14 May 2014

Remembering Manchester

"Rangers are coming!"

by Ross McAdam | Contributor

On the 1st May 2008 at around 10:30 p.m. Nacho Novo calmly slotted home a penalty to send Rangers to the Uefa Cup Final and Manchester was told to brace itself. Yes, the Rangers were going to their first European final since 1972. I’ll admit that it is something I never thought I would ever see.

Those 13 days until the final seemed like a lifetime. Looking back I don’t think it actually sunk in until a few days after the match what had really happened. Every news outlet in Scotland was building up to the game and the sense of excitement was something pretty special.

I had an exam on the Friday and I had pressure put on me not to go. My response was simple – what is more important: A piece of paper with a grade on it or seeing the Glasgow Rangers in a European Final. I’d have walked to Manchester if I had to.

Eventually the 14th May came around and an early start beckoned. As per usual it was off to the match I go. Not any match. 200,000 bears were about to descend on Manchester. I am sure I won't be alone in saying a few tears were shed on that journey. Traveling from just outside Edinburgh the roads were surprisingly quiet. There wasn’t a fellow Rangers supporter to be seen.

All that changed at Abington service station where the M74 meets the road from Edinburgh. Every car and bus was decorated in red, white and blue — an image that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Supporting Rangers will always have its ups and downs but we support the club for moments like this. Every service station on the road down was mobbed with Rangers fans, creating a carnival atmosphere. The closest hotel to Manchester that we could get booked into was in Preston, 33 miles outside of the city. Once into town the party continued. I’ll tell you what, not one club could take 200,000 fans to a game, never mind the countless of fans overseas who could not make it over. That is what makes our club so special.

Yes there was trouble, and the tiny minority who embarrassed the club should just be ignored. When put into perspective this was the largest movement of people in Britain since the end of World War 2 – now there is a fact. I will only remember seeing Rangers fans on every street, every pub and up every street sign, all there for the same reason: The love of the Rangers.

As for the game itself, it was always going to be a struggle against a Zenit side who beat Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the semi final and defeated Manchester United, the European Champions, in the Super Cup just three months later. They also provided the backbone of the Russian side who would reach the semi final of Euro 2008 only to lose out to the eventual winners Spain, knocking out Holland in the process.

I have never been able to watch the game the game back but I only have admiration for the players who gave everything despite the disgusting treatment from the footballing authorities. (That tour of Japan happened right?)

That little bit of luck that was needed just did not happen and Zenit’s opening goal was sheer class. It could be argued we should have been more adventurous as it was the final but the system had worked all the way through to final. It is sometimes forgotten that in the same season, we defeated Stuttgart, Lyon and held Barcelona to a scoreless draw.

It is sad to think how far away from that we are now and, yeah, we probably will never reach another European final so it is without question something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Will it be the best moment supporting Rangers? I hope not. Title 55 will probably push it close and who knows what else might happen in the future.

One thing is for sure however: It really showed that We Are The People.

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