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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Stephen Halliday

How Philippe Clement is treading Graeme Souness' 'individual catalyst' Rangers path

The image of Graeme Souness with the League Cup trophy in his hands for the first time remains vividly imprinted in the mind of David Holmes.

Even 37 years on from the 2-1 win over Celtic at Hampden in October 1986, the former Rangers chairman is in no doubt as to the significance of that final in shaping his remarkable transformation of the Ibrox club.

It’s why Holmes believes winning domestic silverware at the first attempt might be as telling for Philippe Clement as it was for Souness.

The visionary recruitment of Souness as player-manager earlier in ‘86 was the biggest statement of intent Holmes could possibly have made after he was placed at the helm of Rangers following the Lawrence Group’s acquisition of a controlling interest the previous year.

But Holmes always knew that he and Souness would be judged on silverware alone, just as current Rangers boss Clement will be as he pursues League Cup glory against Aberdeen at the national stadium this afternoon. 

“It doesn’t matter what else you say or do, it’s all about winning trophies when you are in a position of responsibility at Rangers,” says Holmes.

“Graeme was the individual catalyst for everything I needed to implement at Rangers but that afternoon at Hampden was the day which collectively galvanised the club as a success story.

“That’s why this League Cup final is such a significant occasion for Philippe Clement. He has made an encouraging start to his tenure but getting his first piece of silverware for the club at the first time of asking could make all the difference to whether he becomes a successful Rangers manager or not.”

Holmes recently returned to Ibrox for the first time since his departure as chairman in 1989 to launch his book One Voice which chronicles his account of one of the most dramatic periods in Scottish football history.

He backed Souness with high profile signings such as Terry Butcher and Chris Woods as he transformed Rangers following a long period of mediocrity.

“In the business plan I set out to secure the funding I wanted from the bank for that first season, I had included winning the league and at least one of the two domestic cup competitions,” says Holmes.

“Given the poor condition Rangers were in before I was put in charge by Lawrence Marlborough, the bank took a fair bit of persuasion before they would commit to it. But getting Graeme in as player-manager was the bargaining chip which sealed the deal for me.

“By the time that League Cup final against Celtic came around, however, there was a lot of pressure on both myself and Graeme to vindicate what we had done in rebuilding the squad with the level of investment which had been put in.

“It had been a difficult start to the league campaign and when we went into the final in October, we were third in the table. Celtic were top and three points ahead of us when it was still just two points for a win.

“Of course, everyone remembers the opening day of the season at Easter Road when we lost 2-1 to Hibs and Graeme was sent off in the first half. There were no shortage of people outside of Rangers who had been hoping to see us fall flat on our faces and we gave them some ammunition that day.

“But although I wasn’t a happy man with so much of what went on in that game, there was one aspect of it which assured me things were definitely going to work out in the long run for us.

“When it all kicked off and the Hibs players crowded around Graeme after his red card, every single Rangers player - including our goalkeeper Chris Woods - raced in to try and protect him. That told me I had recruited the leader I believed Graeme would be for Rangers and that the players were prepared to follow him no matter what.”

Davie Cooper’s coolly taken spot-kick with six minutes remaining secured the pivotal League Cup triumph for Souness after Ian Durrant’s opener had been cancelled out by Brian McClair in a tempestuous final which saw Mo Johnston sent off in the closing stages.

“We went into the final as underdogs, even though we had beaten Celtic 1-0 at Ibrox in the first Old Firm game of the season a couple of months earlier,” recalls Holmes.

“They were the reigning league champions and were top of the league. We were also dealt a blow when Graeme was ruled out of the game through injury.

“But the team rose to the occasion superbly. Derek Ferguson and Ian Durrant were outstanding in the middle of the park and you wouldn’t have wanted anyone else in the world to take that penalty other than Davie Cooper.

“He was a wonderful player, the most talented of any of those at the club during my time at Rangers. I didn’t have the slightest doubt he would score.

“It was a hugely important goal and winning the League Cup that day really kick-started everything else we went on to achieve, including winning the league title that season.” 

One Voice by David Holmes and Stephen Halliday is available to purchase at

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