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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Christopher Jack

The story of a historic '77/78 campaign that was the end of an era for Rangers

THE names are plucked from the mind and rhyme off the tongue of David Herd. These are the players of his era, the men who became history makers and Rangers legends.

"You can go through the team," Herd says as he starts and then tails off in an almost wistful manner. "McCloy, Jardine, Greig, Forsyth, Jackson, MacDonald, McLean, Johnstone…"

Those icons of Ibrox were the heroes to a generation. More than four decades on, they are the main characters in Herd's third book about his boyhood club.

The previous two works - titled '1872 – Stories of Rangers Players of Yesteryear' and 'Rangers FC - Kings of the League Cup' - have both been labours of love for Herd. Given his connection to this era, the same can be said of his latest tome.

The passing of time has not diminished the significance of the achievements of one of the great Rangers teams or those that made it up. It has, though, focused Herd's mind and the losses of the likes of Sandy Jardine, Colin Jackson and Tam Forsyth have acted as a spur for him to commemorate those he watched from the terraces as a child.

"There was almost a whole team worth of Hall of Fame players in that side," Herd said as he discussed his book - '1977/78: A Historic Season for Rangers FC and a Treble That Ended an Era' that will be published in May.

"It was their third title in four years, their second Treble in three years. It is not as if '77/78 was their only season of success. I think it is the season that they played the best football in that period and it was the most entertaining football in that season.

"I couldn’t tell you how many appearances all of those players had for Rangers but they are in the hundreds and they gave the club such amazing service and success. There are some great players in there and players that, I think, are not as revered as they should be when you consider what they achieved."

There is no set formula that determines the esteem in which players are held. It is a personal choice for each supporter and recollections of certain moments will often shape the thinking.

Herd was not short of players to look up to. He was 14 when this fabled season began and had already lived through a Treble in season 1975/76, the historic title win at Easter Road and the most famous night in the history of the club as the Bears were crowed in Barcelona.

The squad for the '77/78 campaign had been added to with the acquisitions of Davie Cooper, Gordon Smith and Bobby Russell. It was one that saw Herd become a regular at away fixtures for the first time and few matches were missed as three trophies were collected.

There is not, Herd believes, the appreciation of this side that there is for famous teams that preceded or followed it. He talks appreciatively of what two of those summer signings brought to Rangers but one man stands out.

"The one that made the biggest impression on us all and will be remembered most fondly was Davie Cooper," Herd said. "In the early 80s, he was a beacon at Ibrox. He did things that we hadn’t seen anyone do before and haven’t seen anyone do since. He was a hero.

"That season began the Cooper years. I don’t want to diminish Bobby or Gordon because they were fantastic in that season, but if you talk about the beginning of an era then Cooper had more of an era at Ibrox than so many others."

Rangers looked set for sustained success in the seasons to come after the League Cup, earned thanks to an Old Firm final win, was followed by the Premier Division and another triumph at Hampden. As it transpired, this was the only term that team, one that Herd 'loved', would play together after Jock Wallace resigned in the aftermath of the Scottish Cup final win over Aberdeen and was replaced by John Greig.

The relatively barren years under the guidance of The Greatest Ever Ranger and then the returning Wallace came amid challenges from across the city and from Aberdeen and Dundee United. The league flag didn't fly over Ibrox again until the Souness Revolution.

"I have subtitled the book ‘the end of an era’ and it was," Herd said. "Our greatest captain became manager and he never replaced himself, which was probably the biggest problem he had as a manager, actually.

"It was the last season of the old Ibrox, the last season of Jock Wallace first time around. It was the last season of Jock Stein at Celtic and the summer of Ally MacLeod in Argentina, so it was the last year that Scots believed we could win the World Cup.

"It was the end of a lot of things but the start of a lot of things as well, like Aberdeen coming with Willie Miller and Gordon Strachan, Jim McLean was building at Dundee United. It was almost like a changing of the guard in Scottish football around that time."

The second place that Rangers achieved the following season was close as Greig would come to landing the title as boss. Both cups were lifted that term and later followed by the Scottish Cup in 1981 and the League Cup the campaign after that.

In October 1983, Greig resigned and was replaced by the returning Wallace. The appointment of Greig had been a sliding doors moment for Rangers. Herd also thinks 'what if?'

"He didn’t get an apprenticeship," Herd said. "If you compare it with Billy McNeill, for example, he managed Clyde and went to Aberdeen and he very nearly won the league that year. Then he became Celtic manager and already had all of that experience behind him. John Greig went straight from captain to manager.

"Looking back, I wish we had appointed Alex Ferguson. He was the manager of St Mirren and that was the first season he had managed in the Premier League after taking St Mirren up the year before. He had a cracking team at Love Street and then went to Aberdeen when Billy McNeill left.

"You kind of wish we had given it to Ferguson instead of John Greig and he could probably have played another season to be honest with you."

The trials and tribulations on the park were shaped by the redevelopment and the modernisation off it. Ibrox as it stands today is a tribute to the victims of the Disaster as well as a reminder of the club being at the forefront of stadium safety and design as those iconic, emotive terraces were replaced.

The team of '77/78 were the last to play at the Ibrox that had been home to generations of supporters. Like the collective and the individuals, it retains a cherished place in the hearts and minds of those who were lucky enough to be there.

"It actually took a lot of getting used to," Herd said. "More and more of us used to congregate in the areas where there was still standing until there was none left.

"When my dad first took me, we used to go to the old Enclosure across from the Main Stand and that became the Centenary Stand. Then we moved to the Enclosure under the Main Stand.

"As the stands started going up, I moved about to the Enclosures and behind the goal because I preferred standing back then. Then you had no choice and eventually you got used to it.

"Even when the stadium did change, it wasn’t as it is now with season tickets and sitting in the same seat and beside the same people. You could still go with your pals and with the people you wanted to be with. It was very different back then."

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