Now under Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, Rangers may have at last won an Old Firm game but the record Scottish champions still trailed bitter city rivals Celtic by nine points by the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
But, with Europe to look forward to, it’s all a far cry from 2012, when the club went into liquidation. A new company was formed and the most titled club in world football (54 league titles, 60 cups) had to commence the following season in the fourth flight, against the likes of Annan Athletic and Stirling Albion.
After a slow start, bringing laughter to Celtic Park but boosting attendances everywhere, Rangers walked the league and repeated the feat with near maximum points in the third flight in 2013-14. The run then ended in May 2015, a play-off defeat to Motherwell barring the way to a straight three-division climb back to the Scottish Premiership.
Under Mark Warburton, Rangers picked themselves up in 2015-16, goals from Martyn Waghorn helping The Gers win the Championship by an 11-point margin. It was his former Wigan team-mate, defender James Tavernier, who scored the solitary goal that beat Dumbarton to bring top-flight football back to Ibrox. Ironically, Tavernier then missed in the penalty shoot-out against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final, a thrilling tussle eventually won by Rangers after a 2-2 draw and spot kicks.
Meanwhile, the club is still in all kinds of financial turmoil. Posting serious financial losses in March 2014, six months later Rangers raised some £3 million in shares – just enough to keep the club going. In 2014-15 alone, Rangers went through three managers – and three chairmen.
What would the club’s founding fathers have thought? Formed in 1872 by four local teenagers, Glasgow Rangers first played at Glasgow Green, in the city’s East End – today home of rivals Celtic. After moving to industrial Govan, Rangers claimed early cup wins and a share of the first Scottish league title.
The star man was Bill Struth, who later coached for three decades after World War I, building an unstoppable side with mercurial inside-forward Alan Morton. Post war, more silverware came with imposing centre-half George Young.
In the European era, Rangers were the first Scottish club to make a major final, losing the Cup Winners’ Cup to Fiorentina in 1961. Six years later, Bayern Munich repeated the feat.
With Celtic dominant at home, Rangers still featured some of the greatest players to grace the field in Scotland – notably, cheeky midfield player ‘Slim’ Jim Baxter. After his retirement, captain and full-back John Greig, forward Willie Johnstone and midfielder Willy Henderson overcame the Ibrox stadium disaster of 1971 – in which 66 fans died at an Old Firm game – to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup. The 3-2 win over Dynamo Moscow was also marred by a crowd invasion, but Rangers had their European trophy.
The highlights of the leaner 1980s were star forwards Davie Cooper and Ally McCoist. With young entrepreneur David Murray as chairman, old business practices were abandoned, Catholic Mo Johnston signed, and player-coach Graeme Souness hired.
Souness brought in top English internationals Trevor Francis, Trevor Steven and goalkeeper Chris Woods. Rangers won nine titles on the trot. In the Champions League, they narrowly missed out on a final place to eventual winners Olympique Marseille.
With new stalwart coach Walter Smith came a major coup: Paul Gascoigne. Along with Brian Laudrup and McCoist, Gascoigne provided entertainment – but no European success.
Enter Dutch coach Dick Advocaat. The side acquired defensive steel and midfield grit, thanks to Barry Ferguson and Neil McCann. Two league titles were easily won but Rangers didn’t have enough to beat Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in Europe.
Advocaat made way for Alex McLeish, who overcame a shock defeat to Viktoria Žižkov in the UEFA Cup to win the domestic treble.
Prior to the 2012 meltdown, Smith had successfully returned to lead the club to three more titles and another European final. Defeat to Advocaat-led Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester came with inevitable crowd trouble.
To his credit, manager and Rangers icon Ally McCoist stuck to his task of hauling the club through the lower echelons of the Scottish game – though motivation could not have been easy on a cold afternoon in Peterhead.
After winning the Scottish Championship in April 2016, Rangers not only ended four years of humiliation but then enjoyed a satisfying victory over Celtic in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup a fortnight later. The final finished with a late reversal by Hibs to snatch the trophy.
Shock defeat to Progrès Niederkorn of Luxembourg in Europe saw rapid managerial changes – and the subsequent arrival of Steven Gerrard in May 2018. A reasonable effort in the group stage of the Europa League at least restored credibility.
Conceived by Glaswegian engineer Archibald Leitch, Ibrox is today a modern, all-seated arena. Leitch’s magnificent main stand remains – as do the surroundings of dour, industrial Govan.
Rangers moved to Edmiston Road, Govan in the 1880s. A grandstand was erected and a stadium inaugurated in 1887. With growing crowds, a new one, Ibrox, was built alongside in 1899, and a grandstand in 1900. In 1902 it became the scene of world’s first football disaster, when 26 spectators perished on a collapsed wooden terrace at a Scotland-England international.
Officials brought in Leitch to construct a new arena around it. In 1910 he did, a large bowl to house 63,000 spectators in relative comfort for the day. The capacity increased to 80,000-plus after World War I. In 1928, Leitch conceived the magnificent main, South Stand, today a listed building and still integral to the stadium. Its vast granite façade hid a fine interior, a marble staircase leading to the club offices. Opposite stood the Govan Stand, then known as the Bovril Stand because of the advertising. On January 2, 1939, 118,567 saw an Old Firm game here, an all-time British record.
Despite a later crowd limit of 80,000, Ibrox suffered another tragedy on January 2, 1971, when 66 fans died in the last minutes of an Old Firm game. Then Rangers manager Willie Waddell helped plan a safer ground, visiting Borussia Dortmund for advice. In 1981, the Bovril Stand became the Govan Stand, with seating for 10,000. Ibrox lost its oval shape, and became a ground of four rectangular stands: Govan, behind the goals Broomloan and Copland Road, and Leitch’s, now named after Bill Struth.
With £50 million from chairman David Murray, more development included an upper tier in the main stand, Ibrox now an enclosed, modern all-seated two-tiered arena of 51,000 capacity. In the northern corners were jumbotron TV screens for immediate action replays. Boxes and executive suites complemented the plush Argyle House restaurant.
Copland Road is the Rangers end. Away fans are usually allocated a lower tier of the Broomloan end by the Govan Stand.
Ibrox has its own stop on the ‘Clockwork Orange’ circular underground, a 15-minute journey from central St.Enoch’s Square. On match days, if mobbed, walk five minutes to less crowded Cessnock around the corner, with more pub options. The many city buses include the Nos.4, 9A, 23 and 23A.
Tickets are available via the club hotline (UK only, daily 9am-9pm) 0871 702 1972, in person at the stadium Ticket Centre (Mon, Tue, Fri 9am-5pm, Wed 10am-5pm, Thur 9am-6pm, Sat from 10am) and online. General sale is usually not available for Old Firm games with Celtic. Prices for most Scottish Premiership fixtures are £22 behind the goal in the Broomloan rear tier, £27 in the Sandy Jardine rear tier, £24 for seats nearer the goals in the Bill Struth Main Stand, rising to £34 for better ones.
The Megastore by the Ibrox main entrance offers fans the chance to put their own name and message on a commemorative brick (£50), buy DVDs of the glory years (‘The Story of 9 in a Row, pts I & II’) and purchase tickets for the stadium tour (see below).
‘Access all areas’ tours run Fri-Sun (not match days) and cost £8, £5.50 for children. It’s £30/£20 if led by a Rangers legend.
Nearby pubs are fiercely partisan. Rangers faves on and around main Paisley Road West include the Louden Tavern (‘The Quintessential Rangers Supporters’ Pub’, its walls covered in memorabilia, right by Ibrox Subway station at 111 Copland Road), the Grapes Bar (218 Paisley Road West) and the District Bar, on the corner of Paisley Road West and Harvie Street, with a Davie Cooper Memorial behind the bar counter.
A few steps down from the District Bar is another Louden Tavern at the other end of Harvie Street, referred to as the Louden Tavern KP (‘Kinning Park’).
Few outside Glasgow may realise that there are Rangers bars in the city’s East End, perceived as the heartland of Celtic support. These venues include the original Louden Tavern on Duke Street and, close by, the heavily-themed Bristol Bar.
Back around Ibrox, away fans are usually welcome on match days at the Wee Rangers Club at 250 Edmiston Drive, close to the stadium behind the Broomloan Road end.