John Greig MBE - The Greatest Ever Ranger (Part 2)

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‘Greigy is a one-off. He epitomises the Rangers spirit and is the genuine article – a true Rangers legend’ – Ally McCoist

There are few players who get to experience the high of winning one treble during their playing careers, John Greig managed to bag three trebles and captained the team to two of those tremendous achievements.

Rangers entered the 1963-1964 season as defending champions after a runaway league campaign where they won the league by nine points from Kilmarnock. Rangers came tantalizingly close to winning the treble the previous season, only a narrow 3-2 defeat to Kilmarnock (our closest challengers for a few seasons around this time) in the League Cup semi-final stopping Rangers from claiming a ‘triple-crown’ (Rangers easily defeated 3-0 in the Scottish Cup Final), but the triple crown was only postponed as Rangers would claim this title during the 63-64 season.

However, after a season of domestic success, no one would have believed that Rangers would then go an astonishing 11 seasons without another league title to their name (more of that later). Rangers started season 1963-64 by destroying Celtic 3-0 in a League Cup section game at Parkhead. Jim Forrest started the season with a bang, netting two goals in the season opener and went on to claim a remarkable 39 goals for the season, including 4 in the league cup final against Morton. Two further group games witnessed wins (5-2 v Queen of The South and 4-1 v Kilmarnock). A further 3-0 victory of Celtic (at Ibrox), along with another 5-2 victory over QoS and a 2-2 draw with Killie ensured that we safely progressed to the knock out stages of the league cup.

The defence of our league title started in the middle of the League Cup section games and we were held to a 1-1 draw away to Dundee with Ralph Brand netting from the spot. Our 2nd league game saw Celtic visit Ibrox and they were dispatched with goals from McLean and Brand in a 2-1 Rangers victory. East Fife were defeated 3-1 on aggregate in the league cup and Motherwell and Hibs were soundly defeated in the league. Our first defeat of the season came at the hands of Real Madrid in the European Cup – a 1-0 reverse at Ibrox. This didn’t appear to affect or domestic form, however, we were to suffer an embarrassing 6-0 defeat in the return game in Madrid.

Again, this didn’t affect our domestic form where we continued to race away in the league and were freely scoring goals in most games, both home and away. Only two draws, at home to Aberdeen and away to title challengers Kilmarnock blotted a near perfect domestic copy-book. The league cup was secured with a 5-0 demolition of Morton at Hampden and as stated above, young Forrest getting 4 of the goals in the final – a fantastic feat. The final will also be remembered for the record attendance of 105,907.

December saw a change of fortunes were let points slip against Motherwell, and lost at home to St Johnstone. We also lost a two-legged British Championship to Everton. The traditional New Year Day game saw us once again victorious against Celtic with Miller scoring the only goal at Parkhead. We lost to Clyde in the Glasgow Cup semi-final, then opened the defence of the Scottish Cup with a 9-0 win over Duns! St Mirren inflicted a rare defeat in a 3-2 win at Ibrox which would be our last defeat of the season until the last game of the season. The league was secured by a comfortable and Rangers were crowned Scottish Champions for the 34th occasion.

Passage to the Scottish Cup Final was guaranteed after Duns, Partick Thistle, Celtic and Dunfermline were put to the sword and Rangers would face Dundee in the final. This final would long be remembered as a classic and is still believed to be one of the finest finals in modern history. Rangers finally run out 3-1 winners with the magically M&B partnership scoring the goals (Millar with 2, Brand with 1).

One further point to note in this wonderful season – we defeated Celtic in every game we played them in that season. Two league victories, 2 League Cup wins and a Scottish Cup triumph.

For the record of League / Scottish Cup Winning Team’s were as follows :

League Cup – Ritchie, Shearer, Provan, Greig, McKinnon, Baxter, Henderson, Willoughby, Forrest, Brand & Watson

Scottish Cup - – Ritchie, Shearer, Provan, Greig, McKinnon, Baxter, Henderson, McLean, Millar, Brand & Wilson

The next time Rangers were to win the league title in 1974-75 season, it would be after 11 long years of hurt in which Celtic dominated the Scottish game and won their 9-in-a-row. The only bright light in this era was the winning for the Cup Winners Cup in Barcelona and our centenary Scottish Cup victory (3-2 against Celtic – famous for Tom Forsyth’s 6 inch thunderbolt that will always be remembered in Rangers folk-lore). The league was clinched with a pulsating 1-1 draw at Easter Road. Colin Stein headed the winning goal, but anyone who witnessed this game, couldn’t forget captain for the day Sandy Jardine being replaced by Mr Rangers in the closing minutes. Greig missed the game due to injury but was sent on to sample the last few minutes. The victory scenes on and off the pitch will live on in the memories of Rangers fans. A huge travelling support finally witnessing Rangers winning their 35th title.

The following season was witness Rangers dominate the Scottish game claiming another treble and with John Greig rejuvenated and he would be voted Player of The Year. As was the norm, Rangers started the season in their League Cup Section with Clyde, Motherwell and Airdrie. Passage was secured without too many problems and we started the defence of our title at the home of our arch rivals and secured a 2-1 win thanks to goals from Derek Johnstone and ‘Cutty’ Young. The following game at Tynecastle saw Rangers win in bizarre fashion, both goals in our 2-0 victory were own goals. After a decent start, Rangers had a very shaky spell of form around the October and November time. This would include a few draws and defeats to Ayr United, Motherwell, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen. We would also be knocked out of the European Cup by a classy St Etienne side. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, we secured the League Cup by defeating Celtic 1-0 at Hampden thanks to a brilliant diving header from Alex McDonald. It should be noted here that by all reports, this victory was dominated by fantastic performances from both John Greig and Tom Forsyth.

We recovered brilliantly from this glitch in form and went on an unbeaten run from Dec 6th (1-0 defeat to Aberdeen) until the end of the season. A run that totalled 32 games, including 21 league fixtures with the league title clinched at Tannidice with Derek Johnstone scoring after 22 seconds. Derek Johnstone would net 31 goals that season and was one of the main reasons for Rangers’ success. However, we can also thank a fantastic strength of squad which is emphasised by the fact that Scottish Internationals Sandy Jardine and Derek Parlane were constantly used as substitutes in the 2nd half of the season.

The Scottish Cup, and final part of the treble was secured with an easy 3-1 victory over Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final with Derek Johnstone finally breaking the deadlock after a nervy 45 seconds! DJ would score again and Alex McDonald score our other goal in the final.

For the record of League / Scottish Cup Winning Team’s were as follows :

League Cup – Kennedy, Jardine, Greig, Forsyth, Jackson, McDonald, McLean, Stein, Parlane, Johnstone & Young

Scottish Cup – McCloy, Miller, Greig, Forsyth, Jackson, McDonald, McKean, Hamilton, Henderson, McLean, Johnstone

After this clean sweep, Rangers entered the 1976-77 season as firm favourites for the league and were considered good bets to repeat the treble. As it turned out, Rangers finished this disappointing season trophyless after losing to Celtic and Aberdeen in the domestic cups and finishing 9 points behind Celtic in the league.
Following the disappointments Rangers signed Davie Cooper, Gordon Smith and Robert Russell - the latter being signed from junior outfit Shettleston and catapulted straight into the Rangers first team. Season 1977-78 wouldn’t start well, but would finish with Rangers securing the 2nd treble in three years, as well as John Greig's 3rd treble of a glittering career. It would also turn out to be Greig’s last season as a player as Jock Wallace’s shock and controversial resignation would see Greig leave the dressing room for the manager's office.

After a less than convincing start where Rangers lost both of their opening league fixtures (3-1 at Aberdeen and 2-0 to Hibs at Ibrox), Rangers then embarked on a run that would see them lose only one of the next 23 games. The highlight of this run, and the whole season was the goal-scoring partnership of Johnstone and Smith. In total they managed an incredible 65 goals between them and this goalscoring phenomenon was ably supplemented by the skill and guile of players like Cooper, Russell, McLean and the drive and passion of McDonald and Greig.

Rangers defeated Billy McNeill’s Aberdeen in a 6-1 route in the League Cup at Ibrox (including a fabulous Gordon Smith hat-trick) going some way to avenge the previous season 5-1 defeat to Aberdeen in the semi final of the same competition. The league cup would be won thanks to goals from Davie Cooper and an extra-time winner from Gordon Smith.

After embarking on such an impressive run of results that included passage to the League Cup final, it appeared that Rangers had negotiated all possible hurdles and that the league was secured for another season – this couldn’t have been further from the truth. We then dropped seven points in seven games that allowed Aberdeen back into the title race. Rangers were to hold their nerve and the title was delivered after defeating Motherwell 2-0 in the final league game of the season. The final whistle brought relief and joy as our 37th title was secured.

The Scottish Cup Final saw Rangers defeat Aberdeen 2-1 (McDonald and Johnstone scoring) but the score-line doesn’t do justice to Rangers’ superiority in the game. Again, the final whistle brought joyous scenes as the players embraced Greig and Wallace to celebrate another treble. However, none of those players or supporters would have guessed that Greig would replace Wallace as Manager in a matter of weeks.

For the record of League / Scottish Cup Winning Team’s were as follows :

League Cup – Kennedy, Jardine, Greig, Forsyth, Jackson, McDonald, McLean, Hamilton, Johnstone, Smith & Cooper

Scottish Cup - McCloy, Jardine, Greig, Forsyth, Jackson, McDonald, McLean, Russell, Johnstone, Smith & Cooper

This season will also be remembered for the tragic passing of Bobby McKean in March of 1978.

John Greig became only the 2nd Rangers player to receive a ‘benefit match’ (testimonial) from the club – Davie Mieklejohn being the first, more than 50 years earlier. Rangers humbled the Scottish national side 5-0 at Ibrox and Greig was awarded a brilliant reception for his services to Rangers.

This unique third treble meant that John Greig finished his playing career with 5 league winners medals, 4 league cup winning medals, 5 Scottish Cup winning medals and a Cup Winners Cup winners medal.

Over the mists of time, it has also been established, that during those dark years of Celtic domination, John Greig was Rangers and he was the main reason for our subsequent rejuvenation and success.