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Christmas Day match turned into a turkey for Light Blues fans

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THERE are certain gifts we all dread receiving at this time of year ...



Eric Caldow played in front of 35,000 fans for Rangers on Christmas Day


but Rangers fans got possibly the worst present ever on Christmas Day way back in 1965.


Their team were edged out 3-2 by visiting Dunfermline at Ibrox in the league.


And that painful reverse allowed their Old Firm rivals Celtic to leapfrog them into top spot in the table.


Football matches used to be played as normal on Christmas Day if it happened to fall on a Saturday.


And Scot Symon's team found themselves up against a formidable side managed by Willie Cunningham on that date 48 years ago.


The Gers, who fielded legends like Eric Caldow, Willie Henderson and Willie Johnston, were leading the race for the Scottish title at the time. So nobody, not the players and not the supporters, minded fulfilling the fixture on December 25 in the slightest.


"We opened our Christmas presents in the morning and played football in the afternoon," recalled Caldow.


"We didn't think we should stop playing just because it was Christmas Day. It was brilliant, great fun."


The fans were certainly happy to forego the turkey and mulled wine to see their heroes play and 35,000 turned up. But Dunfermline - for whom a certain Alex Ferguson played up front - were nobody's fools.


They had just missed out on being crowned champions the season before when they finished only a point behind Kilmarnock.


The Fife club ended up edging a thrilling encounter in Glasgow thanks to a double from Scotland international Hugh Robertson and a strike by Bert Paton.


Goals from Jim Forrest and George McLean ultimately meant nothing for the home team whose supporters trudged back home disappointed.


The fact that across the city Celtic had thrashed Morton 8-1 at Parkhead to go top of the league on goal average did not help their mood.


Caldow said: "I played for Rangers for 16 years and throughout that time we always had good teams. The team we had at that time was no exception.


"But we had lost Jim Baxter the previous summer. Jim was as slow as treacle. But, boy, was he good on the ball. All I had myself was pace. I couldn't tackle a fish supper! If I got in trouble I would pass it to Jim and he would do something with it.


"We did miss him. Dunfermline were a very good team at that time, too. They had players like Alex Edwards, Hugh Robertson and Alex Ferguson."


Ferguson failed to get on the scoresheet that day despite enjoying what he would later describe was the best season of his playing career.


The future Manchester United boss scored 45 goals in 51 games - form that would earn him a move to his boyhood heroes Rangers in 1967.


Robert McElroy, the author of several books on the history of Rangers, was standing on the terraces at that Christmas Day match against Dunfermline.


"With five goals scored it was a thrilling game," he said. "Dunfermline had a very good side at that time and, what's more, were something of a bogey team for Rangers.


"Rangers went a couple of years without beating them. In the 1964/65 season, when Dunfermline finished runners-up, Rangers lost home and away against them.


"Fergie didn't score that day. But he had a habit of scoring goals against Rangers. He had scored a couple against them at East End Park the year before.


"But it was no disgrace to lose to Dunfermline. They qualified regularly for Europe at that time and had some outstanding results. They knocked Everton out of the Fairs' Cities Cup.


"It was quite normal for games to be played on Christmas Day if it fell on a Saturday. New Year was a far bigger occasion in Scotland around that time."


McElroy added: "The Rangers team at that time was not in the same class as that of the early 1960s when they could field the likes of Baxter, McMillan, Millar, Brand and Wilson.


"They were a decent, hard-working side. But they were missing John Greig that day. Roger Hynd, the nephew of Bill and Bob Shankly, played in defence."


McElroy, though, believes the consequences of that Christmas Day defeat to Dunfermline were far- reaching for Rangers.


He explained: "Celtic went ahead at the top of the league table on goal average that day. Jock Stein's side would go on and win the league by two points that season.


"If Rangers had won the league that season there would have been no Nine-In- A-Row and no European Cup triumph in Lisbon for Celtic.


"Rangers badly missed the class and skill of Baxter that season. He wanted to stay at Rangers. But he wanted more money so he left and joined Sunderland.


"He was only after £75 a week. Rangers paid a heavy price, then, for refusing to give him what he was looking for."


Rangers only ever played one more game on Christmas Day after that and the outcome was far more satisfactory for their followers. In 1971, they took on Hibs through at Easter Road - and won 1-0 thanks to a last-minute winner from striker Colin Stein.



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As a schoolboy, I attended the Christmas day match at Easter Road.


Colin Stein's late winner was mutely celebrated, it was freezing on that high old terracing and the constant snow flurries ensured a couple of inches of the white stuff gathered on every head and pair of shoulders. Cheers and shouts mostly, the hands stayed firmly in the pockets.


In the early/mid seventies, Hibs/Rangers matches were hugely anticipated. We had a midfield of Alfie Conn, Alex McDonald, and Tommy McLean. Hibs had Pat Stanton, Alec Edwards, and the sublime Jimmy O'Rourke. Hibs played with a lot of width and pace. Sandy Jardine's reputation as the fastest player in British football was always under threat from Cropley and Duncan. Huge crowds turned up for the games, particularly at Easter Road, there was a Scottish Cup replay in early '73, where 45,000 jammed into the Edinburgh ground. We won 1-2.

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Caldow was and is a gentleman. I met him a few times when I was a refeee and he was the manager of his local team, Cumnock.


He belongs in very select company, as captain of Rangers and Scotland: Tommy Muirhead , David Meiklejohn, George Young, John Greig, Richard Gough, Barry Ferguson and David Weir.


Tom Vallance, Jimmy Simpson, Jock Shaw, Ian McColl, Bobby Shearer, Derek Johnstone, Ally Dawson, Gavin Rae and Lee McCulloch all also captained Rangers and played for Scotland but not sure if any of them ever captained the national side.

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Sammy was captain against England 3rd April 1954. Lost 2 - 4. (Wisnae Sammy's fault)


This was his team.


1 George Farm

2 Mike Haughney

3 Sammy Cox

4 Bobby Evans

5 Frank Brennan

6 George Aitken

7 John Mackenzie

8 Robert Johnstone

9 Jackie Henderson

10 Allan Brown

11 Willie Ormond


Farm was an ok keeper but the only players apart from Sammy were the Hibbees Johnstone and Ormond and to a lesser extent Brown of Blackpool.


McColl was never captain. Shocking ommission!

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Sammy Cox captained both but not full time skipper. Ian McColl? Mibbees.


Thanks for that, the list of captains etc made a great half time quiz at the otherwise boring match yesterday.


I have googled Sammy Cox and it seems you are correct about Scotland " In 1954 Cox played his last match for Scotland, as he captained the team at Hampden in a 4-2 defeat by England in front on 134,544 spectators." So I guess that would have to count although it seems to have been an honour for his long career and he wouldn't be regarded as a captain of Scotland per se. (Wrote this before I saw your post #7).


However I can't find him listed as captaining Rangers though as you say it may not have been in a full time capacity.



Interestingly comparing the two lists I did find a David Mitchell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Mitchell_(Scottish_footballer) in this list but not in the other



Equally interestingly, the second list does not include Jimmy Nichol and he is the only one in the modern era for whom no dates are shown, though his tenure appears to have been during or between McClelland and Patterson.


I was wondering about a list of players who captained their countries but not Rangers. In the modern era I can think of Jonas Thern , Frank de Boer and Henning Berg who played together for us (de Boer and Berg) when their combined ages were 69. I remember watching them on a wet night at Firhill, what a treat. Any others lads? Any player who captained Scotland but not Rangers?

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