“When I was driving home from training in the afternoon and looking over Loch Lomond, I was thinking, 'I’m still dreaming.' But it was real, I was there, it was wonderful, I’ll never forget my time at Glasgow Rangers.”

Tommy Moller Nielsen lived the dream.

The Dane spent two seasons at Ibrox as first-team coach, working under Walter Smith and Dick Advocaat before departing for Aberdeen to become Ebbe Skovdahl’s assistant.

But his love affair with the club didn’t just blossom during his time with the Light Blues and that’s thanks to a fellow Dane and former Gers legend.

He said: “When I was a youngster at Odense, I was lucky that my dad was the manager of the club.

“He was helping the youngsters and some of the younger coaches because he was a club man, he was there all the time and he took on one of his old friends - Kai Johansen.

“All the other boys that trained under him were talking about Liverpool, Man United, and all the big English clubs and he told me about Glasgow Rangers.

“He told me what kind of club it was and he started telling stories from his days over there.

“After that, from a very young age, I became a Rangers supporter.”

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Growing up as the son of the Danish national team coach wasn’t always easy. His late-father Richard would help guide the country to their greatest sporting triumph in the summer of 1992 as they defied the odds to win the European Championship.

But before the jubilation, he had to endure torrid abuse aimed towards his father.

“It was a magnificent time for my Dad who was under a lot of criticism here in Denmark because he took over from a foreign coach and Denmark has a special attitude that people don’t like other Danes to have success, they hate it.

“It’s a special law that we have here if a Danish person has success, if he gets a new car, for example, he will have cheated in tax or have done something, they’re not happy on behalf of him.

“That was the case with my dad, the Danish people didn’t like him before they won the European Championship so everything changed, it was easier to be in the family with him, it was easier to be his son.”

“It was tough because it hurt me when we’re playing in the national team stadium and they announced the team and his name was announced and everybody was booing, that was not nice.

“And I know he was doing everything he could, he was so ambitious in his work that he was a good coach and he was a good person as well so it hurt me.” 

His father would play a major role in getting Tommy his dream move to his boyhood heroes.

“I was so lucky. My dad became very close to Walter Smith. I was a young coach in Odense and when he became friends with Walter he asked if there was any chance I could come for three weeks to follow the training at Glasgow Rangers.

“Walter was kind enough to say, ‘Yes, he’s more than welcome here.’

“It was three years in a row that I went every winter and became very close friends with the whole staff, with John McGregor, John Brown, goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson and especially Walter and Archie Knox. It was absolutely brilliant.

“I started helping them a little bit with players from Europe. They called me sometimes and asked me my opinion about a player from Denmark or wherever it was.”

Tommy would officially join the club as first-team coach in the summer of 1997 and he remembers vividly being offered the role as the timing came as quite a surprise.

“I got that phone call one night, one hour before a Champions League game versus Ajax.

“At that time it was a landline, so I pick it up and there was Walter on the other end and I said, ‘Don’t you have a match here?’

“He said, ‘Yes, but I have people to take care of that’, then he said, ‘Do you fancy coming here to Rangers to be a first-team coach next summer?’

“I said, ‘Yes', and he said, ‘When your season has finished, come up and we’ll sign the contract.’

“I had to work as a European International Scout until then without anybody knowing that.

"He said, ‘We have to keep it a secret until the Scottish season is over because Davie Dodds is leaving and nobody should know about it.’”

Working with Walter and Archie

“They have a brilliant humour and sometimes if you didn’t know them you could be scared because some of the things they were saying to me like, ‘What about that crap you were doing today in training?’

“If I didn’t know Walter and Archie so well then it would’ve been a tough start for me.

“Walter said to me, ‘The day Scottish people stop taking the mickey out of you, that’s because they don’t like you anymore.’

“We had a great time but I learned so much from them. Walter Smith was world champion in man-management.

“It was absolutely fantastic what he could do to players and staff to get them to feel right.

Rangers Review: Moller Nielsen and Walter Smith in discussion during a training sessionMoller Nielsen and Walter Smith in discussion during a training session

“One of the things that he said to me at the beginning, I was sitting with my papers and preparing the training for the day and he looked over my shoulder and said, ‘What kind of crap are you doing with them today?’

“I was laughing and I said, ‘I do real European coaching’, and he said, ‘That’s good but remember one thing, the most important role you have as a first-team coach is you have to make sure that every morning when they come in you have to make sure that you tickle their stomach.’

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“He said, ‘Happy people are working much better than people who are annoyed and not in a good spirit’.”

Tommy would be joining a star-studded Rangers squad embarking on their ultimately failed quest for 10-in-a-row.

As a 35-year-old coach, he was dealing with world-class talents like Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup - but he never felt overawed.

He has stories about many of the players in that era:


“His problem was he was so kind, he was such a nice person and some people took advantage of that because he was helpful.

“You can always count on him when you ask him about something.

“He was there for you and he was there for many. People forget that sometimes.

“Of course, sometimes he gave me some problems before training and after training.

“We couldn’t find the balls, we couldn’t find the bibs, we couldn’t find him!

"I was counting the players on the bus when we went to Jordanhill or West Scotland cricket ground to train but he was hiding under the seat or something.

“Gazza was an unbelievable footballer because he could do so many things.

“He could defend, he could attack, he could tackle, he could head the ball, he was brave, he was world-class.

“My father once told me that the players who give you problems during the week are normally the players who give the opponent the biggest problem at the weekend. He was one of them.”

Brian Laudrup

“He was not the best trainer in the world.

“He didn’t fancy training but if we saved his energy for a Saturday then he was world-class.

“Sometimes he came to me and said, ‘I can feel a little bit here in my hamstring, I don’t think it’s a good idea to train today’.

“I know for sure that there wasn’t but it was raining so I said to him, ‘Go to the physio and get some treatment and then go home.’

“If I did that then I was 100% sure that he would pay me back and pay Walter and Archie back on a Saturday.

“That’s again the man-management coming in, I could’ve forced him to the training ground but then we wouldn’t have got the best out of him.”

Marco Negri

“He was easy to work with and he was difficult to work with because his English was not so good but I actually think it was better than we thought it was.

“Sometimes he conned us a little bit by saying, ‘I don’t understand Mister.’ 

“I’ll never forget the first day when we had a double session and he came in and sat in the gym on the floor and I said, ‘Is there anything I can do for you? Are you ok?’

“He had trained one time and we had to go out in the afternoon again and the first and only thing he said was, 'holiday?'”

“At the beginning, he didn’t like Scotland, he didn’t like the rain and he didn’t like the weather. He was missing Italy a lot.

“But then it was like he opened up and he began to laugh a little bit, he began to talk with the other players, not only the Italians and then that stupid accident with a squash ball in his eye happened and the rest is history as you say.

“That was a shame because he was a special player, he had that Ally McCoist goal nose, he knew where to be.

“You could have games where he didn’t do a lot but then bang, he was there in a split of a second.

“The game against Dundee United when he scored five goals, we nearly took him off.

“Archie and I were shouting like idiots to get him to run in the channels then he scored four goals in the first half.

“I remember Coisty was on the bench and it was after the third or the fourth goal, and he said, ‘Anybody know the junction for Bathgate?’

"Bathgate was a little ground where the reserve team were playing.

“He could see that it would be difficult for him to get a position in the team when Marco Negri was there so he took it from the funny side.

“That was Scottish humour and that was Coisty.”

Rino Gattuso

"I always tell the story of the young boy who was knocking on the door in the afternoon with the dark hair and he stood out there and he said, ‘Mister please?’

“We would go out to Ibrox, beside the pitch of course, not on the pitch as we didn’t want to spoil it but every afternoon we did small little exercises, technical exercises like throwing the ball to him and getting it back again and again and again and again, every afternoon.

“One day I asked him, ‘Tell me, Rino, why is it you want to do this? I know that you want to be better, but why do you want to do all this extra training?’

"He said, ‘Mister, I want to be world champion!’

“I always tell that to the young boys, he had a dream this boy and he followed that dream by working so extremely hard and he never gave up."

The 10 In A Row season

Rangers' failure to seal 10-in-a-row is often blamed on a plethora of reasons, one of which is Walter Smith’s decision to announce his departure from Ibrox in the summer of 1998 as early as the previous October.

Moller Nielsen reckons it had a devastating impact on and off the field.

“It was very sad. He took me into his room one day when we were playing Dundee United and he told me his decision, he said I should stay but that he and Archie will go.

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“That was a very sad day because we had a very special staff room with Walter as the main man of course.

“That announcement that came with Walter leaving was a much bigger thing than people realise.

Rangers Review: Moller Nielsen, Jimmy Bell, Archie Knox and Walter Smith look on from the dugoutMoller Nielsen, Jimmy Bell, Archie Knox and Walter Smith look on from the dugout

“It was sad very, very deep in a lot of people, not only the players and the staff. From the girls in the kitchen to everybody who was working there were very affected. He knew all their names, and the names of the wives and of the husbands. He was like an Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

“It was a punch in the stomach to everybody. If he had stayed for one more year then I’m 100 percent sure we would have got 10-in-a-row.”


As Rangers' season ended without silverware for the first time in twelve seasons, they would complete the clean sweep the following year as Dick Advocaat was brought in from PSV.

The Dutchman made it clear to Moller Nielsen he wanted to keep him on as part of the coaching staff and one of his first tasks was recommending a pacey certain Hearts winger who would go down in Ibrox folklore.

“He came in from PSV Eindhoven with Bert van Lingen as his assistant manager and neither of them had a big knowledge of Scottish football.

“Dick preferred to work from home, watching games and players on video so I went to all the games and he would always ask me about Scottish players. What system do they play? What are they doing on set-plays? Should we play him against him?

“I’ll never forget when he asked me about Neil McCann.

“He said, ‘Do you like him?’, and I said, ‘Yes, really much indeed, he’s a very good left-footed player, he is always giving us problems,’ and he said, ‘Do you think we should take him?’ and I said ‘Yes, I think so,’ and he said, ‘Yes, ok, we’ll take him.’

“He trusted me on that, he knew that I knew him so well.

“McCann was unbelievable with his pace, especially his pace with the ball.

“He could assist and score goals as well. He was a hard-working boy and it all paid off when he scored those two goals at Parkhead.

“I remember his first training where he didn’t have a very good session but that was simply because he was trying too hard to do well and impress.

“He was so proud at being signed for Rangers that he wanted to pay back. On top of that, he was a magnificent footballer. He was technically good but at the same time, his work rate and his attitude was brilliant. He fitted into Rangers from day one.”

As much as Moller Nielsen would be part of a treble-winning Rangers squad, he admits it wasn’t all plain sailing to begin with.

“There was a little bit of a problem at the beginning because we got a lot of players from Holland and they stuck together, we had players from Italy, they stuck together and then we had the Scottish and the English boys that stuck a little bit together and that’s not good for a football team to have groups.

“It managed to open up a little bit and Arthur Numan was one of the biggest reasons for splitting up those groups.

“He really understood how important it was that instead of five or four small groups, we became one big group.

“When they found out what they were actually coming into, many of them didn’t realise the kind of club that they had joined.

“I’ll never forget the game we lost 5-1 at Parkhead. Big Scott Wilson was sent off after 19 minutes for a totally honest clear tackle on Henrik Larsson or did he kill him from the back? I think he slaughtered him from the back!

“I remember I said to Dick and Bert that we need to prepare our new signings from abroad that this game is special and they said, ‘Ach, come on, some of them have been involved in PSV versus Ajax, it’s no problem.’

“I remember we came into the dressing room after being pumped 5-1, Dick sat in the corner totally white in his face and he said, ‘You were right there. I even got a shock’.

“I remember, even the international players that came directly from the World Cup; Arthur Numan, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, they were scared and they were sitting there and getting slaughtered by Ian Ferguson and Derek McInnes.

“The Scottish boys went ballistic at the foreign lads, we nearly had to hold them back against some of the foreign ones because they were so embarrassed about the performance.

“They didn’t realise how important it was for Rangers to win that game. They simply didn’t understand that people couldn’t have the same feeling as they had.

“I think that was a big help for the foreign players to understand what kind of football club they’d actually signed for.

“It was a wake-up call for us.”

It certainly would prove to be as Rangers marched on to the title, sealing it in the most magnificent of fashions at the very same ground on a sun-kissed May evening.

READ MORE: Rangers players need to stand tall because there is no hiding place at Ibrox - Steven Clifford

Moller Nielsen lights up when recalling the sweetest of all Old Firm victories.

“It was fantastic, I’ll never forget when Neil McCann scored to make it 3-0, I think there were over ten minutes left and all the Celtic supporters went away, they didn’t want to see us becoming champions at their place beating them 3-0.

Rangers Review: Moller Nielsen drops to his knees as he celebrates winning the league at Parkhead in 1999Moller Nielsen drops to his knees as he celebrates winning the league at Parkhead in 1999

“I can remember the noise of the shoes walking away, our people down in the corner were celebrating, that was a fantastic day, it was unbelievable.

“It was a strange moment when the ref was hit by a coin because I remember Dick Advocaat asked me, ‘What happened over there?’ I said, 'I don’t know,' and then a policeman said, ‘The referee was hit by a coin and he’s bleeding.’

“Dick said to me, ‘Is that right? The game will be cancelled. In Holland, the game would be cancelled,’ and I said to him, ‘This is not Holland! We will play on.’

“When you look at the old pictures on YouTube or something you see the referee sitting on his knee with blood running down his face, if that would’ve happened at the Euros, the whole tournament would be called off I think. It was when people were tough.”

Moller Nielsen laughs when recollecting their post-match celebrations as they performed the huddle in front of their jubilant supporters.

“We were criticised for it, hugely criticised but it was emotional and sometimes you do things when you’re emotional and so moved as we were.

“I don’t know who started it and how many people jumped in but I don’t think people were thinking too much about it was because Celtic did that huddle, I think it was because people were simply just happy.”

Rangers Review: Moller Nielsen holds Bert van Lingen as Dick Advocaat celebrates after Rangers beat Celtic to win the Scottish Cup in 1999Moller Nielsen holds Bert van Lingen as Dick Advocaat celebrates after Rangers beat Celtic to win the Scottish Cup in 1999

After Ibrox

After securing the Treble with another win over Celtic, the summer would be Moller Nielsen's last at Ibrox after being offered the chance to become an assistant to incoming Aberdeen boss Ebbe Skovdahl.

He would seek guidance from Walter Smith and Archie Knox before making the switch to Pittodrie, a decision he admits he now regrets.

“It was massive, the reason for my decision was, my role changed a little bit from a first-team coach to a European assistant coach.

“I could accept that because I was a young coach and I was working for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

“But when I got the offer to go from Rangers to Aberdeen I remember I went to Walter’s house, not far away from where I lived in Helensburgh and we talked about it.

“I remember Walter said, ‘I know you’re a Rangers supporter and a Rangers man and it will be tough and hard and it will be a decision that will hurt you but if you want to be your own man one day then you should take the offer from Aberdeen.’

“He said, ‘You’ll have big responsibilities up there because Skovdahl doesn’t know anything about Scottish football so you’ll be involved more as an assistant manager.’

“So I took their advice, now after you can say it didn’t work out and I went down to Everton again with Walter and Archie.”

Tommy now works with Manchester United as a first-team senior scout but says Rangers and his former pal Jimmy Bell and Glasgow itself still holds a special place in his heart.

“There have been so many changes at Ibrox that only Jimmy Bell is still there, they cannot get him out!”

“He’s a terrible man, he’s a good terrible man, he’s always a moaner.

“If you ask him for a pair of trainers you need to have Henry Kissinger in to negotiate with him! He’s really tough but he’s a lovely man.

“What he was really good at was he looked after the boys. He looked after the apprentices who were maybe struggling a little bit, he is Rangers through and through.

“I had a good relationship with the supporters. I lived in Helensburgh, me and my family, I’m married and we have a couple of twin boys and they grew up in Helensburgh.

“Even the Celtic supporters in Helensburgh were nice to me, I never got abused anywhere.

“Sometimes somebody shouts something at you and that’s normal when you walk around in Glasgow.

“My first job for Manchester United was to go and make a team report on Leicester who were playing Celtic at Parkhead in a pre-season friendly.

“I decided to take a walk to the stadium from the city centre and still after all those years people recognised me and they shouted bad things at me but with a smile on their face.

“But football people up in Glasgow don’t forget, it was actually nice to be abused!"