Twenty years ago this weekend Scotland was devouring the headlines about the most significant and stage-managed press conference this country's football scene had ever known.

Michael Grant gathers eye-witness accounts of the story behind the story: of the origins of the Graeme Souness revolution and the planning which went into his unveiling to the media as Rangers' player/manager.

In the space of 48 hours Rangers sacked a club hero, Jock Wallace, and, on a Tuesday morning in April 1986, spirited Souness into Ibrox through a back door. Then, they carefully orchestrated his emergence from the manager's office, when a door was opened and he walked into the Blue Room to be met by the press


Jock Wallace's second spell as Rangers manager was bleak. The team were trailing in fifth place in the 1985-86 Premier Division title race, way behind eventual champions Celtic as well as Hearts, Dundee United and Aberdeen. Furthermore, Rangers had not won the league in eight years. Ibrox attendances had dipped to as low as 12,731 for a league game against Clydebank in January. The top player's wage was just GBP350 a week.

Months earlier the club had been taken over by the Nevada-based businessman Lawrence Marlborough, who appointed David Holmes as his representative at Ibrox. Although managing director Holmes would later claim the idea of appointing Graeme Souness had come to him in a dream, the wheels were set in motion by the then club chairman, John Paton, using former Sun and Herald journalist Ken Gallacher as the contact with Souness.

The former Liverpool legend was midway through a three-year contract with Sampdoria (Rangers paid GBP350,000 for his release) and preparing for the World Cup in Mexico that summer. But in meetings with Holmes in London and then Milan, the deal was done while Wallace was still in charge.

Archie MacPherson, broadcaster:

"After a 4-4 Old Firm draw at Ibrox earlier that season Jock Wallace came up to Holmes in the boardroom. Jock was singing The Sash.

Jock wasn't a bigot, he was what I would call a traditional bluenose, but Holmes said to himself 'we've just drawn at home when our great rivals have 10 men and the manager's singing The Sash. I've had enough of this.' So he spoke to Marlborough, who said 'change the place'. To this day Holmes can't explain how the idea of Souness came into his head."

Alan Ferguson, managing director of sponsorship and management company The Sports Business:

"Iwas a public relations consultant and independent media advisor for Rangers, working with David Holmes.

I was asked for an opinion. What I said was, 'you need an inspirational manager and a couple of key signings who will lift the crowd, lift the team, bring the crowds back, generate the revenue'. Souness' name came up and I said 'that'll do fine'."


Jock Wallace's last match as Rangers manager. They lose 2-0 in a friendly against Tottenham at Ibrox. Only 12,655 watch.

Jock Brown, commentator and Jock Wallace's solicitor:

"Jock Wallace phoned me and said: 'I need to see you. I'm getting the bullet'. I went to his house in Bothwell and he told me he was going, that the club wanted to sort out a deal and had asked if he could get his lawyer for a meeting first thing on Monday morning. But I wasn't available so I didn't meet Jock and the Rangers people until the Monday afternoon in a lawyer's office in Glasgow."


Alan Ferguson:

"Jim White broke the story for STV. He had gone out to Genoa earlier for a Scotsport pre1986 World Cup piece on Graeme in his house, the lifestyle out there and so on. He made a contact out there and that contact told Jim 'Souness is coming to your city . . .

he's coming to Rangers'. That's what triggered the whole thing because Jim phoned me about it.

"I phoned Holmes and told him the story was out, what did he want to do? I said we should call a press conference to pre-empt STV and stay in control of the story."

Jock Brown:

"What I realised very quickly was that Rangers were acting with indecent haste. Time was of the essence for them, they wanted a deal done quickly. I said to Jock 'they seem to be under tremendous pressure to get a deal done here'. Eventually it slipped out that 'someone' was arriving in Glasgow at tea-time. We agreed to adeal at what would have been, to them, the last minute. The name of the next manager was never mentioned at that meeting. When I left I was in my car when the radio reported that Souness was on his way."

Alan Ferguson:

"So we called a press conference for 5pm so that it would make the television news that evening. The conference said that with regret the club had terminated the services of Jock Wallace and tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock we would introduce Graeme Souness as the new manager. People literally said 'ach, f*** off '. Then we said that Jock would see the press at 6.30pm in The Grosvenor.

"I phoned Graeme and said get on an Edinburgh plane. Then Jim White phoned me and said 'I know he's coming up'. So STV's cameras turned up. And who was there but the Sun and Ken Gallacher? I gave Graeme my car and he disappeared to his dad's house in Edinburgh.


Article on page one of the Glasgow Herald, by Ian Paul:

"Graeme Souness, Scotland's World Cup captain, will today become playermanager of Rangers, who yesterday dismissed manager Jock Wallace. A statement issued by club secretary Mr Campbell Ogilvie said that the board and Mr Wallace had agreed to part and that Souness had been 'invited to become player-manager'.

The move for the former Liverpool player, who still has a year of his contract to run with Italian club Sampdoria, will cost Rangers at least GBP250,000. A spokesman for the Sun newspaper said last night they had signed a contract with Souness for his story on the offer to manage Rangers."

Alan Ferguson:

"Wecollected him again in the morning and wegot him in the back door at Ibrox for the press conference which everyone now remembers. David Holmes told him 'that's the last time you will ever enter this stadium through the back door'. We did that in case any snatch pictures were taken of Souness arriving. It was such a dramatic occasion.

"I remember the press boys were all called upstairs inside Ibrox. They were gathered in the foyer, and that was unusual because they used to be kept out on the street. I leaned over the balcony and said 'gentlemen, this way please'. They were asking 'where are we going?' and I said the Blue Room. They had never been in there before."

Rangers, The Official Illustrated History, by Stephen Halliday, 1989:

"When Graeme Souness walked through the door from the manager's office at Ibrox into a packed press conference on Tuesday, 8 April 1986, it was the most stunning and significant moment in Scottish football for decades. The hard-bitten football journalists gasped. There was a discernible pause before the uniform click of the photographers' cameras was heard."

Ten Days That Shook Rangers, edited by Ronnie Esplin, 2005:

"Footage of the legendary press conference was shot from two different cameras at slightly different angles. In one - when Holmes says those magical words ['so, gentlemen, can I just say to you, welcome to our new player-manager, Graeme Souness'] - a side door is opened but Souness doesn't appear instantaneously. Is he actually there at all, you wonder? Watching at home, we still wondered if it was all a hoax."

Alan Ferguson:

"Itold Graeme I would open the door and he would be on the inside and when he saw the door handle moving he was to start walking. So I open the door on cue and he's on the phone, leaning back in the chair telling some pal what's happening! I couldn't believe him. There was a pause and he put the phone down and came through. It wasn't done quite as slickly as I would have liked."

Campbell Ogilvie, Rangers secretary:

"I remember reading the prepared statement out to the press in the Blue Room. I wasn't looking up all the time but I could sense the excitement and disbelief in the room. It was an exciting time, the whole club was turning around. I think I knew about two weeks before the announcement that Souness was on his way but nothing leaked out. Funnily enough when I cleared out my desk at Ibrox recently I came across a list of the wages before Souness took over. The highest was GBP350-a-week. So you had Ally McCoist on GBP350 and reserve players on just GBP50 less than that."

Graeme Souness to the press:

"It's all a bit strange. It is no secret that I wanted to manage a club, but I thought I would have to start down the ladder, maybe in the English second division or with a lesser first division club. I couldn't have gone to the likes of Crewe or Rochdale, but never dreamed I would get a chance like this. Rangers are as big as Manchester United, certainly bigger than Liverpool or Everton, Arsenal or Tottenham.

"[Signing Catholics] is not a thorny question. I have discussed the subject with David Holmes. How could I possibly be in this job if I had been told I could not sign a Catholic? After all, I am married to one."


Headline in the Glasgow Herald:

"Souness Promises A New Deal" Craig Paterson, the Rangers captain in 1986 until he was replaced by Souness' first signature signing that summer, Terry Butcher:

"The majority of us had only seen him on television winning European Cups with Liverpool. I can't remember if the players knew about Souness coming before it was announced - I doubt it, because we'd have been going around telling our pals 'you're not going to believe this. . .'."

Defender Dave McPherson (Rangers 1981-87 and 1992-94):

"As a player you wouldn't exactly have described it as good because you were losing a good manager in Jock Wallace, a Rangers legend, and you felt as if you had let him down. But we all wanted to be a part of the big change that was coming."

Alan Ferguson:

"There was no guarantee how Graeme would adapt to management. That was why Walter Smith arrived within days as his assistant. Walter was a club appointment, not a Graeme appointment. The view was that we didn't know if Graeme was going to stay for six weeks, six months or six years. Walter Smith was the outstanding young manager in waiting in Scotland at the time and knew the Scottish game inside out, which Graeme didn't. It was the club - with Graeme's approval - which initiated the approach to Walter."

Journalist Bryan Cooney:

"Prior to 'the revolution', Souness had always been the most accommodating of interviewees. He always responded to my calls at Sampdoria. I was hopeful when he became Rangers manager that the relationship would prosper. But when he invited me to meet him at Ibrox I discovered the rules had been subject to a make-over. We stood, like horse traders, negotiating through a third party, in the marble hall. It was an unforgettable experience, particularly when the go-between, journalist Jim Rodger, insisted that Souness was now the most valuable managerial property in Britain, and the price for an interview was GBP25,000. My days of interviewing Souness were over."

Alan Ferguson:

"Iwas in a newsagent the other day and the guy behind the counter said to me: 'I've seen your face before. Did you used to work at Rangers?'. I said I did. He said: 'Aye, you're the guy that held the door open for Souness'."


Graeme Souness:

Souness left Rangers for Liverpool in April 1991 having won the Premier Division title in 1987, 1989 and 1990 and the League Cup in 1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89 and 1990-91. He won the 1992 FA Cup at Liverpool before being sacked two years later and then had spells at Galatasaray, Southampton, Torino, Benfica, Blackburn and Newcastle. He has been out of football since being sacked by Newcastle in February.

David Holmes: Became Rangers chairman but was replaced by David Murray in June 1989. Became a major shareholder with Falkirk in 1990 but resigned in 1991. Had a brief spell as managing director at Dundee. Is now in the the timber industry.

Jock Wallace: After leaving IbroxWallace had short spells with Seville and Colchester United.

Died of a heart attack in July, 1996. He was 60.

John Paton:

Resigned from Rangers in November 1986. Became a Kilmarnock director in 1989 and held the position of vice-chairman until his death in March, 2001, aged 77.

Campbell Ogilvie: Worked with Rangers from 1979, mainly as director-secretary, until leaving the club after an internal restructuring last year. Influential within the SFA and helped draw the template for the Champions League group stages. Appointed general secretary and operations director by Hearts in November.