Silence at Ibrox speaks volumes for Rangers

IT was, as Ally McCoist stated, a strange day.

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Lee Wallace receives his League One Player of the Year award from Scots curlers Eve Muirhead and David Murdoch
Lee Wallace receives his League One Player of the Year award from Scots curlers Eve Muirhead and David Murdoch

Rangers fans flocked to Ibrox first and foremost to pay tribute to one of their greatest ever sons.

And they certainly marked the passing of Sandy Jardine, who lost his brave fight against cancer last week aged just 65, in a fitting, memorable and touching manner.

The minute's silence before kick-off in the match against Stranraer was impeccably observed by everyone in the 46,093-strong crowd.

And during the game, which McCoist's side won by a comfortable 3-0 scoreline, sporadic chants of the legendary full-back's name broke out in the crowd.

The players, too, wore black armbands and displayed the No.2 that Jardine wore on his back during his playing days on their shorts as marks of respect.

Outside the stadium, the sea of flags, scarves and flowers that festooned the gates since news of his sad departure broke on Thursday evening grew steadily.

No reasonable person could fail to have been impressed or moved at the way the Glasgow club marked the death of a man who meant so much to it in so many ways for so many years.

It underlined all that is good, for all its flaws and troubles, about Rangers.

Yet, after the final whistle, the mood lifted tangibly as captain Lee McCulloch was presented with the SPFL League One trophy by two of their former players, Bobby Brown and Johnny Hubbard.

Fans, players, officials and coaches alike, basked in the culmination of nine months of hard toil in the third tier in the wake of their final home game of the season. The balance between serious reflection and joyous celebration was a difficult one to get right. The club pulled if off perfectly.

That feat was helped no end when McCoist, whose status as a club figurehead is undoubted, dedicated the title triumph to his former colleague and late friend.

He said: "When the news came through on Thursday it was tough for everyone. But the championship success this season is for Sandy.

"It was a day of mixed emotions. It felt a little bit different. We obviously wanted to win the game, pick up another three points and celebrate with the fans as we received the trophy.

"But, no doubt about it, the whole day was tinged with an awful lot of sadness due to Sandy's passing. But I am hopeful the players did Sandy proud with the win and the trophy success."

And still, throughout what was a hugely emotional afternoon for everyone connected with Rangers for so many reasons, anger spilled over from the stands.

An organised protest was, quite rightly, cancelled due to the passing of the first member of the Barcelona Bears team that won the European Cup- Winners' Cup in 1972.

Nevertheless, many supporters were unable to stay silent following the publication of the findings of chief executive Graham Wallace's 120-day business review on Friday. Nearly £70million squandered in an 18-month period. Credit and debit card facilities withdrawn. Redundancies among the staff. Bonuses retained for senior executives.

It was all too much for some. Chants of "Sack the Board" and "Get Out Of Our Club" - among others less printable in a family newspaper - rang out loud and clear from the Union Bears in the Broomloan Road Stand before even half an hour of the game had elapsed.

Now, those billeted in Section BF1 are among the youngest and most partisan supporters. But many, many more around the packed ground joined in enthusiastically with their songs.

On the park, Rangers produced a fine performance, one of their best in many weeks, to brush aside opponents who are set to secure a play-off spot. Goals from Fraser Aird, Arnold Peralta and Dean Shiels saw off the visitors.

With the side maintaining their unbeaten record - they now need to draw or beat Dunfermline at East End Park this weekend to go the league campaign undefeated - there was much to be upbeat about on the park.

But with no sign to an end in the stand-off between Dave King and the board, and with fans still being encouraged to pool their season ticket money in a trust fund, the outlook off the field has not been so bleak since the dark days of administration back in 2012.

McCoist is a glass half-full kinda guy - he would not have lasted so long in his current role if that was not the case - and is optimistic his side will play in front of full houses once again in the Championship next season.

He said: "The fans have been quite incredible and have shown in the last couple of years what the club means to them all. It has been incredible to get 36,000 season ticket holders in the bottom and second bottom tier.

"They have been phenomenal and I don't have any doubt they will continue their support for the club."

Despite the impressive turnout by Rangers supporters at Ibrox at the weekend, it is difficult to share his optimism.

Football

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