THE EXCITEMENT surrounding the appointment of Graeme Souness as player-manager in 1986 was palpable but the Rangers fans had no idea just how good life would become.

A fiery competitor with an illustrious career at Liverpool and Sampdoria and with Scotland, he appointed Walter Smith, who had been No 2 at Dundee United, as his assistant and began a policy of bringing in big name players from England.

For 80 years, Scotland had seen some of its best football talent drain away over the border. Now Souness reversed it with the likes of England internationals Terry Butcher, Chris Woods and Trevor Steven heading north.

Souness, however, made a controversial start. As player-manager, he was sent off after a flare-up at Hibernian in his first game for the club in August 1986. Souness received a three-match ban and Rangers were fined £5,000.

But at the end of his first full season, Souness had brought the Championship back to Ibrox for the first time ine nine long years. Rangers also won the League Cup, beating Celtic 2-1 in the Final witn Davie Cooper scoring a penalty to clinch the win.

Souness was on the brink of returning Rangers to greatness, but first it would take a revolution that came with the arrival in the boardroom of David Murray.

Murray, a successful businessman and friend of Souness, became the new owner of Rangers in November 1988, though he did not take over as chairman from David Holmes until June the following year.

He began investing in the team and in the stadium – a process which saw £90

million spent on players and £52 million on ground developments in Murray’s first 10 years.

That first season with Murray and Souness together at the helm brought the first of a record-equalling run of Nine-In-A-Row Championships.

They also did something which hadn’t happened at Rangers for more than 70 years. They signed a high-profile Catholic player.

In the early days of Scottish football, it was not unusual for players to turn out for both Rangers and Celtic. It was only around the time of the First World War, when Belfast shipyard workers moved to the Clyde, that sectarian attitudes began to harden.

Now with the signing of Mo Johnston, a former Celtic player, for £1.5 million from French club Nantes, Murray was announcing that old prejudices had no place in the modern game.

After a second successive League title in 1989-90, Souness left to manage Liverpool in April 1991. Murray gave him credit for “turning the big ship round.”

Walter Smith stepped up as Rangers’ ninth manager and the club would win seven League Championships, three Scottish Cups and three League Cups in the space of seven magnificent seasons. No previous Rangers’ manager had won so many honours in such a short time.

By season 1992-93, Rangers had won their fifth Treble in awesome fashion. They lost only one of their first 23 League games and, of the other four defeats, three came after the Championship had been won. The margin was still nine points over second-placed Aberdeen.

In all, Rangers went a remarkable 44 games without defeat in all competitions. For the record the sequence was 29 League games, four League Cup, three Scottish Cup

and eight matches in the European Champions’ League.

It was Rangers’ finest run in Europe since winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972. In the first round, Rangers beat Lyngby of Copenhagen 3-0 on aggregate then faced English Champions Leeds United in a “Battle of Britain” second round tie.

Scotland and Leeds captain Gary McAllister stunned Ibrox with a goal in the first minute of the first leg. Rangers won 2-1 thanks to Ally McCoist and an own goal from the Leeds keeper John Lukic.

In the away leg, Mark Hateley scored with a scorcher from 25 yards and a McCoist header made it 2-0. Leeds pulled one back at the end of the game, but Rangers had become the first British club to qualify for the league stage of the competition.

Rangers’ opponents in their group were Olympique Marseille, FC Bruges and CSKA Moscow. It was always going to be tough. Rangers had key players missing through injury and were limited at that time by the rule which allowed a club to field only three foreign players in the Champions’ League.

They won 1-0 away in Moscow and beat Bruges 2-1 at Ibrox. All the other matches were drawn, including a memorable clash with Marseille in Glasgow where Rangers came from behind to score twice in the last 10 minutes. It was not enough for them to progress to the final, but Rangers had played 10 games in Europe without losing.

They beat Aberdeen 2-1 to win the League Cup and wrapped up the Championship with another 2-1 victory over the Dons.

Once again, Rangers were Simply The Best in Scottish football – and it was to get even better.