The Souness Revolution

The Rangers Story: 1872-2015
Typography

Graeme Souness was appointed as Rangers' first player-manager in 1986. The club's US-domiciled owner, Lawrence Marlborough, concerned at the lack of progress in the 1980s, began to take a more active interest in Rangers, wresting clear control of the boardroom after years of internecine squabbling.

One of his most significant decisions was the appointment of David Holmes as the club's chairman. Holmes' most significant act was to recruit Souness. Souness, drawing on his preeminent reputation in the English game and backed by Holmes' approval of unprecedented transfer spending, kick-started a period in which the arrival of top players from England was a regular occurrence. In his first season at the helm, he brought the championship back to Ibrox - the first since 1978.

The League Cup was also captured with the defeat of Celtic, heralding a period of Old Firm dominance that was to last for the bulk of the next two decades.

The arrival of businessman David Murray as self-styled 'custodian' of the club saw Rangers' resurgence continue. Murray had acquired Rangers for £6m from the increasingly cash-strapped Lawrence group. From the outset, some suggested Murray viewed Rangers as a way of cementing his already high profile in the media and in Scottish business circles.

In the first season of the Souness-Murray partnership (1989), Rangers won the first of what would eventually become nine championship wins in a row.

The Souness years were marked by both achievement and conflict. Under Souness' stewardship, Rangers' pre-eminence in the Scottish game was restored. At a time in which English clubs were excluded from European competition (following the Heysel stadium disaster of 1985), the club also gained arguably a higher profile in the British game than at any time in its history. This was fuelled by the purchase of a succession of English internationals, including Ray Wilkins, Terry Butcher and Chris Woods. It was also fuelled by the controversial signing of Roman Catholic and former Celtic player Mo Johnston, who was persuaded to change his mind at the last minute and sign for Rangers rather than their bitter city rivals. Johnston's signing led to outrage from some fans of the traditionally Protestant club (and fans of Celtic) as he was the first high-profile Catholic to sign for Rangers in modern times.

Despite his success, Souness was never part of the Scottish footballing establishment. His managership saw countless run-ins with the footballing authorities. He was sent off in his début and suffered more than one touchline ban.

Souness left Rangers in 1991 to join his former club Liverpool. Coming before the league campaign reached a dramatic culmination with a last-day victory over Aberdeen at Ibrox, Souness' departure met with mixed reactions amongst Rangers supporters. Many were disappointed. Some bemoaned what they saw as his betrayal of the club. All, however, were united in viewing the Souness years as amongst the most dramatic in the club's history.

The challenge for his successor - his former assistant Walter Smith - was to ensure than Rangers' ninth manager would achieve as much as its eighth.

> Nine in a Row