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Imperious Ibrox is a ground for celebration One hundred years on, the change has been total but memories remain as clear as the day

Rangers are 100 years old this week at their present ground. Taking up their new abode was not exactly in the class of a voyage to Samarkand, rather a wasteful move of some 200 yards, but as anyone who has experienced removal knows, distance is immaterial.

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Anyway, Rangers settled better at new Ibrox than at the old. Their first Ibrox ground was hanselled by Preston North End, who were so unaware of their role as guests that they were leading by 8-1 when certain Govanites jumped the railings in an attempt to congratulate the Prestonians on the surpassing excellence of their play. Not. There were no such chances taken with the second ground and no State opening. Kilmarnock visited in an ordinary league match and were thrashed by 6-1. I have watched football at Ibrox for some 60 years and reported from there for 40. In my experience, it has always been the most efficient and helpful ground in which to work. Some of the smaller grounds are warmer but that is a difference in size, rather than any deficiency in the larger arena. My spectating goes back to 1937 and what was then a very rare occurrence, an international match against European opposition. Czechoslovakia were the visitors and Scotland turned out what was in reality a second XI against them. George Cummings, of Aston Villa, and George Brown, of Rangers, were over the hill and Robertson, of Kilmarnock, and Johnstone, of Sunderland, were pleasingly rewarded for good service, but it is fair to say that they would not have been selected had the opposition been England. As it turned out, they were good enough to beat Czechoslovakia 5-0. I enjoyed that, as I enjoyed war-time football at Ibrox, especially when my team, Queen's Park, were twice totally outplayed but each time got a 1-0 victory. Rangers ran two XIs during the war and this enabled us to see sides such as Aberdeen, Raith Rovers and Dundee United who would otherwise have been forced to close down. It was not these sides which made us think furiously, however, in 1945. Unlike the half million who claimed to have seen Moscow Dynamo in the autumn of that year, I was actually there. The Russians looked excitingly strange with a large hammer and sickle on their jerseys and baggy light blue pants with white circles at the bottom of the legs. They totally outplayed Rangers in the arts of the game, although the Ibrox club were due credit for coming back from two goals down. In one of the most misleading reports in football history, Willie Allison, later PRO for Rangers and apparently so even then, omitted to mention that only two penalties, one of which was missed, kept Rangers in the game. Indeed, the referee, Mr T Thompson, did not award the second kick. It was given on the intervention of the (Scottish) stand-side linesman. The Russians, like many European sides since, thought that Scots tackled too high and too dangerously, while we did not take kindly to jersey-pulling or prolonged and deliberate obstruction. Rangers read the lessons and saw that Europe mattered. From being sitting ducks in away matches particularly, they became more sophisticated. A new age required a new set. The playing ability was there, thus there was a Cup-winners' Cup final in 1967 and a Cup-winners' Cup win in 1972, following the semi-final reduction of Bayern Munich to a collection of feuding prima-donnas. The ground would have had to be rebuilt anyway for modern European football, but desirability became an imperative after the dreadful catastrophe of January 1971, in which more than 60 people died. As a temporary measure, the old round-roofed enclosure was converted to the Centenary Stand, but this was never meant to be more than a make-shift solution. Manager and director Willie Waddell was determined that the reconstructed Ibrox would be second to no other European ground and the model that he chose to follow was that of a German side with whom Rangers, even then, had a playing connection - Borussia Dortmund. What has changed in the new Ibrox over the last 100 years? In a word, everything. Until 1945, almost everyone worked on a Saturday morning and with early kick-offs in winter, it was impracticable to go to away matches. So, you walked or took the tramcar or bus or subway and you went to see the stiffs, the ham and eggers, the reserves. You knew who the young players were and you could back your judgment as to who would make it and who would fall short. In the summer, the ground would lie empty for literally months on end and while the Rangers Sports meeting was always the highlight of the Scots athletic calendar, there was always the sneaking feeling that it was so because of a good five-a-side football programme and because that sport started properly the following week. The players, too, have changed. There had always been foreigners there, of course, but they were rare birds and such people as Carl Hansen, Albert Goodmundsson, Thorolf Beck, and Mohammed Latif were remembered precisely because they were exceptions. The ground is now greatly changed and only the outline of the main stand remains since my early days, but it is still a superb arena for European football. Since the 1950s, there have been some great nights at Ibrox. In the early years, they were usually misty nights because of the ground's close proximity to the Clyde and the fact that the original floodlights at Ibrox were comparatively low-slung. The concept of the manager has changed. Bill Struth rarely presumed to talk tactics with his side, for his experience was athletics rather than football. He did, however, on one occasion inform goalkeeper Jerry Dawson that he was a poor kicker of a dead ball (true), that he would never be a good kicker of a dead ball, but that he had three weeks to become a competent kicker of a dead ball. In his reply to a previous question of mine about pressure, Jerry himself told me this, adding: ''I had come to Ibrox from Camelon Labour Exchange and if I did not make it at Ibrox I was going back to Camelon Labour Exchange. That's pressure.'' Then came the thinking manager (Waddell), the inspirational manager (Wallace), the wider-picture manager (Souness) and finally the insider manager (Advocaat). Insider in the sense of intimate knowledge of European football. Last week, it emerged that the rebuilt ground will be well in line to host the final of a major European club competition. That will be the ultimate accolade. However, even yet, at the big European games, if I narrow my eyes, I can see the old well-raked stanchions, the four-penny programme which says ''We welcome Albion Rovers to the stadium, although it is 57 years since they won at Ibrox'' - surely because rather than although - and the solemn half-time procession of the Govan Borough Band, each of them determined that he will not be the player who lets Rangers down today.

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