IT was on Wednesday May 7 1997, that Rangers achieved the incredible feat of securing a ninth successive Championship.
A flying header from Brian Laudrup from Charlie Miller’s cross completed the remarkable odyssey which began at Douglas Park, Hamilton in 1988 and ended at Tannadice.
No 1: 1988-89
The glory road had begun in August 1988 when Gary Stevens, a £1million Summer signing, scored the first goal in a 2-0 win over Hamilton.
Two weeks later, Rangers set their record League win over Celtic with a 5-1 victory at Ibrox after the visitors had scored first. Rangers beat Celtic in three out of their four League games, including their first victory at Parkhead in nine years.
The Championship was settled with a comfortable defeat of Hearts at Ibrox at the end of April when Kevin Drinkell scored twice in a 4-0 win. Rangers had won 14 out of their last 16 matches, including a run of nine victories, and finished six points clear of runners-up Aberdeen.
No 2: 1989-90
Mo Johnston, Rangers’ controversial signing, repaid the club by scoring a dramatic last-minute winner against his former team Celtic at Ibrox in November. Johnston was to finish as the club’s leading marksman for the season.
Rangers also won their first New Year Old Firm match at Parkhead since 1964. But by Spring they had gone off the boil and went five games without a win. Any nerves about the title disappeared, however, at Ibrox on April Fools’ Day.
The turning point came with a 3-0 defeat of Celtic, again making it three victories out of four for Rangers.
A Trevor Steven header sealed the Championship with a 1-0 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice with two games to spare. Despite that wobble in March, Rangers defence had conceded just 19 goals in 36 games and they finished seven points ahead of second-place Aberdeen.
No 3: 1990-91
The closest title race of the nine. Mark Hateley had been signed for £1 million from AC Milan, but captain Terry Butcher was left out of the side in September and would soon be on his way to Coventry.
Rangers chalked up a run of 15 matches without defeat, but with five matches left to play and Aberdeen breathing down their necks, manager Graeme Souness sprung a shock by announcing that he was leaving for Liverpool.
Walter Smith took over and on the last day of the season, Rangers faced Aberdeen at Ibrox with the Dons needing only a draw to win the title. The pressure was intense, but two goals from Hateley retained the Championship for Rangers by two points.
No 4: 1991-92
Smith’s first full season in charge and he did the Cup and League Double. One of his first signings was goalkeeper Andy Goram from Hibernian for £1 million.
Rangers opened their season with a 6-0 humiliation of St Johnstone in which Hateley scored a hat-trick. Hateley also scored both goals in the Old Firm victory over Celtic in August.
But it was Ally McCoist who would end as the League’s leading scorer with 34 goals. McCoist had often been kept on the bench by Souness the previous season. Now he was rampant, inspired by the confidence shown in him by Smith.
Aberden were beaten 3-2 at Pittodrie in December and Rangers won 3-1 at Celtic in the New Year. Hearts were mounting a title challenge, but McCoist killed off their chances with the only goal of the game at Tynecastle in February.
On the run-in, Rangers lost just once in 24 matches and clinched the title with three games to spare with a 4-0 home victory over St Mirren. They scored more than a century of goals for the first time since 1939 and left runners-up Hearts nine points adrift in the table.
No 5: 1992-93
The season of Rangers’ fifth Treble. One of the great teams which also came with 90 minutes of the European Cup Final. After drawing with Celtic 1-1 at Ibrox in August they did not lose for seven months, stringing together a run of 44 games in all competitions.
By February they were already five points clear of Aberdeen when they went to Pittodrie and won 1-0.
The Championship was won with four games to go at Broomfield Park where Rangers beat Airdrie 1-0. McCoist was again the Premier League’s leading marksman with 34 goals.
In winning the title by nine points from Aberdeen, much was made of Rangers’ fantastic team spirit.
As David Murray has said: “Everybody played hard for each other and that pulled us through. I think that was probably our greatest era.”
No 6: 1993-94
The hardest won title. Rangers suffered an appalling catalogue of injuries yet only missed out on an historic back-to-back treble through a 1-0 defeat by Dundee United in the Scottish Cup Final.
No fewer than 11 players required surgery and Smith was rarely able to field his chosen team. Despite a 2-1 victory over Hearts on the opening day of the season, Rangers struggled early on. It took a 3-1 defeat of Dundee United at Tannadice in October to end a run of just one win in eight games.
Gordon Durie arrived for £1.2 million from Tottenham in November and Rangers luck began to change. But they still went to Celtic for the New Year clash beset by injuries and as underdogs. Hateley, the club’s leading scorer that season, made it 1-0 after 58 seconds and Rangers took the game 4-2.
Rangers now went 17 games undefeated, including seven straight wins between February and April. Despite taking only two points from their last five games, an exhausted Rangers picked up their sixth successive title by three points from runners-up Aberdeen.
No 7: 1994-95
The season that the Scottish Premier League adopted the now familiar three points for a win saw the great Dane Brian Laudrup arrive at Ibrox from Fiorentina for £2.25 million.
On the opening day against Motherwell, he first supplied the cross for Hateley to score and then, picking up the ball on the edge of the Rangers penalty area, started a long run
to just outside the Motherwell box where he provided the pass from which Duncan Ferguson found the net.
This was a player with immense natural gifts and Rangers’ fans whooped with delight when he scored in a 3-1 victory against Celtic.
Rangers set up a run of 14 games without defeat, including a 3-0 victory at Dundee United. But in March 1995, the club was saddened by the tragic death of former star Davie Cooper at the age of 39.
With the title within touching distance, Rangers beat Aberdeen 3-2 in April and eight days later conquered Hibernian 3-1 at Ibrox. Laudrup was named Scotland’s Player of the Year and Rangers had won the title by 15 points from Motherwell.
No 8: 1995-96
Paul Gascoigne had joined Rangers from Lazio for £4.3 million during the Summer and was to play a decisive part in the Championship.
Celtic were a major threat to Rangers title ambitions and lost only one game all season – at home to Rangers. The other Old Firm games were drawn, including a pulsating 3-3 thriller at Ibrox.
Hibernian were slaughtered 7-0, but Rangers struggled at Raith and were trailing 2-1 until two late goals from McCoist grabbed the points.
But the final glory was Gazza’s. Aberdeen took the lead in the crunch match at Ibrox before the Geordie genius, Scotland’s Player of the Year, took the game by the scruff of the neck. In a virtuoso performance, Gascoigne scored two golden goals before completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot.
Despite losing two games more than Celtic, Rangers beat them to the title by four points.
No 9: 1996-97
The race for the Championship revolved around the four Old Firm games with Celtic. In the first, at Ibrox in September, Rangers won 2-0 with goals from Captain Colossus Richard Gough – the man Walter Smith called “my cornerstone” – and Gascoigne.
Five games later – only one of which Rangers had won – they met again. This time Brian Laudrup scored the only goal of the game with a thundering strike.
Back at Ibrox in January Rangers won 3-1, Jorg Albertz getting the first with a blistering free kick and substitute Erik Bo Andersen coming on and scoring twice.
Then in March, Rangers made it played four won four, the first clean sweep they had achieved over Celtic in the Premier League. The only goal was a scrappy affair, a lob from Ian Durrant going in after a mix-up in the Celtic goalmouth.
And so it came down to that Spring evening at Tannadice. Laudrup rarely scored with his head. But the goal which made it Nine-In-A-Row went in like a bullet. Rangers had earned their place in the history books.
There was a five point gap between them and runners-up Celtic, the team whose record they had equalled.
It was the early hours of the morning when the players arrived back at Ibrox from Dundee. But the streets around the ground were packed with celebrating fans.
Triumphant manager Walter Smith was overwhelmed: “The feeling at the end of the game was relief,” he said. “Knowing how much it meant to Rangers supporters, it is something we will never forget.”
Or as departing captain Richard Gough, soon to leave for America, put it: “The boys are legends now.”
The clamour for a 10th title was enormous, but it was a bridge too far. Rangers could finish season 1997-98 only second when Celtic won the title on the final day.
Smith had announced in the February that he would be stepping down regardless at the end of the season and then Gazza left the club, moving to Middlesbrough in the March,
Laudrup was kept on even although he would be a free agent in the summer but Rangers could just not close out the final matches to make history.
The Scottish Cup Final defeat by Hearts the week after the league dream had died was a sad way for an incredible era to end.
It was the break-up of an astonishing team that will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest – perhaps THE greatest – in Rangers’ history.
Men like Goram, Gough, Brown, Ferguson, McCall, Hateley, Durrant and McCoist truly were legends – as was the manager Walter Smith.