A Claret and Amber Opener - Motherwell v Rangers

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On May 6th 1978, the bright sun glinted off silver as our Captain stepped up to receive the Scottish Cup. Rangers had just achieved a 2-1 victory over Aberdeen. The second Treble in three seasons had been secured and skipper, John Greig was the first player since Davie Meiklejohn 50 years before, to be offered a testimonial. Also at Hampden several weeks previously, Ham and Egg picked up the League Cup, after 2-1 extra-time defeat of ra Sellik. The filling in the cup sandwich was the League Flag, secured after a 0-1 win at Tannadice, and celebrated at Ibrox against Motherwell (2-0) the week before the national cup final. Derek Johnstone was Scotland's Player of the Year: he and partner, Gordon Smith had notched 65 goals between them in all games. The national team had qualified for its second successive World Cup finals in Argentina, and were installed as fourth favourites for the trophy. Follow following Rangers demanded a pair of Ray Bans.

The manager, Jock Wallace prioritised the signing of Dundee United central defender, David Narey. The General Manager, Willie Waddell was determined to remodel Ibrox, a lasting legacy for those that perished on the 2nd January '71. As the bulldozers began levelling the Copland Road terrace, the manager's European ambitions diminished. An uneasy personal relationship quickly shattered and Jock Wallace sensationally resigned on the 23rd May, John Greig departed the dressing room and journeyed the marble staircase to be appointed Manager the next day. The Rangers support was recovering from the untimely and tragic death of winger, Bobby McKean. The shocks continued, Derek Parlane left for a fee of £150,000 to Leeds United and Jock Wallace was appointed boss at Leicester City.

Bill Withers sang, 'Ain't no Sunshine' and Rangers supporters hummed the refrain, as life was increasingly lived in the shade. John Greig's first season as Gaffer was one game away from another treble, and his tactical astute football saw us defeat both Juve' and PSV in the European Cup. The new Ibrox was constructed around us, one stand in each of the following three seasons. However, our league position descended and two seasons further on, we languished in fifth. Meanwhile, Jock Wallace had raided Motherwell for two players. Both Ian Clinging and Gregor Stevens moved to Filbert Street for six figure fees. He promoted promising young striker, Gary Lineker and came within an inch of enticing Johan Cruyff to the Blues. Leicester won the second division and reached the FA Cup semi-finals.

The managers' carousel was then, as it is now, perpetual. By the start of season '82/83, it was accepted that John Greig was faltering badly. We had finished third the previous season, 12 points behind Champions, Celtic. The sun was setting but Greig received one more time around with a new central defence. John McClelland had a new partner in Craig Paterson, paying Hibs a then club record fee of £200,000. Robert Prytz from Malmo, Sandy Clark from West Ham, and Dave McKinnon from the Jags came aboard too. Meanwhile, in England, despite finishing eighth in England's top tier, the former jungle fighter cited home sickness as his reason for leaving Leicester and taking over from Davie Hay at 'Well. Looking back with hindsight, I suspect the first symptoms of Parkinson's had appeared?

On the 4th September '82, Rangers opening Championship fixture was at Fir Park. Motherwell had been promoted as Division One champions and exuded expected confidence of a young, fluid team sporting a newly appointed experienced manager, Jock Wallace. The press loved the pairing; Wallace's successor, Greig, was facing his possible successor. The fans loved it too, 20,000 squeezed into the ground, all supporters buoyed by new season enthusiasm. The game lived up to expectation.

Rangers team that day was, Jim Stewart, Dave McKinnon, John McClelland, Craig Paterson, Ally Dawson, Robert Prytz, Davie Cooper, Ian Redford, Jim Bett, Colin McAdam, and John MacDonald. The massive travelling Rangers support were still entering the ground as Rangers started well, forcing a number of corners. 'well keeper, the eccentric Hugh Sproat was performing to standard, wearing a green top and keeping the thrown kitchen sink from entering the net. Sproat at both Ayr United and 'Well supported a number of Bookmakers in their efforts to keep their issue at private schools; in between being cautioned for continually sitting on the crossbar. His real test was minutes away. A through ball saw MacDonald run ahead of former 'Ger, Alex Forsyth. A lunge from the full back felled 'Polaris' and Robert Prytz beat Sproat from the penalty spot. Rangers squandered a number of opportunities before going in 0-1 at half time.

The second half began as the first, lots of Rangers pressure and on the hour mark, the Bears doubled their lead. Davie Cooper cut inside the right back, dummied the rushing midfielder, before squaring the ball to Ian Redford. His shot was parried into the net by Sproat. More chances were created and spurned as the game moved into the last fifteen. A punt down the middle caught Paterson underneath the ball, Well's Bruce Cleland ran off our McClelland and prodded the ball into the net. This was not the McClelland we had witnessed playing for Northern Ireland in the World Cup in Spain two months previously. The question was raised, 'can John only play in the sun'? Further proof arrived ten minutes later when a flighted free kick by John Gahagan was met by Joe Mercer climbing above both our central defenders. He bullet headed the equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw. We first footed Fir Park in the New Year, succumbing to a 3-0 defeat, courtesy of a Brian McClair hat-trick.

Eventually, we finished the season in fourth, 17 points behind Champions, Dundee United. We lost 2-1 in both cup finals, to both Celtic (League Cup) and Aberdeen (Scottish). By early autumn '83, Greig had been dismissed. Both Alex Ferguson and Jim McLean were interviewed, both accepted, returned to their clubs, and both withdrew their acceptances. Rangers were in a mess and the stage was set for Wallace's return. Confidence and fitness improved, and an unbeaten run of 16 League games encompassed a League Cup final victory over Celtic by 3-2. The symmetry was complete and many are opinionated that the tipping point was that last 15 minutes of the Fir Park opener?

Back to the present day, this weekend we have another opener against the claret and amber and Pedro is under pressure. Ian Cathro's demise means Caixinha bears the weight of both Bears' expectation of success, and a salivating media's hope of failure. Last week, on a Beeb Scotland discussion reference the importance of PE Teachers to Scottish football; Cosgrove said to Richard Gordon, "That's another reason for not having all these imported duds. We don't know who there PE Teachers were, ah mean, who was Caixinha's PE Teacher"?

The common currency among the usual suspects is to treat our manager as a figure for ridicule. I hope this quote stimulates Pedro to inspire the team on Sunday. His road to credibility will be longer than most. It's no easy first step, 'Well are four successful competitive games into their season. They have a proven scorer in Louis Moult; 18 and 19 goals for a poorly performing Motherwell side these last two seasons. Richard Gordon revealed Aberdeen have bid £450,000, and may go higher. I suspect our new central defence will tether Moult; however, despite our decent friendly form, I don't see us scoring many from open play either. I predict a repeat of another Rangers manager's first league opener against the claret and amber. Paul Le Guen's side ran out 1-2 winners, goals by Sionko and Prso. Oh, for Dado up front on Sunday.

Possible team (4-4-2):

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