Rangers have been preoccupied by the immediate crises of the summer, but the club can still dwell upon historical set-backs. Losing 1-0 to Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup in 1967 seems a trivial event compared to administration and the difficulties that followed, but the result continues to retain its impact.
That significance wasn't immediately apparent. Having fallen behind to Sammy Baird's goal in the tie at Shielfield Park, Willie Henderson could not conceive Rangers losing the game. Even in the final 15 minutes of the match, he assumed he and his team-mates would deliver the two goals it would require the turn the match around. The away dressing room was downcast afterwards, but it was only hours later that he understood the true resonance of the scoreline.
"My wife and I were at a friend's house for dinner and it came on the national news on the television," Henderson recalls. "That was when the penny really dropped. We were disappointed at the final whistle, but that is when the enormity hit. After that, the press the next day was massive."
Former players tend to lurch into reverie, but that result brings back only grim memories. It cost Jim Forrest and George McLean, the two strikers, their places at the club. In the haste to sell them, as the scapegoats, Rangers also relinquished their best opportunity of winning the Cup-Winners' Cup. They played the final against Bayern Munich with Roger Hynd, a centre-back, in attack, and lost the game.
Scot Symon, the manager, never truly recovered from the disgrace either. The defeat might have led eventually to the club's greatest triumph, since Jock Wallace, the Berwick player-manager, went on to join the Ibrox club's coaching staff and assisted Willie Waddell in guiding them to Cup-Winners' Cup glory in 1972. But it continues to stalk those involved.
Henderson's mind turned to that day 45 years ago while he was watching Rangers try to recover from falling 2-1 down away to Peterhead two weeks ago. That was the club's first game in the third division, and the fixtures now return them to Shielfield on Sunday. The accumulated traumas of recent months are of a different magnitude, and Henderson cannot reconcile the fate of his club with the team that he played as a winger for and was capable of being imperious.
"What happened back then was the biggest shock in Rangers history, but what has happened this summer is even bigger," he said. "It seems inconceivable what has happened, but we have got to get on with it. I did not think we would be talking about it [the Berwick Rangers defeat] 45 years later, but that result will be there forever. I certainly didn't think we would be talking about the teams coming together again with both in the third division. It is unbelievable."
The Ibrox side remains in transition. If there is alarm at the club's fallen status, it has been overcome by the obligation to recover. The performance during Tuesday night's 1-0 win at Falkirk in the Ramsdens Cup was workmanlike, and every away game has proved troublesome so far. Opponents were once cowed by the reputation of Rangers, but most of that invulnerability has been stripped away.
Henderson winces at the prospect of the Berwick Rangers defeat being repeated, even if his club has now become a lower-league side. He wears his club tie as if still an official representative, but he does not disguise the discomfort he feels at the plight of Rangers.
Any progress will be protracted. Dorin Goian has left the club, Maurice Edu is expected to follow, while Stephane Faure, a French defender, has signed on a three-year deal. That is only the business of one week, and there is likely to be more upheaval before the transfer window closes. Accommodating new signings, as well as new circumstances, is an awkward task.
"It's going to keep us on our toes," says Chris Hegarty, the Northern Ireland under-21 defender. "The manager wants players who can play in a higher league than the one we're in at the moment. A bit of competition is not a bad thing."
Rangers have had to accept their new surroundings, but ambitions remain lofty. Even in a period of rehabilitation, the club cannot shake off its sense of esteem. "We want to win everything we can this year, just to prove a point to everyone," Hegarty says. "Everyone wants to win. Training's positive, everything's positive now. It would just tell everyone what this club's about."
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