Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rangers 1872: The Gallant Pioneers by Gary Ralston (Breedon Books 2009)

Undoubtedly, Rangers suffered at the hands – and wallets – of the English clubs, who set up raiding parties that would have been the envy of any 16th-century border reiver. First to go in 1880 was Scottish international Hugh McIntyre, older brother of Tuck and a member of the Cup Final team of 1879, who quit for Blackburn Rovers after they bought him a pub in the town. He went on to win three FA Cup-winners’ medals in successive seasons with his new side in 1884, 1885 and 1886. He was followed to the Lancashire club by founding father Peter Campbell and, although he played several times for Blackburn, he never moved to the area. Rangers lost another stalwart of the 1879 team, William Struthers, who signed for Bolton Wanderers in 1881, quickly followed to the same club by half-back John Christie, no doubt lured by the promise of riches extolled by his former teammate. The finger lingered around the influence of Hugh McIntyre, in particular, in convincing young Scots to ply their trade in the south because then, as now, there were lucrative finders’ fees up for grabs. Agents were despised and routinely beaten up and one G.L. Harrison from Nottingham had cause to wish he had never wandered down the Copland Road on 1 August 1889, when he arrived in Glasgow in a bid to lure defender John Hendry, an early darling of the Light Blues legions, south of the border.   Harrison’s plan was cunning, as he roped in then Scotland striker Jimmy Oswald (who later went on to play for Rangers) to accompany him to Ibrox on the promise of a £5 commission if they persuaded Hendry south. They had already trawled the player’s home town of Uddingston in a vain bid to track him down, but the fear of losing their top talents was so strong among many of the leading Scots clubs, including Rangers, that they regularly formed vigilance committees to keep their non-professionals (in theory at least) away from the paid ranks of the English game. Word quickly spread around Ibrox, which was hosting an amateur sports that Thursday evening, of the danger in their midst. Panic ensued and Hendry was quickly shepherded away from the dangerous suitors while Oswald, who played for Notts County, was led to safety, surviving the baying mob only because of his standing in the game and the presence of a team from the Rangers committee around him. Harrison was not so lucky as he attempted to sneak from the ground and down Copland Road, only to be accosted by two irate Bears. The full story then unfolded in the Scottish Sport, filed by ‘an eye witness’ with more than a hint of eager pleasure:

‘“You are looking for someone?” politely enquired the smallest of the two, as they came up with their prey.

“No-no,” replied the tall, handsome swell – for with all his audacity he looked a swell – but he did so with a look and hesitancy which identified him at once.

“We were told you were looking for someone,” insisted the sly, self-possessed questioner.

“Oh, no. There…there must be some mistake.”

“Were you not wishing to see John Hendry of the Rangers?”

An enquiring glance at his tormentors and a faltering “no” was the reply.

Then the second party spoke, but it was aside, and as if to his companion. “What’s the use o’ makin’ a clown o’ me. I thocht it was a good thing. I’ll awa’ back to Oswald,” and he cast a withering look at his apparently perplexed companion.

The trick had fairly trapped the agent however, for in answer to a last attempt to draw him, his wily inquisitor was at length assured, in a half apologetic tone, that he did want to see Hendry and that he had at first denied his real mission because of the fear he had of the club’s supporters, whose attentions were evidently not of the most reassuring.

“Well, this is Hendry,” said the sly one, after a little more cross questioning, and pointing to his companion who, I need hardly say, was only a cruel impersonator playing a part in the interests of his club.

The “swell” became reassured, looked more like his audacious self, and prepared to do business.

“Do you want me to go to England?” inquired the bogus Hendry after being duly introduced and informed of the terms.

“Yes, I want you to go to England.”

“Are you perfectly sure you want me to go to England?”

“Yes.”

“Well, take that!” and before anyone could say Jack Robinson the seducer was sent sprawling on the ground with a lick which could scarcely be described as a baby-duster.  

 The elongated representative of the ascendant element in English football was not long in getting to his feet, but there was no fight in him. He took to his heels and, as if pursued by an evil spirit, careered down the road at the most undignified speed imaginable. Unfortunately for him, a crowd of unsympathetic Rangers were coming up the road as he was frantically tearing down and they, taking the situation at a glance, cruelly intercepted him and he was once more in the remorseless hands of the Philistines.

  There is no use in prolonging the sequel; sufficient to say that, after a good bit of running in as earnest an obstacle race as was ever ran, he reached Princes Street, about half a mile away, where he was mercifully taken in by a young Samaritan married couple, and allowed to sufficiently recover from his baptism of fright and fists to be able to be sent to his hotel [St Enoch’s] in a cab. When I saw the bold adventurer lying low upon a couch, blanched, speechless, and sick unto death, with several well known members of the Rangers holding his low lying head, and timing his quick beating pulse, I did think that the way of transgressors is hard. Probably G.L. Harrison will not again put his prominent features within a mile of Ibrox Park on a similar errand.

1 comment:

Darren said...

Admittedly it's a long quote but you must admit it's funny.