THE IMMEDIATE post-war era was most famous for the formidable Iron Curtain defence and the first Treble in Scottish football.
When normal League football returned to Scotland in the winter of 1946-47, it was with a difference. A new competition had been devised, the Scottish League Cup.
Rangers, still under the guidance of long-serving manager William Struth, won the first Final, beating Aberdeen 4-0. They also picked up where they had left off in 1939 by winning the first post-war Championship.
It was as if nothing had changed, and yet there was better to come. A 1-0 victory in a replayed Scottish Cup Final against Morton in 1948 was followed by the greatest season up to then in Rangers’ history.
In 1948-49, Rangers became the first team to win the League, the Scottish Cup, and the League Cup in one season. It was the first glorious treble in Scottish football.
In those days, the early stage of the League Cup was played in sections and it looked odds on that Celtic, in the same group as Rangers, would come out on top. That is until Celtic, amazingly, contrived to let in six goals at home to Clyde.
The upshot was that Rangers’ final section game against Celtic would decide who would go through. A crowd of 105,000 packed into Ibrox to watch the cliffhanger. Goals from Billy Williamson and Waddell gave Rangers a 2-1 win and pitted them against St Mirren in the quarter-final.
A 1-0 victory and a 4-1 romp over Dundee in the semi set Rangers up for a League Cup Final appearance against Raith Rovers in the Spring. A 2-0 win meant Rangers had completed the first leg.
Rangers path in the Scottish Cup was much more comfortable. They reached the Final with easy victories over Elgin, Motherwell, Partick and then East Fife in the semi, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one.
The Final itself proved no difficulty, Rangers seeing off Clyde 4-1. One curiosity emerged from the match. Williamson, who had scored the winning goal in the previous season’s Final, again found the net, giving him the remarkable record of having played in only two Scottish Cup games, both of them Finals, and scoring on both occasions.
The second leg of the treble was now safely at Ibrox, but the odds on them winning the Championship seemed stacked against Rangers. The race for the title had been a titanic struggle between Rangers and Dundee. Rangers had enjoyed an unbeaten run of 12 games but couldn’t shake off their rivals.
It was going down to the wire and, on the last day of the season, Dundee needed a draw at Falkirk to seal it. Surely they wouldn’t slip up?
Rangers did all that they could with Willie Thornton scoring a hat-trick as they won 4-1 at Albion Rovers. But the news from Brockville Park was astonishing.
Dundee had crashed 4-1. The title and the Treble belonged to Rangers. History had been made.
Much of Rangers success in the post-war years was based on the quality of their defence which was known as “The Iron Curtain”.
Bobby Brown didn’t miss a game in goal from the start of the 1946-47 season until April 1952. Full backs George Young and Jock Shaw stood behind an uncompromising half-back line of Ian McColl, Willie Woodburn and Sammy Cox.
Rangers saw off Hibs again in 1950 but Struth’s health was deteriorating and two trophyless seasons then followed as a famous era drew to a close.
Gers rallied to lift the title one more time under the legendary manager when they dramatically clinched the flag on the last matchday of 1952/53, on goal average from Hibs.
After helping Rangers to 18 league titles, Struth stood down the following year but was highly instrumental in choosing his successor as manager.
Both he and ambitious incoming chairman John Lawrence decided Scot Symon was the man to lead the club into a new era.
Saddled with an ageing team, Symon knew he had to rebuild and players like Jimmy Millar, Alex Scott, Sammy Baird and Max Murray were all brought in.