written by – Jordan Campbell
The 84th minute of Sunday’s game will live long in the memory. Not because of a great goal or due to the sublime piece of skill produced by James Tavernier, but because I believe that in years to come, when Rangers fans reflect on the ‘journey’ through the lower leagues, it will come to represent one of the defining moments of Rangers’ renaissance under Mark Warburton. It will be seen as the moment when the players and supporters united to announce to the country that the Rangers were back with a vengeance.
James Tavernier scurried after a loose ball which had been flashed across the face of goal by Kenny Miller. Those who have filled Ibrox week in, week out for the last three seasons would have come to expect that those in royal blue would have given up at the sight of seeing the ball run away from them; deemed it a lost cause. But Tavernier not only bust a gut in retrieving it, he back-heeled the ball around the onrushing Peterhead defender before cutting it back to Waghorn who ballooned the ball over the bar.
You may say this was not anything to rave about, – and you’d be right – but for those who took to their feet and roared like the ball had hit the back of the net as opposed to CF3, it was a way of showing their gratitude to the players for bringing to an end the three year footballing famine which has seen them starved of a team they recognise or have any sort of affinity with.
At the start of ‘Stage One’ in Division Three the message was: ‘you have to stick by the club during the bad times in order to appreciate the good’. And on Sunday it has never rung truer. It may only have been a misplaced shot against Peterhead, but to understand what triggered the rousing reception it received you had to have endured the torture of the last three years.
You had to have been there when Rory McAllister was made to look like Ibrahimović, when Queen of the South dumped us out on penalties, when Raith beat us in extra time to win the Ramsden’s Cup. You had to have went through the despair and emptiness which followed Annan beating us on home soil, Hibs being 3-0 up at half-time and Motherwell hammering us 3-1 in the play-offs. There were dozens more low points to choose from on the road to the 84th minute on Sunday but it made the months of soul-searching which no doubt every Rangers fan has gone through seem worthwhile.
It may sound cliché, but the twenty second long crescendo of noise which echoed around the famous stadium with the passion and pride you associate with the Rangers of old was enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The way the crowd initially only casually applauded what must have been the twentieth attempt on goal showed how much progress the team has made. But as Waghorn recovered his breath and Tavernier raced back into position they knew they had to show the eleven on the park that they weren’t taking the football on display for granted.
From applause it grew into a cheer as Ibrox rose to their feet and then, as everyone in the stadium almost simultaneously realised the poignancy of the moment, the wave of sound gathered pace and volume and transformed into a thunderous roar – the sort of roar which usually comes when the crowd are urging the players forward when they’re a goal down not two up. It was no longer an appreciation of the move, it was the crowd gesturing that they had their Rangers back and the players recognised that too as it seemed to move them up another gear for the last five minutes. The thought that their club would never get back on track or that it would have to downsize to a scale never seen before had been a distinct possibility for too long but it was no longer a worry, the DNA of their football club had been restored.
You may have paid for your ticket expecting to see nothing more than a customary victory against Peterhead but you may just have gotten more than you bargained for. It was one of those moments where no words will ever do it justice, you have to have been there. In fact, you had to have been there in the dark days of Division Three, League One and last season’s Championship to appreciate just how special it really was.
If Warburton’s task was to “send the fans home happy” then this Ibrox Roar left him in no doubt as to whether he accomplished that task on his competitive home debut.