Nacho Novo’s magic Rangers moment revisited by ‘brace yourself’ commentator as he reveals Walter Smith welcome


“Brace yourself Manchester. Rangers are coming.

“The Scots are heading for Manchester and you know what? Manchester may not be big enough.

“They won’t need visas. They won’t need passports. But the battle for tickets starts now.

“Brace yourself Manchester – they are on their way.

“Walter Smith has guided them to a fourth major European final. A crack at their second major European trophy.

“And five years after Celtic swamped Seville, Rangers will maraud all over Manchester.”

Even now, 14 years later, Ibrox fans will get goosebumps listening to that.

The commentary of Nacho Novo’s winning penalty in the UEFA Cup semi-final second leg shoot-out against Fiorentina is iconic.

With a shiver going down their spine, most Gers punters will be able to recite it off by heart.

And no one could be happier than the man who somehow found the perfect words to describe one of the biggest moments in the club’s history.

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Peter Drury had no real affinity with Rangers before taking on the ITV gig for their European run that season.

But by the end of it – a painful final defeat to Zenit St Petersburg – he was going to be intrinsically linked forever.

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This week, Rangers go into their first European last-four tie since Novo’s spot-kick sparked wild, jubilant scenes in Florence.

And for Drury it will evoke some special memories of that 2008 run and his dealings with the late Walter Smith and his friend Ally McCoist.

Just six months after the legendary Ibrox gaffer passed away, Drury would love to see Rangers reach another Euro final against West Ham or Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.

As he reflected on that period – as well as that now-famous piece of commentary – the 54-year-old told MailSport : “I always say that a commentary is only as good as the raw material it’s talking about.

“And it was such a fantastic story that I don’t like to claim it. It wasn’t my story.

“It was Rangers’ story. It was Walter Smith’s story. It was Nacho Novo’s story.



Nacho Novo scored the penalty which sent Rangers through

“For a commentator, it was a strange one. Because I’m an Englishman I felt like an interlocutor.

“But it was such a weird, wonderful run for Rangers. It was so exciting to suddenly be involved in it.

“Of course, there was the final against Zenit. But in retrospect it reached its climax that night in Florence.

“It all came together with that one kick from Novo. I couldn’t script it or have anything planned because I wasn’t anticipating a penalty shoot-out.

“On that run, Rangers kept drawing at Ibrox and then doing it away from home. They had that crazy game in Lisbon against Sporting when Steven Whittaker suddenly thought he was Lionel Messi. That was an incredible moment in itself.

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“Having drawn at home to Fiorentina, our assumption was that Rangers’ luck had run out. We thought the Italians would win. So there was not preparing for that moment. The pre-match conversation was all about ‘what if?’

“The final was going to be in Manchester and we know how well followed Rangers are.

“So it didn’t take a genius to think: ‘Blimey, what if Rangers are in this thing? It’s going to be absolutely mad’.

“And of course it was.

“Before Novo took the kick, I just thought: ‘This is going to happen.’ Taking it forward, I remember waking up in my Manchester hotel room that morning and the place was besieged. It was just extraordinary.

“The fact that it did happen probably put a gloss on the words I used for the final kick of the shoot-out. Manchester wasn’t going to be big enough.”

Drury already had a relationship with McCoist, who is now a seasoned co-commentator, from previously working on games together at ITV. But it was Smith’s welcome at Ibrox that blew him away.

And for a season he became immersed in Rangers’ incredible campaign.

Drury said: “I remember at Ibrox against Sporting, we were privileged to be invited into Walter’s office after the game for a glass of wine.

“That was priceless. Just to be in those famous Ibrox offices in that company.

“It would be poignant, so soon after Walter passed, if Rangers could reach another Europa League Final.

Rangers were such a great club to deal with back then. We were outsiders at ITV but Walter welcomed us. And the whole run was such a tale of the unexpected.

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“If I could add up that night in Florence, it was just one of those massive career and life bonuses.

“In the tunnel area afterwards there was David Weir, who must have been about 57 years old or something.

“Rangers had played nearly 70 games that season and he was involved in almost all of them.

“The poor bloke had put his body on the line. After that game he could barely put one foot in front of the other.”

Drury would love to be in Germany for Thursday night’s first-leg clash against RB Leipzig but instead he’ll be in Leicester for the Foxes’ Europa Conference League tie with Roma.

But he’s desperate for G io van Bronckhorst ‘s side to make it through and potentially set up a Battle of Britain final against the Hammers.

And he hopes that whoever is on the mic feels the same kind of joy as he did.

Drury said: “It would be phenomenal. Can you imagine Rangers v West Ham United in Seville?

“And it’s not impossible. It’s certainly more possible than Rangers beating Fiorentina 14 years ago.

“Rangers had no chance that night so they have a chance against Leipzig.

“I’d love to be doing the game and I want Rangers to go through.

“I’ve been told that the Fiorentina commentary is something Rangers fans enjoyed and that’s a thrill for me.

“I’m grateful for it because I was just lucky to be there. I hope whoever’s at the microphone for this semi-final gets to witness something as special as that.”




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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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