AS BRITAIN recovered and grew in prosperity following the horrors and hardships of the Second World War it prompted Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to coin the phrase ‘you’ve never had it so good’ soon after taking office in 1957.

It was lifted from an address to a large meeting of party members in Bedford and was made in reference to the recovery of the country in so many aspects from industry to agriculture; high employment to decent medical care.

It turned out to be a prophecy for Rangers supporters who were about to enjoy one of the greatest periods in the club’s history when 12 major honours were won, a Treble was clinched and a European final was reached.

At the hub of this fantastic period was a small man with huge football talent. The Wee Prime Minister might not be the most imaginative nickname, but it stuck to Ian McMillan much like the ball when he was running at opposition defences or probing for openings by keeping possession.

He was 27 when he joined Rangers on 2 October 1958 from first love Airdrie and had ten years of top class football behind him as well as five Scotland appearances. His capture, for £10,000, was inspirational, as he enhanced an emerging team with his terrific close control, exceptional use of the ball and the ability to open up defences.

He gelled immediately with those around him and scored twice on his Rangers debut — a 4-4 draw with Raith Rovers.

McMillan was what you now call a creative midfield player and made the game for those around him with his clever play, even if it was a huge difference playing at Ibrox than it had been at Broomfield.

He said: “It was a big transformation for me moving to a team like Rangers from Airdrie. Everything was bigger — including the track around the pitch. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the track realising I would have to run round this when I was training!

“When you make a transfer there has to be an element of luck and I was very fortunate that I moved into a great team with great players who made it easy for me to settle.

“The majority of that team — if not all of them — are in the Hall of Fame so it was quite an honour for me when I was picked to join them. It was a first rate team to play in.”

With McMillan on board Rangers lost just one of their next 24 league matches and needed just one point from their remaining two matches to be champions but they lost them both!

Thankfully challengers Hearts were beaten by Celtic, of all teams, in their final match and the title was back at Ibrox.

Hearts got revenge the following season by taking the title in a final day showdown with Kilmarnock but Ian had the solace of winning the Scottish Cup for the first time when Kilmarnock were beaten 2-0 in front of 108,017 at Hampden.

Rangers had also ventured into the European Cup that season and made a terrific run to the semi-finals of the competition and it was a stage that McMillan thrived upon.

The Light Blues hammered Belgian champions Anderlecht 7-2 on aggregate, with McMillan scoring in a 2-0 win in Brussels, and then edged past Red Star Bratislava 5-4 in the next round.

There was no such thing as the away goals rule or penalty shoot-outs in the formative years of European competition and Rangers needed a play-off match at Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium to get past Sparta Rotterdam in the quarter-finals.

McMillan was the star of the show. Remarkably 34,017 turned out to watch the Scottish and Dutch champions do battle in north London. McMillan had been the top performer and it was his cross which caused Sparta defender Freek van der Lee to divert the ball into his own net to clinch a 3-2 win for Rangers.

In the last four Rangers were drawn with the West German champions Eintracht Frankfurt and they were taken apart, losing 12-4 on aggregate.

They lost 6-1 in Germany and 6-3 at Ibrox, a match in which McMillan scored twice. Eintracht seemed invincible but they lost 7-3 in the final to Real Madrid at Hampden in a match which is still revered as the greatest European final of all time.

McMillan and Rangers did get to a final the following season when they defeated Ferencvaros of Hungary 5-3 on aggregate, destroyed Borussia Moenchengladbach 11-0 and then edged the good Wolves side of the time 3-1 en route to the inaugural Cup Winners’ Cup final.

Sadly their lack of nous at European level was evident again when the clever Italians of Fiorentina won 4-1 over two legs, but it was all an incredible adventure.

McMillan said: “I loved the European nights. It was a complete transformation to what I was used to at Broomfield. Here I was playing against Eintracht Frankfurt and the like in front of 80,000.

“We were a little naïve in the early days in Europe in the sense that we attacked all the time when we clearly should have played a more containing game at times as teams do now.

“We learned that from the teams we played but we had some terrific results during this period and it was a joy to be involved. Of course, we got to the final of the first Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1961 and we were probably out-smarted by Fiorentina.

“Having said that, we missed a penalty in the first leg and that might have made a huge difference had we scored.”

Rangers had the comfort of winning the Championship in 1960/61 and also the League Cup and it was Kilmarnock who suffered on both occasions. The Ibrox men edged Killie by one point in the league and beat them 2-0 in the League Cup final.

McMillan’s new midfield partner that season was a certain James Curran Baxter who arguably remains the most talented player Rangers have ever had. The two of them made Rangers tick and linked superbly with the front men and the wide players.

McMillan said: “It was a joy to play with Jim Baxter. He was a marvellous player. He was someone who just drifted by opponents as if they weren’t there and that was an amazing talent.

“The thing was Jim was not blessed with great pace. Fast players can get away from opponents with their speed but Jim used his ability to body-swerve away from an opposing player.

“To give you an idea of the difference between Airdrie and Rangers: when I was at Airdrie I was lucky if I had one player to pass the ball to. At Rangers I had five or six options.

“Apart from Baxter we had great wingers, firstly with Alex Scott and then Willie Henderson on the right and Davie Wilson on the left side. Up front Millar and Brand were terrific because their movement was so good so it was a great team to be involved in and I really enjoyed it.”

The amazing thing was that throughout it all McMillan, who was a qualified quantity surveyor, was only part-time and trained just two nights a week at Ibrox!

McMillan had started to drift out of the team in the Treble season of 1963/64 and then moved back to Airdrie in December 1964. He went on to manage the Diamonds in the 1970s and is now Honorary President of Airdrie United.