defeat by Hibernian inflicted the team's first league defeat of the season, the first of five. The cold spell in the winter of 2010–11 saw many postponements and for long spells Rangers were behind Celtic but with games in hand. In the third league meeting between the Old Firm, Celtic came out on top and mathematical lead the table, for the first time that season. However Celtic's advantage was short lived after a loss to Motherwell the following week. This allowed Rangers to regain top spot, but 3-2 loss to Dundee United at Ibrox followed by a 0-0 draw in the final Old Firm fixture left the title in Celtic's hands, with just four matches remaining. There was to be a final twist in the league season; on 3 May, Celtic lost a rearranged match away to Inverness and so with three matches remaining Rangers had a one-point lead. Smith's side went on to win all three fixtures, scoring 11 goals, and claimed the club's 54th league championship.
In the domestic cup competitions, Rangers won the League Cup after beating Celtic 2-1 AET. However, Rangers lost 1-0 to Celtic in the fifth round replay in Scottish Cup. The match was marked by several incidents, three Rangers players were sent off and Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist were involved in a bust-up.
In Europe, Rangers automatically qualified for the UEFA Champions League group stages for the second season in a row. They drew Manchester United, Valencia and Bursaspor. Rangers were unbeaten in their first three group stage games, with a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford (the only team to keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford in the entire 2010–11 season), a 1-0 victory over Bursaspor at Ibrox and a 1-1 draw at home to Valencia. A 3-0 defeat in Spain to Valencia followed by a 1-0 loss at home to Manchester United ended Rangers chances of qualifying for the last 16, but third place and a spot in the UEFA Europa League was already secured with Bursaspor having failed to pick up a point in five games. In the last group match, Rangers drew 1-1 in Turkey, giving Bursaspor their first Champions League point. However, Rangers did make it to the last 16 of the Europa League, beating Sporting Lisbon on away goals in the last 32 but lost to PSV Eindhoven on aggregate.
McCoist's tenure, liquidation and relaunch (2011–2015)
Smith's deputy and Rangers record goalscorer Ally McCoist was appointed manager of the club for season 2011–12. Hampered by a bizarre transfer policy under Whyte, Rangers found themselves knocked out of first the UEFA Champions League and then the UEFA Europa League by the end of August, depriving the club of income that may have been anticipated. With the new ownership there initially appeared to be some financial stability of the club. A number of first-team regulars were secured on long-term contract extensions including Steven Davis, Allan McGregor, Steven Whittaker and Gregg Wylde. When McCoist entered the transfer market, his first signing being Almería midfielder Juan Manuel Ortiz, he soon encountered difficulties. A number of highly publicised failed transfers, including deals for Wesley Verhoek and Roland Juhász, lead to many doubting Whyte’s financial prowess.
Rangers' first Scottish Premier League match of the season was a home match against Jim Jefferies' Hearts, where the league flag was unfurled by then chairman Craig Whyte, as Rangers were under considerable pressure for most of the first half but managed to salvage a draw. The following week, McCoist claimed his first competitive victory as manager with a win over St Johnstone. The season proved to be a baptism of fire for McCoist, by early October the club held a ten-point lead over Celtic, and on 5 November the lead stood at fifteen points over Celtic and twelve over second placed Motherwell. However, a draw with St Johnstone and subsequent defeats to Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Old Firm rivals Celtic, who then went on a run of twenty-one matches undefeated saw Rangers slip to second place where the club remained for the rest of the season.
Rangers' European adventure began in the middle of the final week of July, where Rangers were defeated by underdogs Malmö 1-0 at home and Rangers crashed out of the Champions League with a bad tempered 1-1 draw in Sweden in which both Steven Whittaker and Madjid Bougherra were both given their marching orders, and ultimately relegating the Gers to the Europa League play-off round, where they faced Slovenian team NK Maribor. In cup competitions the club fared no better, a third round defeat by First Division side Falkirk in the League Cup and a fifth round exit at home to Dundee United.
On 13 February 2012, Rangers filed legal papers at the Court of Session giving notice of their intention to appoint administrators. Rangers officially entered administration on the following day, and appointed London-based financial advisers Duff & Phelps as administrators. Rangers entered administration over an alleged non-payment of £9m in PAYE and VAT taxes to HM Revenue and Customs. On entering administration, the team was docked ten points by the SPL, a move regarded as 'effectively ending' its 2012 championship challenge. A failure then to submit accounts for 2011 meant the club was not granted a licence to play in European football in season 2012–13. In April it was reported that the club's total debts could be as high as £134m.
On 13 May it was reported that Whyte sold his controlling interest in The Rangers Football Club Plc for £2 to a consortium led by Charles Green. Green offered the creditors a settlement, in the form of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), in an attempt to exit administration. On 12 June 2012, it emerged that HMRC would reject the CVA put forward by Green. Green's takeover of the club depended on the CVA being accepted by HMRC, which would have seen £8.5m of the total debt repaid. The formal rejection of the CVA, two days later, meant that The Rangers Football Club plc entered the liquidation process. The company's business and assets were sold to a company called Sevco Scotland Ltd, a consortium led by Green, in a deal worth £5.5m. Sevco was subsequently renamed The Rangers Football Club Ltd at the end of July 2012.
Ten of the other eleven SPL clubs voted against allowing Rangers to transfer their SPL membership share to a new company on 4 July 2012, leaving the club applying for a place in the Scottish Football League. On 13 July 29 out of 30 SFL member clubs voted to give Rangers associate membership but 25 of them also voted to place Rangers FC into the Third Division of the Irn-Bru Scottish Football League from the start of the season. Rangers clinched the Scottish Third Division Title on 30 March after a goalless draw away to Montrose and Queen's Park lost.
Apart from being defeated 2–1 by Forfar in the First Round of the League Cup on 3 August, season 2013/14 got off to an excellent start with Rangers winning maximum league points in their first 15 games in League One. 2014 was a mixed bag for Rangers FC. They went on to the Ramsden's Cup Final where they were beaten by Raith Rovers. On 3 May 2014, Rangers players made history by becoming the first Rangers side in 115 years to go an entire league season unbeaten after a 1-1 draw with Dunfermline, finishing as Scottish League One champions.
Rangers boardroom politics were a fractious force, causing a constant flux with change after change of various directorial positions, rival factions attempting to take control of the company and the emergence of Mike Ashley as the major stakeholder and power broker in late 2014. That summer saw continued discontent with various fans groups, alongside Dave King, attempting to influence the board by withdrawing season ticket money. This resulted in a drop of around 15,000 season tickets from the previous season, leaving the club requiring a financial injection which the board hoped would come from a share issue and announced this in June. However, the initial intention of raising up to £10m through an investment plan by the end of August failed when city investors did not purchase enough shares, therefore, the club relaunched a £4m issue open to all existing shareholders only.
Rangers fan discontent was demonstrated with a during a Championship game against Queen of the South at Ibrox, with fans holding up red cards in the 18th and 72nd minutes and this was not improved when, on 3 September, it was reported that Mike Ashley bought the naming rights to Ibrox Stadium for just £1 in a deal with Charles Green in 2012. Concurrently, Rangers former commercial director Imran Ahmad finally succeeded in a bid to have £620,000 of club assets frozen prior to pursuing litigation over an alleged unpaid £500,000 bonus. A few days later the club were granted leave to appeal this decision yet, on 12 September, the club agreed to a settlement with Ahmad much to the dismayed of fans. As some Rangers supporters groups considered boycotting home matches in protest at the board, it was reported that Ashley would not be participating in the share offer.
Ashley's motives for not investing became clear in the following month, namely withholding much needed money from the club in order to undermine the board. At the end of the share issue, on 12 September, it was announced that it had raised just over £3m which still £1m short of its minimum target. As the share issue was undertaken in order to allow Rangers to continue to operate into the new year but the failure to reach the targets meant that further funding was required. A few days later, it came to light that Sandy Easdale had met with several investors that had been introduced to him by Rafat Rizvi, a convicted fraudster wanted by Interpol, which led to calls by the Union of Fans for Easdale to resign. However, in a move to demonstrate his strength, Easdale increased his personal shareholding at Rangers to 5.21% on 24 September. On the same day as the club repaid the £1.5m loan to Sandy Easdale and George Letham. The next day, BNP Paribas bought a 5% stake in Rangers making it the fifth-highest shareholder but less than 24 later it was reported that the transaction was completed on Ashley's behalf, thus increasing his stake to 8.92%. Less than a week later, Ashley's holding company, MASH Holdings, called for an EGM to remove chief executive Wallace. This signaled the start of a crucial stage in the boardroom power struggle at Rangers with King appearing to be outflanked by Ashley, who had secured the support of Sandy Easdale, David Sommers as well as the largest shareholder in Rangers, Laxey Partners.
When offers of funding from Dave King, a £16m package, and Brian Kennedy were rejected by Rangers’ hierarchy, who instead opted Mike Ashley’s £2m loan offer, it was clear who was victorious. Particularly as Ashley's initial offer was insufficient and he had to be provide another £1m of funding less than a month later. In exchange for the initial funding, Ashley was granted critical power at the club with the privilege to put forward the names of two nominees for appointment to the board as well as security over Edmiston House and the Albion car park. As a consequence of his power grab both Philip Nash and Graham Wallace were forced out of the club and Derek Llambias and Barry Leach were brought in, initially as consultants before being appointed Chief executive and Finance director respectively. Also David Somers was named executive chairman but on a temporary basis in order to aid the transition. Financial respite was short lived as Rangers announced its preliminary results at the end of November indicating the club required another £8m of investment to see out the season. This effectively left Rangers at the mercy of Ashley who could dictate the terms of and source of any future funding. Due to this power, the Scottish Football Association issued Ashley with a notice of complaint for breached a joint agreement that Ashley would not play a controlling role in Rangers and would maintain a stake of no more than 10%. As Ashley had previously loaned the club £2m and a further £1m as well as having two directors on the Rangers board and a significant interest in Rangers retail operations, although, he did return the naming rights to Ibrox Stadium to Rangers. On Christmas Eve, the SFA denied him permission to increase his stake-hold in Rangers further. Also in December, the Scottish Professional Football League added to Rangers financial woes by withholding £250,000 of broadcast money the club was due in a bid to recoup a fine imposed by the Nimmo Smith Commission.
The legal implications of the previous company that owned the club's liquidation featured prevalent in the news in July and November. In the summer, HM Revenue and Customs lost its appeal over the previous club's owners use of Employee Benefit Trusts but was granted leave to appeal a month later. Meanwhile, Rangers former chairman Craig Whyte was banned from being a company director for 15 years in September and a warrant was issued for his arrest a month later, he appeared in court facing charges under the Companies Act but was released on bail. Four men have appeared in court charged with fraudulent activity following a probe into the sale of Rangers in 2011. David Grier, Paul Clark and David Whitehouse (both administrators working for Duff & Phelps), and Gary Withey (a solicitor for Collyer Bristow) made no plea or declaration at Glasgow Sheriff Court and were granted bail. Meanwhile, the liquidators of Rangers former owners secured a £24m payment from Collyer Bristow, the lawyers who acted for Whyte when he bought the club.
On the football front, Rangers league campaign began with a defeat to newly-relegated Hearts with the Edinburgh club scoring an extra minute winner. Despite embarking on a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions, a loss at home to Hibernian left the side trailing Hearts by six-points at the top of the league by the end of September. Better news for Rangers was the reaching of the League Cup semi-final after a 1-0 win over St Johnstone, being drawn against Celtic which set up the first Old Firm derby in two years. Nevertheless, the club's title charge was effectively ended in November as the side lost a six-pointer match away to league leaders Hearts leaving them nine points behind. The did bounce back the following week in the Scottish Cup registering a 3-0 win over Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock, however, in the club's third cup competition the team surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to fellow Championship team Alloa Athletic in the Challenge Cup. Even with the poor league form and exit in the Challenge Cup, there was no indication of significant pressure on manager Ally McCoist. The effect of the club's financial issues as underlined by the interim results that November, proved the catalyst for McCoist's departure as he became unhappy with the number of staff losing their jobs at Rangers. The situation became too much for McCoist and he tendered his resignation on 12 December which was later confirmed to the London Stock Exchange by the club three days later, with McCoist beginning a 12-month notice period. However, he was to serve less than a week of his notice period before being placed on gardening leave by the board, with his assistant manager Kenny McDowall being appointed interim manager until the end of the season.
Boardroom changes and top tier return (2015–)
The start of 2015 saw Ashley's control over Rangers weakened as deals were made with a consortium led by Dave King, to purchase the shareholding of Laxey Partners which had stood at 16%. King took control of a 14.57% stake and two weeks later called for an EGM on 16 January. The original date was set by the board was 4 March in a hotel in London, however, this was then moved to Ibrox Stadium after two successive hotels refused to host the event and the date was confirmed for 6 March. During the run up to the EGM, the incumbent Rangers board agreed £10m funding deal with Sports Direct. The agreement saw Sports Direct hold a floating charge over Murray Park, Edmiston House, the Albion Car Park and the club's registered trademarks. Sports Direct was also transferred 26% of Rangers' share in Rangers Retail Limited (Rangers previously held 51% with Sports Direct holding 49%). The club were bound to forego all shirt sponsorship revenue for the 2016-17 season and subsequent seasons until the loan is repaid. On transfer deadline day, Rangers also loaned five players from Newcastle United, a Premier League club that Ashley owns.
The month of February a large volume of share purchase and Rangers supporters groups are heavily involved. With the writing apparently on the wall, Rangers director James Easdale resigned just over a week before the EGM and chairman Somers departed with fours days to go. The SFA's investigation into Ashley concluded at the beginning of March with Ashley being deemed to have broken rules on dual ownership due to his influence on the affairs of Rangers, he was fined £7,500, and Rangers were subsequently fined £5,500 over a month later for their lack of governance. Just two days before the EGM, the club's Nominated adviser, WH Ireland, resigned resulting shares in the Plc being suspended. The outcome of the EGM was a decisive victory for King's consortium with Derek Llambias and finance director Barry Leach being voted off the board and King, Paul Murray and John Giligan moving in. Both King and Murray subsequently applied to be passed as a fit and proper person by the SFA with the later being cleared at the beginning of May. Further board appointments were made with John Bennett and Chris Graham added to the Plc board as non-executive directors and James Blair was appointed company secretary, however, Graham resigned his directorship only three days later. On the same day as the appointments Rangers suspended Llambias, Leach and Sandy Easdale from its football club board pending an internal investigation.
After poor results in both league and Scottish Cup, Stuart McCall replaced Kenny McDowall as interim manager. At the end of March it was revealed that Rangers five loan signings from Newcastle United were signed without medicals. On same day as interim accounts were published, 31 March, it emerged that Rangers would have owed Newcastle United £500,000 if they were promoted due to the agreement struck when loaning the players. It was announced on 2 April that Rangers would be de-listed from the AIM stock exchange after failing to find a Nominated adviser within the required period. The SPFL courted controversy with the final day fixtures by moving the Rangers v Hearts match from Saturday to Sunday, with the rest of the matches proceeding on the Saturday. This could have given Rangers a possible advantage in the chase for second place, however, the SPFL performed a U-turn, with all matches being scheduled for early Saturday afternoon As it was, the team failed to be automatically promoted to the Premiership, drawing the final two league matches and finishing a disappointing third in the league. This meant the club faced at least six play-off matches in order to gain promotion. The ticket pricing of these matches attracted controversy. Following a precedent set by Hibernian the previous season, Rangers stated they would allow season ticket holders entry to home matches for free; however, this was rejected by the SPFL. Not to be deterred, Rangers then announced a blanket £5 ticket price offer for all seats. The side successfully negotiated two play-off rounds before crashing to a 6-1 aggregate defeat to premiership team Motherwell. The second leg of the play-off final ended in controversy as Rangers Bilel Mohsni and Motherwell's Lee Erwin brawled on the pitch after the match as Motherwell fans invade the pitch to goad the Rangers fans.
Meanwhile, the police probed the role of Mike Ashley and Sports Direct in the Rangers takeover and searched the companies headquarters. This was rumored to be the reason that Ashley demanded the repayment of his £5m loan to the club. Rangers set the date of the general meeting for June 2015 and added its own resolutions and proposals. On 19 May King was passed fit and proper by the SFA and became Chairman of the club on 22 May. On the same day King also loaned the club an additional £1.5m and a day later, Rangers legend John Greig was named honorary president of the club on 23 May.
In early June, Ibrox Stadium played host to the company's second EGM in just over three months. A majority of shareholders voted in favour of a board resolution to renegotiate existing retail agreements with Sports Direct and voted against the early repayment of a loan from Mike Ashley. Rangers made further appointments to the broad with Stewart Robertson joining as managing director and Andrew Dickinson being promoted to financial director.
The spectre of the previous board loomed large at the beginning of the season as Police Scotland's investigation into the sale of Rangers' assets to a consortium led by Charles Green led to arrests and seven indictments. On 1 September, both Craig Whyte and Green were arrested as part of the inquiry into the "alleged fraudulent acquisition" of Rangers' assets in 2012. Just over two weeks later indictments were served on seven accused, including Green and Whyte, David Whitehouse, Paul Clark, David Grier, who were all working for administrators Duff and Phelps at the time, Gary Withey who worked for a law firm involved in the purchase of Rangers by Whyte and Imran Ahmad, a former Rangers commercial director. Indeed, the latter indidcated that he would not co-operate with the proceedings, subsequently a warrant was issued for his arrest and charges against him were temporarily stopped. A week later, Green took the company to the Court of Session in an attempt to force the PLC to pay his legal fees with regards to the forthcoming trial, however, the action was dismissed by Lord Doherty a few months later and an appeal to the Inner House was also refused in March 2016.
On 30 October, Rangers announced it was not appropriate to proceed with a share issue and listing on the ISDX market until the criminal proceedings being brought against Charles Green, Imran Ahmed, Craig Whyte and others was concluded. On 5 February 2016, prosecutors have withdrawn six of 15 charges brought against six men in the alleged Rangers fraud case which resulted in all charges against Duff and Phelps administrators David Whitehouse and Paul Clark being dropped, although prosecutors indicated there would be filing fresh charges against the pair. Charges against Green were also dropped meaning that the former chief executive of the club was not facing any. A few months later, in May 2016, it was announced that charges against Gary Withey and David Grier were dropped and they would not stand trial alongside former Rangers owner Craig Whyte, the only person still facing charges.
Fireworks night 2015 arrived a day early in Govan as 4 November proved to be a contentious day in the history of Rangers. The club's PLC owner, Rangers International Football Club, announced a loss of £7.5m for the year ending June 2015. This meant the company was required to find approximately £2.5m in order to cover expenses for the rest of the season. Moreover, the outcome of HMRC's appeal against the decision of the First-tier Tribunal regarding the previous owner and its use of EBT's. The Court of Session ruled that the use of Employee Benefit Trusts broke tax rules therefore the payments were eligible for tax deductions, although an appeal to the Supreme Court was sought less than a month later and granted in March 2016. This judgement caused debate in Scottish football as many people erroneously believed the decision made by the Nimmo Smith commission not to strip Rangers of titles was based on the outcome of the tax case. Coincidentally, the Commission's ruling was taken to an arbitration tribunal by the club's owners with RIFC PLC disputing its liability for the £250,000 fine plus £150,000 in additional costs, imposed on the company that previous owned the club. The SPFL subsequently imposed this on the new owners of the club as part of the terms of the five way agreement. However, an independent SFA tribunal ruled that RIFC PLC was liable for the fine in March 2016.
Further legal matters occurred a week later, although not directly involving Rangers, as Mike Ashley lodged a challenge to the SFA's decision to pass King as a fit and proper person by seeking a Judicial review, however, the litigation was abandoned in April 2016 after his legal team received information about King's finances which the SFA used in their fit and proper deliberations. Ashley had also raised court proceedings against Dave King, accusing him of breaching a court injunction regarding the commercial agreements between Rangers and Sports Direct, however, the Royal Courts of Justice dismissed the motion for him to be jailed, moreover, a further accusation that King committed contempt of court was cleared. In the end, the court action against King was discontinued by Sports Direct as the company halted litigation claiming a breach of confidentiality in relation to a commercial deal, in which the Judge called "ridiculous".
The end of November saw the PLC's Annual general meeting, however, prior to this Mike Ashley continued with his ligation against the company and successfully managed to have Resolution 11 withdrawn which would have allowed shareholders to block the voting rights of dual ownership shareholders. The AGM passed without major incident however, the Chairman Dave King announced the adoption of the Living wage for company employees and the repayment of a £5m loan from Ashley's Sports Direct. Although on 11 December, it was reported that the company had not repaid the £5m loan despite earlier claims to the contrary. That same day it was reported that former Rangers player Arnold Peralta had been shot dead in his hometown of La Ceiba, Honduras. On Christmas Eve Rangers announced that the loan had been repaid to Ashley in full and it was later revealed, on Ne'erday, that Rangers had borrowed £6.5m from King an others in order to do this. On 4 February, it was announced by the Rangers board that they had given Sports Direct formal notice that they wish to end their retail deal for club merchandise. On 18 May, Rangers indicated its intention to end the joint venture with Sports Direct for selling club kits and merchandise, this included the withdrawal of the rights to use club trademarks.
On the football front, Rangers appointed its fourteenth permanent manager on 15 June in the shape of Mark Warburton, who agreed a three-year contract. Warburton was joined at the club by former Rangers centre-back David Weir who became his assistant manager. The start to the season saw Rangers embark on a run of eleven straight victories in all competitions. This helped Warburton overtake former Rangers manager Bill Struth’s record of eight consecutive wins by a manager at the beginning of there Ibrox career. Ultimately, this would could not continue, the series of victories came to an abrupt halt in mid-September as the club suffered a 3–1 defeat to St Johnstone in the League Cup. Despite this, Rangers league form continued to impress with the team continuing a winning steak for the first eleven games of the season which gave the club an eight-point lead, over second place Hibernian, at the top of the table by late October. However, the side was to go through a poor run of form thereafter collecting eight points from a possible eighteen over the next six league games including two defeats to Hibernian and Falkirk respectively. This left Rangers tied with the Edinburgh club on forty-one points ahead of crucial match between the two during the festive period. Rangers played Hibernian on 28 December at Ibrox, beating Alan Stubbs' side 4-2 then embarked on an unbeaten run of ten matches, winning nine with only Alloa Athletic managing to get a draw. Alongside this rich vain of form, second placed Hibernian suffered a run of three defeats within a week to see them trail Rangers at the top of the table by fourteen points as the season entered March.
The league crown was secured for Rangers on 5 April at Ibrox and formed the first part of a brace of trophies within a week. The team qualified for its second Challenge Cup final in the space of three years with the match being played at Hampden Park for the first time in the competition's history. The match was played in front of a near sell out as Rangers ran out 4–0 winners over Scottish League One side Peterhead on 10 April. Similarly, in Scottish Cup, the club reached its second semi-final in three seasons, setting up the first Old Firm derby in over a year. A highly anticipated match ended with both sides tied after full and extra time with Rangers winning the penalty shoot-out to progress to the final. The semi-final heroics were ultimately for nothing as Rangers lost the 2016 Scottish Cup Final to Hibernian with the Edinburgh club scoring an injury time winner. However, their victory was marred by a pitch invasion by Hibernian fans at the full-time whistle. The SFA has said it is "appalled" by scenes of disorder and set-up a commission to review operational failings apparent from the day. Police Scotland also investigated the matter which included assaults on Rangers players and staff.
The football department's scouting network was revitalized with the appointment of Frank McParland as the Head of Recruitment. On 18 December, Rangers announced a coaching and development partnership with Scottish Lowland League club Gala Fairydean Rovers which effectivelty saw the Galashiels side act as a feeder to Rangers.
The club's pre-season plans were confirmed in May with the first-team's squad travelling to the United States for a training camp which incorporated a friendly match against United Soccer League side Charleston Battery. The fallout from the 2016 Scottish Cup Final fan violence continued with the SFA announcing a former Sheriff principal would chair the independent commission into the disorder. The commission reported on 5 August and concluded the pitch invasion was sparked by the high excitement of Hibernian fans, yet neither club could be blamed. The report highlighted security plans were appropriate and that the Scottish Government should consider criminalising pitch invasions. However, Rangers raised concerns about several factual inaccuracies and contradictions in the report and asked to discuss this with the SFA.
On 30 August 2016, Rangers and Hibernian were issued with notices of complaint by the Scottish FA's compliance officer in relation to the Scottish Cup final. The end of May, post the 2016 Scottish Cup Final, saw Rangers continue preparations for the forthcoming season with the signing of English Championship winner Joey Barton from Burnley, Liverpool youth player Jordan Rossiter and former Tottenham Hotspur play-maker Niko Kranjčar. Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson also disclosed Warburton and Weir were negotiating new contracts, with the pair agreeing one-year extensions on 12 July. Warburton would go on to bring in eleven new players in total, including paying a million-pound-plus transfer fee for Englishman Joe Garner which represented the largest investment made by Rangers in a player for over five years since the signing of current club captain Lee Wallace in July 2011.
In June 2016, it was announced by the SPFL that the Challenge Cup would be expanded to include teams from the Welsh Premier League, Northern Irish Premiership and an under-20s side from each Scottish Premiership club. On the same day as this announcement, the under-20s team coach Ian Durrant was relieved of his duties in a coaching reshuffle, with Rangers appointing Graeme Murty as Head Development Squad Coach on 17 August, to replace him. The draw for the first round of the 2016–17 Challenge Cup was made with Rangers under-20s side paired with Stirling University F.C. who play in the Lowland Football League. The U20 side progressed conformably beating Stirling University 4-0 at Forthbank Stadium with Josh Jeffries scoring a brace. A second round tie with Scottish League One side Stenhousemuir was set-up, again played at Forthbank, however, the side could not match its previous performance and went down 3-1 with Ryan Hardie netting the Rangers goal.
The senior side began the season in mid-July as part of the new look League Cup format, paired in a group with Motherwell, Annan Athletic, East Stirlingshire and Stranraer. The season got off to a winning start as the side beat Motherwell and Annan Athletic by 2–0 respectively. After topping their group and strong showings in the two subsequent rounds, Rangers set up a semi-final against Celtic, however, the side lost 1-0 which ended their participation in the competition. The side league form proved equally fruitless as the side engaged in a faulting start to the season which culminated in a humiliating 5–1 defeat to Old Firm rivals, Celtic. The opening league match of the season saw Rangers stutter to a 1–1 draw at home to Hamilton Academical and despite registering wins in the following to matches Rangers would go through the month of September without winning a league match, including defeats to both Aberdeen and Celtic. The aftermath from the latter match saw Rangers suspend midfielder Joey Barton for three weeks. Barton had been involved in a training ground bust up with fellow midfielder Andy Halliday a few days after losing to Celtic. The suspension was extended by another week on 9 October and Barton was also charged by the Scottish Football Association for breaking rules relating to gambling on football matches.
Upon the completion of his suspension, Barton returned to Ibrox for a meeting on 27 October, however, upon its conclusion it emerged that he remained suspended by the club and no party made further comment. In the meanwhile, despite the first-team's indifferent league form the side still sat second in the Scottish Premiership by the end of October, even though two of the marquee summer signings had effectively been ruled out for the season, with Barton returning from suspension but being relegated to the youth-team and Niko Kranjčar suffering cruciate ligament which sidelined him for the rest of the season. Barton was unhappy at being relegated to the youth team and was signed off with stress on 8 November but the saga came to a conclusion two days later when the Englishman agreed to a mutual contract terminated.
The sides form improved through December, with the team building a four match winning run on the back of a poor 2-0 defeat to Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle on 30 November. However, the final two matches of 2016 saw the side collect only one point from a possible six with a draw away to St Johnstone and defeat in the third Old Firm derby of the season. This left the club second in the table going into 2017 and the mid-season break, two points ahead of third placed Aberdeen although the latter did have a game in hand. The January transfer window saw the club released several former youth prospects who had failed to meet expectations, while Warburton brought in two young loanee signings from English Premier League sides in the shape of Emerson Hyndman and Jon Toral from Bournemouth and Arsenal respectively. However, the lack of any permanent outfield signings drew criticism, as did the performances of the previous summers transfers, with particular focus being placed on the role of Head of Recruitment Frank McParland.
On 10 February 2017, manager Warburton, assistant manager David Weir and McParland left Rangers, with the former being replaced by Graeme Murty who was placed in caretaker control of the first-team. Several reasons for the trio departure were highlighted by the media, as well as the club. The first-team's poor performance in the first half of the season a prominent cause, which crystallised after an embarrassing 4-1 defeat away to Heart of Midlothian on 1 February and an insipid 1-1 draw at home to Ross County three days later, a match which proved to be Warburtons last game in charge of Rangers. The poor signing policy was mooted, however, the club also stated that the management team were not committed to the job and reported the team had tendered their resignations five days before being replaced which Warburton later disputed. Early contenders for the role included former Rangers manager Alex McLeish and former Rangers defender Frank de Boer. On Valentine's Day 2017, Managing director Stewart Robertson announced that the club would seek to appoint a Director of Football to work alongside a new first-team manager.
Graeme Murty's time in charge began with a fourth round Scottish cup win over Greenock Morton, however, league formed remained indifferent his first two league matches ende in away defeats to Dundee and Inverness CT. This left the side in third place, six points adrift of Aberdeen, at the beginning of March. A dramatic 3–2 win of St Johnstone saw Murty register his only league win in his six-game spell as manager with his last two games in charge seeing him set up to a Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after a 6–0 win over Hamilton Academical, the team's largest win of the season, before drawing the third league Old Firm match. On 11 March, Rangers confirmed Pedro Caixinha as the club's sixteenth manager with the Portuguese coach appointed two days later. However, the pursuit of a Director of Football was not as successful as the Boards first choice, Southampton's Ross Wilson, turning down the offer of the role.
Away from football, the board instigated court proceedings against four of its former executives and investor Mike Ashley. The case against former chief executives Charles Green and Derek Llambias, former commercial director Imran Ahmad, former financial director Brian Stockbridge and Ashley was brought regarding a loss of income caused by retail deals agreed between the company that owns the club and Sports Direct from 2012 to 2015. Details of Rangers legal claim was revealed on 12 August after Ashley's lawyers succeeded in a bid to the documents disclosed. According to the papers lodged with the Court of Session, Rangers sought approximately £4.1m in damages caused by alleged negligence by Green and other club staff from which Ashley unfairly benefited. Rangers regained representation at a domestic football level as Managing director Stewart Robertson was appointed to the SFA professional game board, although Robertson had initially signalled his intent to stand for the SPFL board but withdrew due to a lack of support. Meanwhile, the former Rangers owner Craig Whyte was the only person facing fraud charges relating to the liquidation of The Rangers Football Club Plc, proceedings began in June. In a bizarre twist, former Rangers vice-chairman Donald Findlay QC was appointed to Whyte's legal team and defended Whyte when he faced charges relating to the acquisition of the club in May 2011 and its subsequent financial mismanagement. On 22 December, at his pre-trial Whyte entered a not guilty plea at the High Court in Glasgow. The trial concerning accusations of fraudulent acquisition of the Club began in April 2017, with former Rangers managers Walter Smith and Ally McCoist called to give evidence about the financial situation at the Oldco preceding Whyte's reign.
The corporate aftermath of Whyte's reign was continued and it was revealed that oldco administrators have raised legal action against Police Scotland and the Lord Advocate while oldco creditors would received £2m less in potential payouts after the liquidation costs increased, leaving the total payout at £16.663m. Although RIFC did settle a fine imposed upon the Oldco by the Nimmo Smith commission after a tribunal held against the club in October 2015, the total cost was £286,000. At the start of February, it was reported that liquidators of the Oldco, BDO, had launched a legal action against former administrators Duff & Phelps over the business strategies adopted by the administrating team and seeking up to £28.9m in damages.
The spectre of Mike Ashley continued to haunt Rangers in the early part of the season. Ashley lost a legal challenge to the SFA's fine over breaching dual ownership rules with reports he faced a £250,000 legal bill. In October, he was ordered to pay half of the SFA's legal costs and an additional fee for the costs incurred from receiving specialist legal advice. Moreover, further failed legal action meant Ashley was required to pay the legal costs of the SFA and Dave King following a failed bid to overturn the decision that King was a "fit and proper" person from April 2016. Despite standing down from the board of Rangers Retail in June 2016, the club's joint merchandising venture with Sports Direct, Ashley refused to relinquish his grip over Rangers retail operations. After reaching an impasse in its attempts to renegotiation the retail agreements with Sports Direct, an stand off ensued between the retailer and Rangers with the latter withdrew removing rights to use the club's intellectual property which would impact on the sale of Rangers new Puma football kits. Despite the club withdrawing permission to use its trademarks, which effectively halted the sale of kits, Puma released the 2016-17 kits at the beginning of August. This led to the board to consider replacing the Puma kits with an alternative. The contract with Rangers Retail reportedly earned the club only four pence from every pound spent on merchandise and was highlighted as a reason for Rangers weak financial performance. On Halloween 2016 it emerged that Ashley lodged a counter-suit against Rangers, King and director Paul Murray, with initial proceedings regarding the case being heard at the High Court of Justice in March 2017.
The board released RIFC's annual accounts on 28 October which revealed annual losses had been halved to £3.3m and turnover increased to £22.2m, however, further funding was required to maintain the business as a going concern. In March 2017, a decision Takeover Appeal Board (TAB) following a complaint by former Rangers chairman David Somers ruled that Dave King had been acting in concerted with other investors during King's March 2015 boardroom takeover. This meant that King was liable to purchase all of the shares in RIFC, with the TAB setting a price of 20p per share. A few days later, RIFC revealed an operating profit of £300,000 in unaudited results for the six months to 31 December 2016, although this equated to a pre-tax loss of £278,000.
Rangers fan groups Rangers Supporters' Trust, Rangers Supporters Assembly and Rangers First merged to form Club 1872 in late May, and two-weeks later it announced that the new organisation had purchased enough shares to make it the sixth largest shareholder in RIFC. Harmony did not last for long amongst the support, however, as three directors of the Rangers First resigned from the organisation over a row regarding its governance, with Rangers First now the shareholding vehicle for Club 1872. On 30 September, the results of the first elections to Club 1872's board was announced with seven members elected including Rangers current company secretary James Blair, former requisitioner Alex Wilson, as well as the leader of Sons of Struth, Craig Houston. In November, the fans group increased its holding further to become the fifth largest individual shareholder, possessing just over five million ordinary shares, however, further setbacks saw three directors resign from the board of Club 1872 after only six months in post.
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