Where are they now? Rangers' nine-in-a-row clinching team of 1996/97
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.