‘Shooshing the Celtic fans’ – The blueprint to Rangers’ last Scottish Cup semi-final success

Back then the team were a second-tier side who, under the management of Mark Warburton, had secured a return to the top flight. Even with the ease at which they had won the league in 2016, there was an expectation that Celtic would have far too much for them.

How could they frustrate the Premiership champions? How could they turn the tide? How could they give their fans a result to truly be proud of?

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Warburton had a plan up his sleeve which worked as Rangers won an enthralling encounter on penalties after it finished 2-2 following an engrossing 120 minutes.

Mark Warburton was the last Rangers manager to lead the club to a Scottish Cup semi-final win. Picture: SNS

“It was making sure we were on the front foot,” Warburton told the Scotland on Sunday.

“We had a good season in terms of the league, had produced some very good performances but I think the perception would be that we’d be sitting, defending deep and trying to counter, trying to stop Celtic scoring.

“We were very keen to be on the front foot. That was the approach.

“We had good ball players, we knew we were massive underdogs, there was no expectation on us. They were the best team in Scotland, they had won the league but we wanted to be really positive about how we went about our business. I think that was evident from the kick off.

Warburton pinpointed an impressive moment from Gedion Zelalem. Picture: SNS

“We moved the ball really well, we opened them up down the left-hand side. We continuously got Lee Wallace bombing forward, we were dangerous and got the early goal. We just looked a good team I thought.”

‘Shoosh the Celtic fans’

Warburton believes a naivety amongst his younger players worked in the team’s favour. He had the experience of Lee Wallace, Kenny Miller and Andy Halliday to call on but for Gedion Zelalem, Rob Kiernan, Wes Foderingham, Dom Ball and James Tavernier it was their first taste of such an encounter.

“We had a lot of young players who probably never realised, in a nice naive way, and understood the implications and the size of the game,” he said.

“The night before the game in the hotel you could see that. There were no nerves, there was no going quiet, there was no trepidation at all. They just could not wait for the game and they showed that in the quality of their performance .

“You had Gedion Zelalem scoring a penalty in a penalty shootout and putting his finger to his lips to shoosh the Celtic fans, 18 years old. Probably oblivious to it.

“They were looking forward to it and loved every minute of it.”

On a personal level, Warburton still carries with him the magnitude of the victory and what it meant to people “on the blue side of Glasgow”.

“That was very, very obvious to me,” he said. “I get very angry and frustrated when I get told I don’t understand what it means. Of course I do.

“I knew that after what the Rangers supporters had been through and the level of support they had given their club right the way through that process, to have that day and to win that game, I knew what it meant.

“That feeling will never ever go away.”

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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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