FOR almost 50 years, Willie Waddell probably contributed more to Rangers than any other man – as player, manager and executive of the club.

He had been an outstanding outside right under manager Bill Struth. But by the time he returned to Ibrox, it would be fair to say that the club was in the doldrums.

Waddell, however, was a very single-minded man who mixed a clear vision of what he wanted with the determination to achieve it. And it was through his extraordinary energies that the club lifted itself back to its rightful place at the top.

He first played for Rangers in a reserve game at the age of 15. Two years later he scored the only goal of the game on his senior debut in a match against Arsenal.

Waddell was greatly respected as a player. He was fast, he was powerful and he could make and score goals. He played in four Championship winning teams, two Scottish Cup Final victories and was capped 17 times by Scotland.

After he retired in 1956, he set about building the same reputation as a manager, taking over Kilmarnock and guiding them to their only Championship in 1964-65.

Later he worked as a journalist and returned to Ibrox in December 1969 following the dismissal of David White.

There was a great deal of work to be done and Waddell set about it with gusto, operating at times more like a chief executive than as team manager.

Waddell was a man steeped in the values laid down by Bill Struth. He set about remoulding the club, changing the staff and the team and putting them back on course for the successes that were to be enjoyed in the 1970s.

He led the side to their first trophy since 1966 when Rangers won the 1970-71 League Cup beating Celtic 1-0 in the Final. He also brought in Jock Wallace as coach and the two of them formed a great partnership which was to see Wallace follow him as manager.

The task of restoring the team’s fortunes was a challenge Waddell relished. But the Ibrox tragedy of 1971, in which 66 people died at the New Year game with Celtic, was to test his resources even more.

The terrible situation demanded strong leadership and it was Waddell who provided it.

First he saw to it that the club was represented at each of the victims’ funerals, in most cases by players and former stars.

Then he set about driving through the redevelopment of Ibrox with such foresight that today’s state of the art stadium – one of the best in Europe – owes much to the inspiration initiated by Waddell.

Waddell’s prime concern was safety. He visited club grounds in Europe, such as at Dortmund, and was convinced that all-seater stadiums were the way forward. But it says much for Waddell’s influence that the modern Ibrox still combines the best of the new with the heritage of the old.

At the same time Waddell drove his team to one of their greatest achievements, lifting the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972 when Rangers beat Moscow Dynamo 3-2 in the Final in Barcelona.

Waddell handed over the reins to Jock Wallace in 1972 and went on to serve the club as general manager, managing director and vice-chairman.

But the groundwork he had done was a major factor in the League, Cup and League Cup Trebles Rangers were shortly to win twice in the space of three years.

When he died in 1992, Waddell left behind an everlasting memory of a man who had given his all to return the club he loved to greatness.