Even when he signed for Rangers in 1958, Ian McMillan, with his baggy pants and socks stuffed with thick shin pads, looked like a figure from a bygone age.

But McMillan, who has died at the age of 92, was a footballer for all ages. Someone whose finely honed instinct to find space and then pinpoint a pass to set a team mate scampering free stamped him as a midfield schemer of the highest class.

Modern fans, who weren’t lucky enough to be enraptured by his excellence can turn their thoughts to that great Barcelona and Spanish star, Xavi. That’s the style and orbit of class The Wee Prime Minister was in.

He got that magnificent nickname almost immediately after he moved from his hometown club of Airdrie to Ibrox for the then significant fee of £10,000.

At the time the British Prime Minister was that Edwardian patrician politician, Harold McMillan, who was dubbed SuperMac by the press. Rangers supporters immediately took to and preferred their own Wee PM.

My first view of him was when, as a primary schoolboy in short trousers, my dad took me to the wee enclosure with instructions to watch the number eight and learn how football should be played. He scored two in a 4-4 draw with Raith Rovers and then went from strength to strength as the architect of a 23 game run which included a solitary defeat and saw Rangers pip Hearts for the title in 1959.

That was the start of six years of education for me as this slightly built, quiet, self-effacing man dominated game after game, appearing to find no difficulty in mastering the old heavy leather ball and the quagmire pitches.

His trademark move was to receive a pass with his back to goal, use what can only be called, a broad beam to turn his marker and then instinctively know just where the pass should be delivered. To the right for Alex Scott and then, even more productively, Willie Henderson, through the middle for Jimmy Millar or Ralph Brand, or even sweepingly over to the left and Davie Wilson.

The last time I spoke to Ian McMillan was at a Remembrance weekend lunch at the legendary Kirkintilloch Rangers Supporters Club more than a decade ago.

The company of this modest man was a delight and it was wonderful to listen to him confirm what had been obvious. He preferred playing inside right to Wee Willie.

Rangers Review: Ian McMillan (R) is presented with his award by former Rangers player Willie Henderson as he is inducted to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. Ian McMillan (R) is presented with his award by former Rangers player Willie Henderson as he is inducted to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. (Image: SNS)

Recalling his words is easy as he said: “Alex had tremendous speed from a standing start and always wanted me to play the ball square for him to hit it beyond the full back and race away down the touchline. But when I had it, wee Willie took off and I was able to pass the ball into space for him to run clear on to. That was how I saw my job.”

What a signing McMillan was for Scot Symon, second only to the swoop which landed Jim Baxter from Raith Rovers for £17,500, 18 months later.

This pair of peerless players elevated soccer skill and subtlety to startlingly new levels. Baxter, on the left of midfield and McMillan on the right, these two masterful magicians had an almost telepathic understanding and from the moment they linked Rangers were unstoppable, playing a mesmeric, magnificent and masterful brand of football which has possibly not been seen at Ibrox since.

And their finest hour, their princely pinnacle was scaled in the 1963 Scottish Cup Final replay at Hampden when Celtic were unstitched, undone and left in tatters, with Rangers winning 3-0, giving birth to the chant of “Easy, Easy” which echoed around Hampden that night.

McMillan, by then used only sparingly, had missed the original game with George McLean wearing the number eight shirt in a 1-1 draw. But McLean was injured in that game and McMillan was recalled for the replay.

My dad and I were in the big enclosure as 120,000 watched as McMillan and Baxter worked their soccer sorcery.  Jimmy Millar scored after six minutes Davie Wilson a minute before the interval before Brand added a third.

Many who were there, including me, well recall how Baxter indulged his showman tendencies by teasing and tormenting Celtic in the closing 20 minutes or so.

However, even Baxter knew he had witnessed a masterclass from McMillan and at the final whistle he shoved the ball up his jersey intending to give it to the Wee Prime Minister. But the spoilsport Scottish Football Association demanded it back and McMillan was robbed of the ball as he seldom was on the field.

Throughout his six years at Ibrox, Ian McMillan played 194 games, scoring 55 goals, winning the title twice, the Scottish Cup three times and the League Cup twice, all as a part time player. His full time job was as a quantity surveyor.

When I went to his Airdrie home in the 1980s to interview him for the Rangers programme, McMillan said: “I was 28 when I signed and nothing was ever said about going full time. I think Scot Symon thought that at that stage of my career it was best to leave well alone.

“At the time centre half Willie Telfer was also a part timer and we trained together on a Tuesday and Thursday.”

McMillan also explained how his move came about and the part played by the Wee Blue Devil, Alan Morton, who was a Rangers director.

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He said: “He lived in Airdrie and was one of the few who knew I was involved in a bit of a dispute with Airdrie and let Rangers know.”

It was an inspired tip off. During that interview, the always modest McMillan recalled: “Baxter was a marvellously talented player and he and I were in the midfield with Harold Davis behind us and when he won the ball he slipped it to one of us.”

A mark of McMillan’s modesty was when he scored Rangers’ 5,000 League goal in a match against Raith Rovers. His reaction to making history was to trot back to the halfway line almost shyly accepting handshakes from his team mates, in sharp contrast to some of the infantile celebrations of some players today who could not have laced his boots.

Ian McMillan, the Wee Prime Minister was a player I count myself privileged to have seen and even more privileged to have met and interviewed and shared a convivial and insightful lunch with. He was more than an outstanding footballer. He was a fine man.