AS news of Trevor Steven's return to Ibrox spread around Douglas Park

on Saturday, it provided one of the few highlights for the Rangers fans

in the disappointing crowd of just over 3000.

If the 2-2 draw with first-division Hamilton proved anything it was

that the premier-division champions are sadly lacking a player in the

middle of the field with the Englishman's quality and vision.

Sold to Marseilles for #5.5m just 10 months ago, Steven has returned

for #2.4m, thus ending weeks of speculation by the fans and negotiations

between Rangers chairman David Murray and Marseilles president Bernard


At the Frenchman's request, the formal signing will take place in

front of 40,000 fans before tomorrow night's friendly between the sides

at Ibrox, although, for the life of me, I cannot understand why he

should want so many witnesses to his #3m loss.

Rangers manager Walter Smith, who intends playing Steven against the

French side tomorrow, said: ''The details were finalised late on Friday.

Trevor has been away only 10 months, so everyone at Ibrox appreciates

his quality. It's not often someone of his class becomes available.''

Rangers and Marseilles have also agreed to meet in pre-season

friendlies -- alternating between Scotland and France -- over the next

three years, and Steven should feature in them all. He has signed a

four-year contract.

Chairman Murray said: ''I'm delighted to have him back at Ibrox, and

this confirms our commitment to acquiring the best players available.

None come better than Trevor Steven.''

The player, who becomes Rangers' eleventh signing at #1m or more,

said: ''I always hoped that an agreement could be reached between the

clubs, because the only club I was interested in coming home to was


Meantime, Hamilton and their fans have never had so much fun since

Adrian Sprott thumped a shot behind Chris Woods at Ibrox on a dark day

in January, 1987. That, of course, produced one of the biggest Scottish

Cup upsets of modern times, and the little Lanarkshire club came so

close to another epic win on Saturday. It mattered not a jot to Douglas

Park connections that it was merely a friendly.

As Rangers, with a multi-million-pound squad on view, tried to settle

themselves into the game, they found themselves two goals down after

just 14 minutes, the first an own goal from Ian Durrant and the second

from Gary Ward. Both came from basic defensive lapses and both were

carved out by little Paul McDonald, a winger who gave Rangers all sorts

of problems on the day.

During the first half, Hamilton's defence, with Jim Weir, Chris

Hillcoat and Andy Millen oustanding, looked far more secure than their

celebrated guests. After the interval, however, Hamilton lost their way

a bit -- ''all they need is experience,'' commented manager Iain Munro

-- and Rangers missed enough simple chances to have won them several


But it was not until 11 minutes from the end that Rangers got their

breakthrough, when Hillcoat turned a shot from Richard Gough into his

own net. And they saved themselves from total embarrassment with just

three minutes left when former Hamilton player John Brown squeezed in

the equaliser.

Gough said: ''All credit to Hamilton, who played very well, but

nothing counts until the real stuff starts.''

Fortunately for Rangers, when the real stuff starts next Saturday they

will have Trevor Steven in their ranks.

Elsewhere, crowds were also disappointing as the fans gave the thumbs

down to pre-season sparring. Just 7000 saw Hearts lose to Tottenham at

Tynecastle, where, after Craig Levein had given them a first-half lead,

Scotland striker Gordon Durie came on as a substitute and scored twice

for Spurs.

Less than half that amount of fans saw St Johnstone thumped 4-1 by

West Ham at McDiarmid Park. It could have been even more but for a good

performance by new goalkeeper Andy Rhodes.

Premier division new boys Partick Thistle fought out goalless draw

with Wolverhampton at Firhill, a goal by Andy Smith gave Airdrie a 1-1

draw with Coventry at Broomfield, while Steve Kirk grabbed both

Motherwell goals in their 2-0 win at Hartlepool.