|Part of a trio of new signings at the start of the 1977/78 season,
Bobby Russell was a skilful, attacking midfielder with an eye for a
killer pass. Aged just twenty when he arrived from Shettleston Juniors,
Russell and fellow new acquisitions Davie Cooper and Gordon Smith were
expected to help reinvigorate a Rangers side that had stagnated badly in
1976/77, just one season after securing the domestic Treble.
Bobby made his debut for Rangers in a pre-season friendly against
Nairn County, scoring in a 3-2 win, and when the competitive action got
underway he continued his scoring streak, although his goal on this
occasion was a mere consolation as Rangers opened their league campaign
with a 3-1 defeat against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
However, despite that
early setback, the Light Blues soon recovered, and aided by the
promptings of Russell and Cooper and the goals of Derek Johnstone, they
soon emerged from the pack to secure the Premier Division title. Russell
missed just three of the thirty-six league fixtures, and added to his
goal against Aberdeen on the opening day of the season with further
strikes in a 4-0 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill and a 1-0 win over
Dundee United at Tannadice. Bobby, whose slender build and extensive
range of passing had pundits comparing him to the late John White, a
stalwart in the Tottenham Hotspur side of the 1960s, was also prominent
as Rangers secured legs two and three of the Treble. His chip into the
penalty area created the opening goal of the Scottish Cup Final for Alex
McDonald, and although he missed the League Cup Final against Celtic
due to the effects of a virus, he wore the number eight jersey in each
of the previous seven ties that Rangers had played in the tournament.
In his second season at Ibrox, 1978/79, Russell was an ever-present,
playing in each of the sixty-one matches that Rangers contested at home
and abroad. He added Scottish Cup and League Cup winners' medals to his
collection, although a second successive Treble was snatched from
Rangers' grasp when the Light Blues lost out to Celtic by three points.
It was on the European stage that Bobby truly shone, though,
particularly in Eindhoven when Rangers became the first team to win a
European tie at the home of PSV Eindhoven. After a stalemate at Ibrox,
few gave the Light Blues much hope of progressing to the last eight of
the European Cup, but a spirited display in Holland saw Rangers level at
2-2 as the second leg entered its closing stages. With the visitors'
goal under siege by a home side desperately seeking the goal they needed
to progress, a clearing header from Derek Johnstone broke to Tommy
McLean who sent Russell scampering clear in a lightning fast breakaway.
Although the PSV defenders were rapidly converging on him, Bobby was
coolness personified as he drew the goalkeeper and curled a sumptuous
shot into the net to give Rangers a stunning 3-2 victory. The goal was
later voted 'Goal of the Season' by the BBC.
The following season, however, was one of disappointment in Govan,
with Rangers slumping to a fifth-place finish in the Premier Division
and losing to Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final. Russell endured a
stop-start season, missing thirteen league matches through injury.
Having already collected five winners' medals during his first three
years with Rangers, Bobby Russell supplemented his collection of honours
in the 1980/81 season when he added another Scottish Cup winners'
medal. Having had his 1979/80 season blighted by injury, he returned to
form in the first full campaign of the 1980s and was instrumental in
Rangers' Scottish Cup success. It was Russell's goal that secured a 2-1
win over Morton in the last four, and he was on the score-sheet in the
Final replay too, ghosting in at the back post to rifle a cross from
Davie Cooper into the net with his right foot.
Dundee United were the vanquished opponents in the Final and the
Tangerines were put to the sword again in 1981/82 when Rangers claimed
the League Cup courtesy of a 2-1 at Hampden. Russell was once again a
prominent figure in the team that negotiated its way to the Final, but
he was powerless to stop what was fast becoming a slide into mediocrity
for the Light Blues. Although he missed only four league matches and
scored six goals, Rangers finished third in the title race, twelve
points adrift of champions Celtic. (Alistair Aird, Author of Ally McCoist - Portrait of a Hero)