Jorg Albertz exclusive
The power house midfielder had made a huge impact in Scottish football after being lured to Ibrox by Walter Smith in 1996.
Two years later, and following two consecutive seasons in which his goals tally had reached double figures, Albertz earned a recall to the German national fold for a pair of friendly matches.
And while Albertz was involved in both, starting one and coming off the bench in the other, he says he knew his international days were numbered before he had even kicked a ball.
“There was an incident when I was invited with the national team to Malta in what was Bertie Vogts last trip as coach,” revealed Albertz to the Stornoway Gazette during his visit to the town’s Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club.
“I met him in the elevator so it was just him and I there. He turned to me and said ‘Jorg, what position do you play at your club?’ That question straight away showed me he had no interest in me. It finished off in the elevator with him asking me to say hello to my coach who is a good friend and he named Wim Jansen.
“He was of course the Celtic manager and he had no idea who I played for. He wasn’t interested. It is a dream for every professional player to play for their country. I was fortunate though to play for one of the best clubs in the world so that helped a lot to get over that disappointment.”
He continued: “I had my German national debut when I played in the Bundesliga before I moved to Rangers. To have the chance to play for a club like Rangers gave me the chance to play European football every year, and Champions League football most years performing against the best so if I was playing well there it should have helped me with thenational team and allowed the coach to see more of me.”
In his five year stint with Rangers Albertz became a huge fan favourite. More than 50-goals were netted, most of them thunderously rocketed in off his ferocious left boot, as he helped the Light Blues to three league titles and four domestic cup triumphs.
Reflecting on his career with the club he smiles as he discusses the club which changed his life.
“For any player who is lucky enough to play for Rangers, it is an amazing experience,” he said. “After such a long time to still be highly rated is incredible. but that shows how big the club is. I’ve been all over the world in Europe and Austrialia. It is just fantastic. I know this club here today is the biggest Rangers Supporters Club in the world so I am so chuffed to be here.”
He went on: “I didn’t know much about Rangers but I looked into them. At the time I had just signed a new contract with Hamburg so the financial side was almost exactly the same. It had nothing to do with money but for me to play to the top level I could I felt I needed to move. I couldn’t see Champions League football in Hamburg’s future at the time but with Rangers I had more or less a guarantee of European football every season. I wanted to do that and to play with guys like Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne was a huge opportunity.
“Laudrup made football look so easy. He was probably the best player I ever played with but guys like Richard Gough were the best in their position.”
Albertz was often the scourge of Celtic during his time in Glasgow. A regular scorer of crucial Old Firm goals conjures up happy memories. But he also remembers an Old Firm collision which left Celtic midfielder Paul Lambert carried off minus four teeth.
“I was friends with Paul from Germany and he was a nice guy so I felt very sorry for what happened,” says Albertz. “It was an accident and I went to the hospital afterwards to see him out of respect.
“I have a lot of happy Old Firm memories like my first Old Firm game I ever played in I set up goals for Richard Gough and Gazza. But the first goal I scored against Celtic is a good memory and it happened to be a free kick too which was great. I have a few nice memories playing against Celtic but some bad memories too although the good definitely outweigh the bad during my time at the club.”
It is 15-years now since Albertz clocked out at Ibrox for the last time and while ha admits to not seeing as much of the club as he would like, they remain close to his heart, and his first port of call on his mobile when it comes to checking full time results every Saturday.
“To be honest I have no inside information in the club these days. I’m too far away and there is no footage on television in Germany but obviously I speak to friends and I get information that way. I check the results every week but it has not been an easy few years for anyone at Rangers but now the boys are back.
“Hopefully they strengthen now and we want to hear more from the club. I can’t wait till the Old Firm game and we might be in for a surprise here. I think Scottish league relies on Celtic and Rangers to make it interesting and the rivalry is good for the game so they both need to be in the league. Celtic will be pleased too to see Rangers back and they will have missed the Old Firm games too.”
Germany are now World Champions and heavily fancied to go all the way again at this summer’s European Championships while Scotland’s wait to compete at a major championship is now approaching 20-years.
“It is hard to tell,” mused Albertz as he pondered the differences between his native Germany and Scotland in terms of producing and coaching young footballers.
“The Scottish boys train well but maybe it is cultural thing as I think the German youngsters are more professional I think. Going out for a beer is a regular thing in Scotland but this is something you don’t really see from a young age in Germany.
“That’s the main I think Scottish players have big hearts and give a lot.”