Recently, I caught up with Rangers author Jeff Holmes, his most recent book, 'Rangers in Russia', documents Rangers’ tour of the Soviet Union in 1962. It’s an educational book for some younger fans and a great trip down memory lane for older supporters who may remember the tour.
Ethan: Firstly, what was your inspiration for Rangers in Russia?
Jeff: “I was working at the Daily Record up until about two years ago and I got a visit from a guy called Murray Roxburgh, who co-runs the Rangers Supporters Erskine Appeal, and he had with him a cracking old photo album, which was quite clearly from another era. It turned out that former Rangers player Harold Davis while on Rangers’ tour of Russia had taken the pictures in 1962. I was born in 1960 so I knew very little about the tour. Harold had come across the album while rummaging around in his loft and offered it to Murray to auction off for the RSEA. Murray asked if there was anything else we could do with it and I said why not build a book around it and give the money to the old soldiers at Erskine, a charity very close to my heart.”
Ethan: If you had to sum up the book for readers, what would you say?
Jeff: “Well, first of all the money was earmarked for Erskine until the guys got Brian Laudrup over for their annual fund-raising dance. Murray suggested I donated the money to the Former Rangers Players Benevolent Fund, which was another cause I had previously worked for and was certainly happy to go along with that. I had a meeting with Colin Stewart, who looks after the old players, and we decided it was the perfect cause, so that’s where the money is going. I would suggest that first and foremost the book will educate younger supporters and tell them a wee bit about one of our great teams in the past. That 1962 side was packed full of established talent as well as up and coming players like Willie Henderson and John Greig. I would suggest at just £5 it’s cracking value, and with over 100 photographs it also allows fans to put faces to names.”
Ethan: Who did you enjoy interviewing the most?
Jeff: “I interviewed Ralph Brand, Davie Wilson, Billy Ritchie and Harold Davis for the book and all four were perfect gentlemen and great to talk to. All four of them were massive stars for Rangers long before the big money, but I got the impression that the kudos of playing for such a big institution was far more important than any amount of cash they may have received. After giving up the game, Ralph Brand became a taxi driver; I never had the pleasure of seeing him play but by all accounts he is one of the greatest goalscorers that ever wore light blue. He was such a humble man and spoke in exalted tones of the day he signed for Rangers. He couldn’t remember much about going to Russia, but he still remembered every little detail about walking up to Bill Struth’s office and signing his contract. He would later move to Manchester City, where he was also prolific; he scored eight goals in eight matches for Scotland!”
Ethan: As a Rangers fan, what are your best memories growing up, and who were your football heroes?
Jeff: “I was born across the road from Firhill and my brothers and dad supported Partick Thistle, but a mate of mine and his dad travelled on the John Greig Loyal, from Maryhill, to all the games. He kept asking me to go and I went to my first Rangers match in early 1970 at Ayr United. I won the sweep, which was £1, and I halved it with my mate, which got me grounded for a week! My greatest memory is between my first European game in 1978, when I saw us win 3-2 against PSV Eindhoven in Holland, and our 1975 title win at Easter Road when my all time favourite player Colin Stein scored. Mind you, our penalties win in the Scottish Cup semi final against them at Hampden a couple of years ago runs pretty close to both of them.”
Ethan: If you had to pick a starting XI of Rangers players you’ve seen play, who’d be in it?
Jeff: “Andy Goram in goal, a back line of Sandy Jardine, Arthur Numan, Richard Gough and Terry Butcher. Then I’d have Ian Durrant, Davie Cooper, Stuart McCall, Ally McCoist, Colin Stein and Willie Johnston, managed by Jock Wallace.”
Ethan: Rangers in Russia is one of the many books you’ve written but what was your favourite to write and research?
Jeff: “Probably my book on Jock Wallace, Blue Thunder, as Jock was a real hero of mine. It made it complete when Jock’s son offered me use of precious family photographs; that was extra special for me and I’ve remained friends with the family ever since.”
Ethan: From the nine in a row seasons – which was your favourite match and why?
Jeff: “1991 at Ibrox against Aberdeen in the title decider. One of the greatest moments of my life. We were like the walking wounded, but then Mark Walters sent over a peach of a cross for Mark Hateley to score with a header and the stadium erupted. It was as loud as I’ve ever heard it. I spoke to Hateley a few weeks ago about it and I mentioned to him that I was working on Mark Walters’ autobiography with Mark, he said “Next time you see him, tell him I made a pretty awful cross look good!” which is a great line!”
One of Jeff’s books ‘Moody Blue’ about Marco Negri is a personal favourite of mine, as is 'Blue Thunder', both of which can be bought by clicking o their respective link. Jeff’s latest book 'Rangers in Russia' can be bought for just £5 at the Rangers Lotto offices on the 2nd floor of Broomloan House. Alternatively you can call 0141 427 4914 to purchase a copy.
I’d like to thank Jeff for talking to me about Rangers and his work. Check out Jeff's website or contact him on Twitter @JeffH1960
You can also share your thoughts me @ethan_thoburn or with @GersnetOnline on twitter!
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