- Ahead of tonight’s Europa League final between Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt, Jay looks at how the Glasgow club appeared in their previous continental deciders. See more of Jay’s articles here and click here for his own blog
Rangers’ fortunes in their early forays into Europe were mixed, but by 1961, in just their fourth continental outing, they reached the final of the inaugural European Cup Winners’ Cup, where they faced Fiorentina in a two-legged tie.
You’re probably ahead of me in noting that both teams traditionally play in similar hues – Royal blue and purple respectively. As such, in the first leg at Ibrox, hosts Rangers changed to their away strip, as was the custom at the time. I regularly grumble about the modern game’s approach to clash-management, but it wasn’t great 60 years ago either: Rangers’ change shirt (which was seemingly introduced specifically for this match) comprised royal blue and white stripes, which doesn’t offer much distinction from the first choice shirt. The v-necked shirt was paired with shiny blue shorts and white socks.
Fiorentina wore their purple shirt at Ibrox, but there may have been some concerns around visibility because in the return leg in Florence the Italians wore their white away shirt, which seems like it would be more of a clash in some ways. Wearing the away kit in both legs didn’t seem to do Rangers much good as Fiorentina took the honours.
Just six years later, Rangers again made it to the Cup Winners’ Cup final, in what was a preposterously purple patch for Scottish football. Celtic wining the European Cup earlier the same month somewhat obfusticates the fact Scottish football had representatives in two of the three European Cup finals that season. Kilmarnock had also progressed to the semi-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, and in the summer, the Scottish national team would secure international bragging rights by beating England at Wembley.
By this point, Rangers were still wearing the quintessential 1950s and 60s v-necked collar shirt, with white shorts and black socks with large red turnovers. For the 1967 ECWC final, however, it appears they donned all-blue socks; there isn’t much colour imagery of the match against Bayern, but as the Germans were wearing white socks, it doesn’t appear to have been due to a clash.
Again, kit shenanigans doesn’t appear to have done the club much good as they once again missed out on European silverware, losing 1-0 to the Germans after extra-time.
In 1968, Rangers had refreshed their home kit, switching from a contrasting v-neck to a body-coloured crew neck collar, and developing a tendency to wear red socks with white tops instead of their traditional black and red hosiery, which they’d been turning out in for 50-odd years.
It was in these subtly different colours that the Gers competed their third European final, and it was good fortune after two previous failed attempts (if only there were a suitable idiom I could use there).
The odd goal in five was enough to beat Dynamo Moscow (from communist USSR) in Barcelona (fascist Spain.) Oh, Cold War Europe. Goalkeeper Peter McCloy wore a numbered shirt in the first half but switched to an unnumbered one for the second period.
Victory has meant the kit worn in that match passing into legend, with the oversized crest with its orbiting commemorative embroidery and red socks becoming key sartorial elements for many Rangers fans. Indeed, the deeply faithful ‘Tailored by Umbro’ callback kit worn in 2012-13 to mark the 40th anniversary of the triumph was greeted with much approval.
Footnote: In the two-legged inaugural Super Cup against Ajax (played in January of the following year), Rangers continued with the red-socked outfit, but they lost 6-3 on aggregate to the Big Cup winners.
After competing in three Cup Winners’ Cup finals in just over a decade, it was 36 years before Rangers would line up in another European final (some near misses notwithstanding). Once again, it was a white-clad team from the former USSR providing the opposition, this time in the form of Zenit St Petersburg.
While they’d sported an all-blue look in Europe in the past, Rangers had developed a habit of returning to the look to time and time again during their runs to the UEFA Cup last 16 in 2007 and the final in 2008.
Despite the outfield and goalkeeper kits for the match against Zenit looking cohesive from a distance, in reality they were amalgams of several different previous kits. While the players’ shirts were standard contemporary Umbro templates, the outfield shorts were the previous season’s alternate home shorts, and the goalkeeper’s were the 2006-07 away shorts. The club’s own-brand alternate blue and white away socks had first seen duty 5 years before, while Neil Alexander, deputising for the injured Allan McGregor in goal, wore the previous season’s alternate outfield away socks. This meant Rangers donning all-blue and all-red kits instead of blue-white-black, and red-black-white respectively.
Once again, an alternate kit didn’t too much good, with the Russians winning 2-0.
Rangers making the Europa League final in 2008 was said to be a once-in-a-lifetime event; teams from the smaller leagues such as Scotland have struggled to compete with the resources afforded to their counterparts in the big five leagues.
With Eintracht Frankfurt playing in black this season, there was some speculation on Rangers forums on which of the Gers’ two non-black shirts would be worn in the final, as some felt Uefa would rule the blue first-choice shirt was too close in hue to the Germans’. Frankfurt, who are administratively the home side, cut this particular gordian knot by choosing to wear their white third shirt instead, allowing Rangers to plump for all-blue.
Much like the ECWC 40th anniversary kit, this season’s, which marks 150 years since the club was founded, harks back to an earlier era. Based on the shirt worn in the 1950s and 1960s, it applies an appealing modern twist in the form of technological advances in fabric and the sublimated pinstripes, but less-palatable one in the five different sponsor logos in various positions on the shirt and shorts (although most of these aren’t worn in Europe).
Time will tell if the ‘alternate kit curse’ strikes again, but it seems unlikely Rangers would change into the white shorts and black socks for the presentation if they won the trophy.