John Greig says his former team mate and great pal Ronnie McKinnon is hugely under rated by Gers fans after injury cut his time at Ibrox short.
With over 500 playing appearances in Light Blue as well as a spell as manager and director and a club association now stretching back almost 60-years the man named by supporters as the Greatest Ever Ranger is in a better position than anyone to comment.
And as he enjoyed a visit to Stornoway to speak at the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club and catch up with McKinnon again he insisted his great pal was under appreciated.
“Ronnie had to give up playing early for Rangers after his leg was broken by a horrendous tackle in Portugal and he missed the final in Barcelona because of it,” explained Greig.
“He has suffered because of it with recognition by the general support but I have no doubts that Ronnie is one of the best centre half’s to ever play for Rangers. I don’t think he had the chance to continue his Rangers career the way he would had he not had such a bad injury.
“I’ve always valued him as a player and we complemented each other really well. We played at the back when we beat England too as well as with Rangers. Basically Ronnie is a great lad, a smashing guy.”
Greig doesn’t need any introduction to fans of Scottish football, nor to supporters in Stornoway where John Greig made his fourth visit to the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club and he loves making the hop across the Minch.
“I thoroughly enjoy coming to Stornoway. It’s always nice to understand and appreciate the problems supporters here face when travelling to go see a game and watch the team play,” said Greig.
“When I get the opportunity to come up I like it. This is my fourth visit and show my appreciate for their support over their years.
“Seeing Ronnie is an added bonus.”
Being named the Greatest Ever Ranger in 1999 by supporters came as a shock to Greig and he insists it is a tag which he is a little embarrassed by. “I was embarrassed to win the greatest Rangers,” he commented.
“I can understand why they gave it to me but I feel a little embarrassed that over 100-odd years has housed dozens of great players and you could put up a good argument for a number of them for what they achieved over the years. It is a tremendous honour they have given me.
“The award also saw a statue of me erected at the stadium but the statue isn’t the important thing to me, it is the plinth on it which is.
“The plinth has all the names of those who lost their lives in the Ibrox Disaster. I was pleased to know all the names would be displayed on the plinth and it means a lot to me as it must have been horrendous for people to go to a football match and not come home again. I’ll always appreciate that.”
At the time Greig rose to skipper Rangers it coincided with a golden period for Scottish football. Celtic famously lifted the European Cup in 1967, reached the 1970 final, while Rangers lifted the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1972 and played the 1961 and 1967 finals.
Kilmarnock and a number of Scottish sides also progressed through Euoopean competitions as our players competed with and beat the best the continent had to offer.
Nowadays the Scottish and European footballing landscape has vastly changed and Scottish football and players do not compete at the top level of which they used to.
“I don’t think kids play football as much as they used to,” mused Greig. “When I was a youngster they only thing I knew and wanted to do was play football. Jackets or a couple of bricks down and I probably had more pleasure kicking a burst ball around than modern kids with their computers and technology.
“When I was 15, as an example, I cycled 18 miles to the Gullen on a bike to pay football on the beach then cycle 18 miles back. That was a day of enjoyment for me.
“There are too many other distractions now for kids and they has impacted the standard of young players coming through.
“I also think the big clubs have too many young players. When each club have 100 odd players like that it’s too many. It would be better for a professional team to have 24 youngsters who were getting specialistic attention from the manager ,being trained by the manager himself so they get benefit of that. You can’t do that with 100 kids.”
Although Greig will forever be associated to Glasgow Rangers, he could have turned out for his boyhood team of Hearts had the then-Jambos management team taken a chance of the youngster.
“Growing up in Edinburgh I was a Hearts supporter like my three older brothers and I wanted to play for them,” admitted Greig.
“They watched me a few times but they thought I was too small. They didn’t take me and I went to Rangers. No sooner had I gone to Glasgow when Hearts came for me but I told them it was too late now.
“Clubs discard players at a young age for being too small. I shot up. The Rangers scout went to where my brothers and sisters worked and watched them leave work to see what the average height was and he thought I would get a lot bigger than I was and I did.”
Even today the expectation level for Rangers is huge and while it is only the second season Rangers have been back in the Premiership there is pressure on the modern team to compete with their great rivals Celtic but Greig urges patience.
He added: “You have got to walk before you can run. The expectations will always be there because of the great success in the past at Rangers and I certainly hope more success will come in the future but it won’t come overnight.
“It is something we have to work hard at and football has changed so much. The money in England is making it even more important that we groom our own players.”