The term ‘world-class’ is grossly overused when talking about British footballers – but one Rangers legend to whom it unquestionably applied to was Sandy Jardine, who has died at the tragically young age of just 65.
A brave 18 month fight against cancer finally ended on Thursday evening. When Sandy unfurled last season’s League Championship flag on the opening day of the new campaign there was genuine hope that he would make a full recovery – but sadly that hope has now gone.
William Pullar Jardine was born in Edinburgh on 31st December 1948 – a birthday he shared with Sir Alex Ferguson who arrived in the world seven years before his future team-mate.
Jardine made his debut in Light Blue in the wake of the 1967 Scottish Cup elimination at the hands of Berwick Rangers, playing at Ibrox one week later in the 5-1 League defeat of Hearts. A cultured, elegant footballer originally a wing-half, he would play in a number of positions during the course of his career utilised as a withdrawn centre-forward by the then Rangers Manager David White, then converted into an attacking full-back with pace by Willie Waddell and in the later stages of his career operated in the sweeper role at both Ibrox and Tynecastle where he enjoyed a golden swansong to one of the most distinguished post-war careers in Scotland.
674 competitive appearances for Rangers yielded the 1972 European Cup Winners Cup triumph in Barcelona, three League Championship medals, and five winners’ gongs in both Scottish Cup and League Cup as well as 38 International appearances for Scotland. Only four players in Rangers’ long history have made more League appearances for the club – Dougie Gray, Sandy Archibald, John Greig and David Meiklejohn.
The nickname of ‘Sandy’ was given to William Pullar by the then Rangers trainer/physiotherapist Davie Kinnear as his running style was reminiscent of someone running through sand.
Jardine was twice voted ‘Player-of-the Year’ in 1975 and 1986 – one of the few to achieve such a dual honour whilst he remains to this day the only Rangers player to have played for Scotland in two World Cup Finals, in 1974 and 1978.
He scored 77 goals for Rangers – many of them living long in the minds’ eye, notably the first minute goal against Bayern Munich in 1972, a superb solo run and twenty-yard drive against Celtic in the Dryburgh Cup Final of 1979, a superb individual gaol at Ibrox against Dundee United in 1974, and a another fine solo effort at Motherwell the following year.
His ‘Indian Summer’ at Hearts enabled Sandy to pass the 1,000 mark in career appearances in senior football, and he was cruelly denied a fourth League Championship at Dens Park, Dundee on the final day of Season 1985-86 becoming Assistant Manager to Alex MacDonald at Tynecastle at the end of his playing career.
He returned to Ibrox with the club’s Commercial Department, working behind the scenes for many years - and during the disastrous Craig Whyte Era he became a club spokesman and figurehead as the cataclysmic effects of administration took their toll.
Linfield Football Club, on its official club website, expressed great sadness on the death of “a good friend” Sandy Jardine.
Sandy, as a senior staffer at Ibrox Park, regularly visited Windsor Park over the past decade to make arrangements with Linfield officials for the major pre-season friendlies and it was he who extended the invitation for the Blues to play the Gers in an historic game at the Glasgow stadium last April.
“Sandy was a good friend of Linfield Football Club and a regular and most welcome visitor to Windsor Park. He was a most honourable gentleman, a true football person and our sympathy is extended to his wife and family circle and the Rangers club,” said Linfield vice-chairman Billy Kennedy.
During Rangers’ well-documented off the field problems in recent years, Sandy acted as a liaison officer for the club and he travelled to Northern Ireland on several occasions to meet with local Rangers supporters and organise fund-raising initiatives.