There have been a number of occasions in my time supporting Rangers when everything changed.
I remember sitting in a Naafi outside Belfast watching Rangers play Shelbourne in a Euro Qualifier in one of Advocaat's first matches, Smith's 9IAR team had broken up in the summer and I think I recognised about two Rangers players that night, it really felt like the end of one era and the beginning of another.
Likewise when we played our first matches in Division Three: McCoist, McDowell and Durrant remained familiar faces but a lot of the team were new and the feeling of complete uncertainty that had enveloped the club for months remained. A few years later I was watching Warburton's first competitive match against Hibs, we were following it on an iPad while travelling to a wedding. Once again most of the players were unfamiliar, so was the manager, it was another changing of the guard so to speak, a break with the past and a new era beginning.
Throughout all that one man remained constant, a familiar face in the background, a reassuring presence for supporters who are far from the boardroom or the dressing room. Despite his low profile it was clear; Jimmy Bell was someone players, coaches and managers gravitated too. You'd see him in the background of Rangers News photoshoots from some sun-drenched preseason training camp. You'd see him coming off the coach on Sky Sports as the camera searched for a big name player, these days you'd see him in the background as the club posted social media pictures from the training ground or travelling to a match.
Despite what so many people think football clubs aren't businesses in the normal sense. The hint is in the word club. Rangers epitomise this as much as any. We've had turbulence in recent years, some amazing highs and terrible lows, yet we remain. A club greater than the sum of its parts. As supporters we celebrate the ephemeral, the transient player who thrills for a few season, the great performance that brightens us for a few months, the trophies we celebrate until the next campaign starts. But I think that as supporters it's really the long term recognition we cling to. The things that don't change like the marble staircase, the blue jerseys, the St Etienne bike; things we value way above their actual value. Jimmy Bell was one of those. His presence reassured us that everything would be okay, whilst everything on the surface had changed below the surface everything was the same. We've really needed that reassurance at times.
I never met Jimmy Bell, I never spoke to him. Yet he was as familiar to me as any player or manager. He played an important role, far more important than managing the kit or driving the coach, he represented us in the club. Today is a sad day in the history of Rangers.