Rangers' title triumph 'a massive relief', say fans in Thurso
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Rangers fans in Thurso have paid tribute to their team's success in becoming Scottish Premiership champions after "nine long years of suffering".
Nineteen local supporters, including a few family groups, staged a socially distanced photo opportunity at Sir George's Park on Saturday to mark the achievement.
It was the Ibrox club's 55th league title and it ended the hopes of their Glasgow rivals Celtic of winning 10 in a row.
Rangers had to work their way up through the divisions after being placed in the fourth tier of the Scottish league set-up in 2012 following their financial collapse.
Alexander Elder (32) felt that consistency had been the key factor in Rangers' first title victory since 2011.
"It has been nine long years of suffering and a massive relief and release," he said.
“The last two or three seasons we’ve threatened it and fallen away in the second half of the season. It was like we had gone from being underdogs to potential favourites and fallen at the last hurdle.
“So this year it has been brilliant that we have managed to push on from that and have shown consistency over the course of the season."
Alexander praised the leadership Steven Gerrard, the former Liverpool star who was appointed as manager of Rangers in 2018.
"We’ve got him to thank for it all," he said. “He has been a real leader, and the way he played on the park shows through in our players now.”
Asked whether he was looking forward to getting back to Ibrox when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and fans are allowed into grounds, he said: “Of course – but we’ll be lucky if we can get a seat.”
Ian Smith (36) is such a committed fan that he named his son Ally – now aged two – after Rangers legend Ally McCoist, who served the club as both a player and manager.
“I’ve been a Rangers fan since I was tiny. It’s something you are born into," Ian said.
“It was quite clear that not just other teams wanted us down but the SFA, so that makes it more satisfying. I always feel that every other club hates Rangers more than anybody else.
“We have followed them the whole way. Obviously we can’t get down just now to watch games, but I’ve got the young bairn now so hopefully he will follow in the footsteps and we’ll get him to Ibrox when we can.”
Alyn Gunn (36), who was there with his daughter Keira (12), said: “Over the last 10 years we’ve had nothing but turmoil and we have absolutely been getting pulverised from pillar to post by everybody. So it was just to let off a wee bit of steam and to celebrate 55.”
Alyn and Ian were part of a small group in Thurso who raised nearly £4000 for the Rangers Fans' Fighting Fund – co-founded in 2012 by the late Sandy Jardine, who played for Rangers from the latter part of the 1960s until the early ’80s, and former boss Walter Smith to help in the club's recovery.
“A lot of people should not be forgotten for the part they played – people like Sandy Jardine and Ally McCoist," Alyn said. "If it wasn’t for them there might not be a club here at the moment, so I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done.”
He recalled: "I was at a game when we played Elgin City at Ibrox [in January 2013]. Neil Alexander was the Rangers goalkeeper and he dropped the ball in the final minute and we drew 1-1.
"That was when it sunk in for me – we’re in the deep end here. To see the standard of play drop to that level, and then to see it rise over the years to where we are now... there is no comparison.”
Alyn also praised manager Gerrard's contribution, saying: “A lot of people were calling for his head this time last year when results weren’t going our way. It just shows that if you stick by the manager you might get the end product."
Alyn added: “I can’t wait to see the flag being raised.”
Ranald Mackay (33) said: “I have been a Rangers fan all my life, since the day I was born.
“With coronavirus we can’t really celebrate properly right now, but it’s always good to see fellow Rangers fans.
“It has been a long time coming – we’ve been close the last couple of years.
“Celtic fans here have been roaring and shouting for years that they were going to win 10, so it was good to give them a bit of humble pie.”
Steven Morris (36) said: “We knew it was coming but there was always that niggling doubt in the back of your mind, based on the last few years – so for it to finally happen was a big relief."
The Scottish Government’s current "stay at home" guidance states that informal socialising or recreation outdoors can be in groups up to a maximum of four people from a maximum of two households, plus any children under 12.
Those who took part in the photo opportunity at Sir George's Park insisted it had been safe and responsible as social distancing was observed, other than for those already in bubbles, and everyone dispersed in an orderly manner within a couple of minutes once photos had been taken.
Police Scotland said there had been no complaints.