THE ball seemed glued to his magical left foot as Davie Cooper burst forward, twisting left and right leaving defenders trailing in his wake.

A little drag back, then some acceleration and he was into the Ilves Tampere box with a clear sight of goal.

Unselfishly, he clipped the ball square and allowed Robert Fleck the simplest of tap-ins to complete his hat-trick in what was Rangers’ first competitive match against Finnish opposition.

It was a magnificent snapshot of the remarkable talent of Cooper and it helped save Fleck’s Rangers career, albeit not long-term, just when it looked like his Ibrox dream was over.

Just a few weeks earlier, in August ’86, Graeme Souness tried to offload the striker to Dundee for a paltry fee of £25,000.

Instead, Fleck became a pivotal player in one of the most seismic seasons in Scottish football history, never mind the history of Rangers.

His strike partnership with Ally McCoist produced 53 goals as Rangers sensationally won the title for the first time in nine seasons and beat Celtic in the League Cup final for good measure in a remarkable debut campaign for Souness. Fleck said:

I’ll never forget that goal against Tampere at Ibrox – the goal that gave me the hat-trick – because it was vintage Davie Cooper.

“He must have beaten about five of their defenders and then unselfishly squared the ball for me to slide it into the net.

“He could easily have scored himself but he chose to tee me up instead because I think he knew I was on a hat-trick.

“So while it goes down as a Robert Fleck goal it was really a Davie Cooper goal.”

Cooper that night was involved in all three of teammate’s goals. His precise corner to the back post was headed back across goal by Terry Butcher and there was Fleck to finish from close range.

Then, after his corner has been cleared, Cooper cut inside to hammer a left foot shot the keeper could not hold and Fleck was there to score with the rebound.

The hat-trick was magnificently completed by that wonderful solo run and unselfish pass, with Cooper already celebrating with the fans before Fleck stuck the ball into the net.

Ally McCoist scored a fourth goal with a fine finish into the right corner, but it was one of the few occasions where he played second fiddle.

Fleck said: “I don’t know how many of my goals Coop set up but it was probably most of them.

Strikers like Ally and myself simply thrived on his service. He was a magician on the ball and he made us – he put us on the map.

“It was a striker’s dream to play with such a magnificent footballer who was all about creating opportunities and we loved it.”

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