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The Official Biography of Rangers, by Ronnie Esplin and Graham Walker

Posted on October 30, 2011 by samh

Hot on the heels of We Are Celtic Supporters comes this ‘official’ story of bitter Glasgow rivals Rangers. Whereas the former was a rather abstract look at the club’s culture and history through a series of interviews with diverse followers, this is a more traditional chronological history – though it still boasts a number of exclusive interviews with the likes of Sandy Jardine and Ally McCoist.

The book opens with a look towards the future under new owner Craig Whyte, then goes right back to the beginning, telling the story of the four young lads who decided to form Glasgow Rangers way back in 1872. Jardine himself has done much to discover more about the four teenagers from the Gareloch – Moses and Peter McNeil, Peter Campbell and William McBeath. Interestingly, the book also explains that an early history of Rangers, published in 1923, caused much confusion by incorrectly stating that the club was founded in 1873 – so much so that the club actually celebrated its centenary in 1973.

Bill Struth emerges as a central figure – “if one individual has come to personify Rangers above all others it is William ‘Bill’ Struth”. Between 1920-21 and 1953-54 he led Rangers to 18 league championships, 10 Scottish Cups, two Scottish League Cups and many other trophies, and it is clear his words and deeds live on to the present day, still being an incredible influence on the club and its fans.

Those not from Glasgow are most likely to be interested in the chapters describing Rangers’ American tour in 1928 and the wartime relationship they struck up with Moscow Dynamo, as well as the accounts of the Ibrox Stadium Disaster of 1971 (in which 66 fans lost their lives), and previous tragedies in 1902 and 1961.

The book also does not shy away from the inevitable discussion surrounding sectarianism among certain sections of Rangers and Celtic fans, and it acknowledges that the Irish troubles in the 1920s were a “key factor in the deepening antipathy”, and the Northern Ireland Troubles “entrenched some fans’ prejudices more deeply”. The authors add, however, that the “fusion of football with religion and politics was – and is – a matter of profound regret” for many fans. “The social costs were high and as time went on Rangers’ reputation suffered on account of the club’s de facto adoption of a ‘Protestants only’ signing policy of players.”

This is a comprehensive and well-written account of a fascinating and often troubled club history, and, while obviously aimed at the partisan Rangers fan, there is much of interest to the neutral reader. If the reader-added tags on Amazon are anything to go by, though (“made-up pish”, “fairy stories” and “gay fiction”), the majority of Celtic fans aren’t going to touch it with a bargepole. This would be a great shame, as in a perfect world rival fans would strive towards mutual understanding – but such petty, ignorant hatred only serves to encapsulate a lot of the points made by the biography’s authors.

Review by Sam Hawcroft

Buy this book from Amazon

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