Ian McMillan

Saturday, 25 March 2017, 15:00

By: Rangers Football Club

On RangersTV supporters can watch in-depth one-to-ones with a number of the club’s greatest stars as they discuss their football careers and years at Ibrox.

Today, inside right Ian McMillan looks back at his years at Ibrox from 1958 to 1964.

NICKNAMED the ‘Wee Prime Minster’, Ian McMillan joined Rangers aged 27 after expecting to spend his entire career with Airdrie.

His nickname came from his control of affairs on the pitch and in recognition of Prime Minister of the day Harold McMillan.

One of the best inside forward’s Rangers have ever had, McMillan is a Hall of Fame member and was part of an incredibly successful period in Gers’ history.

He had spent 11 years at Broomfield before he moved to Ibrox and in his six years at Rangers he won two league titles, three Scottish Cups and two League Cups. He was also influential in the team that made the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1961 and lost to Fiorentina.

Astonishingly given his career, McMillan was only a part-time player, training twice a week for Rangers and working full-time as a quantity surveyor.

He returned to Airdrie where he finished his playing career and began his managerial one, taking charge as gaffer from 1970 through to 1976.




APPS 195 (1958–64) GOALS 54



You signed for Rangers when you were 27 as a somewhat experienced player, what was going through your mind when you signed?

IM: “Well, there was a big difference between playing for Airdrie and a club like Rangers.

“There was a slight dispute though that made me go to Rangers, because every five years the clubs were supposed to give you benefits.

“I was getting married the following year after the fifth year and when it came to the end of the 10th year I was asking for my benefit and they said, ‘No, you won’t get it until after your 11th year.’

“I thought it was a bit off after I’d served them for 10 good years, and although I enjoyed my football there I felt they weren’t playing fair so I didn’t sign for them.

“Alan Morton was a director at Rangers and he had seen that thing weren’t working out for me at Airdrie because I hadn’t been playing and he instigated the move to Ibrox.”

Did Airdrie’s reluctance to give you the bonus make your mind up for you?

IM: “Yes it did, and when I signed that night I was just happy because I knew I’d be getting a game of football.

“But on the way home I was saying to myself, ‘Am I good enough after playing at Airdrie to fit in at Ibrox when there are so many good players?’ There was joy and apprehension at the same time.

“I probably thought I was going to stay at Airdrie for the whole of my career but when I looked back on it I had six good years at Rangers, played in Europe and played in Russia instead of touring the Highlands with Airdrie. So I think that was quite a transformation.”

Did you settle in right away considering the big difference?

IM: “Well, I couldn’t train properly for a month-and-a-half so I wasn’t ready to go straight into the first team. I played two reserve games before my first game and that was against Raith Rovers.

“The whole XI were very helpful, even going into the dressing room and meeting them for the first time because I hadn’t trained through the week and only saw them on a Saturday. They really made me feel at home.”

And how was Scot Symon to meet for the first time? How was he as a manager?

IM: “He wasn’t like a modern day manager but he knew how to knit the team together, it is all about getting the jigsaw right and getting each position the way he wanted it.

“I think he achieved that with our Rangers team because it was really an outstanding team.

“He didn’t tell us very much about how to actually play, that was left to the individual players, but I think he commanded respect because he had been through it and had been a good player himself.

“My father used to tell me about him, he was an outstanding player and he was one of those who could pass the ball from one wing to the other and it never rose above the grass.”

The thing that is so interesting about you is that you were a part-time player, you trained on a Tuesday and Thursday night and played on a Saturday but you were also a quantity surveyor. Did you never think about playing for Rangers on a full-time basis?

IM: “When I went to sign for Rangers I thought they might have said, ‘If you are going to sign for us then we want you full-time.’ But that never came into the equation and I was quite happy because I was 27 and wasn’t young anymore.

“I trained three nights a week at Airdrie and came to Ibrox and was only training twice a week but was playing in Europe – unbelievable!

“The only consideration was that John Lawrence wanted me to work for his firm and in order to get away for European games I worked for him. Willie Telfer and Alex Scott were also part-time so we were the three who trained with the young boys during the week.”

Do you think that held you back at all?

IM: “In retrospect I feel I could have been a better player if I’d gone full-time. There is no doubt that if you’re training five days a week then you’re going to be fitter to play on the Saturday.

“I did miss out on some antics because when you heard what Baxter had been up to in the week, it was a miracle he wasn’t in the jail by the Friday night!”

It must have been odd working while you were playing top-level football?

IM: “I was always asked for autographs at work, at Lawrence’s about five of us went for lunch every day and people always stopped you which was nice.”

Your nickname was the ‘Wee Prime Minister’, how did that come about?

IM: “The Prime Minister at the time was Harold McMillan and because they said I was the general of the middle of the park and distributing the ball about, that’s how it came about.

“I was quite happy to be called that and I’ve had no regrets about it over the years.”

You got off to a great start at Rangers with a 4-4 draw against Raith Rovers and you got the opening goal that day, do you remember much about it?

IM: “Not really no, I can’t remember my goal either!

“I was just glad to get to get it over with because I was quite apprehensive, I was happy I’d played reasonably well and scoring was a big boost too.”

Rangers were going through a bad patch when you came in but after you signed they went 23 games unbeaten until the end of the season. You were credited with the turn around, did you think that was fair?

IM: “No, one man doesn’t make a difference, you can’t account for changing the whole complex of the game with one player.

“It just so happened that it worked well for us, football is all about the ups and downs and in that case things just knitted together.

“Once you win one or two it’s a confidence boost and then we just settled in together and sailed along quite well.”

You went on that season to win the league, was that the first trophy of your career?

IM: “At Airdrie I’d won a championship medal in the lower division so that was the only one I had.

“We lost the final two games of the season so it was a bit of an anti-climax [in 1958/59 with Rangers]; you don’t have much to strive for once you’ve won it so we slackened a bit.”

The following season you finished third which was a bit of a disappointment but you won the Scottish Cup with a 3-0 win over Kilmarnock, was that a good day?

IM: “I can’t remember too much because it was a long time ago but it was my first Scottish Cup so it was a memorable one for me.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it and what I liked about playing for Rangers at Ibrox and Hampden was the big open spaces.

“When you played at Broomfield it was so tight and I didn’t know about that until I went with Rangers back to Airdrie.

“I liked it better when I had room to manoeuvre because the more room ball players get the better it is for them.”

You scored 20 goals that season too in 1959/60, not bad for a midfielder?

IM: “I was quite delighted to do that because I wouldn’t normally say scoring was one of my main assets.

“I think it goes back to the good team you’re playing with; they’re working the ball about in open space so you’re coming into open space.

“I just had to touch it in really so it really came down to playing with such quality.”

The 1960/61 season was unbelievable for Rangers, winning the league and League Cup and going all the way to the Cup Winners’ Cup Final. Some year wasn’t it?

IM: “It was a tremendous season with so many achievements in it and there were two games that stood out for me; the first one was against Wolves down at Molineux.

“It was a very wet and muddy night and they had outstanding players in that team.

“I remember distinctly playing against Ron Flowers who was an England international and during the course of the game he had a tremendous shot and I have never seen such a wonderful stop as Billy Ritchie produced.

“I think that save turned the game for us because we drew there and I felt that was an outstanding achievement, especially away from home.

“The other interesting game was the Borussia Monchengladbach second-leg at Ibrox and again it was a mucky field, and the muckier the better as far as I was concerned!

“You could dribble the ball and these fellas were sliding all about you. We had an outstanding victory of 8-0 at Ibrox which is unusual in European football – they were the champions of Germany at that time.”

You won the league by a single point that season, how important was that success?

IM: “It was a nail-biting one and to be true champions you have to go to the last game or winning it by one point, it’s a sense of being a true champion in that you can achieve that.

“To maintain the league form and play in Europe at the same time is quite an achievement.”

How disappointing was it to lose in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final to Fiorentina after such a good run?

IM: “It really was. The first game we could have done a little better because we missed a penalty and I think if we’d scored it would have made an awful difference.

“Again they were a good side and they had foreign players playing for them, it wasn’t just Italians.

“When we went to Florence for the final it was very warm there and that took the stuffing out of us considering we’d played a whole season and then our last game was in tremendous heat.

“It was annoying to get that far and not win it, looking back that is the only disappointment I have about being at Ibrox – that we didn’t win anything European in the time I was there.