06 January 2014

Rangers Heroes and the Missing League Titles

by Gary Havlin | Contributor

To be a Ranger is to be a winner. Since the inception of the Scottish Football League in 1890, Rangers have been Scottish League Champions on 54 occasions. Being the most successful football Club in Scottish football (ASA, UEFA, ECA, SFA, SPFL and NASA Approved) would have you believe that all of our most famous players would be in possession of numerous League Title badges. You'd be wrong!

Here's a list of some of the players who, despite their service to Rangers or contribution to our numerous Cup successes, have not been fortunate enough to have played a part in a League Title winning season…

Willie Johnston

1964-72 and 1980-82 - 393 Games /125 Goals -  Honours: 1 Scottish Cup,  2 League Cups, European Cup Winners' Cup

Ten years service to Rangers and a member of the Barcelona Bears, it's incredible that this Hall of Famer didn't collect a League Winners Medal. Johnston's contribution to European glory didn't start and end with his two goals in the Nou Camp. Crucial away goals in Rennes and Torino were critical to Rangers progress to the Final. His debut season, under Scot Symon in 1964/65 saw Rangers finish fifth in the old First Division, the season which saw Kilmarnock win their only Title under the guidance of Rangers legend Willie Waddell. By the time he left for West Brom in December 1972, Celtic were on the cusp of winning eight titles in a row. His return in 1980 from Vancouver Whitecaps via Birmingham City came at another low ebb in Rangers fortunes, as his final two seasons under John Greig saw Celtic win the League on both occasions.

Kai Johansen

1965-70 - League Apps: 158/4 goals - Honours: 1 Scottish Cup

Having spotted him playing for a European Select against a UK Select for Stanley Matthews' Testimonial, Johansen was signed in 1965 from Morton for £20,000 by Scot Symon. Johansen was the first ever foreign player to score a goal in a Scottish Cup Final in a 1-0 over Celtic at Hampden. This cup triumph qualified Rangers for a shot at the European Cup Winners Cup the next season in a campaign which saw Rangers reach the Final for the second time, only to be beaten by Bayern Munich. Johansen featured throughout that European adventure, scoring a goal against the holders Borussia Dortmund in a 2-1 first leg victory. His 158 League appearances over five seasons coincided with a Celtic side on their way to nine in a row.

Marco Negri

1997-2001 - League Apps: 30/32 goals - Honours: None

Signed by Walter Smith in 1997 for £3.5m from Perugia, Negri set Scottish football on fire. His 32 league strikes in 30 matches during our ill fated bid for 10 in a row meant the Rangers fans could forgive him for his low key goal celebrations. Sadly, that was all we were to see of Negri in his four years at the Club. An eye injury sustained in a squash match against his compatriot Sergio Porinni meant that he sat out the entire 1998/99 Title win in Dick Advocaat's first season as manager. The next season, another Advocaat Title winning squad saw Negri make one substitute appearance in the last home game of the season in a 1-0 v Hearts, not enough to earn him a League Title Medal.

Willie Mathieson

1960-75 - 250 Apps. - Honours: 1 Scottish Cup, European Cup Winners' Cup

An epic 15 seasons at Rangers began when Mathieson signed on a part time basis in 1960 whilst still working as an electrician. It would take five years before he left the ground staff and made his first team debut alongside his hero, Slim Jim Baxter. Of those first five seasons he spent on the Ibrox ground staff, Rangers won the League Title three times under Scot Symon, but no league appearances meant no League Title medals for Mathieson. The next 10 years of his Rangers career would see him win a Scottish Cup medal in the Final v Celtic best remembered for Tam Forsyth's two yard screamer to win the famous trophy. He was one of only five Rangers to play in every round of the 1972 European Cup Winners' Cup Triumph.

Dave Smith

1966-74 -  League Apps: 195/8 goals - Honours: European Cup Winners' Cup

The Scottish Football Writers Player of the Year in 1972, Smith put in a Man of the Match Performance in the Nou Camp in the Cup Winners' Cup Final. Signed from Aberdeen in 1966 aged 23, he left Rangers for Arbroath halfway through the 1974/75 Season, the season we wrestled the title back from Celtic. Under Scot Symon, he became one of the most outstanding talents in Scottish football. Despite being a left sided midfielder, his excellent positional sense and ball control meant he could adapt to playing other positions, most notably as sweeper in the ECWC Final. Smith missed the League Cup and Scottish Cup Final triumphs during his spell at the Club, which makes it remarkable that his only winners medal was as part of the 1972 Barcelona Bears.

Archie Kyle

1904-08 - League Apps: 99/47 goals - Honours: 2 Glasgow Merchants Charity Cups

Born in Kinning Park, Archie Kyle is significant in Rangers history not only for his goal scoring exploits of nearly a goal every other game, he was one of the first Roman Catholics to sign for Rangers. Signed from the club Parkhead, his first season as a Rangers player in 1904/05 ended with Rangers tied with Celtic on 41 points. A Championship play-off followed at Hampden Park, Rangers lost 2-1 and the League Title. Now here's the real trivia: Archie Kyle's grandson is none other than Frankie Miller, the Glaswegian singer/songwriter of 'Caledonia' fame.

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