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History of Rangers F.C.

Rangers Football Club has a long and illustrious history. Formed in 1873, Rangers were the first club in the world to win more than 50 league titles. Rangers are the most honoured football club in the world having won 108 trophies in total. Despite being formed 134 years ago Rangers have only ever been managed by twelve different men.

The birth and the early days

In 1872, the club was founded by a group of rowing enthusiasts, Peter Campbell, William McBeath and brothers, Peter and Moses McNeil saw a group of men playing football on Glasgow Green's Flesher's Haugh.

Indeed the team's first game was at Flesher's Haugh in May 1872 against Callander Football Club, which resulted in a 0-0 draw. Moses McNeil suggested the name Rangers after seeing the name 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 F.C.

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.

In 1888 the now famous Old Firm fixture was born as Rangers met Celtic for the first time in a friendly match. Celtic beat Rangers 5-2. By 1890 the Scottish league was formed and Rangers enjoyed a victorious first season as they finished joint-top with Dumbarton and after a play-off match finished 2-2, the title was shared.

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 business company in 1899 and match secretary William Wilton was appointed as the clubs first manager. The club also appointed its first board of directors under the chairmanship of James Henderson. Rangers were well on their way to becoming one of Scotland's top clubs.

Wilton and Struth

Rangers were in the ascendant 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.

But 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 a drunken fans. The Hampden Riot 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 clubs first ever manager, William Wilton, died in a boating accident and Bill Struth was subsequently appointed manager.

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 player, but when chairman James Bowie suggested a 71 year-old Struth stand down to allow a younger man to take charge, a revolution occurred. Bowie was forced out the chair and was said never to have sent 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 in 1954.

Under Scot Symon

Symon continued Struth's success winning six league championships, five Scottish Cups and four League Cups. 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 FA Cups. This was the era of Slim Jim Baxter, a superb ballplayer who was by turns exhilarating and exasperating.

But though 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 season 1956-57 Symon took Rangers into the European Cup for the first time but it ended abruptly, going out on to French team Nice. The following season however saw Rangers suffer their worst ever defeat to 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 Bayern Munich.

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.

Davie White

White was installed as Rangers' fourth manager in November 1967. He had come to Rangers as assistant to manager Symon as part of what was meant to be a grooming process, giving him time to learn the ropes and taking 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.

The decision was a mistake and the price White paid was to have the misfortune to be the first Rangers manager not to win a major trophy. 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 Jock 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 first season as Rangers' fourth manager, the team suffered only one defeat - 3-2 at home to Aberdeen in the final game. Rangers finished runners-up in the Championship. He also reached the Rangers also reached the Scottish Cup Final in 1969, only to lose 4-0 to Celtic.

In Europe, White's team enjoyed two good runs in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in successive years. in 1967-68, Rangers reached the quarter-finals, losing to Leeds United 2-0 on aggregate. The following season they went one better and got to the semi-finals where they again went down 2-0 on aggregate, this time to Newcastle United.

The good showing in Europe did not continue and when White completely under-estimated Polish side Górnik Zabrze, he was removed as manager. White's side had lost 3-1 in Poland and when the return leg at Ibrox began, he was promising to, "attack, attack, attack!" in order to progress. The second-leg result ended in a 3-1 home defeat for the Gers.

Willie Waddell

Willie 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 in 1969. 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 Ibrox disaster, when 66 people died leaving the east terrace at staircase 13. Within weeks of their European success, Willie Waddell moved to the general manager position and his coach Jock Wallace was appointed as manager.

Jock Wallace

Wallace's managership of Rangers saw the club achieve a period of sustained success. His first season as manager - the club's centenary year - culminated in a 3-2 Scottish Cup win over Celtic. A nine-year period of Celtic dominance in the league was ended in 1974-1975 as Rangers captured what was to be the last championship of its kind. The new ten-team Scottish Premier League saw Rangers crowned inaugural champions, as part of a triumphant domestic treble. After a barren subsequent season, 1976-1977, Wallace presided over the club's fourth domestic treble in 1977-1978.

This burst of success from the mid-1970s saw Rangers once again established as Scotland's most successful club. In 1978 Wallace, suddenly and unexpectedly, announced his resignation while refusing to divulge the reason for his departure. In his wake, Rangers turned to another of the stalwarts of the great side of the mid-to-late 1970s, the captain John Greig.

John Greig

Greig's tenure began promisingly. Wallace's treble-winning team of the previous season performed ably in the European Cup. Juventus were defeated 2-1 on aggregate - the first time Rangers had ever recovered from a first-leg defeat to win a two-legged European tie. PSV Eindhoven were defeated in the next round (the club's first home defeat in European competition), before an injury-stricken team lost to Cologne in the quarter final. Things began to unravel towards the end of Greig's first domestic season, however, as leadership of the league evaporated. Greig's efforts thereafter 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 then 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 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

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, were said to have rebuffed Rangers' advances. Wallace, however, returned with the aim of restoring the glory years of the treble-winning sides of the late 1970s. His initial impact was positive. Wallace's team won the League Cup twice in a row in 1983 and 1984, but league form remained indifferent. The continuing dominance of the great Aberdeen side of the 80s, coupled with a Dundee United and Celtic team that offered periodic challenges to Aberdeen's ascendancy, put Wallace under increasing pressure. By season 1985-86 Rangers had slipped to fifth place in the league and, with little evidence of improvement since the Greig era, Wallace was sacked as manager.

The Souness era

Graeme Souness was appointed as Rangers' first player-manager in 1986. The club's US-domiciled owner, Lawrence Marlborough, concerned at the lack of progress in the 1980s, began to take a more active interest in Rangers, wresting clear control of the boardroom after years of internecine squabbling. One of his most significant decisions was the appointment of David Holmes as the club's chairman. Holmes' most significant act was to recruit Souness.

Souness, drawing on his preeminent reputation in the English game and backed by Holmes' approval of unprecedented transfer spending, kick-started a period in which the arrival of top players from England was a regular occurrence. In his first season at the helm, he brought the championship back to Ibrox - the first since 1978.

The League Cup was also captured with the defeat of Celtic, heralding a period of Old Firm dominance that was to last for the bulk of the next two decades.

The arrival of businessman David Murray as self-styled 'custodian' of the club saw Rangers' resurgence continue. Murray had acquired Rangers for £6m from the increasingly cash-strapped Lawrence group. From the outset, Murray viewed Rangers as a way of cementing his already high profile in the media and in Scottish business circles.

In the first season of the Souness-Murray partnership (1989), Rangers won the first of what would eventually become nine championship wins in a row.

The Souness years were marked by both achievement and conflict. Under Souness's stewardship, Rangers' pre-eminence in the Scottish game was restored. At a time in which English clubs were excluded from European competition (following the Heysel stadium disaster of 1985), 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 was 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 managership saw countless run-ins with the footballing authorities. He was sent off in his debut (see ) and suffered more than one touchline ban.

Souness left Rangers in 1991 to join his former club Liverpool. Coming before the league campaign reached a dramatic culmination with a last-day victory over Aberdeen at Ibrox, 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 years as amongst the most dramatic in the club's history.

The challenge for his successor - his former assistant Walter Smith - was to ensure than Rangers' ninth manager would achieve as much as its eighth.

Nine in a row

Following Souness's departure, Walter Smith went on to clinch the championship in 1991 after a dramatic last day win over title challengers Aberdeen. Smith, with the financial backing of David Murray, continued to attract top players to the club and in season 1992-93 steered Rangers to one of the best seasons in their history. Not only did they win the domestic treble but they came to within one match of the European Cup final. Rangers saw off English Premier League champions Leeds United in a 'battle of Britain' tie. 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 bribing opposing teams in their domestic league to 'throw' games against them. Rangers won the double the following season but missed out on a back-to-back domestic treble after losing in the Scottish Cup final to Dundee United. Rangers again won the championship in seasons 1994-95 and 1995-96 with the help of signings such as Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne. 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. 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. Smith left Rangers and joined English Premiership club Everton. Many players also left Rangers including Brian Laudrup, Ally McCoist and captain Richard Gough.

The Little General

Dick Advocaat, nicknamed the Little General, succeeded Walter Smith at the start of season 1998-99. Advocaat, former manager of PSV Eindhoven, was only Rangers' tenth manager and the first non-Scot to hold the position. His appointment was viewed by some 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 increasingly high-profile (and financially lucrative) Champions' League. But 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. Some - the Dutch internationals Arthur Numan and Giovanni van Bronckhorst - were successful; others - for example Andrei Kanchelskis - proved ineffectual.

But 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.

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 the surprising appointment as 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-gown talent and developing players. On the other hand, Advocaat's man-management was subject to criticism, and some argued that he had squandered a real opportunity to establish Rangers as consistent European competitors. 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.

Under Alex McLeish

Alex 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.

His appointment in December 2001 was met with a lukewarm reaction amongst many Rangers supporters. Some 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.

A few, perhaps remembering McLeish's days in Alex Ferguson's successful Aberdeen side of the early 1980s, questioned whether someone lacking any obvious Rangers allegiance could revitalise a club faced, for the first time in decades, with a concerted challenge from a seemingly rejuvenated Celtic. Such concerns were quickly allayed, however, as McLeish's Rangers began to display a spirit that had been sorely lacking in Advocaat's final seasons. Cup successes in McLeish's first half-season, 2001/2, saw a renewed sense of optimism that Rangers could regain the ascendancy claimed by Celtic under the managership of Martin O'Neill.

A 3-2 defeat of Celtic in the season's climactic Scottish Cup final , orchestrated by Barry Ferguson and marked by a dramatic last minute winner, reinforced the view that Rangers could once more gain the pre-eminence enjoyed for almost all of the period since Graeme Souness's appointment as manager in 1986.

His first full season as manager, 2002/03, saw the club fulfil this sense of promise, and featured an astonishingly tense run-in to the league campaign that many thought could never be repeated - until two years later. Another victory over Celtic, this time in the League Cup , provided the first leg of the club's latest treble. Rangers' half-century of championships was secured on a dramatic last day of the league season, with victory over Dunfermline Athletic denying Celtic the title on goal difference .

The destination of the title was unknown until the dying seconds of this match as both teams had headed into the game level on points and goal difference. Only a last-minute penalty by Mikel Arteta clinched the win. A somewhat drab and anti-climactic 1-0 victory over Dundee in the Scottish Cup final the following week saw a triumphant finalé to the season and 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.

Yet the overall success of McLeish's initial period as manager proved difficult to sustain. The club's parlous financial position, in the wake of the profligacy of the Advocaat era, meant a period of relative austerity. Wage levels were slashed as the club embarked on an extensive cost-cutting programme in an attempt to stabilise a mushrooming (and unsustainable) debt. Confronted with a squad of well-paid but ageing players largely assembled by Advocaat, McLeish was compelled to rebuild without the luxury of the generous transfer kitty enjoyed by his predecessors over the preceding two decades, and lost from his treble winning team the inspirational but mistake-prone Lorenzo Amoruso, Scottish international winger Neil McCann and, most damagingly of all, club captain Barry Ferguson to Blackburn Rovers To replace these players, McLeish was required to rebuild, not through the high-profile and often audacious signings of the Souness, Smith and Advocaat years, but via wheeling and dealing and the selective use of 'Bosman' free transfers.

After a good start to 2003/2004 which saw the team lead the SPL and qualify for the money-spinning Champions League (with another dramatic late goal in Denmark against FC Copenhagen), the loss of Ferguson shortly afterwards led to a dramatic downturn in results and a trophyless campaign. McLeish's Bosman signings of experienced players, such as the Brazilian midfielder Emerson and Norwegian forward Egil Østenstad have since entered Ibrox folklore as some of the worst players to pull on a Rangers shirt. Most damaging of all, however, was the £600,000 signing of Portuguese winger Nuno Capucho.

The 2004/2005 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 to be sold in January 2005, after only six months at the club, to English Premiership side Newcastle United (managed by former boss Graeme Souness) for £8m. This cash paved the way for more signings, including Thomas Buffel and the return of former captain Barry Ferguson.

Another trophy, the League Cup, was procured in March 2005 after a 5-1 victory over Motherwell . The league, however, appeared to have been lost. Despite catching and overtaking Celtic (two Old Firm wins, including a pivotal 2-0 victory at Parkhead - McLeish's first win there as Ibrox manager) nerves seemed to get the better of Rangers once they had got on top. A loss to Celtic in the last derby of the season handed a five-point lead to their rivals with only four games of the season remaining, and seemed to end McLeish's hopes of a second league title.

However, the Ibrox team managed to win the league title on the last day of the season. A 3-1 Celtic home loss to Hibernian the week after the derby meant only two points separated the sides going into the final game of the season, at which point 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 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 Fir Park to present it to Celtic when it had to turn around and fly to Easter Road. That day has passed into Ibrox folklore, becoming known as 'Helicopter Sunday'. McLeish could celebrate his second, and Rangers' 51st, league title.

Season 2005-06 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 - and publicised - 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. Rumours continued to suggest that this was because his favoured target, Frenchman Paul Le Guen, was unwilling to take charge until the summer.

After this announcement, the team improved, helped by the signing from Kilmarnock of the young Scot and SPL top scorer 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 2006 to go out of the Scottish Cup and end their last realistic hopes of silverware for the season. Protests against McLeish and the chairman who had kept him on followed the game, and four days later they were humbled in a 2-0 defeat at McLeish's old club, Aberdeen.

Overall, the McLeish era was mixed. Results swung violently from one season to the next, while his record in the transfer market was also inconsistent. The lack of money certainly played its part in McLeish's downfall (he brought in around £13 million in transfer fees overall and the Ibrox wage bill was slashed to under £15 million a year) but it is debatable, based on the money he did have to spend, whether greater sums would have been invested wisely. Indeed some supporters of the Ibrox club claim a good proportion of McLeish's signings have been among the worst in the club's entire history. At a time when Scottish talent was apparently beginning to emerge again, some fans found it puzzling that McLeish failed to make more of an effort to raid markets closer to home, or to develop youth players. However, others pointed out that he signed the likes of Novo, Andrews and Murray from other Scottish teams and youngsters such as Chris Burke, Alan Hutton, Ross McCormack and Steven Smith emerged from within the club.

McLeish obtained seven domestic trophies in four years, beating his initial Old Firm counterpart Martin O'Neill by one.

Under Paul Le Guen

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 Alex 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 indeed 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.

Known for unearthing and nurturing young talent, Le Guen made an immediate splash in the transfer market signing South African Under 19 player Dean Furman from Chelsea, and youngsters William Stanger and Antoine Ponroy from Rennes. While allowing Ibrox favourite Alex Rae to move to a new career as player-manager of Dundee, he has also signed Libor Sionko and Karl Svensson. Rangers had been strongly linked with a host of other players and signed midfielder Jeremy Clement from Lyon and goalkeeper Lionel Letizi from Paris St Germain as a replacement for the departing Ronald Waterreus. Senegal's World Cup 2002 midfield player Makhtar N'Diaye signed a one year contract after a short trial period with the club.

Rangers' first match under Le Guen was a friendly against Irish Premier League champions Linfield on 6 July 2006 at Windsor Park, Belfast. Rangers won 2-0 with first half goals from Kris Boyd and Thomas Buffel. The squad flew out to South Africa on 9 July for a training camp where they played three matches, the first of which was a comfortable 4-0 win over local opposition with Charlie Adam netting a hat-trick. Rangers also defeated Jomo Cosmos 2-0 but, with a largely depleted starting line-up, they lost their final match 2-0 against Premier Soccer League champions Mamelodi Sundowns. Defender Fernando Ricksen did not take any part in the pre-season tour of South Africa due to what was described by the club as "unacceptable behaviour" on the flight to Johannesburg . Rangers returned to face English Premier League sides Middlesbrough and Bolton Wanderers where they won 1-0 and drew 1-1 respectively. The SPL opening day on 30 July proved fruitful for Paul Le Guen and Rangers as they defeated Motherwell 2-1 at Fir Park, thanks to an early strike from Libor Sionko and the winning header from Dado Prso . 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 2 goals down .

On 9 August, Fernando Ricksen went to Russian Premier League club Zenit St Petersburg, the new club of ex-Rangers manager Dick Advocaat, on a season-long loan. In return, a friendly has been scheduled between the teams at Ibrox on 23 August. On 11 August Rangers signed Manchester United's 19 year old winger Lee R. 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 Hamed Namouchi all departed.

By mid November, Rangers found themselves in third place, a full 15 points behind leaders Celtic. Sporadic wins were mixed with regular dropped points as the team struggled to find consistency in the early part of the season. Rangers did, however, start promisingly in the UEFA Cup, going on to become the first Scottish club to qualify from the UEFA Cup group stage in its three year history. Domestic results and performances, however, continued to be inconsistent and in January 2006, Le Guen controversially stripped midfielder Barry Ferguson of the captaincy

On 4 January 2007 Paul 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, Paul Le Guen: Enigma (ISBN 1845962915) documenting his tenure at the club. According to Spiers, Le Guen left the club because he was being "undermined" by other Rangers personnel, including Ferguson and then club doctor, Ian McGuinness.

Walter Smith's return

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 veteran defenders David Weir and Ugo Ehiogu to sure up rocky backline. This proved too be a steadying influence on the team and they only lost three times until the end of the season.

The following summer he made ten signings, including defenders Carlos Cuellar 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 UEFA Champions League 2007-08 run. But 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 against Zenit St. Petersburg who are managed by former Gers manager Dick Advocaat.


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