It was to become the stuff of legend, the type of story normally reserved for a Roy of the Rovers comic book sketch. Ranger’s manager Willie Waddell was to take the ultimate gamble, replacing his injured and iconic inspirational captain, John Greig, with a raw 16 year old youngster who had made his professional debut only weeks earlier against Cowdenbeath. It was a particularly brave decision given the setting was the 1970 Scottish League Cup Final and Rangers opponents were arch rivals, Celtic. 90 minutes later the manager’s decision was to be completely vindicated as the 16 year old Derek Johnstone scored the only goal of the game, sending the light blue legions amongst the 106,000 crowd into rapture and thus heralding the end of a 4 year trophy drought.
Who would argue that fortune does indeed favour the brave?
Today’s Rangers fans yearn for that kind of bravery amongst our current management. The highly publicised departure of young starlet Charlie Telfer and his criticism of the lack of opportunity for youngsters at Ibrox should set alarm bells ringing. Sour grapes or valid criticism?
Well despite League One being done and dusted early doors, Telfer only featured once, coming on as a substitute in the 4-0 defeat of Stenhousemuir. Was completing a season undefeated in a lower league really more important than the continual development of our youngsters? Alarmingly, the Telfer story is not an isolated one.
Last year, centre half Stuart Urquhart, a captain of the Scotland Under 17 side, having held his own at Dumbarton whilst on loan (2 divisions above Rangers at the time) chose to depart the club despite not having any clear destination. His subsequent snapping up by Steven Pressley at Coventry City, himself a product of the Rangers youth system, adds a touch of irony to a fast developing farce.
That orchestra of irony reached a crescendo this week with the departure of Lewis Macleod, one of our few “blooded youngsters,” in order to keep our club afloat.
Those of us at Ibrox yesterday, watching the toiling of Lee McCulloch, were left to wonder if a nurtured and blooded Gasparotto, may well have spared some of the raised blood pressure caused by the inadequacy of our failing captain. The same could be said of Sinnamon as an alternative to Foster or McKay instead of Smith.
In an age of “gardening leave” it’s clear our club is in dire need of a bold, green fingered horticulturist with a proven aptitude for the development of young seedlings.