A Glimpse of Glamour - by Gordon Young (Bluebear54)

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Foreword: As many of you will already know, Gersnet published an obituary this morning following the extremely sad news of the recent passing of Gordon Young who was a regular contributor to the site and very well known to Gersnet forum members as Bluebear54.

Tragically, Gordon finally lost a year long battle with cancer on Thursday night, but he goes with our love and best wishes as a knowledgeable, passionate and witty Bear who we will all remember very fondly indeed.

Back in October 2013 we asked Gordon to write the article for our very first regular Gersnet magazine column, which has now moved to WATP magazine, but at that time was for Seventy2 magazine.

They were running a Dutch themed special and published below is the full 2500 word article Gordon submitted as an initial draft before he cut it down to the final 1400 word piece for the magazine submission and before the news of Ricksen's illness broke causing some slight changes to the wording.

Gordon knew that his full article draft would be published at some point because we discussed what a shame it was that he had to cut it almost in half to meet the word count requirements for the column and that once a period of time had lapsed where it would no longer affect magazine sales, we could put the whole article out on Gersnet.

In remembrance of Bluebear54, here is his article 'A Glimpse of Glamour':

A Glimpse of Glamour
Written by Gordon Young (Bluebear54)

The Early Years

Although born and raised on the East Coast of Scotland, a maternal grandfather and a father, both passionate Rangers supporters, ensured that I was destined to follow follow in their footsteps when pursuing my lifelong passionate affair with football - an affair which has been split into three distinct phases due to the dice that life has spit out at me.

The Rangers teams of that first phase of my love affair were epitomised by hardy, athletic, spirited Scottish players, such as Caldow, Shearer, Greig, MacDonald and Jardine.

That’s not to say there wasn’t any skill around. Those guys had enough to go along with their other skills, but the Rangers of that era were also blessed with superbly gifted players such as Baxter, Wilson, Henderson and Johnson. Not mentioning any further names is a severe disservice to many great Rangers players of those generations. But they were Scottish, and the style was undeniably Scottish. We didn’t expect any fancy possession football, we hadn’t heard of the beautiful game, and “totally mental” was more often on our lips than “total football.”

We preferred tanner ba’ wingers belting it down the wings, bruisers of centre forwards giving it more elbow than they took, and defenders who didn’t ever take prisoners. On the terraces, like some latter-day Colosseum crowd, we bayed for blood and actively encouraged our heroes to bury or waste opponents. It was expected, it was part of the game and it made for an entertaining spectacle.

In 1972, not long after Rangers had finally won – at their third attempt - the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972, I ventured out again into the world, this time not to return to Scotland until well over a score of countries had worn out my shoes and nigh on thirty years had etched their lines on my face.

In my travels, I have found that there are not many better things to bring two different nationalities together than a pint and a talk about football. I thus unknowingly set out on what in retrospect was further education in the art of football.

It was clear that most fans I spoke to had scant regard for Scottish football and saw it as kick and rush and a tad barbaric. Fine I thought, youse lot are a bunch of pansies.

In those days, most I spoke to were drooling about the Dutch style. And to be honest, from going to games with other fans, I started to see their point. I really did. It took its time, I didn’t initially find it entertaining, but I eventually saw another beauty and another excitement in the game.

Now, when I look back through an old man’s eyes, Rangers were to eventually produce a true glimpse of the beautiful game and that glimpse would be Dutch inspired.

In the course of their 141 year history, Rangers are reckoned to have provided a footballing home for more than 50 nationalities of footballers. With a total of 11 players having played first team football for the Gers, Holland tops that table. And their inspiration topped the table in how we played.

The Early Birds

The first ever first team appearance at Rangers by a Dutch player first team was Peter Huistra in 1990. He was a speedy winger, not far removed from the Henderson/Johnson mould and, as such, he became a firm favourite of the fans. Signed by Souness, he didn’t score barrowloads, but he certainly scored some vital goals for the Club, and won in all five League medals, two League Cup medals and a Scottish Cup medal, including a Treble in 1992-93. Despite a lack of goals, he was superb at making openings, and in my mind he’s still up there with the best we’ve ever had at taking corners.

Shortly after the departure of Huistra for Japan in 1995, two Dutch players arrived almost simultaneously at Ibrox from quite different destinations. In 1996, Theo Snelders arrived at Queen Street from Aberdeen, and Peter Van Vossen arrived at Glasgow Airport from Turkey.

It always says something to me about Rangers that Snelders is held in such high regard by Aberdeen fans, yet many Rangers fans have extremely vague memories of him. Of course, he was a back up to our very own special legend – the Flying Pig – and also Antti Niemi, so he certainly had a job on his hands. Despite this, or probably more to do with injuries to the other two, Theo Snelders managed to make a fair few first team appearances for Rangers between 1996 and 1999 without ever setting the heather on fire.

So, while one of those arrivals in ’96 was destined to be fairly anonymous, the other was destined for almost total notoriety and guaranteed an indelible place in Scottish football folklore. Yes folks! Roll up! I give you the man who taught us all how “to do the Van Vossen.”

Don’t get me wrong now, Peter came to Rangers with a great track record. Ex-Ajax, ex- European Cup winner, a fair number of international caps. It all looked good. And we were also getting shot of Salenko, whom many fans thought was yet one more momentous waste of money. Which in fact, he was.

Couldn’t be better, so Van Vossen was part of the master plan to punt Oleg Salenko to Istanbulspor. Sneaky. Looking back, I can imagine simultaneous moments at either end of Europe when Walter Smith was sitting down in Glasgow with a whisky and Cem Uzan was sitting down in Istanbul with his coffee, both of them laughing like hyenas and thinking “Yes, I got rid of him.”

That moment Albertz unselfishly laid off a pass opening up an empty goal for Van Vossen lives with everyone who witnessed the match. It was the striker’s Old Firm debut, he skied it from all of 7 yards, and his only saving grace was that we were winning 1-0. Peter didn’t last too long needless to say, and after 22 appearances he was on his travels again.

In time, in 1998, like some kind of expectant grandfather, I returned to Scotland, having been kept up to date on a Rangers-rich diet of SKY television, and fully anticipating a bright new future for Rangers where Dick Advocaat had bulldozed in and begun what has been referred to as the Dutch revolution. And if the truth be known, coinciding with my return, those two seasons of 1998-99 and 1999-00 (and also partly 2000-01) showed a real glimpse of glamour.

Here we finally had a Rangers team who were not being routinely dismissed by the European hoi polloi. This was a Rangers team who would win a treble followed by a double and who would go on to demolish a top class PSV Eindhoven side and other noteworthy continental sides such as Parma, Monaco and the best that Germany could offer. Not so much in a Scottish style, but in an entertaining continental style. I could have been forgiven for thinking I had arrived in Heaven.

The Orange Invasion – A Glimpse of Glamour

Advocaat’s first Dutch signings were Arthur Numan and Giovanni van Bronckhorst followed later by Michael Mols, and they were a class apart indeed.

Of all the Dutch players to have played for Rangers, Gio van Bronckhorst is arguably the one that fans have been most fortunate to have seen grace Ibrox’s turf. He was a true thoroughbred, and it didn’t take such a long time for fans to realise that he was maybe a wee bit too good for us to hope to hold on to. Gio ended up being sold to Arsenal in 2001 for close on £9m after winning a treble and a double for Rangers. Gio went on to score went on to score 22 goals for us, 13 in the league, 3in the Scottish Cup, 1 in the League Cup, 3 in the Champions League and 2 in the UEFA Cup. However, these statistics still belie the fact that this player was an essential cog in the machine that Advocaat was assembling, and he very much made that Rangers team tick with his guile, finesse and vision. As confirmation of van Bronckhorst’s quality, he went on to become a Barcelona stalwart while also playing well over 100 internationals for Holland and becoming the Dutch international captain.

In much the same way as van Bronckhorst, Arthur Numan oozed class in the left back position, and after initial problems with injuries, he settled down to become a key part of both Advocaat’s and latterly McLeish’s teams. Signed from PSV Eindhoven, Numan had a respectable international career and became a very welcome sight for fans whenever his name appeared on the team sheet.

As with almost any Rangers player, a cracker of a goal against Celtic, especially when it either wins a game or saves one, ensures legendary status, and Numan’s 25 yard stunner at Ibrox to earn a 1-1 draw was no different in cementing his name into Ibrox folklore.

Of Advocaat’s first batch of signings, Michael Mols probably promised least and I must admit to not being aware of him before he signed for Rangers, but superb goalmouth turning skills and goals against FC Haka, Hearts and then a memorable four against Motherwell followed by two against Aberdeen soon ensured that – like most fans – I wanted to see his name in the starting eleven every week. Another two goals in the 4-1 roasting that Rangers gave a top class PSV side seemed to promise a Rangers career to remember. Unfortunately, in a Champions League match which Bayern were fortunate to win, he suffered a horrific injury in a collision with Oliver Khan. The injury was to keep him out for a season and a half, and unfortunately for both Mols and Rangers, common opinion has it that he was never quite the same player again. Tragic.

Peaches and Plums

Advocaat continued to attract Dutchmen to the Club and in 2000, Rangers fans were salivating at the prospect of Ronald De Boer joining the Club. De Boer had a great pedigree. Ex-Ajax, ex-Barcelona and a notable contribution to the national team. And he certainly turned out to be a peach.

De Boer was like velvet. He had a football brain on him that not many are blessed with. Some of his passing was sublime and a joy to behold. He set up so many chances for Rangers in his four seasons with us, and with De Boer you were always guaranteed your money’s worth. He had a great skill in sneaking in at either post, and quite a few of his goals came that way, but that’s not to say he didn’t score great goals too. He just made everything look so simple and beautiful. In my mind. Rangers were truly fortunate to have him for so long.

If Rangers bought a peach in De Boer, they certainly bought a plum in Bert Konterman, who never really seemed to fit together with Scottish football. Given the millions we spent on him, he should have fit, as a professional courtesy, but he became known to everyone I went to matches with as Bombscare Bertie. I suspect many others had more choice names for him.

Poor old Bertie was forever getting nutmegged, he was forever falling on his bahookey and he was forever laying off slick passes to the opposition. Oh yes, and he scored that last minute peach against Celtic. A 40 yard screamer of a winner in extra time in a CIS Cup semi-final against your greatest rivals. Talk about redemption? Anyway, it wasn’t to be entirely redemption. Bombscare eventually left at the end of the following season, to no great wails of discontent from the Ibrox fans.

So in that 2000 close season, Advocaat bought one peach and one plum. And what about Fernando Ricksen then? Well, he was both a plum and a peach. We got two Fernandos for the price of one. You see, dear wee Fernando did everything bi-polar, didn’t he?

I always remember seeing a PR photo of him on the Club website with these brilliant baby blue eyes. Then I remember seeing a picture of him coming out of some nightclub or police station (he used to frequent both these sort of places with alarming regularity) and I swear his eyes looked like the guinea pig’s in Bedtime Stories. They were literally in orbit. Maybe he had some kind of issue with having Hubertina as a middle name, who knows? Anyway, he didn’t set up about endearing himself to Ibrox. In his first game against Celtic he was substituted very early on, he was dropped from the next two, and he was sent off before half time in the last one.

Fernando was eventually to fall foul of Paul le Guen on a flight to Johannesburg. Something about mixing his alcohol and porn apparently. Now that’s a bizarre kind of six-mile-high club. Sadly for Fernando, there was no more Rangers Football Club. Shame really, because the previous season, he had really pulled himself together and was finally behaving and performing like a player.

The Ones that Missed the Party

A McLeish signing, Ronald Waterreus was signed in the January window of 2005 as cover for Stefan Klos who would have to go through cruciate surgery. The other cover was a young unheard of Allan McGregor. Waterreus rapidly proved himself with some stunning performances, and despite a remarkable recovery by Stefan Klos, Waterreus retained the number one shirt in the 2005-06 season, playing 49 games against the 3 played by Klos. Klos never forgave. Neither did many fans as Klos was a firm favourite.

Frank DeBoer arrived in the January transfer window of 2004 to join his big twin brother Ronald, but their fortunes were to prove to be very different indeed. While brother Ronald had already earned his status in Rangers history as a great, Frank was probably handicapped by that being the season when Celtic were running riot over Rangers, and also the fact that his stay was a short one – only until the end of the season. Goals against Celtic apart, the next best thing for a Rangers player is a life saver against Aberdeen, and my only real memory of Frank is him heading a late goal to save a draw for Rangers at Pittodrie. Scant reward for the shekels as I saw it.

The Real Glimpse of Glamour

So, looking back over those wonderful roller coaster years, despite the peaches and the plums that Rangers bought, I have never concentrated on so much on the individuals we bought. Instead, I have always remembered the outstanding team performances in Europe and those against Celtic most of all.

We were playing in a continental style, we were steamrollering teams, and on the good days you could be forgiven for mistaking players like the young Ferguson, Reyna, Albertz and Amoruso for Dutch internationals, such was the open entertaining play on display. For a wee while, we were a real glimpse of glamour, and for that I am happy.

 

Please feel free to comment on the forum thread for Gordon's article here - http://www.gersnetonline.co.uk/vb/showthread.php?65075-A-Glimpse-of-Glamour-by-Gordon-Young-%28Bluebear54%29