1946-1970 An Historic Treble
AFTER the end of the Second World War, Rangers played host to Moscow Dynamo who wound up a four-match British tour at Ibrox in November 1945. Dynamo had drawn 3-3 with Chelsea and beaten Cardiff 10-1 and Arsenal 4-3.
The Russians scored after three minutes and when Willie Waddell missed a penalty for Rangers it looked like Dynamo would come out on top. But Rangers fought back and held them to a 2-2 draw, despite the fact that the visitors had 12 players on the pitch at one point!
When normal League football returned to Scotland in the winter of 1946-47, it was with a difference. A new competition had been devised, the Scottish League Cup.
Rangers, still under the guidance of long-serving manager William Struth, won the first Final, beating Aberdeen 4-0. They also picked up where they had left off in 1939 by winning the first post-war Championship.
It was as if nothing had changed, and yet there was better to come. A 1-0 victory in a replayed Scottish Cup Final against Morton in 1948 was followed by the greatest season up to then in Rangers' history.
In 1948-49, Rangers became the first team to win the League, the Scottish Cup, and the League Cup in one season. It was the first glorious treble in Scottish football.
In those days, the early stage of the League Cup was played in sections and it looked odds on that Celtic, in the same group as Rangers, would come out on top. That is until Celtic, amazingly, contrived to let in six goals at home to Clyde.
The upshot was that Rangers' final section game against Celtic would decide who would go through. A crowd of 105,000 packed into Ibrox to watch the cliffhanger. Goals from Billy Williamson and Waddell gave Rangers a 2-1 win and pitted them against St Mirren in the quarter-final.
A 1-0 victory and a 4-1 romp over Dundee in the semi set Rangers up for a League Cup Final appearance against Raith Rovers in the Spring. A 2-0 win meant Rangers had completed the first leg.
Rangers path in the Scottish Cup was much more comfortable. They reached the Final with easy victories over Elgin, Motherwell, Partick and then East Fife in the semi, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one.
The Final itself proved no difficulty, Rangers seeing off Clyde 4-1. One curiosity emerged from the match. Williamson, who had scored the winning goal in the previous season's Final, again found the net, giving him the remarkable record of having played in only two Scottish Cup games, both of them Finals, and scoring on both occasions.
The second leg of the treble was now safely at Ibrox, but the odds on them winning the Championship seemed stacked against Rangers. The race for the title had been a titanic struggle between Rangers and Dundee. Rangers had enjoyed an unbeaten run of 12 games but couldn't shake off their rivals.
It was going down to the wire and, on the last day of the season, Dundee needed a draw at Falkirk to seal it. Surely they wouldn't slip up?
Rangers did all that they could with Willie Thornton scoring a hat-trick as they won 4-1 at Albion Rovers. But the news from Brockville Park was astonishing.
Dundee had crashed 4-1. The title and the Treble belonged to Rangers. History had been made.
Much of Rangers success in the post-war years was based on the quality of their defence which was known as "The Iron Curtain".
Bobby Brown didn't miss a game in goal from the start of the 1946-47 season until April 1952. Full backs George Young and Jock Shaw stood behind an uncompromising half-back line of Ian McColl, Willie Woodburn and Sammy Cox.
McColl had succeeded Scot Symon, who was to write his name in the record books by becoming Rangers' third manager in 1954.
Struth was to collect two more League and Cup Doubles in 1949-50 and 1952-53 and among Symon's six Championships, five Cups and four League Cups, he did the Double in 1962-63 and then emulated Struth by claiming the Club's second Treble in 1963-64.
Symon, incidentally, was the first man to play both football and cricket for Scotland, a feat matched by future Rangers goalie Andy Goram in 1989.
Rangers won 25 of their 34 League games during that Treble year, losing just four. They achieved the double over Celtic, but surprisingly lost at home and away to St Johnstone.
The League Cup was secured with a 5-0 victory over Morton in the Final and Rangers beat Dundee 3-1 to lift the Scottish Cup.
It was to be 11 seasons before Rangers would be Champions again. Worse still, Celtic were to win nine consecutive titles during that time.
But there were compensations. Rangers won the League Cup twice (1964-65 and 1970-71) and the Scottish Cup in 1966. On all three occasions they defeated Celtic in the Final.
European competition also beckoned. Rangers had first played in the European Cup in 1956-57, when they had gone out to Nice after a first round play-off, and in 1960 they reached the semi-final, losing to Eintracht Frankfurt.
But in 1961 they became the first Scottish side to reach a European Final when they contested the Cup Winners' Cup against Fiorentina, going down 4-1 on aggregate over two legs.
By 1967 Rangers had reached the Cup Winners' Cup Final again only to face another disappointment, losing by the only goal of the game in extra time to Bayern Munich.
Season 1967-68 saw Davie White installed as Rangers' fourth manager. They lost just one League game in his first term - 3-2 at home to Aberdeen - yet could finish only runners-up to Celtic for the title.
White was dismissed after little more than two years and Rangers turned to former Ibrox star Willie Waddell as their fifth manager in 1969.
Waddell was to make up for those disappointments with Rangers' first European prize. He also won the Scottish League Cup in 1970-71 when a young lad called Derek Johnstone scored the only goal to beat Celtic.But Waddell also had to endure the gravest event in Rangers' history which was about to engulf the Club.