From the moment I first clapped eyes on the teenage Jim Forrest it was immediately obvious that Rangers had unearthed a special talent.

Whether or not that special talent would have given Rangers the European Cup Winners Cup when they played Bayern Munich in the final in Nuremberg in 1967 is still a matter of much debate among those of my generation.

My firm belief is that had Forrest not paid the price for what happened in Berwick four months earlier and had he been wearing the No.9 shirt he wore with such deadly distinction, Rangers would have carried off the trophy. For Forrest, who has died aged 79, soon showed those impressive first impressions of a young man breaking into Scot Symon’s imperious early 1960s side were well founded.

That debut came at Ibrox in a 4-0 win over Falkirk. Forrest came in when Ralph Brand was injured, with Jimmy Millar moving to inside left. It was perhaps significant that was the week when Rangers transferred Max Murray, a one-time sharpshooter who had become Millar’s deputy, to West Bromwich Albion for the then-impressive fee of £15,000.

Forrest made three more appearances that term, failing to break his duck, before exploding onto the goal-scoring charts the following season, 1963-64, the Treble-winning campaign which many of my generation rates as the best they have seen from Rangers.

It was right at the start of that campaign that Forrest laid down his marker in his duels with Celtic’s outstanding centre-half and captain, Billy McNeil. He got two of the goals in a 3-0 win at Parkhead in the League Cup sectional clash. It was the first of many times the fleet-footed, razor-sharp Forrest was to lead McNeil a merry dance and strike absolute terror into the heart of the normally solid McNeil.

That reputation led to an exchange I had with McNeil many years later when he was a colleague of mine on the then 1million selling Sunday Mail.

The scene was a Broomielaw howff favoured by journalists and footballers and we were wandering down memory lane as Big Billy recalled with fondness his physical jousts in the white-hot heat of Old Firm games with the old warhorse himself, Jimmy Millar. At which point I teased him that, as much as he enjoyed those battles, he didn’t have such happy memories of having to cope with the lightning-fast thrusts of the young Forrest.

McNeil tried to joke that he just kicked the young Rangers centre forward, only to be pulled up short when my retort was to the effect that he never managed to get close enough to kick Forrest. To his credit, he nodded and laughed.

It was in that League Cup campaign in 1963, during which he got the better of McNeil again to score in a 3-0 triumph at Ibrox, that Forrest had one of his many finest moments, scoring four goals, with cousin Alex Willoughby netting the other in a 5-0 win over Morton in the final at Hampden.

Yet, during the battle Rangers fought with Kilmarnock for the title, Forrest and Millar jousted for the No.9 shirt scoring 24 and 22 appearances respectively, with Millar scoring the only goal of the game at Parkhead on New Year’s Day.

Forrest returned for the Old Firm Scottish Cup quarter-final tie at Ibrox in March, grabbing a rare specimen for him, a headed goal as Rangers won 2-0, thus completing a five-game winning whitewash over their great rivals.

At that point in his career, Forrest looked to be set for a long time role in the centre-forward slot. He had speed of thought, speed of movement and razor-sharp finishing reflexes, requiring little or no back lift when he struck like a cobra, leading to comparisons with that legendary German finisher, Gerd Mueller.

Amazingly though, when Rangers reached the climax of that remarkable season, beating Dundee 3-1 in a thrilling final to lift the Scottish Cup for the third successive season, it was Millar, who got one of the goals, wearing the No.9 shirt with Forrest dropped. Perhaps that was a harbinger of things to come. Though, even at that stage, nobody could possibly have predicted how Forrest’s Rangers career would end.

Especially when he breezed through the following season, scoring 57 times in all competitions, a figure etched in the Rangers record books, even though his name is shamefully missing from the Ibrox Hall of Fame. He became the first British player to score against Inter Milan in their San Siro stronghold, netting against them at Ibrox too, as Rangers went out of the European Cup on a narrow 3-2 aggregate.

But two goals of the goals from that season which he scored and which are etched on my memory are the brace he saw off Celtic with in the 1964 Scottish League Cup Final. Twice Jim Baxter, captain for the day, slid inch-perfect passes through the middle and twice Forrest scampered clear, outpacing McNeil, who was left trailing in his jetstream, to slot the ball beyond John Fallon and give Rangers the trophy after a 2-1 triumph.

Perhaps those are the two occasions when he was left in Forrest’s wake that McNeil was remembering when he was being teased by me 30 years later.

Forrest was a near-ever present the following season as Millar was used sparingly and mostly at wing-half. But the Scottish Cup was once again to elude the goal-plunderer even though Rangers took the trophy. For, although he played in the first game against Celtic, which ended goalless, he was replaced by George McLean for the replay, won by Kai Johansen’s goal.

It was after that things started to go wrong for Forrest. He had played in 17 league games and seven League Cup ties, plus two European matches and scored 14 goals at the time he took the field in Berwick in January 1967.

Rangers lost 1-0 and Forrest, along with the much less talented George McLean, was scapegoated and sold, Forrest to Preston North End where he spent a spell before returning north for five seasons with Aberdeen, with whom he won the Scottish Cup in 1970, eventually getting the one medal which had eluded him at Ibrox.

My main memory of those years was the 1969 Scottish Cup semi-final between Rangers and Aberdeen at Parkhead. Rangers, with hat-trick Willie Johnston rampant, brushed the Dons aside 6-1, but the best goal of the game was a thunderbolt-rising shot struck while on the run by Forrest.

The sort of thing he could easily have conjured had he remained at Ibrox beyond Berwick and been in the team that night when Rangers came so close to European glory, dominating the game but lacking the razor-sharp lethal finishing which was Jim Forrest’s trademark.

However, it was always to his credit as a lifelong bluenose, Forrest always refused to publicly give vent to what most certainly would have been a professional frustration which must have haunted him.