The Rangers guilt I still feel as stinging Frankfurt verdict led to Scot Symon’s clumsy run – Archie MacPherson

They say time is the great healer. I would dispute that.

My confrontation with Scot Symon in a hotel by the River Tay in November 1967, just after he was unceremoniously sacked by Rangers when they were top of the league, still makes me feel someone’s guilt. ‘one found with his hand in the crate.

And this chilling experience has its roots in the game he chaired in Frankfurt against Eintracht on April 13, 1960.

His dismissal, seven years after that humiliating night, demanded an honest analysis of his career for our television program.

Ian McMillan was the obvious choice. Signed by Symon from Airdrie in 1958, the classic Scottish inside striker was one of those players who was gifted by nature to turn his passing game into an art form.

He was also universally regarded as one of Scottish football’s gentlemen. In our studio, I introduced him as the little prime minister after his namesake Harold in Downing Street, whose famous 1957 statement, “You’ve never had it so good”, about the economy, could also have referred to the Ranger community enjoying the Symon era.

Symon would lead them to six League Championships, five Scottish Cups and four League Cups – a record which you would have thought might insulate him from any critical attack. But life doesn’t often turn out that way.

McMillan was no personal stranger to me. I had recruited him before to do analysis for the BBC and had occasionally played golf with him, where he was the model of discretion when he came to talk about Ibrox.

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Nothing vaguely political or controversial ever crossed his lips. This extended to the playing field where, as an immaculate ball player, he could be at the end of some rough treatment.

But the strongest words anyone knows he ever said to an opponent were, “Go and pee!”

Something, however, prompted him that night to open up in a way I hadn’t bargained for.

Unexpectedly, I heard a man cast a critical light on the parochial nature of Scottish football and even caused Symon’s wife to conjure up murderous thoughts about me for having the nerve to manipulate an attack on her husband. Not bad for a six-minute conversation!

Everything was triggered by the mention of this 6-1 defeat in the semi-final first leg of the European Cup in Frankfurt.


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Almost with painful politeness, he nonetheless aimed at Symon. His description of halftime that night in the Rangers locker room is still etched in people’s minds. It was then 1-1. Dieter Stinka opened the scoring, then Eric Caldow equalized for Rangers from the penalty spot after a foul on McMillan. These bare statistics actually hide the mess that was developing.

He opened up telling me the score was a bust. They had been completely outclassed. They risked being overwhelmed. The pace of their opponents was terrifying. Their midfield was crushed. Eintracht had hit woodwork several times. Rangers had to regroup, change their approach, strengthen the defence. “So what was the headmaster doing?” he asked rhetorically. His own response had a devastating effect on me and the general public, including the Symon family.

“He was in a corner sipping a cup of tea. He does not say anything.”

According to McMillan, not a word of tactical change was uttered.

Something had to come from the leader. Nothing did. McMillan was surprised. They were overwhelmed with five more goals against them in the second half, leaving the second leg at Ibrox academic in nature – although hardly an example of lessons learned, as they went down 6-3.

I knew our audience would accept the truth of McMillan’s account, he was of impeccable origin and not just swinging the ax of the usual grievance.

Likewise, I realized it would shock and hurt the manager who brought him to Ibrox, although I didn’t appreciate at the time how much it had affected Symon’s family as a whole.

But it also shed light on the antiquated approach of a time of rapid modernization in European football – the manager in tracksuits was not yet common in our country.

Indeed, later former Rangers captain Bobby Shearer told me that Symon’s unsurprising adoration of Jim Baxter, who joined the club following their European disaster, was so intense that any the manager’s tactical philosophy could be summed up in the phrase: “Give the ball to Jim.

It might seem like a farcical characterization of a manager who took the club to two European Cup Winners’ Cup finals, in 1961 and 1967, despite losing both.

He certainly saw it that way. A few days later came the strange confrontation. On my way to Dundee to see a European game, I stopped at the Isle of Sky Hotel in Perth to sample my favorite Wild Tay Goose sandwiches. At the restaurant, I walked straight into Symon sitting at a table with a friend. The meeting was inevitable.

He saw me coming, put down his knife and fork, looked me straight in the eye, and calmly said, “If my wife had caught you on Saturday night, she would have gouged out your eyes.” And calmly, he then added: “However, you are entitled to your opinion.”

He then started eating again and turned his back on me. He and his wife identified me as THE conspirator.

I guess in some way I was lucky because if it had been a confrontation with Jock Stein or Willie Waddell, under the same circumstances, I probably would have ended up in the River Tay myself with the wild geese.

On the other hand, if that dignified response was meant to make me feel like a skunk, for a considerable amount of time, it worked.

But McMillan had spoken a truth, not just about Symon, but about Scotland’s gaming culture as a whole, when in 1960 we lay asleep, when the rest of Europe took the scientific road to success and established tactical plans that were foreign. ours.

Until another man on the other side of Glasgow, seven years later, transformed the Scottish landscape.

The Rangers squad heading to Sevilla are led by a man who could never be accused of such a lack of preparation.

If Giovanni van Bronkhorst’s diligent approach prevails overnight, then Prime Minister Wee, despite being in good health, at the age of 91,
appreciate that unlike in 1960, his former club now has a squad suitable for all ages.

About Lillian Coomer

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