St. Mirren and Rangers Serve Up Premier Entertainment - 1977

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Rangers, 10th April 2022)

St. Mirren v Rangers 1977

St. Mirren v Rangers 1977

When St. Mirren were promoted to the Premier League in 1977, the fans looked forward to entertaining football and the prospect of their club matching up to the sides in the top tier. By the time Rangers came calling to Love Street on September 17th 1977, Saints had lost only one out of ten competitive games in the season and were sitting just two points off the top of the table. The visit of the Ibrox Club was seen as the sternest test thus far, especially as Rangers had staged a remarkable winning comeback from a 2-0 deficit in their match against Celtic the previous week.

The Saints programme for their first Premier League season was a refreshing return to familiarity following three seasons of untraditional orange coloured covers. The sixteen-page A5 issue, priced at 12p, was printed in black on white glossy paper, with red spot colour.

The cover sported the Club stripes and crest alongside the match details and an action photo. The photo chosen for the issue against Rangers – that of celebrating Rangers players in the Celtic match - was one of only two for the season which strangely did not feature a St. Mirren player or match!

Inside, in “Fergie’s View”, Manager Alex Ferguson told how he had not looked forward to a game of football so much in years and that the prospects were for a very exciting match. He enthused about the result of the previous week’s 3-0 victory at Motherwell and, while warning that the forthcoming game would be a difficult one, he firmly believed that his team had a good chance of winning against Rangers. Good old Fergie optimism!

A page of pen pictures of the visiting Ibrox players was followed by “StarSaint”, which provided some facts on Saints’ player Lex Richardson.

The centre pages presented “Today’s Teams”, the players listed being the ones who actually took the field, the sole exception being the replacement of Tommy McLean by Martin Henderson on the Rangers substitutes bench.

On one side of the line-ups was the obligatory Half Time scoreboard, whilst on the other side, “Your Racing Check” provided a space to fill in in your own placings for the horse racing meetings at Newbury and Catterick – very strange!

“The Last Time” detailed that, aside from friendlies, the last competitive match between the sides had been Saints’ famous 4-1 victory at Ibrox in the League Cup sectional tie in 1972. The last time the teams had met in the League was on December 26th 1970, Rangers winning 1-0 at Ibrox.

“For The Record” gave a list of player appearances for the season and this was followed by a round-up of recent first team and reserve side results. A photo from the previous home game in “Actionline” showed Derek Hyslop powering past Kilmarnock’s Billy Murdoch and the list of First Team fixtures and results drew the issue to a close. There were five pages of adverts.

Frank McGarvey puts Saints 2-1 up from the penalty spot

Frank McGarvey puts Saints 2-1 up from the penalty spot

A crowd of 24,596 turned up on a sunny afternoon to witness what turned out to be a thrilling match. Rangers took the lead in the 27th minute when a cross from Gordon Smith found its way through to right back Sandy Jardine, who hooked it in with his left foot. St. Mirren’s equaliser six minutes later came from clever play on the wing by Hyslop, who centred for an onrushing Brian Docherty to score.

Two minutes before half-time, Saints took the lead when Colin Jackson bundled over Hyslop in the box and Frank McGarvey put the spot kick beyond Peter McCloy’s reach at his right-hand post.

The second half, the start of which was delayed because of crowd trouble, was only minutes old when Rangers’ Jackson and Tom Forsyth were both booked and, shortly afterwards, Rangers were reduced to ten men when Forsyth was red-carded for an incident involving McGarvey.

Despite the handicap, Rangers were not down and out. Davie Cooper thundered home an equaliser on 61 minutes following a nod down from Smith and, six minutes later, Derek Johnstone headed home from a Cooper free kick to put Rangers 3-2 up.

However, Fergie’s team were not to be beaten and McGarvey levelled the scores again on 75 minutes when his looping header totally deceived McCloy, who made no attempt to deal with it.