John Fletcher


John Fletcher

Rangers 2 – Arbroath 3

Ibrox Stadium, 2nd February 1974

£75.00 is three weeks wages, but then it is a 1957 Wolsley 1500 with cherry dash and single speaker. 164 miles from college in Newcastle to Carnoustie every weekend, I once did it in under 4 hours. It beats the 6 hour bus and train journey I was doing last season. I try for £7.00 expenses but Albert always makes it a fiver. Rangers at Ibrox! you would play for nothing. 20 years old, playing the Old Firm, television cameras, a famous victory, the winning goal, wake up, breakfast ready. Better start the day with two Smokies, I may need extra stamina in the second half.

Leaving Stirling now Billy Pirie looks contented, Eric Sellars has another hand like a foot and the card game is over. Approaching floodlights, the stadium, the Gers fans are waving, I think they’re wishing us all the best. Changing room! more like the size of the Marine ballroom.

Albert prepares his troops, he has to shout quite loud because we are spread all over the place. Marshall, Donald, Rylance, Walker, Waddell, Murray, Sellars, Cant, Pirie, Penman, Fletcher, with Tom Cargill, and Kenny Payne on the bench. Jock Wallace delays his selection, maybe he’ll need an extra couple of defenders. John Gilmartin and Hugh Robertson are exhausted, all the wintergreen is used up, check the studs, all the best. this is our time.

Smile, the cameras are here, brilliant! The pitch is a quagmire and that stench from the mud, Derek Rylance is a country lad he was used to it, but it took the rest of us by surprise, in fact Jimmy Cant said we can’t have this, and he went to work for the Environmental Health when he retired from football.

I spoke to Billy ‘Beerie’ as Albert called him, because he liked his pint, as we kicked off. He said “you and Eric run all over the place cross the ball to me, and I’ll stick it in the net.” Brilliant, this is going to easy.

Several Gordon Marshall wonder saves later and then Bobby Waddell fists the ball away to save a certain goal. A Sandy Jardine penalty just past the post and we can breath again. Rangers are gradually adjusting to the pace of our game and seven minutes before half time Tommy McLean half volleys, one nil down.

Half time team talk, Albert raises the stakes, fish suppers at Auchterarder if we manage a point….. o.k. and a can of coke.

The second half starts well for us. Tommy Walker and Andy Penman, play a neat one two, Hunter misses the cross and I’m there to equalise. Sensation, two minutes later, an Andy Penman free kick. Billy Pirie bullets the header into the net, maybe be scampi and chips and a half pint instead.

Normal service. Jimmy Cant is unlucky to foul Parlane in the box, he takes the penalty himself, no mistake this time. Two all ….. What might have been.

Only four minutes left now and under pressure. Everyone digging deep, can we hang on? The ball is cleared again, get to it, now don’t give it away. A Derek Johnston challenge, no contest, Albert is on his feet. Sandy who? Over half way now, the mud is thick, slowing the ball down, and suddenly the moment arrives. Maybe it was that extra Smokie, or the little band of Lichtie diehards on the terrace. Look up. Hunter is off his line, defenders closing in still 30 yards out. Get the ball in the air, over his head, will it hit the bar? The noise of the silence was deafening and that said it all, Albert and Hugh doing a jig.

Thank-you giant Smokie in the sky but did you have to send the Scotsport colour cameras to Ayr races. Anyone got a video recorder?