52 years ago Colin Stein made history when he was the subject of the first six-figure transfer between two Scottish clubs, Rangers setting a new record by paying £100,000 to Hibs for his services.
However, while justifiably proud of that, it is the milestone he set on this day – 29 March – in 1975 that he would like to see emulated sooner rather than later.
Stein, who was a terrific striker in four years at Ibrox culminating in his scoring performance in the 1972 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final victory, fatefully returned to score the goal that clinched the title against Hibs that stopped Celtic’s run of successive league championship wins.
It’s a scenario he hopes will unfold under the stewardship of Steven Gerrard because then his club will officially be back where he has always hoped it would be.
Although born and brought up in the east, Stein’s first love was always Rangers but he had to resist the powerful overtures of Everton FC and the pressure of Hibs chairman William Harrower to choose Goodison over Ibrox.
Stein had slammed over 50 goals for the Easter Road side and, after Rangers manager Davie White had made it clear that he would be keen on signing him, nothing was going to stop him.
He recalled: “Everton wanted to sign me and so did Rangers and that was a huge thing for me.
“The Everton manager Harry Catterick came up to speak to me and he spent almost a whole day trying to convince me to move to Goodison.
“My wife-to-be Linda was even dragged in from where she worked to try to convince me to sign for Everton.
“They were one of the best teams in England but I wanted to sign for Rangers.
“They were the team that always appealed to me. When I turned down Everton the next day I got the call to go and meet Rangers and I signed right away.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to go to Rangers and the fact that I was the first £100,000 transfer was hard to believe.”
Six figure transfers were rare in the British game at the time and it would nine years before Rangers paid that sum of money again, bringing Davie Cooper from Clydebank.
Some players cannot handle the expectation, but Stein got into his stride immediately, slamming a hat-trick on his debut – and then repeating the feat in a 6-1 thrashing of his former club.
Only the woodwork in Dundalk denied Stein the extraordinary feat of three successive trebles as Rangers progressed in the Inter-City Fairs Cup, the pre-cursor to the UEFA Cup.
He said: “The support was incredible and I got them onside right away; scoring hat-tricks in my first two games certainly helped! It was amazing to hear that crowd chanting my name.
“I got three against Arbroath and then, of course, the second game was against Hibs and the man in goals was Thomson Allan, who was a good mate and was to be best man at my wedding.
“I remember getting a bit of stick in the tunnel – mostly from Pat Stanton and Jimmy O’Rourke – but we won 6-1 that day and I scored three again.
“I almost made it three hat-tricks in a row. I had scored two against Dundalk in the Fairs Cup and I had this effort that hit one post and ran along the line and hit the other but came out.
“So it was almost a treble, but eight goals in three games was still a good start.”
The fee, of course, led to some antagonism from opponents, but Stein thrived on the great service he received from the wide areas.
It took him until 1970 to win his first honour, when 16-year-old Derek Johnstone famously headed the winner in the League Cup final against Celtic, but he became Rangers royalty along with the rest of the Barcelona Bears in 1972.
He said: “The fee was nothing to do with me, of course, it was between the clubs so it was something different.
“A few centre-halves let me know about it in the weeks after that, that’s for sure.
“It was a new record between two Scottish clubs and the first six-figure fee so it was quite a lot to handle but I was just happy to get to Ibrox.
“I wanted to play with two great wingers, Willie Henderson and Willie Johnston, because I knew they would be perfect for me.
“You don’t really have players like them anymore, which is a shame, because I think a classic winger is still relevant in the modern game.
“It was their job to get the ball over and my job to get on the end of it and it worked pretty well.
“We were as good as Celtic but we were not as consistent. Our problem was that we couldn’t win as many matches against the other teams as we should have or we dropped points here and there when we shouldn’t have.
“I thought we were going to win the Fairs Cup in 1969 but we were beaten by Newcastle in the semis when I felt we were the better team.
“So to win the win the League Cup 18 months later was a great moment for me. It was a huge crowd and, of course, Derek scored the winner at the age of 16 so it was a special day.”
Stein famously netted first in the Nou Camp with Willie Johnston supplying the second and third goals in the 3-2 win over Moscow Dynamo but they were both sold within a matter of months.
Stein said: “Everyone remembers goalscorers so Willie and myself get the accolades but everyone played their part.
“The semi-final was the key. I think we beat one of the best teams in the world at that time.
“Bayern Munich were a superb side and half of them were playing for the German national team that won the European Championships that summer and then the World Cup two years later.
“Bayern also won the European Cup three times in a row from 1974 so it shows you the calibre of team we were up against.
“I think it was a phenomenal achievement to beat them and the problem was trying to get back to that level when we played Moscow Dynamo who we knew little about. But thankfully we managed it.
“You will need to ask Mr Wallace or Mr Waddell why I was sold in 1972, but of course you can’t do that.
“I was never told why they wanted to sell me. Maybe they felt they had had the best of me and they had Derek Parlane coming through and Derek Johnstone too, even if he had played at the back as well as up front.
“They just told me a club in England was interested and I was sent to Coventry for two and a half years.
“Listen, I had a good time down there. They had a good setup and a great training ground too.”
Stein was happy to return to Rangers in the spring of 1975 and make that crucial impact.
He said: “It was fairy tale stuff to score the goal that won the Championship in 1975 – especially as it was Easter Road.
“We were a goal down after Ally MacLeod had scored and then Sandy Jardine missed a penalty and we needed a point.
“Then Bobby McKean played the ball in and I got my head on it and it flew into the net.
“The crowd that day was incredible. The amount of Rangers supporters that day was unbelievable. I can’t remember seeing many Hibs fans.
“Of course, it ended Celtic’s run of success and that’s what Steven Gerrard is trying to do right now.
“You can just imagine the scenes when this happens. I reckon it will be even more passionate and explosive as it was back in 1975.
“Who would blame the Rangers fans if that was the case? They’ve been through so much in recent years.”