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One hundred years ago, Rangers trotted out to play Heart of Midlothian on their shiny new ground - a place called Ibrox Park. Some of you who follow, follow Scottish football might have heard of it. Ibrox Stadium has witnessed great triumphs - and stared at death in two horrible disasters.
Next week, a packed Ibrox will noisily celebrate its heroes ... and quietly remember it's victims. Afterwards, wonderful stories will be told.
The Jambos, as fate would have it, are the opposition again on Wednesday and Rangers will whoop it up with a birthday parade of some of the greatest names ever to wear the light blue jersey. Gazza's coming home. Brian Laudrup is flying over from Holland. Greig, Baxter, Shearer, Henderson, Niven and 50 other Rangers legends will be on parade. Coisty will be late as usual. Win or lose, it will be a night of cheers - and a few tears.
There's the tale of Bill Struth's tomatoes. The legendary Rangers manager grew them in a glasshouse that sat right next to the ground's "Celtic" end. But in decades of Old Firm rivalry, he never lost a single pane of glass to hooliganism. His successor, Scott Symon, was so proud of Ibrox that even stray seagulls were looked on as untidy intruders. He'd dash to his office, emerge with an airgun and take pot shots at the birds who dared perch on his pitch.
Frank Sinatra sang there, Jim Watt fought there and Eric Liddell, the "Chariots of Fire" Olympian, trained there.
The date 1873, the founding of Glasgow Rangers, is stamped in every fans' memory. It's also been tatooed on a few thousand forearms over the years. But no one is around today who saw Rangers first play at Flesher's Haugh on Glasgow Green. During 1875-76 they spent a season at their first private ground at Burbank off Great Western Road, in the shadow of St Mary's Cathedral. Rangers then moved to Kinning Park before opening the "first" Ibrox in 1887. But 12 years later, their landlords said they wanted back part of the land which is now the site of the Edmiston Club. The Gers were again faced with removal - but it must be one of the shortest flittings in football history. The land they were offered was just 100 yards away. Rangers had pounds 5600 in the bank and badly needed to raise more funds. The members decided to go public and in May 1899, 12,000 one pound shares in "Rangers Football Club Limited" went on sale. Renowned stadium architect Archibald Leith was hired to design the "New Ibrox Park". Use was made of the Old Ibrox stand and Leith incorporated triangular "lattice" frontage that was to be his trademark at other grounds like Arsenal's Highbury and Everton's Goodison Park Despite many changes to Ibrox, the "lattice" remains. And to this day, Rangers have refused to allow advertising hoardings to cover up this unique part of their heritage.
In those early days, terracings were supported by a network of timbers - a criss-cross of wood many will recognise from supporting old fairground roller-coasters. These helped accommodate the average gates of 15,000 and the 30,000-plus generated when Celtic came to visit. But in 1902, Ibrox was awarded the Scotland v England international and a sensational 70,000 crowd was predicted. The ground was full a full hour before kick-off. But one of the young stadium's proudest days was to turn into one of its blackest. The huge gate proved too much for the timbers below. Stories at the time said the crowd swayed trying to glimpse the incredible dribbling skills of Scotland winger Bobby Templeton. Twenty five people died and 400 were injured as the supports gave way and sent spectators tumbling up to 40 feet. Rangers were distressed by the fatalities and helped assist bereaved families. It led to the end of wooden terracings and the introduction of earth banks. Rangers put to good use slag and ashes from the furnaces of Glasgow's heavy industries. In 1904, Rangers ended the rental years by purchasing Ibrox for pounds 15,000 - not even a week's wages for some of the current first team. Improvements included the addition of an athletics track which hosted the Rangers Sports - a huge attraction which drew record-breaking athletes until their demise in the 1950's. In 1917, it was considered a fitting venue for King George to hand out medals to our war heroes.
Twelve years later, Rangers embarked on a development that, in the words of club historian David Mason, "will remain a monument to the club's forefathers who believed that only the best was good enough for Rangers". David claims he's no relation to Lord Provost Sir David Mason who opened "The Grand Stand" on New Year's Day, 1929. It was opulent to the point of being ridiculed as ostentatious. Struth said it would be there long after other grounds had gone and he's been proved correct. The frontage is now a listed building and the marble staircase and "Blue Room" are a part of Scottish football folklore.
No one took particular heed to two tragic deaths in 1961 when fans were crushed. Willie Waddell, one of Rangers most famous sons, took charge in the late 60s and he had a vision for Rangers. But on January 2, 1971, an event occurred that was to change attitudes at Ibrox - and then the ground itself - forever. A late goal at an Old Firm match saw a surge of fans trying to get back into the ground from the fated Stairway 13. Supporters were crushed, trampled and suffocated in the panic and horror that followed. Sixty six fans died and 145 were injured that chill evening. Rangers vowed the safety and comfort of their support would be a priority. Sandy Jardine, who played in the fateful match, says most players were unaware of the horror unfolding just 200 yards from their dressing room. But by Monday morning every single one of them knew of his responsibilities. Jardine said: "Everyone injured was to receive a visit from a player or an official and the club was to be represented at every funeral. If an injured fan had a favourite player, and word got back to Ibrox, Mr Waddell would make sure that player made a personal visit. "We didn't train for two weeks but no one could say Rangers didn't respond to the tragedy. Waddell was magnificent."
Rangers then embarked on a ground improvement programme that laid the foundations for the Ibrox their fans love and recognise today. Waddell scoured Europe for ideas and decided Dortmund's Westfalenstadion would be his blueprint. The 'jungle' opposite the main stand was razed and a Centenary Stand built with 10,000 seats. In 1978, the Copland Road stand emerged from the rubble on the traditional "Rangers end". The Broomloan Stand, at the opposite end, followed and in 1981 the Govan Stand replaced the unpopular Centenary Stand. To allow for the changes, the stadium's capacity was slashed from 100,000 to just 40,000. But Rangers gained financially from the hospitality areas these new stands offered.
When David Murray arrived on the scene, he wanted improvement on the pitch and asked Graeme Souness to take Rangers into the modern era. He also wanted improvements off it - and sanctioned the ambitious new tier on the old Main Stand. Two cranes had to be imported from Argentina to lift the 141-metre, 480 tonne beam into place. It cost pounds 20 million - twice the price of the three other stands. But it added to the club's hospitality areas, clawing back the money from day one. By filling on the last unseated corners of Ibrox, it now seats 51,000 supporters. Jardine, now an Ibrox PR official, said: "It really is special place. There is a tradition here that no other club in the world can match. Everyone has a special memory about a part of the ground. Fans can remember the day Baxter passed from here or there and from where Gazza scored. It's incredible the bond they have with the place. I remember at training spotting little burnt areas. These were people who had sneaked in at night and sprinkled the ashes of former fans on the pitch. Despite all the changes, it's still Ibrox. I've taken former players on to the pitch and when they see the lattice on the stand they say 'yes, it's just like I remember it'. I've met lots of visiting English players who have driven north because they've heard about Ibrox at an Old Firm game. I think we had half the Newcastle team at the last one!"
To add to the celebrations, Rangers would like to find the whereabouts of the manager's cocktail cabinet. Club historian Mason said: "It disappeared ages ago and no one can trace it. It was a magnificent art deco cabinet in black lacquer with the RFC logo. It wasn't stolen, it was just removed before we appreciated the history of the club. I'm not saying we want it back, although Rangers might consider it. But it's nice to know where these things have ended up, even just for our records. Wooden RFC logos from the old press box must be out there somewhere as well. Some people may have documents or photographs that would add to the great Ibrox jigsaw. I'd be happy to examine any item sent to me at Ibrox - and return it, of course"
The centenary arrangements are well underway, though, and with 51,000 in the stadium the noise will be immense. Especially if they're all singing Happy Birthday at once.
An aerial picture(33.5Kb) of the Stadium during the 1960s
The view from the Broomloan Road terrace during the 1960s(45.6Kb).
Ibrox(36.4Kb) on a matchday.
The Copland Road end of the Main Stand before(20.1Kb) and after(17.5Kb) the addition of the Club Deck.
The filled in Broomloan Road/Govan Stand corner(19.0Kb) complete with big screen.
The famous Rangers Trophy Room(65.3Kb)
The Argyle House(31.5Kb) behind the Govan stand.
Plan(37.4Kb) of the Stadium.
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