Men of the stature of Graeme Souness, Sandy Jardine and Ally McCoist have all said Greig was the best. The fans have said it, too.
They voted him the winner in a competition to find the Greatest Ever Ranger and Greig received his award at a star-studded dinner in Glasgow in March 1999.
It isn’t difficult to see why Greig was their choice. It wasn’t just his ability, though he was a devastatingly strong and influential player.
It was also his passion, his drive, his undeniable will to win that expressed, more than any other contemporary, the essential spirit of what Rangers Football Club is about.
Consider his achievements:-
- Captain of his club and of his country
- A man who led Rangers to their first European trophy
- Holder of the club’s record number of League appearances with 496 games
- Second only to Dougie Gray for appearances in all competitions with an incredible 857 matches
- Scorer of 120 goals while playing most of his football in defence or midfield.
- The only player to have won the Treble an astonishing three times
No wonder that Greig, twice Scotland’s Player of the Year, was awarded the MBE in 1977 for his services to the game. Few can compare with such a brilliant record.
But he also had qualities which are becoming rarer to find in modern football. A total devotion to the team and unfailing loyalty to the Club.
Yet, at the start, he had not wanted to join Rangers. Greig, born in Edinburgh on September 11 1942, was a Hearts supporter as a boy and was determined to play for them.
He only signed for Rangers because his father told him to when a scout visited the family home in Prestonfield. His initial reluctance, however, soon disappeared.
Greig played his first match at Airdrie in the League Cup in September 1961 and scored on his debut at inside right as Rangers won 4-1.
He played 11 League matches that first season, all as a forward, and hit seven goals. Then, on a summer tour to Russia, he really impressed playing at wing half in place of the absent Jim Baxter.
By season 1962-63 he was a regular and scored his first Old Firm goal on New Year’s Day in a 4-0 defeat of Celtic.
It was after this match that Greig was moved to right half. It was the start of a great partnership with Baxter whose style complemented Greig’s.
Greig won the first of his five Championships in 1962-63 (the others were in 1963-64, 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1977-78) and his first Scottish Cup as Rangers beat Celtic in a Final for the first time in 35 years with a 3-0 victory in a replay.
The stars of the team at that time were Jimmy Millar, Ralph Brand, Willie Henderson and Baxter, but the young Greig was not overawed.
The next season, 1963-64, brought the first of those three Trebles. Greig played in every match in all three of the competitions. In the League Cup, Morton were turned over 5-0 and Dundee were defeated 3-1 in the Scottish Cup Final.
This was also the season that the 21-year-old Greig won the first of his 44 caps for Scotland, making his debut in the 1-0 win over England at Hampden in April 1964.
Rangers won the League Cup again in 1964-65, beating Celtic 2-1 in the Final, but the Treble winning team was beginning to break up and trophies were hard to come by as the rebuilding began.
Greig had the chance to join the drain of Scottish footballers to England, but he never had any wish to leave Rangers.
He stuck to the task, even though it would be 11 seasons before Rangers would be League Champions again.
Though winning his third Scottish Cup in 1966 with a 1-0 defeat of Celtic, it was the next season when Rangers began to turn the corner. Greig was club captain by now as they enjoyed a European run in the Cup Winners’ Cup.
Under Greig’s forceful leadership they reached the Final in May 1967, only losing to the Bayern Munich of Franz Beckenbauer 1-0 in extra time. It was a great performance from Rangers considering that the Final was played in Nuremberg and was almost like a home game for the Germans.
Greig’s captaincy style was inspirational. He led by example and was always available to talk to the younger players, offering them help and advice.
His international career was also blossoming. He had scored the only goal – from right back – in a 1-0 victory over Italy in 1965. But perhaps the sweetest moment was to come in 1967. Greig was captain of Scotland as they took on the then World Champions England at Wembley.
Not only did Greig save a certain goal by heading off his line, he led his men to a memorable 3-2 defeat of the auld enemy. Scotland took the mickey out of England that day, playing keep ball and forcing the World Cup winners to run around in search of possession.
Though Rangers won the League Cup Final against Celtic in 1970, Greig missed out through injury.
In the dark days following the Ibrox tragedy when 66 people died in 1971, he played the captain’s role in leading the players as they attended the victims’ funerals.
But by 1972, the glory returned as Rangers won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Moscow Dynamo 3-2 in Barcelona.
The team were on the verge of a breakthrough on the domestic front. Greig collected the Scottish Cup in 1973 with a 3-2 victory over Celtic and Rangers reclaimed the League title in 1974-75.
Greig, however, had suffered hamstring problems that season and was on the bench for the crunch game with Hibernian on March 29 1975.
Manager Jock Wallace and Sandy Jardine, who was captain in Greig’s absence, had agreed that if the score was right, Jardine would come off and Wallace would send on Greig as a replacement.
With two minutes to go it was 1-1 and the draw would be sufficient to give Rangers the title. Despite not being 100 per cent fit, Greig was sent on as a substitute in time for him to receive the League Championship trophy.
It was a nice touch and recognised all Greig’s efforts on Rangers’ behalf during the lean years.
The side Greig led was the nucleus of the team which would win two Trebles in three years and once again be the dominant force in Scottish football.
The players around him now were Sandy Jardine, Alex MacDonald and Derek Johnstone. None of them knew what it was to win a clean sweep, but Greig did and his experience shone through as Rangers won the first of those two Trebles in 1975-76.
Greig received his third League Cup winners’ medal as Celtic were beaten 1-0 in that season’s Final and won the Scottish Cup for the fifth time as Hearts were defeated 3-1.
By this time Greig was appearing more at full back or in the centre of defence. And in 1977-78 the Treble was repeated with a 2-1 League Cup victory over Celtic – Greig’s fourth winners’ medal in the competition – and a sixth Scottish Cup came his way when Aberdeen were beaten 2-1 in the Final.
Greig was 35 when, a few days after that Treble had been completed, his life was to change dramatically. His last act as a Rangers player had been to hold aloft that Scottish Cup.
Jock Wallace, the manager who had steered Rangers to those two Trebles, quit abruptly. Greig was handed the job.
He went desperately close to retaining that Treble in his first season of management. Rangers won the League Cup, beating Aberdeen 2-1 in the Final, conquered Hibernian 3-2 in a Scottish Cup Final second replay, and enjoyed a decent run in the European Cup, losing to Cologne by the odd goal in the quarter-final.
The League Championship eluded them, however, the title going to Celtic after Rangers 4-2 defeat in May. Greig’s men finished runners-up.
Rangers were to win another Scottish Cup and a League Cup under Greig, but in October 1983 he resigned to be replaced by the returning Jock Wallace.
Greig’s heart, however, belonged to Rangers and he came back to Ibrox in 1990 as public relations officer then wen on to work closely with Dick Advocaat.
He then worked in the Youth Department at Murray Park trying to unearth the next “John Greig”. He was made a Director of the Club in December 2003 and then stepped down in October 2011.
If any player deserves the accolade of Rangers legend it is John Greig. His skill, his determination, and his loyalty through long years of service personify the very essence of what Rangers Football Club represents.