Books

 

FOLLOW, FOLLOW: Classic Rangers Old Firm Clashes

For more than 120 years, Rangers and Celtic have vied for supremacy in one of the world’s sporting hotbeds. The rivalry between the two teams is among the fiercest anywhere in sport, making an Old Firm derby much more than a football game. Controversy is rarely far away when the Glasgow giants meet, but amid the fallout that invariably follows their contests, the actual game is often forgotten.

In Follow, Follow, Iain Duff recounts the greatest footballing moments of Rangers’ illustrious history in Old Firm clashes, from their very first competitive win over Celtic, in the 1893 Glasgow Cup final, through to the 1–0 victory at Ibrox that was a vital factor in Rangers’ 2009–10 SPL title win.

The intervening years saw famous Old Firm contributions from legendary Ibrox names such as Gillick, Meiklejohn, McPhail, Baxter, Johnston, McCoist, Cooper, Laudrup, Ferguson and Novo, all of which are revisited here, along with the goals, the flare-ups and the controversies that make these derby days simply unforgettable for every Rangers fan.

 

TEMPLE OF DREAMS: The Changing Face of Ibrox

For more than 100 years, Ibrox has been the home of Rangers Football Club. It has been the scene not only of some of this sporting institution’s greatest triumphs, but also of two of the worst disasters in British football. An imposing ground that is rich in history and tradition, Ibrox also boasts state-of-the-art facilities that rank alongside the best in the world.

Its wood-panelled entrance lobby and famous marble staircase evoke memories of a distant era, while the glittering trophy room inside the magnificent Main Stand tells the story of the club better than any words.

But although Rangers have managed to preserve the traditions of the famous old stadium, much of the Ibrox of today bears little resemblance to the ground which opened in December 1899. This book charts, in words and pictures, the history of Ibrox, from the early days, through the creation of Archibald Leitch’s stunning Main Stand in 1929, with its Masonic imagery, to the present day five-star facilities.

Using official records and eye-witness accounts, it tells the story of the two Ibrox disasters that claimed a total of 92 lives, and tells how the second tragedy in 1971 resulted in a complete overhaul of the stadium and the creation of the most modern football ground in Britain, years ahead of its time.

As well as the many football triumphs, the stadium has witnessed dozens of other events over the years, including the famous annual Ibrox Sports meeting created by the legendary manager Bill Struth.

On one spectacular afternoon, seven world records were broken in one race on the Ibrox cinder track. The book also reveals the part played by famous figures like Buffalo Bill Cody, King George V, Winston Churchill, Eric Liddell, Billy Graham, Frank Sinatra and Elton John in the history of the stadium.Ibrox, which holds the record attendance for a League match in Britain, would of course be nothing more than a pile of bricks and mortar without the fans who breathe life into it every other Saturday.

Here, supporters recall their memories of the stadium, from starting bonfires on the vast terraces to keep warm in the depths of winter, to donning customised hard-hats as protection from flying beer bottles in the 1960s, to the spectacular Champions League nights of the 21st century. A fascinating journey through the history of the club, Duff’s absorbing narrative is charged throughout with the passion of the fans and the red-hot atmosphere in the ground.

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FOLLOW ON: 50 Years of Rangers in Europe

 As in so many other areas Rangers have led the way in Continental competition. The first Scottish club to reach a European final.  The first Scottish club to compete in the European Super Cup. The first Scottish club to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League. And of course the greatest achievement of them all: winning the European Cu Winners Cup in 1972 after defeating more quality sides in one season than any other Scottish club.
This compelling book tells the story of the club’s fifty years in Europe  from the early days of European competition in 1956 to the Champions League  of 2006. There is coverage of every game played by Rangers in that period  and as might be expected the drama is unrelenting as Rangers go head to head with some of the biggest names in football.
There are valuable insights from many Rangers legends, who were interviewed specially for this book: Harold Davis, Eric Caldow, Kai Johansen, Sandy Jardine, Alex MacDonald, Dave McPherson, Robert Prytz, Bobby Russell.
Then there are the loyal Rangers fans. They followed on from Belgrade to Bruges, Faroes to Florence, Kiev to Katowice, Valetta to Vladikavkaz and Zabrze to Zizkov. Their stories are often hair-raising, invariably hilarious, and include encounters with working girls in Spain, an impromptu
Orange Walk in Amsterdam, a battle in Newcastle and attacks by IRA sympathisers in Dublin. There is also the moving story of how thousands of Rangers fans enchanted the people of Wolverhampton with their singing and their reverence for the Union Jack.

Duff uses all his journalistic skill to create a vivid insight into a half-century of European campaigns. It is an honest account both of the club’s many triumphs and of its disappointments. But it is much more than just a football book. This is a piece of social history and it charts with warmth and wit exactly how much the club means to the supporters who followed on, even to the far-flung outposts of the Continent. Their loyalty and devotion to Rangers can never be questioned.

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REVIEWS

Follow On: 50 Years of Rangers in Europe (reviewed by Follow Follow fanzine)

A recurring theme on the Follow Follow message board is Rangers’ European record. There’s no getting away from the fact our Club have under performed regularly, while also being on the wrong end of some dreadful results. Among the darkness, though, there have been a some shining lights that have provided us with moments that will be treasured for life.

A new book on Rangers recently hit the shelves. Follow On: Fifty Years of Rangers in Europe by Iain Duff charts Rangers’ somewhat rocky course through the half-century they’ve been involved in European competition. While there are plenty of us who want no reminding of games we’d witnessed in the past, it is encouraging to see a new name added to the relatively short list of authors who have written about Rangers in the recent past and for that reason alone the book should be reported.

It’s possibly a difficult task to offer a review of a book written by a guy who obviously cares and thinks deeply about Rangers and not be drawn to offer praise for the sake of it. However, it has to be said that this is a book with something for everybody in it and – at the risk of employing a cliché or five – will appeal to any Rangers fan who reads it.

Rather than trying to look for positives and presenting every defeat as unlucky, the author takes a mature and detached view from events on and off the park that the book details. There is most definitely no, “I’m great, you’re great, we’re all great” type of empty rhetoric that is a feature of too many of the Club’s official publications; nor are there instances of self-loathing and needless apologia that accompanied The Advocaat Years and Ten Days That Shook The Rangers. This is a book that has adopted a firm Rankean philosophy when presenting the past and the book is all the much more accessible and readable for it. Indeed, the author takes a critical stance with ex-players who attempted to excuse Rangers’ failing by exaggerating the talents of their opponents. It is a refreshing attitude to read in a book, however painful the memories it may evoke in the reader.

The book is set out in a chronological style in the main, starting with a brief history of the origins of European competitions and begins as far as Rangers are concerned with the game against Nice in 1956. A good part of the author’s source material comes from interviews with players who took part in the early games and the sense that comes from it is that every away trip was a trip into the unknown. There’s a kind of child-like excitement that surrounds the early days.

Where this book stands out is the author’s willingness not to look at the past with blue-tinted glasses but to offer facts to the reader, no matter how unpalatable they are. One of these facts is the arrogance and naivety displayed by the Rangers management team of the late 50s and early 60s with regard to doing research on their opponents. Such instances are analysed critically and reasonably and do not fall victim to a fan’s inclination to find excuses for his team’s behaviour. In saying that, however, Duff’s obvious enthusiasm for Rangers is very much in evidence in the wonderful chapter of the book that is dedicated to Rangers’ trip to Wolverhampton in 1961, a chapter which, in this reader’s, opinion even surpasses the detailing of that famous night in Barcelona 11 years later.

With the book set out in a logical format, the narrative moves from one game to the following one with criticism and praise dealt out as and when necessary with regard to team performance and selection. As it’s told in such a manner, the book retains its accessibility throughout, particularly with the recounting of sporting and political anecdotes in relation to the Rangers games under discussion. Did you know THAT Russian linesman from Wembley 1966 refereed a Rangers game shortly after?

Perhaps inevitably as the book moves onto games that are fresher in the modern memory, games from the mid 70s onwards, Barcelona excluded, are given more coverage and analysis, with a bit more attention paid to non-European issues, such as the state of the Rangers team in the early 80s followed by the Souness Revolution. It is a welcome addition to the book, keeping its narrative fresh while maintaining its primary focus of detailing Rangers’ participation in European competition. Of particular interest in this era are the recollections of players of the period, one in particular by Robert Prytz which will no doubt be a surprise to many.

As the book moves into even more recent times, it is obvious that games from the 90s have provided the author with some notable personal highs and lows. To his credit, he still remains detached enough to offer a critical eye while paradoxically writing with the obvious emotion of a genuine football fan rather than, say, a failed theology student who thinks he is in fact a noted social commentator.

Some might say that an author writing with an evident fervour for Rangers would detract from the book. This is very much not the case with this offering. The numerous humiliations witnessed by Rangers fans in the 1990s are not glossed over in favour of the run in 1992/93 but are analysed and commented on with a critical eye that does the author credit, albeit accompanied by a tangible sense of disappointment, even hurt at Rangers’ performances. Ironically, this is probably the book’s strength. The readership are not treated like children but instead are offered 260 or so pages that praise when it is necessary, criticise with a strength according to situation and flow in a writing style that is highly accessible to anybody.

At the beginning of this review, the thought was offered that the book contains something for everybody. The reasoning for that is as follows: historically valid and interesting study of an element of Rangers’ past; quotes from ex-players; excellent descriptions of the supporters’ role in certain games; fascinating anecdotal accompaniments for the football issues; a total emphasis on the many, many good points of the Rangers support; and an appendix of statistics that will surely prove worthwhile when talking about Rangers’ times in Europe years from now.

It’s a book that will appeal to Rangers fans who can accept that we have not performed as required on too many occasions in the European arena. Some will not agree with the book’s findings. Some may even question the validity of writing a book that details 50 years of Rangers in Europe. The answer to that is easy. It is by no stretch of the imagination a celebration or even a tip of the hat to glorious failure. It is a well researched acknowledgement that for half a century our Club has taken part in European football competitions and, good and bad results both taken into account, is a landmark worth writing about. And the best reason for reading this book? It’s a book about Rangers by a genuine Rangers fan.

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