Sean Graham


The month of November saw the anniversary of a man who has spent 20 years in charge of Glasgow Rangers Football Club. In Sir David Murray’s time at Ibrox he has seen many changes, not only at Ibrox itself, but in Scottish football in general (but things could have been oh so different if his bid to buy Ayr United had been successful!).

As a businessman David Murray was very successful in his own right, but he could not have imagined or foreseen the focus and pressure that would be thrust upon him by the fervent Rangers support who need and thrive on success.

The £6M that he paid Lawrence Marlborough is now looking good business as the club continues to grow under the stewardship of Sir David, even though he knows that things have not always been simply the best for the Ibrox club.

In his twenty years at the club they have only failed to lift any silverware in five of those years, which is quite amazing. What is not so amazing is the fact it was their oldest rivals who have gone toe to toe with them. Others like Aberdeen and Motherwell have tried also, but Celtic have been and always will be Rangers’ main rivals for the Scottish Premier League title.

The Murray era has seen Rangers make many significant changes on and off the pitch with the redevelopment of the stadium raising the capacity of the ground. The players have also been given a state of the art training facility in the shape of Murray Park, which Dick Advocaat (former Rangers and current Zenit St Petersburg boss) wanted, and any player coming to Glasgow to speak to Walter Smith or David Murray could not fail to be impressed by this setup.

Players like Paul Gascoigne, Brian Laudrup, Ronald de Boer, and Arthur Numan, amongst others, have been brought through the doors at Ibrox. Murray also broke the Scottish transfer record by bringing in Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo for £12M from Chelsea. Money did not often buy success but having good Managers at the club often did.

The Ibrox revolution started with Graeme Souness, and at a time when the English clubs were banned from Europe he was able to bring players like Chris Woods, Terry Butcher and Graham Roberts to Ibrox as he took Scottish football by storm. Souness was the man that not only helped bring success to Rangers but also seduced David Murray into successfully bidding for the Ibrox club. The pair would not only be friends but also manager and chairman.

This partnership could have gone on to greater things at Rangers but Souness felt that he needed a new challenge; only one club could pull him away from Ibrox and that was his former club Liverpool.

The shock of Graeme Souness leaving was almost too much for David Murray and the Rangers fans to take, or it would have been if a ready made replacement was not sitting in the assistant manager’s seat!

Walter Smith was a natural successor to Souness but he was not a man with a proven track record, this would be a gamble that would pay off however, twice over in fact!

Smith knew that he had to come in at a time when things could have gone wrong, could he be the man to continue the trophy trail?

On a day that David Murray describes as his favourite game, Rangers won the title back in 1991 beating Aberdeen 2-0 at Ibrox with two goals from Mark Hateley in a winner takes all contest with Aberdeen only needing a draw to take the title. Souness may have left the building but Smith was now the new king around these parts. And especially as he was the man who was in charge as Rangers equalled Celtic’s amazing record of nine titles in a row!

Walter Smith would ensure that Rangers winning ways would continue during his time as manager and the Double was won in his first full season in charge, the treble the following season as well in a fantastic run that almost ended in a European Cup appearance for the club.

Smith and trophies just seemed to go hand in hand in his first spell at Ibrox and no matter what happens in the future, he will still go down in the club’s history as having been a great manager – but sometimes things must change. After losing out on their bid for ten titles in a row Smith moved on to a new challenge with Everton at Goodison Park. Meanwhile Rangers moved on and headed in a new direction with David Murray appointing the club’s first ever foreign manager as Dick Advocaat took over the Ibrox hot seat. In Advocaat’s first season in charge the Dutchman brought the treble back to Rangers to become an instant hero.

Dick Advocaat had the forward thinking to ask David Murray not only for money to improve his team but for a training facility that would make him proud and would impress any player who wanted to come to check out Glasgow Rangers and what this club were all about. Indeed, this may have been the best £14M that he ever spent in his time at Rangers.

With Rangers though things are never straight forward and soon another managerial change was on the cards: This time Alex McLeish was the man who was trusted with bringing success to the club and this was duly done.

The treble was again brought to Ibrox, the SPL was taken on the final day with a 6-1 win over Dunfermline at Ibrox, enough to take the title from Celtic on goal difference and send McLeish to cult figure status with the blue half of Glasgow.

The following season Alex McLeish and his men surrendered their title to Celtic and the pressure started to tell, but no-one could have foreseen what was going to happen on the final day of the 2005 season.

Alex McLeish and his men headed to Easter Road and a fixture with Hibernian, hoping that Celtic would slip up as they made their way to play Motherwell at Fir Park .

Rangers knew that Celtic were a goal up and although they were ahead at Easter Road through a Nacho Novo goal, they knew that this was still not enough as the minutes slipped away with Celtic seemingly heading towards another title. Then up stepped Scott McDonald (a boyhood Celtic fan and now player with the Parkhead club) to score two goals and not only win the match 2-1 for Motherwell, but also send the title towards Ibrox as Celtic suffered last day heartache again! Motherwell boss Terry Butcher had done his old club a favour and boy did he celebrate!
The Rangers players and fans were now on cloud nine and the words on Marvin Andrews t-shirt were never more appropriate: ”Believe”.

McLeish gave Murray even more reasons to celebrate as the following season he would lead his club to the last 16 of the Champions League, the first Scottish club to do so. McLeish however would soon be replaced by Frenchman Paul Le Guen, as the club decided to adopt a foreign policy once again, which for many reasons did not work out.

The club would now need a man who knew what it meant to manage Rangers. Walter Smith was the only man for the job, although he did bring with him possibly his successor to the hotseat, his number two and legend at Ibrox, Ally McCoist.

When the duo took over the damage had been done in the early part of the season, but two Old Firm matches and two wins against Celtic did a lot to ease the pain and remind their rivals that they would not be too far behind them.

Their first full season in charge was to be one of the most memorable in the history of Glasgow Rangers Football Club. Rangers were involved in all three domestic trophies and a tremendous European run in the UEFA Cup would put Rangers back on the map.

The CIS Cup (Scottish League Cup) was won after a thrilling match that went to penalties against Dundee United and it was the Ibrox enigma Kris Boyd who came off the bench to get both goals in a 2-2 draw and net the winning penalty. The Scottish Cup was next and it was won after a thrilling 3-2 win over First Division Queen of the South as Rangers’ legs just had enough in them to see off the brave Doonhamers.

But the real heartbreak for Rangers was falling at the last hurdle in both the SPL and UEFA Cup, a brave European adventure that saw Dick Advocaat’s Zenit St.Petersburg come out on top as their old Ibrox boss came back to haunt them.

In the SPL it really was nip and tuck between the Old Firm right up until the end. On the final Thursday of the season Rangers travelled to Aberdeen and Celtic to Dundee to play Dundee United.

After two previous last day end of season robberies, Celtic had more than one reason to push themselves over the finishing line. Former boss and Celtic player Tommy Burns had lost his battle against cancer, and it was this heartbreak that seemed to push Celtic towards the title. A 1-0 win coupled with a 2-0 defeat at Pittodrie for Rangers sent the title to Celtic Park.

Rangers and Sir David Murray though, know that their time will come again.

Dignity was shown on the day of the funeral of Tommy Burns when the Ibrox club cancelled a homecoming parade to welcome their European heroes back and both Walter Smith and Ally McCoist helped carry the coffin of their old friend along with his Celtic team mates. Glasgow can put rivalries aside in time of need and of sorrow.

Glasgow Rangers know that they have come in for some criticism regarding their signing of players of a certain religion but not anymore.

David Murray backed Graeme Souness in his bid to bring former Celtic player and high profile Catholic, Mo Johnston, to Ibrox in a highly controversial signing. The move did not please some fans, but from then right up to the present day it proves that the sectarian issue will be dealt with and tackled by both clubs.

Under David Murray Glasgow Rangers Football Club has tried its very best to move into the 21st century as they attempt to deal with the songs and chants that have no place inside a football stadium, and they should be applauded for these actions.

The club know that the eyes of the world have been on them since a few incidents on the European front, but the vast numbers of the Rangers support are making sure that they are responsible for their behaviour at home matches by singing songs of only a football nature. There have not been many lows in Sir David’s time at the club and he and the board at Rangers should be applauded for their efforts to stop these chants from every being heard inside Ibrox ever again.

Could it be that Sir David Murray’s biggest achievement is his involvement in ending the sectarianism and bigotry that shames the Scottish game?

The rivalry that both Celtic and Rangers share will go on forever more, but let’s hope that the Chairman and owners of both clubs continue to talk instead of slinging mud at each other, to work together to end this problem that is not only football’s alone, but still exists within society today.

Under David Murray Rangers fans have seen good and bad times, but one thing is for sure: David Murray has been one of the best things to happen not only to Rangers Football Club but to the game in Scotland. The game in this country needs many more like him, and no matter if you love or hate the Ibrox club, you must admit when he finally goes we will all miss Sir David!