Jim Forrest

Born: September 22, 1944;

Died: September 27, 2023

Jim Forrest, who has died aged 79, was a footballer who played for both Rangers and Aberdeen as well as Preston North End whilst representing Scotland on five occasions at full international level between 1965 and 1971.

Born in Townhead, Glasgow during the Second World War, the young James was educated at Rosemount Primary School in Royston and Whitehill Secondary School in Onslow Drive, Dennistoun.

A regular scorer in schools football, two goals at Ibrox in a Scotland v West Germany schoolboy international quickly led to serious interest from many senior clubs, including Rangers, Arsenal, Manchester United and Leicester City. Indeed, at the time it was believed that there were no fewer than 42 clubs interested in signing him.

There was only one choice for the Rangers-mad youngster however, and in September 1959 he joined the Ibrox ground-staff, working behind the scenes in the pavilion, cleaning boots and sweeping up in the dressing-room whilst gaining experience playing alongside his cousin Alex Willoughby at Drumchapel Amateurs.

Forrest had impressed for a multi-talented Rangers reserve side alongside the likes of John Greig and Willie Henderson before making his first-team debut in a 4-0 home win against Falkirk on 17 November 1962, deputising for the injured Ralph Brand. The great Ibrox side of the early-60s was not the easiest for a youngster to break into, even one of such potential as the Townhead youngster, and his total appearances in that first season numbered just four.

The following season, 1963-64, saw the young Forrest, still a teenager, make his Old Firm debut in place of the injured Jimmy Millar at Celtic Park on the opening day of the new campaign, netting twice in a 3-0 Rangers League Cup victory. He would go on to net a remarkable 16 goals in ten league cup appearances that season, including a record four in a 5-0 final triumph at Hampden against Greenock Morton with Willoughby netting the other.

Rangers would proceed to annex the Triple Crown, or Treble, of League Championship, Scottish Cup and League Cup that season, but Forrest would be omitted from the Scottish Cup Final against Dundee in favour of Jimmy Millar.

The selection of the experienced Millar was one that most Rangers fans of the era would have agreed with despite his younger teammate having netted 39 goals during that campaign, and the choice was certainly justified as Millar netted with two headed goals in the 3-1 win.

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In terms of goals, if not trophy success, Season 1964-65 was Forrest’s most productive at Ibrox with a remarkable 57 in total in all competitions, a post-war British record, including six in the European Champions’ Cup against sides of the quality of Red Star Belgrade and Rapid Vienna, with the Scottish Champions narrowly eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Holders and World Champions Inter Milan, 3-2 on aggregate with Forrest scoring both goals. He also netted both goals in that season’s 2-1 League Cup Final triumph over Celtic.

The 1966 Old Firm Scottish Cup Final saw Forrest leading the line only for the game to end goalless, whereupon Jim was excluded for the midweek replay in favour of George McLean, a much more contentious decision than two years earlier, even if a Kai Johansen strike ensured the trophy was Ibrox-bound.

Two-footed and a deadly finisher with an electrifying turn of pace, in total Forrest scored 145 goals in 163 games for Rangers, an astonishing goals-per-game ratio arguably unmatched in the club’s history.

At international level, he was first capped at full international level by Jock Stein on 24 November 1965 in a 4-1 defeat of Wales at Hampden in the Home International Championship.

The 1967 Scottish Cup defeat to Berwick Rangers would spell the end for both Forrest and team-mate McLean, both players being immediately transfer-listed, and would not feature again in competitive football for the club.

It appeared at the time, and certainly with the benefit of hindsight, an extraordinary move, particularly in the case of Forrest, with manager Scot Symon no doubt under pressure from his board of directors, although there were many Rangers fans who agreed with the decision. Nevertheless it must be regarded as a major error of judgement by a paranoid management.

Arguably the absence of Forrest and his cousin Willoughby, who was dropped just before the final, cost the Light Blues the European Cup Winners Cup Final at the end of that campaign, losing 0-1 after extra-time to Bayern Munich in Nuremberg.

Forrest was transferred to Preston North End on 16 March 1967 for £38,000, a significant fee more than half-a-century ago, but his time at Deepdale was not a happy or successful one, with the striker still frustrated and depressed at his sudden and brutal departure from Ibrox, returning north of the border in the summer of 1968 to Aberdeen for a £20,000 fee.

Under the shrewd and disciplinary management of Dons boss Eddie Turnbull, Forrest recovered his enthusiasm for football, finishing his first season at Pittodrie as leading scorer with 23 goals in 47 games. By now, he had been reunited at Pittodrie with his cousin Alex Willoughby.

The striker finally won a Scottish Cup Winners’ Medal in 1970 as Aberdeen defeated Celtic 3-1 at Hampden and during the following season Aberdeen came agonisingly close to securing the League Championship title, losing out by a mere two points.

Five years in Aberdeen saw Forrest net 62 goals in 191 appearances before departing for South Africa where he played for Cape Town City, followed by a move to Hong Kong Rangers where he would again team up with Willoughby, then on to San Antonio Thunder in Texas.

At the end of Jim’s playing career, the Forrests happily remained in San Antonio where he was involved in the liquor business before a family illness brought them back to Scotland in 1988.

Living quietly in the south-side of Glasgow, he was landlord of the Clachan Bar on Paisley Road West, near Ibrox, and was a regular attender at his old club’s games.

He is survived by his wife Margaret.