Growing up when I did, a Rangers title win was a little bit like Easter: no one really knew for sure exactly when it was going to happen but it seemed to come around every spring nonetheless. So then, ‘Flag Day’ naturally became something of a homely tradition. It was just how Rangers started the season. Just a little thing that we did. A Rangers custom, you wouldn't understand. Somewhat inevitably, by the mid-nineties, we started to take it for granted with the unfurling receiving little more than a golf clap.

"Yes, yes. There’s our flag. That’s very nice. Now, are you absolutely sure that we are ready for the Champions League this season? Well, you said that the last time didn’t you?"

I am 40 years old and my first memories of football are the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and the Rangers debut of Graeme Souness at the Battle of Easter Road. Consequently, I have been fortunate enough to have seen Rangers win the league championship more often than I have seen them fail (eighteen times to seventeen). Understandably, that eighteenth title was savoured more than any other. Nearly 21 weeks we’ve had to enjoy this.

145 days of celebration, reflection and gloating, save for that Scottish Cup fumble.

No title has been enjoyed quite so much and - whenever Rangers are able to have enough fans in to see it - nor will a Flag Day be appreciated more than this one.

None will have even come close.

Well, perhaps one. When Betty Holmes - wife of the then Rangers chairman David Holmes - raised the championship flag at a packed and sun-filled Ibrox in August 1987, there would have been a similar feeling of elation. Although not as traumatic, 2 May 1987 at Pittodrie had ended another nine-year drought and, unlike 1975, there hadn’t been any European success to act as a tonic. Also, this one wasn’t only seen as the end of something grim but the start of something glorious. Alan Davidson wrote in the Evening Times on the Monday after the league was won, "Right now, any bookmaker prepared to offer any kind of odds against them retaining their championship is entitled to qualify as a philanthropist. Rangers are firmly back in the driving seat of the game and it might be no exaggeration to say that Scottish football could be in for a spell of one-club domination similar to that enjoyed by Celtic under the late Jock Stein."

Rangers Review: Chris Woods is hugged by a supporter after winning the league title at Pittodrie in May 1987Chris Woods is hugged by a supporter after winning the league title at Pittodrie in May 1987

In the pre-season of 1987/88, Rangers fans believed that they could sign any player and win any trophy. More big English names were expected and, perhaps, Souness might go shopping in Serie A as well. Instead of seeing qualification to the Champions League itself as a big success, winning the European Cup felt like a tangible dream. The last eight, at least, was a must. Rangers had Scottish football by the neck again. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, as it would turn out. What should have been a sensible season of building upon early accomplishment was instead characterised by tumult and turmoil. Graeme Souness’s Rangers had won a title race at full throttle in 1986/87 but were always able to regain control whenever they hit bumps on the road. The manager’s natural energy was harnessed to devastating effect but it would soon become unbridled. 1987/88 was a season when chaos ensued. When the three bears got tangled up with goldilocks and ended up in the dock. When brawn too often overshadowed beauty. When young talent was nearly extinguished at the whim of the manager. When a Rangers player suffered the worst racial abuse in the history of the Scottish game. When the big talent could have easily called it quits and gone home for a quieter life.

Perhaps this wild disparity is best explained by the fact that it was the season when Walter Smith felt that Rangers were almost back to square one and Ian Durrant thought that Rangers should have won the European Cup. Incredibly, both men had a point.

Few things characterised the twelve-year reign of Souness and Smith the Younger more than their annual summer statement of intent in the transfer market. The two most subdued years led to very different seasons. In 1992 some, correctly, believed that Rangers were so far ahead of their domestic competition that nothing dramatic was required as Walter Smith brought back a couple of old faces. In 1987 some, wrongly, believed that Rangers had already created such a gap that, even if they didn’t repeat the blockbuster spending of 1986, it wouldn’t matter. They didn’t and it would.

READ MORE: Only Rangers can stop Rangers this season and the hubris is back

Years later, the explanation that Souness gave for such a light touch summer spend in 1987 was that strong foundations were already in place, the money wasn’t immediately there for another big spree and that he "did not think it would be necessary anyway". This was only partially true. Rangers would eventually spend over £3m during the season and, although over a million was recouped on sales and that entire budget may not have been readily available in the close season, the intent for another big name was certainly there from the outset. "The main aim must always be to try and improve the team while you are still winning", wrote Walter Smith later. "Our problem was that at the end of that season (1986/87) we did not get the quality of new signings we were looking for." The foundations were indeed strong but there was always a hint that the success of that first year was evidence of overachievement rather than a cast-iron guarantee that happy days were here to stay.

Rangers Review: Glenn Hoddle and Mark Hateley, then of Monaco pose next to Trevor Francis following a friendly in November 1987Glenn Hoddle and Mark Hateley, then of Monaco pose next to Trevor Francis following a friendly in November 1987

Glenn Hoddle, Kerry Dixon, Trevor Steven, Steve Archibald and Graeme Sharp were all quoted as Rangers targets and, before the previous season had even formally closed, Souness was making familiar noises that Rangers were going to spend big in England once more. Speaking in the Rangers News in May, Souness made no apologies for shopping in a ‘bigger marketplace’ and without the ‘ridiculously inflated prices’ that Scotland presented. With Jim Mclean’s handling of the Richard Gough saga no doubt still fresh in the memory he said "the days of Rangers being in business to subsidise other Scottish clubs ended when I came here." It was an understandable stubbornness but it wasn’t realistic. Before the season was out, he would renege on that proclamation by spending over a million pounds on two Scottish players who would become mainstays for a decade, but they arrived too late to salvage 1987/88. Souness would be opportunistic in the winter market, bringing in Ray Wilkins and Mark Walters, as well as finally landing Richard Gough in the October. However, cup final hero Ian Ferguson and John Brown could have been signed early and for similar money. It would have provided a great deal more cover when he needed it.

The Rangers transfer obsession that summer had started in the spring of 1987 when Souness, along with Smith and Holmes, made the trip to Italy to watch Milan lose 2-0 to Sampdoria in the San Siro. Mark Hateley, who had gone there in 1984 and had become something of a cult hero, had been long admired by Souness in the target man role that he so desperately loved. His original buy, Colin West, had suffered a disappointing season with form and injury, and now Souness was back on the hunt for someone else. With his contract coming to an end, it was clear that Hateley was going to leave that summer and Rangers were front runners for most of the race. On 8 June Hateley confirmed that he would be moving to either Glasgow or Monaco and that he would make up his mind in the next 48 hours. Rangers could offer the excitement of a project that was just underway, the chance of playing in the European Cup and the noise and exhilaration of playing in front of 40,000 people instead of just 4,000. Monaco however, could offer £7,000 a week and, well, Monaco. He ultimately opted for the latter and at that moment, the momentum that the Souness revolution had generated started to slow down significantly. Even once the title celebrations had dissipated, any achievement and any signing had seemed possible. Missing out on Gough in 1986 had been annoying but was soon forgotten once Butcher was landed. This was different. Souness felt that he had his man and he knew that there weren’t many like him available. Hateley would enjoy a lovely old time with Arsene Wenger in Monte Carlo, scoring 14 goals on the way to winning the club’s fifth Ligue 1 title. As time would tell, those goals and that power could have made a huge difference to the Rangers season.

Instead of laying out the £2m that would have been required to get Hateley, Rangers were effectively net-spenders in the summer of 1987 as Souness turned to old friends. John McGregor’s Liverpool contract was taken over and another former Anfield teammate, the defender Avi Cohen, was finally signed from Maccabi Tel Aviv after an ongoing wrangle from the previous season. Trevor Francis was the last name in the door before the season commenced - a close friend of Souness at Sampdoria before moving to Atalanta - coming in on a short-term deal due to concerns about his long-term knee injury, whilst the choice for the target man role for this season was another of the Tottenham UEFA Cup-winning side of 1984, Mark Falco, who was signed from Watford. Rangers could cover all of those transfers with change to spare from the £500,000 they received from Hearts for Hugh Burns and Dave McPherson, the latter being the most high profile departure of the summer. Any sense that Souness had marked that particular card after the Hamilton Scottish Cup debacle rang true when a deal was done quickly and without so much as a personal heads up for McPherson. This just wasn’t a summer in keeping with the profile of the last one. Even the pre-season tour of Switzerland was low-key, with Souness replacing the traditional high-intensity training schedule with more matches and some light training in between. The players didn’t enjoy it - the results were mixed, to say the least, a 5-0 drubbing from FC Zurich being the nadir - and it just added to the increasing sense of inertia following the incredible highs of May.

Stung by a disappointing close season in the market and obviously knowing that the squad dynamic wasn’t where it should be, Souness gave a bizarre interview on the eve of the new campaign that should have triggered alarm for anyone paying attention. When the confidence of the support and the bookies were put to him in the final pre-season press conference he seemed to resist the position of overwhelming favourites rather than relish it. "Theirs is a typical Scottish reaction. Because we won the league title and the Skol Cup last season they seem to believe that we will not only repeat those triumphs but collect the Scottish Cup as well. It is all nonsense. Everyone has to realise that Rangers have no rights to anything. It’s time they changed their way of thinking." Lowering expectations at the beginning of the season so as to oversell at the end, is nothing new of course, but there is a degree of edge to that response that was in stark contrast to the confident assurance of the young challenger twelve months before. Not everyone backed Rangers. Ian Archer thought that Hearts would win the title - they’d go onto have a good season but not quite that good - but even he couldn’t find room in his top four for Celtic.

It was a summer of change at Parkhead too with Davie Hay losing his job as a consequence of the revival at Ibrox. A repeat of this failure - in this, their centenary season - was not an option so they elected for the emotional option in bringing back Billy McNeil. McNeill had already brought success to Celtic as manager earlier in the decade, winning three titles and two cups, but by 1987 he was not a manager in form having managed both Manchester City and Aston Villa during the previous season, both of whom were relegated. He was immediately faced with the problem of having four of Celtic’s best players - the attacking trident of Mo Johnston, Brian McClair and Alan McInally as well as the midfielder Murdo McLeod - wanting away as their contracts ran out. The departure of all four would bring in nearly £1.65m but would leave a big hole to fill in Celtic’s attack. McNeill spent just over £1m on the promise of Andy Walker and the experience of Billy Stark whilst finally adopting the new transfer model by going to England and dropping £625,000 on Mick McCarthy and Chris Morris to shore up his defence. Celtic were net spenders as well but had delivered a significantly bigger outlay than Rangers, including more on one player - McCarthy - than Rangers had spent in total. But, of course, they really had no option.

Rangers Review: The Rangers 87/88 squad pose for a team photoThe Rangers 87/88 squad pose for a team photo

As in 1986/87, Rangers made a bad start, with just one point from the first, rather tricky, three games (an opening draw with Dundee United at home and defeats to Hibs and Aberdeen away) with Souness, Butcher and Roberts missing through a carried-over suspension, something that would become a key theme. Unlike the season before, where his side always bounced back immediately from a defeat, here was two on the spin in the first month and more was to come at Parkhead. If the 1-0 win over Celtic in August 1986 was a model performance of cool composure under pressure, with Butcher, Cooper and Durrant the absolute stand-out individuals, then the 1-0 defeat in August 1987 was ragged and unchecked, with Durrant hardly able to find a pass, Cooper half-fit and Butcher missing completely, due to a back injury. Celtic were by far the better side with McNeill singling out the significance of this performance at the end of the season. Discipline was the keyword for them all week, the implication being that Rangers would lose theirs first. Billy Stark’s goal inside five minutes was a nice finish but came from a Jimmy Nicholl error. The tone had been set from the start.

It was a tone that the manager couldn’t change, try as he did in a predictable manner. Souness would often complain about the target that was on his back in Scotland and point to his exemplary disciplinary record during his long career in England but his sending off at Parkhead was as legitimate as the two from the season before. He could point to many other players who could have been booked for dissent that day - indeed Walter Smith made that case after the match - but, with the knowledge of that first booking in mind, he still needlessly crashed through the back of Billy Stark, who at the time was wearing only one boot. It was an extremely late tackle and perhaps signified the real reason for the sudden change in his conduct record: for all the class that he could still exude on the ball, he had lost a yard of pace off it. By his own admission, he wasn’t listening to his body and was continually rushing himself back to play again. "Rangers always came first in my book" he later wrote, "and I was prepared to take any personal risk to keep them in the chase for honours". Whilst this intent was undoubtedly true, it was now starting to become counterproductive. The muscular presence that Souness knew was required in Scotland still needed to be matched with a nimbleness and wit, otherwise the cautions would rise in step with the injuries.

Discipline - both on and off the pitch - was a growing concern and, as much as Souness would lament his players’ behaviour at times, he was hardly setting the best example. On 24 September he was banned for five matches following his sending off inside Parkhead and his tirade at referee David Syme outside it. Only the day before, Ally McCoist was found guilty of assaulting a 19-year-old during an altercation in an East Kilbride chip shop. Ian Durrant, who was also involved, escaped the wrath of the courts but his feud with Souness was approaching breaking point. There was yet another nightclub fight, this time in Airdrie with Robert Fleck and John McGregor in tow following the recording of a team single ‘The Glasgow Rangers Boys’. Souness hit the roof and fined all three £1,000. This frustration of feeling trapped in public life, combined with a professional frustration of being forced to play wide on the right side of midfield, led Durrant to demand a transfer. Souness called his bluff. "He threw the Rothmans at me and told me to ‘go and pick a fucking team!'’’ Days later, during the weekly Scotland-England five-a-side match at training, Durrant flew into a tackle and Souness bit back. "Is that your best shot?", was all Durrant could offer and he regretted it immediately. "He was gone by now, roaring about how he was going to punch my head off until the whole squad tore in to break it all up. My last image as I ran away is big Terry being pulled along as the Gaffer chased me." Durrant had admitted that, during those formative years, he could be a "naughty boy" but Souness, ultimately responsible for setting all standards, could hardly complain about his players when he was charging around a training ground threatening blood from one of his most naturally gifted talents. He was dropped for the trip to Tannadice at the start of October - a 1-0 defeat that was the first domestic loss since Parkhead - but the bad blood was short-lived. Celtic were coming to Ibrox the following weekend, with a lead of four points and Hearts a further two in front of them. A big performance was required and so Durrant was back.

Rangers Review: Celtic's Frank McAvennie squares up to Rangers trio Graham Roberts, Terry Butcher and Chris WoodsCeltic's Frank McAvennie squares up to Rangers trio Graham Roberts, Terry Butcher and Chris Woods

There are few better 90-minute distillations of this Rangers season than the derby game on 17 October. Brief moments of class were drowned by raucous mayhem, wild sensationalism and poor judgement. It was an Old Firm match where both sides were showcasing expensive new recruits, instead of just Rangers. When Richard Gough’s wife felt that she couldn’t stay in London for much longer, despite him being made club captain and signing a new long term deal in the summer, Graeme Souness was alert. A first bid of £800,000, made at the end of September failed, but the second offer was sensational. On 2 October Gough became Scotland’s first-ever £1m signing when Rangers doubled the £750,000 that Spurs had originally paid Dundee United for him. Finally, the Ibrox muscle was back but their rivals were flexing their own at the same time as Celtic brought Frank McAvennie from West Ham for £750,000. The Tottenham captain and the top goalscorer in the English First Division came back north on the same day. They would both feature heavily at Ibrox. "Undoubtedly Britain’s match of the day", said Jock Brown on commentary at a time when Scotland could regularly make such boasts with confidence. McAvennie soon set about fulfilling his role of the agent provocateur by bundling into Chris Woods whenever Celtic sent up a big ‘up-and-under’ into the box. It was deliberate and it was working. After Woods himself ended up in the net, his teammates started to lose their cool. "We were all angry", recalled Butcher. "His strong-arm tactics were over the top even for an Old Firm game." It only took seventeen minutes before the top blew off. A tame Chris Morris cross was eased back to Woods by Jimmy Philips. McAvennie, at least five yards away at the time the cross was blocked decided to continue his run into Woods who, mindful of what had already happened, shaped himself defensively for the striker’s charge. McAvennie took a swipe, Woods held his neck before swiping back and then Butcher intervened with a shove that knocked McAvennie off balance before Graham Roberts provided the final punch which left him on the floor. Referee Jim Duncan had no choice but to send Woods and McAvennie off and Butcher was booked, more for his protestations at the red card for his teammate than the shove on McAvennie. Roberts donned the red goalkeeping jersey - in the days before substitute goalkeepers were a thing - and play raged on. Souness made a change at halftime, withdrawing Falco and getting another defender in Cohen on, but he would have been far better served doing that immediately. With a three-man defence that called upon McGregor to drop back from midfield when needed, Rangers were a shambles and Celtic were able to break through the lines at will. Andy Walker struck first from a very simple long ball from McCarthy and then Butcher helped them to a second when, under pressure as Celtic flooded forward, he lobbed the ball over Roberts instead of dealing with the onrushing Peter Grant. The early season issues of control and clear-thinking were re-surfacing and continued to harm Rangers in the second half when Butcher saw a second yellow card following a completely unnecessary scuffle with the Celtic goalkeeper Alan McKnight. It was perhaps apt that, in the anarchy that now ensued, Rangers grew in stature. Derek Ferguson - the man of the match - showed excellent power and control before playing in Gough - the right-back, now popping up in a number 10 role - who laid it off to McCoist to thunder home in off the post with his left foot. Celtic were content to sit back, even though Rangers had a novice in goal, as both sides became punch drunk. That weariness was typified when not even Ferguson and Grant could be bothered squaring up after a thunderous 50/50 tackle. Somehow Rangers found enough to muster one final attack. Ferguson, naturally, was in the middle of it all as he found a beautiful ball down the right side to Durrant who breezed past Anton Rogan. His first fizzing effort was blocked but his second - a high hanging ball - caught out everyone including McKnight, and Gough, now seemingly playing as a penalty box poacher, was there to stab it home. The noise was sensational, almost breaking the STV microphones. Back in the dressing room, a disconsolate Rangers captain likened it to an aeroplane taking off. There was still room for more controversy when Owen Archdeacon followed through into Roberts. The stand-in keeper made the most of it, the crowd responded and he, in turn, played to the gallery in a manner that he would come to regret. Players and fans alike felt that it was more than just one point. Souness coaxed Butcher out of his dressing room sulk to act like their captain as the team celebrated. However, it was just one point in a home match that provided the ideal opportunity to cut the gap and regain momentum. For all the incredible drama and thrill of the comeback, it was the second Old Firm game in succession where Rangers players had taken the bait and lost all sense of discipline. It was now becoming a habit.

READ MORE: Rangers' midfield evolution, the 'free eight' position and why links with Joey Veerman spark excitement

And yet, despite the mayhem of this campaign, there were matches that supporters still rank as the greatest Rangers games of all time. As soon as the title had been secured in May, fans and management alike were looking towards the club's first European Cup campaign in almost ten years. From the top of the club, the language was now about building a side that could compete in Europe, not just one that would be the best in Scotland. With the right draw and a bit of luck there was even a chance that Rangers could still be in the competition after Christmas and then, who knew what was possible? All that optimism was punctured on 9 July when Rangers were handed one of the toughest first-round draws imaginable. It would be a pivotal moment in European football history although no one knew that at the time. With 32 sides all tossed into an open, completely unseeded draw it had the ability to throw up ties such as AGF Aarhus v Jeunesse Esch and Real Madrid v Napoli, the latter of which prompted the first serious conversations around the possibility of a group format in the future to try and ensure that the tournament didn’t lose its biggest names at the first hurdle. Although lacking the glamour of the champions of Spain and Italy, Dynamo Kiev were equally feared. Having won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1986 they were then defeated only by the eventual winners Porto in the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1987 and were a national team in all but name, with Dynamo players dominating the USSR squad that had impressed in Mexico and would go onto the final of the European Championships the following summer. With the legendary Valeriy Lobanovskyi in dual charge of both club and country, it was a stern early test for Souness the manager, in his attempt to make a similar mark in the competition that he had as a player.

Even in defeat, the first leg, on September 16, provided hope that the journey wouldn’t terminate at its first stop. Souness played five in midfield - himself, Ferguson, Durrant, McGregor and Cohen - with Durrant being the one to support McCoist on those rare attacks, the first of which provided the striker with a great opportunity to put Rangers into an incredible lead. The resistance - under the gaze of the 100,000 crowd including a band of Rangers fans numbering just fewer than 1007 - was finally broken with just over fifteen minutes to go when the Austrian referee Franz Wohrer adjudged the tackle by Roberts on Alexei Mikhailichenko to be illegal and the Soviet playmaker converted the penalty himself. It was a brave performance in intimidating circumstances, with McCoist especially bearing the brunt of the closest attention, mostly from Oleg Kusnetzov, but more guile would be required to overturn the deficit at home.

It was pouring with rain in Glasgow, a fortnight later, as the Dynamo players had their customary training session on the away ground the night before the game. Souness had noticed the amount of long passes that were being sprayed out wide, especially on the left-hand side to Ivan Yarmechuk. It was nothing revolutionary - Kiev’s success had been built upon stretching the play so as to provide more space for their technical prowess to shine - but it forced him into making some last-minute alterations before kick-off. "I arrived at 4pm on the day of the game and noticed it straight away" said Campbell Ogilvie, club secretary at the time. "It was between Graeme and the groundsmen, I’m not sure anyone else knew." Even the Rangers players were unaware, until they turned up for duty, that the dimensions of their home turf had been narrowed by four yards at either side. Even during the delirium that followed the match, Ogilvie couldn’t revel in the celebrations. Mikhail Oshenkov, his Kiev equivalent who later declared that there were "no gentlemen at Glasgow Rangers", was pointing in his face just before halftime, demanding that the pitch be measured after the match. "We went down with the UEFA delegate and when I went to pick up the tape that the groundsman had left on the ground he grabbed it off me. He wouldn’t let me touch the tape! This was an hour after the match because he was adamant that the television cameras be packed away before it took place. Fortunately, it was right on the limit." It was a famous night.

Rangers Review: Ally McCoist challenges for a ball against Dynamo KievAlly McCoist challenges for a ball against Dynamo Kiev

The ethereal quality of an Ibrox atmosphere has ever since been measured against the noise that was produced against Kiev. Being back in the big cup after so long was just a natural next step in the revolution and the Rangers support provided an electric charge that seemed to transform the ground - an inanimate structure both stately and modern - into a living, breathing organism. The 2-0 win was not without fortune as both goals carried more than their fair share of luck. The first came from a goalkeeping error when Viktor Chanov tried some gentle off-spin instead of kicking it long and McCoist and Falco were alert as the former laid it on a plate for the latter before the Kiev defence could fully appreciate the danger. Roles were reversed in the making of the decisive second, with Falco heading on a Trevor Francis cross into the danger area where McCoist had expertly managed to find space. Although he maintained that he was just testing Chanov out with his eyes, it was a mistimed header but an extremely important one. Rangers were great value for their timely blessings however, as they took the game to Kiev in an all too rare example that season of controlled aggression. Ian Durrant later acknowledged that the club would build more talented teams but that it would take "five years to find one that blended together as well as this line-up." McCoist, Falco, Durrant, Francis and Nicholl all had good chances and McCoist should certainly have had a penalty in the first half. It was an exhilarating game where both sides played their part - Kiev being more and more dangerous as time ticked by, knowing that an away goal was all that they needed - and Rangers rode their luck more than once in that final quarter. But it was Souness’s cunning, from the pre-match landscaping to one of the final kicks of the ball, that dominated the story. With seconds remaining he had possession in the Kiev half and, with the back-pass rule still years away, launched the ball all the way back to Woods in the Rangers box. His name rang around all four stands as the players took their applause. Rangers were now very much back in the big time and, although he was still in the infancy of his managerial career, how many understood this competition better than Souness?

The second round provided a relatively more straightforward task with the visit of Polish champions Gornik Zabre to Ibrox on 21 October. Following directly on from the 2-2 draw with Celtic, the momentum that Rangers brought to the first leg ensured that the tie was all but done by the interval. A rampant display saw them 3-0 up with goals from McCoist, Durrant and Falco all worthy of commendation but it was the overall performance, especially from a midfield of Souness, Ferguson, Durrant and Francis, that seemed so well suited to that level of competition. The Poles got an away goal in the second half as the Rangers adrenaline finally subsided but McCoist’s penalty in the return leg - another 4-5-1 smothering job - extinguished any faint hope that they had of progressing. Rangers were in the last eight of the European Cup for only the fifth time and at Souness’s first attempt. Some of the play and poise in both ties was genuinely excellent.

The suspensions from that Old Firm game couldn’t even derail a cup final. At around the same time that Chris Woods was walking off at Ibrox, Nicky Walker, the Rangers reserve goalkeeper, was getting treatment on an injured knee at Parkhead.9 He was quickly withdrawn. "Woodsy’s just been sent off" said coach Peter McCloy. Would he be able to play in the cup final? "I should have said no but you might never get a chance like that again so I said I was okay." Walker had been Jock Wallace’s number one and had faced Aberdeen often. He had, however, never yet experienced the feeling of beating them. In front of him would be a brand new central defensive partnership as Gough moved over into the middle to replace Butcher. Not an ideal base then from which to combat a good Aberdeen side, now managed by Ian Porterfield, who were three points ahead in the league and had also enjoyed a good European result in midweek, a 2-1 win over Feyenoord. With the passage of time and the advancements in fitness and organisation, there may well have been technically better cup finals in Scottish football history but arguably none that were as much fun as this one. Two fine sides went at each other from the first whistle and didn’t stop until the final penalty was scored in the shoot-out. The Rangers defensive frailties were predictably exposed in the first fifteen minutes as Aberdeen could have scored twice before Jim Bett’s eighth-minute penalty broke the deadlock and once more again after it. As with Celtic in the first half the previous weekend, the roof could have easily fallen in.

Rangers Review: Aberdeen keeper Jim Leighton is helpless as Davie Cooper's thunderbolt free-kick nestles into the top corner in the 1987 League Cup finalAberdeen keeper Jim Leighton is helpless as Davie Cooper's thunderbolt free-kick nestles into the top corner in the 1987 League Cup final

"I had the wind behind me and just blasted it." Davie Cooper had barely touched the ball in that first 20 minutes. When he did - a missile launched from his left foot that Jim Leighton was lucky to touch on the way back out - it was the first of many big momentum swings as he ran to embrace the wild celebrations on the north terracing, on which he would have been standing if he hadn’t been a genius. The Rangers second, a move of opportunism and intelligence involving Nicholl, Fleck, McCoist and finally Durrant, should be more affectionately remembered and surely would be, if it hadn’t been for Cooper’s brilliance. After that, the interval was just a welcome breather in an end-to-end slugfest and the next punch landed square with 18 minutes remaining. Souness had spent the previous day at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground watching the English international left-back Stuart Pearce and it was down that side that Rangers were exposed when Joe Miller’s cross wasn’t adequately dealt with and John Hewitt punished them for it. Ten minutes later - after a very strong penalty claim against Willie Miller who was seemingly playing with full impunity from the law - it was down that left side that Aberdeen tried again and, with Rangers lacking in central defensive cohesion, Willie Falconer rose to head Aberdeen into the lead late in the cup final. Rangers continued to probe away in the final minutes but it was a more agricultural ball by Nicholl, met fiercely by the head of Roberts that was pounced on by Durrant and swept away by Fleck. Extra time produced sitters for Falconer and McCoist, cramp for Joe Miller which would rule him out of penalties and Trevor Francis strolling around the Hampden turf as if he was helping out with the kids game at a Sunday school trip. The sheer insouciance of his penalty in the shoot-out - taking only one step after having to re-spot the ball - is but one in a large collection of memorable moments from that day. The other penalties were nearly as impressive except the Aberdeen second, blasted off the bar by Peter Nicholas, who had missed two penalties for Luton Town the previous season and was only on the list because of Joe Miller’s difficulty in standing up. The scene was eventually set for Durrant, a decisive presence in this final for the second year in a row, to slot his penalty away and settle an incredible Sunday afternoon’s football. After the shame of the previous weekend, this showcase was welcomed by the nation’s football literati but it was Durrant’s contractual volte-face that was welcomed most of all around Ibrox, save of course for more silverware. Storm clouds were still visible but there was no sense of panic, instead an increasing optimism that Rangers would build on this cup success and hunt down the leaders in the league as they had done the year before. The next major test of that resurgence would involve Aberdeen once again, when they visited Ibrox on 17 November. Only six minutes had gone when Terry Butcher swung his trusted left leg at an arrowed Davie Cooper cross before Alex McLeish could get to the ball first. Butcher, and everyone connected with Rangers, would very quickly wish that he had.

The concluding part of Martyn Ramsay's epic look back at Season 87/88 can be found here.