When a bullet header from Brian Laudrup made the net bulge at Tannadice Park on May 7, 1997, Rangers achieved much more than just a 1-0 victory over Dundee United. The great Dane’s goal helped the Gers clinch a record-equalling nine league titles in row.
Much has changed in Scottish football since then. The Gers have been through financial turmoil, rebooted and started afresh, while arch-rivals Celtic are enjoying their own period of dominance (seven straight titles and counting). Still, these are the men who last achieved the feat...
Manager: Walter Smith
The 1996/97 SPL title was Smith’s seventh with Rangers, but it would also be the last of his first spell in charge at Ibrox, which ended with his retirement after a 2-1 defeat to Hearts in the Scottish Cup final the following season.
It wasn’t long before Everton coaxed him out of retirement, though both Smith and the Premier League outfit would rather forget his disastrous tenure at Goodison Park. His return to Rangers was preceded by a short stint as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United and two years in charge of the Scotland national team.
After the financial crisis at Ibrox forced Rangers to start over, Smith returned to the club as a non-executive director and served as non-executive chairman between May and August 2013. Earlier in 2018 he was linked with a return to management with the Scotland national team, but bowed out of the running following talks with the Scottish FA.
GK: Andy Goram
"If anyone gets round to doing my tombstone, it will have to read: ‘Andy Goram Broke My Heart’," said former Celtic boss Tommy Burns in January 1996. In other words, the much-loved Rangers goalkeeper was in scintillating form during his penultimate season at Ibrox.
The ex-Scotland international enjoyed seven successful years at Rangers, winning six league titles, three Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups. He played for nine clubs on both sides of the border after leaving the Glasgow giants as a hero in 1998, notably Motherwell and Manchester United (the latter on loan from the Steelmen).
Since hanging up his gloves in 2004, Goram has been inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame and passed on his shot-stopping wisdom as a goalkeeping coach for several Scottish teams – most recently at Airdrie, until a row with the club’s management pushed him towards the exit.
DF: Alec Cleland
Signed from Dundee United in the summer of 1995, Cleland held down the right-back spot throughout Rangers’ nine-in-a-row winning season. He'd become an instant smash with the Ibrox support when he netted in his Old Firm debut at Celtic the previous season, and remained a regular fixture in the Gers’ backline until 1998.
That year, he followed manager Walter Smith south of the border to Premier League side Everton. His time at Goodison Park was marred by injuries, however, which convinced him to call time on his playing days at the end of the 2001/02 season.
Cleland has since obtained coaching badges and spent time on the backroom staff at Rangers, as well as several other Scottish clubs. He's currently on the books at St Johnstone, and caretaker managed them briefly in 2011, but now oversees their under-20s squad.
DF: Joachim Bjorklund
Sweden international Bjorklund was a marquee summer signing ahead of Rangers’ record-equalling season, brought in from Italian side Vicenza in a deal worth £2.2m.
The powerful Swede made 85 appearances for the Ibrox outfit during his two-year stay, before heading off to Spain with Valencia – a club he would later rejoin as a scout, watching over the Nordic counties, when his playing days came to an end.
Bjorklund juggled his scouting duties with La Liga punditry for Canal+ until January this year, when he was appointed assistant manager at Swedish club Hammarby.
DF: Richard Gough
Defensive warhorse Gough made more than 300 appearances for Rangers across two spells, and captained the side that made it nine in a row. He was the kind of hardman who had the opposition touching cloth from the moment they saw his name on the teamsheet, and was known to chip in with goals too – he hit six that season.
Stateside stints in Major League Soccer were followed by spells at Nottingham Forest and Everton, before Gough called time on his playing days in 2001. He’s since dabbled in management, taking charge of Livingston during the 2004/05 season, and was later appointed as a global ambassador for Rangers in September 2015.
DF: David Robertson
Robertson was a rock at left-back for Rangers and a key figure in six of those nine title-winning campaigns. He made more than 250 appearances for the club but left Ibrox shortly after that decisive victory over Dundee United to join Leeds.
Robertson’s career in England was spoiled by injuries, but he made an immediate jump to coaching with Elgin City back up north. Spells in charge of Montrose, American side Phoenix FC and Indian outfit Real Kashmir – where he is still in charge today – followed.
MF: Paul Gascoigne
Bringing Gazza to Scotland from Lazio in the summer of 1995 was a real statement of intent from Rangers, and underlined their ambitions to compete in Europe. Owner David Murray’s dream of landing continental silverware didn’t quite pan out, but Gascoigne was a smash hit on the domestic front.
The English playmaker brought creativity and a goal threat to the heart of the Gers’ midfield - not to mention pranks aplenty on the training ground - and he netted 17 times that season; a haul which included a memorable diving header in a 2-0 win over Celtic in the campaign's first Old Firm.
Gazza returned to England with Middlesbrough in 1998, and later followed his former Gers manager Smith to Everton before ending his playing career at Boston United in 2004. His post-playing days have included a disastrous spell as manager of Kettering Town, though that has sadly been overshadowed by his ongoing battle with addiction and mental health issues. The 51-year-old has recently made a glowing return to public life, however – and long may it continue.
MF: Derek McInnes
Defensive midfielder McInnes found himself in and out of the Rangers team during his five-year stint at Ibrox, often falling foul of their rotation system, but he did manage 33 appearances in all competitions during the 1996/97 campaign.
McInnes was a key figure during their successful League Cup run that season, though he didn't feature in the final against Hearts. Rangers shipped him out on loan to Stockport County during his final season at Ibrox, and he left the club shortly after to join second-tier Toulouse in France. He hung up his boots eight seasons later – via West Brom, Dundee United and Millwall – while serving as player-manager at St Johnstone.
The former Ger has since managed Bristol City and has held the reins at Aberdeen since 2013. At the end of 2017/18, he guided the Dons to a 1-0 win over Celtic at Parkhead – a result which meant his side pipped Rangers to second place on the final day.
MF: Jorg Albertz
Few Rangers fans had heard of Albertz when Smith paid Hamburg £4m for his services in the summer of 1996, but it’s a name they've never forgotten. Nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ during his time in Glasgow, the versatile midfielder’s powerful left peg was soon known and feared across the length and breadth of Scottish football.
Albertz was a mainstay in the Gers side throughout the 1996/97 campaign, occasionally filling in a left-back, but most impactful when deployed in midfield. His finest hour in a Rangers shirt was arguably the Old Firm derby in January 1996, in which he buried a thunderous free-kick as the Ibrox outfit coasted to a 3-1 victory over Celtic.
The German left Rangers in 2001 and played for Hamburg, Shanghai Shenhua, Greuther Furth and Fortuna Dusseldorf in the ensuing years, before seeing out his career in Scotland at Clyde in 2008. Since then, he’s coached in Monchengladbach and opened a tapas bar at the site of a former public toilet in Glasgow. Obviously.
MF: Brian Laudrup
Widely regarded as one of the most talented players ever to grace Scottish football, Laudrup had pace, elegance, creativity and ball control to spare – and he wasn’t bad in front of goal either. The gifted Dane was Rangers’ top goalscorer in 1996/97 with 21 strikes in all competitions, including that header which clinched their record-equalling league title at Tannadice.
Along with the SPL title and League Cup, Laudrup bagged Scotland’s Player of the Year gong at the end of term, plus the Scottish Football Writers' award. His feats didn’t go unnoticed south of the border: Manchester United attempted to sign him at the end of the following season (or so he claimed) but moved too late, since he'd already struck a deal with Chelsea.
Things didn’t quite work out for Laudrup at Stamford Bridge, though he does have a UEFA Super Cup medal to show for his time there. The Dane was forced to retire due to injury several years later while at Ajax, and has since dabbled in punditry and youth coaching in his native Denmark.
FW: Ally McCoist
His tenure as manager didn’t end well, but McCoist’s feats as a Rangers player will never be forgotten by the Ibrox faithful. The former Scotland international is still the club’s all-time record scorer with 355 goals in all competitions. He also happens to be the first player ever to be Europe’s top scorer for two seasons running, in 1992 and 1993.
McCoist’s 15 years with Rangers produced 10 league titles, one Scottish Cup and nine League Cups, and the 1996/97 campaign was his penultimate one there as a player. The striker made 37 appearances that term, scoring 20 goals - including a brace against Hearts in the League Cup final - and warded off competition for first-team football from January signing Peter van Vossen.
The prolific hitman played on for three more seasons after leaving Rangers in 1998, plying his trade at Kilmarnock, before settling into a coaching role with the Scotland national team. He returned to Rangers as Smith’s deputy in 2007 and took on the top job three years later.
Although McCoist guided the new incarnation of Rangers to the League One and Two titles in the wake of their financial crisis, his reign ended in tears when he proved unable to clear the Championship hurdle on the club’s journey back to Scotland’s top division.
These days, he lends that big football brain to television, serving as a pundit for a number of networks.
FW: Gordon Durie
Durie is something of an unsung hero of Rangers’ ‘90s success, and is often overshadowed by higher-profile forwards among their ranks. The no-nonsense striker bagged a hat-trick during the Gers’ 5-1 victory over Hearts in the 1996 Scottish Cup Final, yet fans still refer to the game as ‘The Laudrup Final’.
The nine-in-a-row season was among the last where Durie enjoyed semi-regular starts: he featured 24 times in all competitions and lined up in the XI on that decisive afternoon at Dundee United. He was gradually frozen out by manager Dick Advocaat in subsequent seasons, however, and left Rangers for Hearts in 2000.
Since retiring the following year, Durie has dabbled in management with East Fife – a role he departed due to ill health – before returning to Rangers in a coaching role under former strike partner McCoist. He left Ibrox when the Mark Warburton era dawned and has since been declared bankrupt thanks to a non-football investment scheme going belly-up, leaving him with debts of £200,000.
Sub: Gordan Petric
Leg-biting Serb Petric was a key member of the Rangers team in 1996/97, though he made fewer appearances than fellow centre-half Gough in all competitions, and didn't turn out in quite as many league games as Bjorkland. Seeking trophies on four fronts, Smith need squad depth, and players like Petric provided it.
He was frozen out of the first-team picture by Advocaat the following season and left Ibrox for Crystal Palace in 1998. Post-retirement, the defensive powerhouse has broken into coaching and was last managing FK Rad in his homeland.
Sub: Charlie Miller
Smith also had an embarrassment of riches in reserve when it came to midfield. Miller, who was named Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year the previous season, deserves a special mention for his contributions to the nine-in-row campaign. He started in that record-equalling win over Dundee United and provided the cross for Laudrup to nod home.
His remaining years at Rangers were marred by off-field controversy, from pub brawls to party-animal antics as part of Gazza’s entourage. Spells with Watford, Dundee United, Brann in Norway, Lierse in Belgium, Australia’s Brisbane Roar and Clyde preceded his 2011 retirement.
Since then he’s dabbled in youth coaching, autobiography writing and match analysis for Rangers TV.
Sub: Erik Bo Andersen
Laudrup will always be a legend at Ibrox, but his Danish compatriot Andersen didn’t fare quite as well in Rangers colours. The striker, who joined the club from AaB in 1996, showed off both sides of his game during his brief stint with the Glasgow giants. One minute he was drawing comparisons to Bambi and missing open goals against Dundee United from four yards, the next he was single-handedly destroying Celtic from the substitute’s bench.
The bench was where he remained for much of his short-lived Rangers career, so it came little surprise when they sold him to OB in his homeland the following season. His playing career ended where it began: at the club which handed him his senior debut, AaB. Since retiring, Andersen has dabbled in coaching, real estate investment and even politics.
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