There has scarcely been a darker day in Scottish football than the 2nd of January 1971. The Ibrox Disaster remains a painful memory in the hearts and minds of people across Scotland, even nearly 50 years on.
On the traditional Old Firm match on New Year’s Day (although it was on the 2nd), more than 80,000 supporters turned out to cheer on their clubs. A superb game of football, both sides battled to and fro in an enthralling on-pitch battle.
But almost immediately Colin Stein rushed up the field to equalise. The scoreline, 1-1, was a fitting result for a fine match. But as the crowd swelled and excitement brewed, disaster struck.
Ibrox Disaster sent shockwaves around football
As they left the stadium fans were sent tumbling down the infamous Stairway 13, and a great crush ensued. A total of 66 people lost their lives, 31 of them teenagers. The youngest victim was nine-year-old Nigel Pickup, who was attending his first ever football match.
What a tragedy. The effects of the disaster sent shockwaves through the football club. Ibrox Park was upgraded and brought up to a new standard. It was also rebuilt around remembering these supporters. It unified a divided city. And it rocked Rangers to its very core.
Now, there are plans to introduce a special memorial garden in the grounds of Ibrox to remember the victims. The 2nd of January remains a special day for fans across the world, who join together to remember the 66 fans who went to watch the club they loved and never came home.
There was even a minute’s silence before Saturday’s Old Firm. For the most part, this was observed by both sides.
Club remains committed to memory of victims
The commitment the club has made to make sure this never happens again is matched by the commitment from Rangers to remember those involved. There is a real and genuine sadness about this from which the club has struggled to recover. It might never – but all Rangers can do is remember.
Today, Rangers fans will be raising a glass to absent friends, who, if things had gone differently, might’ve still been in the stands on Saturday.
Always remembered 💙 pic.twitter.com/5OuRztnOja
— Ross (@RossMcG1872) January 2, 2019
Such was the magnitude of what happened that Winter’s day, there will be plenty of rival fans doing the same.
To the 66 Rangers fans who never made it home on the 2nd of January 1971, the club, the fans and Scottish football have made a commitment to ensure that they will always be remembered.
They will forever be a part of Rangers Football Club. Their football club.