CRAIG WATSON, the former Rangers winger, has died at the age of 59 at his home in Glasgow following a lengthy illness.

Although diagnosed as suffering from a brain tumour earlier this year, he delayed undergoing surgery to enable him to act as a pall bearer at the funeral in April of Jim Baxter, his former Ibrox team-mate and close friend.

Watson was a member of the youngest Rangers forward line in the history of the club when he lined up alongside Willie Henderson, Alex Willoughby, Jim Forrest, and George McLean against Real Madrid in a European Cup match in the Bernabeu Stadium in 1963. Regrettably, Rangers were thrashed 6-0 by the team generally regarded as the finest in Europe at the time, although the Spaniards were eventually beaten 3-1 by Italian giants Inter Milan in the final that same season.

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Watson's proudest achievement was playing in the 1963-64 League Cup final, when Rangers trounced Morton 5-0. Ironically, he later transferred to Cappielow, spending several seasons playing under the legendary Hal Stewart.

Watson, who also had spells with Kilmarnock and Falkirk, eventually emigrated to South Africa, where he ended his playing career.

Close friend Willoughby said last night: ''I know it's customary for people to eulogise at a time like this, but I can say in all honesty that Craigie really was a tremendous bloke.

''The fact that he delayed his operation to be at Jim's funeral was typical of him and it's hard to accept that Craig has also gone so soon after Jim.

''Craig, Willie Henderson, Jim Forest, Jim Baxter, and I joined Rangers at the same time and we remained close after our careers ended.''

Many of Craig's former team-mates and rivals are expected to join his widow, Ann, and children Grant and Lynne at his funeral at Govan Parish Church at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning followed by a service of committal at Craigton Crematorium.