World of Sport

45,000 to see Rangers face blokes coming off night shift

World of Sport

View gallery


Ibrox by day

Background behind the mother of all mismatches

Rangers FC - or The Rangers FC depending on your preference - play their first home league match of the season in the Scottish Third Division against part-time minnows East Stirlingshire at Ibrox. It is the first league match the newco Rangers will play at home since HM Revenue and Customs rejected a CVA plan worth £8.5 million in June that would have enabled the famous Glasgow club to trade their way out of administration. The 'oldco' is in the death throes of being liquidated with the fall-out seeing the 'newco' Rangers beginning life all over again in Scotland's football's lowest league, a semi-professional scene in all but name.

The old Rangers had gone into administration in February over non-payment of tax worth around £14 million. They were also being pursued by HMRC for another £75 million in unpaid bills, penalties and interest relating to the deployment of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs), a contentious tax avoidance scheme that enabled the club to sign dozens of starry names in the 2000s including Ronald de Boer, Frank de Boer, Giovanni van Bronkhorst and Claudio Caniggia without paying tax on their salaries over the past decade.

Rangers have changed their name to The Rangers. The newco is debt-free with new owner Charles Green having bought the assets of the club, including Ibrox Stadium and the Murray Park training ground. Owing to the sins of the oldco, Rangers were banished from the Scottish Premier League for being liquidated and forced to start of life at the bottom rung of Scottish football after various meetings and votes of the SPL and the Scottish Football League decided integrity was paramount to protect the sport in Scotland.

There remains an ongoing investigation by HMRC, the Scottish football authorities and the Police into the goings on at Ibrox under previous owners Sir David Murray and Craig Whyte, but Green appears to have the fans behind him after a summer of turmoil with over 32,000 season tickets bought and paid for by the diehards.

Over 40,000 fans are expected at Ibrox on Saturday for a match against East Stirlingshire that is likely to create a world record attendance for a match in the bottom tier of any league in world football. It is the ultimate act of defiance by a support more used to winning titles and competing at the highest levels of European football. The match against East Stirlingshire comes only four years after Rangers lost 2-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg in the UEFA Cup final.

Rangers will be banned from signing new players by the Scottish Football Association for a year when the new transfer window ends at the end of August as a consequence of bringing the game into disrepute. They have been busy signing several new faces as they seek to make their way through the country's lower leagues back to the SPL. With the old club yet to be officially liquidated, Rangers hang on to their history from yesteryear, but some commentators will argue that the history belongs to the old club. What cannot be debated is that "The Rangers" continue to carry one of British football's largest supports.

There will be no Celtic to play this year, and without being drawn in cup competitions, there remains every chance they will not come across their bitter city rivals until 2015. Over the next nine months, Rangers will have to make do with matches against teams whose players are plumbers, labourers, van drivers and shop assistants. Some will be coming off the night shift to face Rangers in the months ahead. They drew 2-2 away to Peterhead a week ago, but Rangers are likely to wallow in goals at Ibrox this season.

View gallery


The humble Ochilview Park

Whether the novelty value wears off in the months ahead remains to be see, but Saturday's day out could produce a landslide win for Rangers against a team of part-timers, who have spent most of the past decade in the nether regions of Scottish football. Rangers continue to pay SPL wages to their players with recent recruits Dean Shiels and Ian Black apparently earning £5,000 per week. Their most recent signing, Brazilian defender Emilson Cribari, has spent 13 years in Italy with clubs such as Lazio, Udinese and Napoli.

In contrast, East Stirlingshire finished bottom of the Scottish Third Division last season and are suddenly facing a club who have won more domestic titles than any other in world football. There are fears a record scoreline could accompany the record crowd with "The Shire" being nothing more than cannon fodder.

Respective histories

Rangers FC or The Rangers FC

Nickname: The Gers
Founded: 1872
Ground: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow
Capacity: 51,082
Manager: Ally McCoist
Record attendance: 118,567 v Celtic in 1939
Biggest win: 10-0 v Hibernian 1898
Biggest defeat: 2-10 v Airdrieonians 1886
Honours: Won 1972 European Cup Winners's Cup, 2008 UEFA Cup runners-up
54 Scottish League titles, 33 Scottish Cups, 27 Scottish League Cups
Most appearances: John Greig 775 (1960-1978)
Most capped player: Frank de Boer, 112 caps for the Netherlands
Goals in a season: 57 - Jim Forrest in 1964/65. (Sam English scored 44 league goals in 1931/32)
Average home attendance 2011/2012: 46,324 (880,160 fans watched Rangers at Ibrox last season)
Star men: USA captain Carlos Bocanegra, Scotland players Lee Wallace, Neil Alexander, Lee McCulloch and Ian Black
Price of season ticket: £258, concessions £179, under 16s - £65
Record fee paid for a player: £12 million to Chelsea for Tore Andre Flo in 2000
Record fee received for a player: £9 million from Tottenham Hotspur for Alan Hutton in 2008
Average wages paid (estimated): £10,000 per week

East Stirlingshire

Nickname: The Shire
Founded: 1881
Ground: Ochilview Park, Larbert (formerly Firs Park, Falkirk until 2008)
Capacity: 3,746 (Firs Park had a capacity of 1,880)
Manager: John Coughlin
Record attendance: 12,000 against Partick Thistle in 1921
Biggest win: 11-2 against Vale of Bannock in 1888
Biggest defeat: 1-12 against Dundee United in 1936
Honours: Scottish Division Two in 1936
Most appearances: Gordon Russell 445 (1986-2002)
Most capped player: Humphrey Jones, 14 caps for Wales. Five while playing for East Stirlingshire
Goals in a season: 36 - Malcolm Morrison in 1938 and Henry Morris 1947/48
Average home attendance 2011/2012: 321 (6,027 fans watched East Stirlingshire at Ochilview last season)
Star man: Captain Kevin Turner. A former Rangers youth forward who now drives a van as his other job
Price of season ticket: £120, concessions £40, under 16s - £10
Record fee paid for a player: £6,000 to Falkirk for Colin McKinnon in 1991
Record fee received for a player: £35,000 from Chelsea for Jim Docherty in 1979
Average wages paid (estimated): £30 per week

What are they making of it all?

John Coughlin (East Stirlingshire manager): "Rangers have been admitted to the Third Division and we will have to get on with it. But there is no doubt that their presence will have an impact of the competition. For a club like ourselves it almost certainly means that there will be twelve points fewer for us to go and win. That's not being defeatist, just realistic. We are effectively playing in a nine team league because Rangers are so far ahead of everyone else that they are not going to drop too many points, which will be more of a concern for the other sides who perhaps have spent money in a bid to win promotion than ourselves."

Other things you need to know about The Shire

Reached the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup in 1888. Lost to Celtic

Won Scottish Division Two in 1931-32 - their only title

The club almost went out of existence in 1964 when the chairman forced an amalgamation with Clydebank Juniors and moved to Clydebank

The newly-formed ES Clydebank won a court case to remain as East Stirlingshire and remain at Firs Park

East Stirlingshire have only competed in the top flight of the Scottish football for three years in their 132-year history

East Stirlingshire were promoted to Division One as runners-up behind Falkirk in 1980

East Stirlingshire appointed their first manager Lawrence Binnie in 1966. Before that point, the directors had chosen the team

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, then only 32, began his coaching career as manager of East Stirlingshire in 1974. He was manager for 117 days before joining St Mirren

East Stirlingshire collected 59 points in 1994/95 - their highest points total in Scottish football - but finished fourth in the table

And don't call them East Stirling. Their fans demand they are called East Stirlingshire
View comments (270)