WHEN John Greig was voted Greatest Ever Ranger by supporters of the Ibrox club back in 1999 it was impossible to argue with their choice.

The man who made 755 first team appearances for the Glasgow giants between 1961 and 1978, captained them to European Cup Winners’ Cup glory in 1972 and spent five years as their manager was a worthy recipient of the accolade.

But would Greig have enjoyed such a long and successful career if he had not come under the tutelage of Jock “Tiger” Shaw, who it could be argued is Rangers’ greatest ever servant, at a young age?

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Greig was a member of the “Swifts” side that Shaw coached in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The experience left a lasting impression on him. He would display many of the same characteristics as the legendary defender and captain during his own playing days.

“He was an inspirational figure,” said Ian Stewart, the lifelong Rangers supporter who has written a long overdue biography of the Scottish football great called Eye of the Tiger: The Jock Shaw Story. 

“He got given the nickname Tiger shortly after he joined Rangers  in 1938 because he was a ferocious tackler. He must have been very intimidating to play against. He had no front teeth. He was the Joe Jordan of his day. He had a never-say-die attitude. Like John Greig, he would always give his all.

“There is a famous story about him being determined to play on in a New Year’s Old Firm game at Celtic Park in 1952, when he was getting towards the end of his career, despite being seriously injured. He had been stretchered off, but he was begging to be let to go back out onto the park. Bill Struth, the then manager, refused.”

He continued: “After he retired from playing he took charge of the third team at Rangers, who were known as The Swifts. He worked with players who would all go on to do well, John Greig, Sandy Jardine, Jim Forrest, Willie Henderson, Willie Mathieson, Alex Miller, Davie Wilson and Alex Willoughby. They were all very complimentary about him.

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“John Greig recalled how Jock used to drive him to the station so he could catch the train home to Edinburgh. He would be in awe of the former Rangers captain and think: ‘I wonder if I could be like him one day?’.”

It was quite a level to aspire to. Shaw’s achievements at Rangers were formidable. He played over 600 first team games at Ibrox, won the Scottish title four times, the Scottish Cup three times and the League Cup twice. He was the skipper of the first Scottish side to complete a domestic treble in 1949.

Remarkably, he spent many of his 15 years in Govan vying with his brother Davie, the Hibernian and Scotland player who would later go on to manage Aberdeen, for silverware.

“At that time Hibs and Rangers were the dominant teams,” said Stewart. “Hibs had the Famous Five forward line (Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond) and Rangers had the Iron Curtain defence (Bobby Brown, George Young, Shaw, Willie Woodburn, Ian McColl and Sammy Cox). Between 1938 and 1953 they shared the title between them.

“David was in the Hibs team and Jock was in the Rangers side. They were both left backs. When they played for Scotland together, David used to switch to right back. It was a bit like Danny McGrain and Sandy Jardine in the 1970s.”

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Stewart - who had previously penned My Helicopter Sunday and, in conjunction with official Rangers historian David Mason, Mr Struth: The Boss - was inspired to write Eye of the Tiger after moving to live in Glenboig in North Lanarkshire.

Shaw had been born and brought up in the nearby mining village of Annathill and had seen out his days in Glenboig. So it seemed a logical choice for his next tome. “It was on my doorstep more or less,” he said. “I could get the inside information from his family and the locals.”

He discovered that Annathill has quite a claim to fame during the course of his research. “When Scotland played England in a Victory International at Hampden in 1946 (in front of a crowd of 139,468) three of their defenders came from Annathill,” he said.

“It was a small mining community of just 1,500 folk.  But Frank Brennan, the Newcastle United centre half, and David and Jock Shaw, all came from there and all played in the defence.

“Scotland had taken some hidings from England during the war, had suffered some really embarrassing drubbings. But they beat them 1-0 that day thanks to a last minute goal from Jimmy Delaney.”

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Shaw became the oldest man ever to don a light blue jersey when he played his last game at the age of 39 years and 325 days in 1952 – a record that was only surpassed by Davie Weir in 2010.

However, his association with the Ibrox club did not end when he hung up his boots. Far from it. He would go on to coach and scout for them and at one point even moved on to the ground staff. 

“He was a great Rangers man,” said Stewart. “That was proven after he finished playing with the work he did for the club. He joined the ground staff in the 1960s and did what can only be described as menial work. But he loved the club so much he would have done anything for them.

“He wasn’t the head groundsman, but he was happy doing it. One of his old colleagues recounted how he was as diligent about his duties, whether it was replacing the divots on the pitch or sweeping the terrace, as he had been as a player. Mr Struth demanded high standards from his players and that obviously stayed with him. 

“He passed away aged 87 in 2000. Ally McCoist was working at Euro 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands as a co-commentator at the time. He thought so much of him that he flew back for the day so he could attend his funeral. Everybody in Glenboig who I spoke to when I was writing the book loved him.”

Jock Shaw’s ashes were interred behind the goals at the Copland Road End at Ibrox – it is a fitting resting place for one of the greatest players in Rangers’ entire 150 year history.

 

Eye of the Tiger: The Jock Shaw Story by Ian Stewart is published by Pitch Publishing and costs £19.99.  

 

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