Born: November 20, 1934;

Died: October 20, 2022.

THE ‘Old Warhorse’ has gone. Jimmy Millar, who has died aged 87, was a key member of the great Rangers team of the early 1960s, which is regarded by many to this day as the finest Ibrox side of the post-war era. He also gave sterling service to Dunfermline Athletic and Dundee United.

Born in Edinburgh, Millar was training as an apprentice plumber while turning out firstly for Milton House, then for Edinburgh juvenile side Merchiston Thistle, with whom he won his first winner’s medal in the Stevenson Cup. He quickly attracted the attention of senior clubs, and Dunfermline manager Bobby Ancell persuaded him to sign at the age of just 17.

He was 18 when he made his debut, scoring in a 2-1 win over Hamilton Accies on January 31, 1953. Playing at inside-forward, he would go on to net 17 goals in 19 league appearances in the old Scottish League ‘B’ Division.

Equally at home at either wing-half or inside-forward, Millar’s form at Dunfermline (22 goals in 43 appearances) soon attracted interest from other clubs – and on January 12, 1955, after turning down Preston, he was transferred to Rangers for a fee of £5,500. He made his debut on the 29th of that month in a 1-2 League defeat against Dundee at Dens Park.

No sooner had Jimmy landed at Ibrox than he was called up for National Service with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in Cyprus, which seriously restricted his availability for Scot Symon’s team. Indeed it would be season 1957-58 before he fully established himself in the team, making 39 first-team appearances (including a first taste of European competitive football in the Champions’ Cup) that yielded nine goals.

He was still being utilised principally as an inside-forward or wing-half at this stage, but a close-season visit to Copenhagen in May 1959 would change the course of his career when, in the opening fixture of a two-game tour, he came on at half-time as a substitute for the injured centre-forward Max Murray and scored all the goals in a 4-0 win.

Three months later, when the opening game of the season saw Rangers play Hibernian at Easter Road, he again lined up at centre alongside inside-forwards Ian McMillan and Ralph Brand. Rangers ran riot, winning 6-1, with Brand scoring four goals and Millar one.

Jimmy would make the centre-forward position his own during the next five years with only injury keeping him out. A deadly striking partnership had been formed with Brand that would endure for the same period, the ‘M & B’ duo becoming the stuff of legend, the two friends travelling together through to Glasgow from Edinburgh by train, accompanied in due course by John Greig.

Rangers enjoyed mixed fortune during season 1959-60, finishing third in the League behind both Hearts and Kilmarnock, yet at the same time reaching the European Champions Cup semi-finals before losing to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Millar was a key figure in that European campaign, netting three goals in seven appearances. He also finished as the club’s leading scorer with forty goals in 54 games. The season finished in style with the Light Blues annexing the Scottish Cup with a 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock courtesy of two headed goals from Millar.

The arrival of Jim Baxter in the summer of 1960 transformed the Ibrox side into a superbly-gifted outfit, capable of playing skilful, sweeping football that transformed Rangers in the first half of the 1960’s. For all that Baxter was unquestionably a player of the highest class, supremely talented, for many observers of those halcyon days the favourite member of the team was Jimmy Millar, a player who led the line well and was greatly appreciated by team-mates.

Standing just 5’8” tall and stockily built, Jimmy was an intelligent, courageous player who possessed exceptional positional sense and was a prolific scorer in the air, underlined by his four headed goals in the Scottish Cup Finals of 1960 and 1964, the latter triumph securing the much sought-after ‘Triple Crown’.

In twelve years at Ibrox, Millar played 353 games for the club, scoring 178 goals, winning three League Championships, five Scottish Cups and three League Cups, His Scottish Cup goals tally of thirty is a post-war record, matched in later years by Derek Johnstone.

In European campaigns, 31 appearances yielded twelve goals, and included runs to the 1960-61 Cup Winners’ Cup Final (where his absence from the first leg through injury arguably cost Rangers the trophy).

He revelled in Old Firm games, netting thirteen goals in total. In the traditional Ne’erday fixture he twice scored the only goal of the game in 1960 and 1964 at Celtic Park, whilst arguably his finest game in Light Blue came at Ibrox one year earlier in a 4-0 win.

On the international front there were just two games for Scotland – both in 1963 – against Austria and the Republic of Ireland, together with four appearances in League Internationals.

In his final full season as a Ranger, Millar reverted to wing-half, principally operating as a sweeper and having a major influence in the 1966 Scottish Cup final.

Millar left Rangers in the summer of 1967, signing for Dundee United to join his brother Tommy and a young teenager by the name of Walter Smith. Two seasons produced 18 appearances, in which he netted three times.

Jimmy moved into management at Raith Rovers in season 1969-70, masterminding a 2-1 defeat of Rangers on March 11, before resigning at the end of the campaign.

Away from football Millar was a keen golfer and walker, and ran the Duke’s Head public house in the shadow of Hibernian’s Easter Road for 31 years. In later years he was a popular host in the hospitality lounges at Ibrox.

Jimmy Millar died following a brave decade-long struggle with dementia. He was married to wife Evelyn for more than 60 years.

Robert McElroy