Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Rangers remember the Ibrox victims

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 3: Rangers players walk past floral tributes ahead of a memorial service to commemorate the 40th Anniversary Memorial of the Ibrox Disaster held at the Ibrox stadium on January 3, 2011 In Glasgow, United Kingdom. The Ibrox disaster occurred on January 2, 1971 at the end of an Old Firm game when 66 people lost their lives in a crush as crowds left the stands. (PHoto by Danny Lawson - pool/Getty Images)
A mourner holds a floral tribute during a memorial service to commemorate the 40th Anniversary Memorial of the Ibrox Disaster held at the Ibrox stadium on January 3, 2011 In Glasgow, United Kingdom. The Ibrox disaster occurred on January 2, 1971 at the end of an Old Firm game when 66 people lost their lives in a crush as crowds left the stands.
Celtic Manager Neil Lennon attends the service to commemorate the 40th Anniversary Memorial of the Ibrox Disaster held at the Ibrox stadium on January 3, 2011 In Glasgow, United Kingdom. The Ibrox disaster occurred on January 2, 1971 at the end of an Old Firm game when 66 people lost their lives in a crush as crowds left the stands.

Rangers players past and present gathered together yesterday to remember the 66 people who lost their lives in the Ibrox Disaster.

The first team squad and former stars, including John Greig, Colin Stein, Alfie Conn and Derek Johnstone, joined the 5,000 people who gathered at the stadium for a special memorial service to mark the 40th anniversary of the tragedy.

Footballing rivalries were briefly forgotten, with Celtic represented by manager Neil Lennon, chief executive Peter Lawwell and chairman John Reid.

Liverpool fans also paid tribute in memory of the youngest victim, eight-year-old Nigel Pickup, who had travelled from the English city to Glasgow for the game on January 2, 1971.

Players, directors and the families of the victims were led from the Main Stand to the Govan East Corner by two pipers before chief executive Martin Bain spoke of those who attended an Old Firm derby and never returned home after perishing in an horrendous crush on Stairway 13.

He said: “January 2, 1971 is a date which will be forever etched deeply into the soul of the Rangers family.

“Each year we remember with the heaviest of hearts and wish for all the world that the fate of those on Stairway 13 had been so different.

“That a single person should lose their life in such circumstances would be tragic enough but for 66 never to return home that day was, and still is, an unimaginable horror.”

Sandy Jardine — who was part of the Rangers team that day — and director John McClelland both performed readings, along with survivor Ian Loch, who recited Bill Struth's famous speech To be a Ranger.

The Glasgow Philharmonic Male Voice Choir, the Salvation Army and Govan Citadel band led the crowd in the hymns The Lord is My Shepherd, Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah and Follow On. Then came the most poignant part of the service, the Act of Commemoration, when manager Walter Smith, who himself survived the crush on Stairway 13, and John Greig, Rangers captain at the time, read out the names of the 66 who died, while family members laid flowers.

Celtic chairman Reid also laid a wreath, before a two-minute silence was observed.

The Reverend Stuart MacQuarrie, who led the memorial, said: “We take our leave now having affirmed that commitment to those who lost their lives, and their families and friends, that they will be always remembered.”

Rangers had hosted Celtic 24 hours earlier in the New Year Old Firm derby, exactly 40 years to the day since the Ibrox Disaster.

The teams were led out by Greig and Billy McNeill, the Celtic captain of that era, and the players wore black armbands.

A minute's silence was observed by both sets of fans before kick-off.

Meanwhile, skipper David Weir has issued a rallying call to his Rangers team-mates after their defeat to Celtic.

He said: “It's up to us, we've got to regroup and look at what we did wrong and we've got to get better at it.

“We are disappointed and that's the over-riding feeling. We've got to pick ourselves up and start again. We lost the game, that's the bottom line. The game was very tight and I don't think there was a shot on goal from either side up until the first goal.”

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