Like fellow Rangers and Scotland team mate Sandy Jardine, John Greig MBE may have grown up supporting Hearts, but it is as a Rangers legend that his name will forever be known.
Making up in heart, courage and determination what he lacked in natural ability, he was a forceful, dynamic leader on the park who led by example and gave his all for club and country.
A one club man who for many epitomises Glasgow Rangers, Greig joined Rangers in 1959 at the insistence of his father. He went on to make 755 appearances for Rangers in a career spanning 17 years- a post-war record at the club, and second only to Dougue Gray in the all time appearance charts for Rangers with an incredible 857.
Greig made his debut for Rangers in 1961 in a League Cup tie against Airdrie, a game in which he also scored. He went on to score a total of 120 goals for the club - not a bad record for a defender sometimes utilised in midfield.
Known simply as The Legend around Ibrox, as a player he won three trebles, including two in three seasons in 1976 and 1978 and skippered the side to their 1972 European Cup Winners’ Cup 3-2 victory over Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona, their first and only European trophy. Trouble flared at the final whistle between Rangers fans and the Spanish police and as a result Greig wasn’t allowed to lift the trophy in front of the travelling rangers support.
|Name||Scotland Caps||Goals||Club appearances||Honours|
|John Greig||44||3||857||3 trebles 1964, '76, '78, MBE 1977, European Cup Winners Cup 1972|
One of the most endearing images behind Rangers’ 1972 Cup Winners Cup success was Greig’s trademark beard which the Rangers captain sported throughout the tournament, shaving it off only when the Cup was safely back at Ibrox.
As it turned out, Greig hated the beard and was dying to shave it off. But was forced to keep it on because of the club’s doctor and a rash promise to the press.
The beard had sprung to life on a trip to Largs ahead of the second round match against Sporting Lisbon at Ibrox after Greig injured himself in freak accident kicking a ball about outside the hotel.The Rangers skipper split his chin open on a bench chasing a ball down and had to get stitches.
Bloodied, bruised and concussed Greig played the match that night against Lisbon which Rangers won 3-2. Quizzed later by reporters what was wrong with his chin he told them what had happened, saying:“It was a good luck omen; I think I’ll keep this beard on until we get put out of the competition.”
His glib comment was seized upon by the press and so a facial legend was forced into life and Greig kept to his word, even though Rangers players were normally forced to stay clean shaven back in those days.
Greig also played in Rangers 1967 European Cup Winners’ Cup defeat in Nuremberg at the hands of a young and upcoming Bayern Munich team featuring Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller but would gain his revenge when Rangers beat them in the semi final in 1972.
A true blue, not only at Rangers but for Scotland as well, Greig made 44 appearances for his country,15 as captain, between 1964 and 1971. Perhaps his finest moment in dark blue was his late winner in Scotland's 1-0 victory against Italy at Hampden Park on 9 November 1965.
Voted Scottish Footballer of the Year in both 1966 and 1976, he was voted the Greatest Ever Ranger in a fans poll in 1999.
In 1978 Greig became the first Rangers player to be awarded a testimonial since Davie Meiklejohn 53 years earlier, and a record testimonial crowd of 65,000 turned up to watch Rangers take on a Scotland select soon to be heading for the Argentina World Cup. Rangers won 5-0 with Greig getting on the scoresheet.
He then went on to become manager of Rangers, replacing Jock Wallace in 1978, before Wallace in return replaced Greig after he was sacked in 1983. Although Greig won the Scottish Cup and the League Cup twice during his stint as Rangers manager, his tenure is widely viewed as a disappointing spell in the club’s history. Towards the end of his reign, Ibrox attendances fell to an alarmingly low level, prompting the board to recall Wallace.
Greig returned to Ibrox after stepping down as manager in 1983, and was Dick Advocaat's right-hand man for a while in a non-coaching role. In 2003 was appointed to the Rangers board.
As well as the highs, Greig experienced plenty of lows during his playing days at Rangers - none more so than the1971 Ibrox disaster when, at the end of an Old Firm game, stairway 13 collapsed leading to 66 people, including many children, losing their lives.
In January 2001 on the 30th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster, a memorial was unveiled outside the Bill Struth main stand. It consisted of a plinth featuring the names of the victims of the 1971 disaster and above it a statue of the Greatest Ever Ranger, Greig, who was captain at the time of the incident.