I toasted Rangers win by cracking open a bottle of red and booking Seville flights and I KNOW we will do it – Barry Ferguson – Barry Ferguson

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From the depths of such bitter sorrow to the high of Europa League retirement.

It’s been a week of wildly different emotions for everyone connected with Rangers following the tragic, sudden death of Jimmy Bell.

But my God, this incredible group of players could not have served up a better way to honor the wee man than what they produced on Thursday night.

I spoke in RecordSport earlier this week about my special bond with Jimmy and it was heartbreaking not to see him on the touchline against Leipzig.

Every time a substitution was made it jarred on me that he wasn’t there. But it was the emotion of what the club has been through that drove the team on.

When the team was in danger of running out of energy, the players AND the punters dug deep to find the spark within which meant they could find a result that would not have meant more to anyone than Jimmy.

He’d have been so proud. It was a night that will live with me forever, even if I had to witness it from the radio studio.

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Ibrox is a special place. I’ve seen top players lose their heads amid the madness only it can generate and that it was the same on Thursday as Leipzig were blown away.

The final 10 minutes after big John Lundstram – and by the way, what a player – stroked home the winner seemed to last a lifetime.

But when the final whistle blew I just erupted. I saw Coisty dancing a jig on the telly and I was going just as mad myself watching those scenes of pure joy.

I had to stop myself though when I saw Allan McGregor enjoying his moment with the fans. I remember seeing the anguish and pain he went through back in 2008 when he was forced to miss the final in Manchester due to injury, especially as we simply would never have made it that far without him.

His saves in Bremen alone are the stuff of legend, so for him to be denied the chance to walk out for the final against Zenit was beyond cruel.

My way of dealing with it as captain was to take the kind of approach I’d want if it were ruled out for me. Sometimes you’re just better off left alone.



Scott Arfield celebrates on the pitch after

So all I did was tell him I was gutted for him then stepped away. He wouldn’t have wanted a big scene made.

But even without really talking to him in-depth, I knew it hurt him. I know what Rangers means to him. You could see it in his eyes from him.

European finals usually don’t even come along once in a lifetime so you could understand why it would have hit him so hard.

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But here we are, remarkably, incredibly, he is being given a second chance. It’s crazy but no-one deserves it more than Greegsy.

It was ridiculous that people were rushing to write him off after a couple of mistakes earlier this season.

Let’s get it straight, Rangers would not be going to Seville without the saves Allan McGregor has made along the way.

The big stops at home to Dortmund, the penalty save against Red Star, moments where he kept his cool in Leipzig – all of these ensured we kept marching on towards Seville.

So that’s why I was overjoyed to see him so, so happy at full-time. He took my European appearance record off me and there’s no better person to have done so. Now he’s looking at making his 104th Rangers run out in Uefa competition on May 18.

Might it be his last? Who knows? He’s 40 now and while I think he could do another year, he might just decide there’s no better way than to bow out after a Europa League final.

There’s the Scottish Cup final three days later of course so there’s that too to consider but maybe this might be the perfect way to say goodbye.

Gio may want him to stay on another year but it will be Allan’s call and he’s earned the right to make it.

I’m still on Cloud nine and I reckon I’ll be like this for days to come.

After the game, I was buzzing so much I couldn’t sleep.

It was well after midnight by the time I got home after my shift on the wireless but I thought I may as well celebrate so I cracked open a nice bottle of red and toasted a magnificent display.

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Rangers players celebrate victory after the final whistle in the UEFA Europa League semi-final, second leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. Picture date: Thursday May 5, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

And you know those couple of glasses have whetted my whistle and I’ve decided, sod it – I’m there, I’m going to Seville!

In 2008 I was lucky enough to lead out Rangers as captain in Manchester.

But when you’re playing, your focus is on one thing – the match itself. You don’t take in what it means to the people around you.

This time though, I’m going to make sure I soak up every minute. I’ve already got my flights sorted and I’ll be there with my boys Connor and Kyle to back the team as a proper supporter – and I’m going to enjoy it!

I’ll be there with the full kit on and the scarf making sure I lap it all up. I want this to be something I look back on for years to come and say I was able to share it with my sons.

They were at the game in Manchester but were too young to know what it meant. But they are well aware of what this match means to Rangers now – and I want to be there to sample it with them.

And I think we’ll do it. In fact I know we will. I’ve been saying it was our year ever since the Dortmund match and my conviction has only grown stronger. And that’s why I’m making sure I’ll be in Seville in 11 day’s time.

There’s a party brewing and I’m going to be right in the middle of it.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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