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Goal feats of understudy 'Sailor' Williamson saw him chart course into Ibrox folklore

BILLY Williamson may have spent much of his career as an understudy but the former Rangers striker, who died recently at the age of 83, enjoyed more success in the limelight than many leading men can hope to achieve.

His ten years of service at Ibrox were interrupted by the Second World War which, combined with the presence of peerless centre-forward Willie Thornton at the club, restricted Williamson to just 69 first-team appearances.

He delivered an impressive return of 39 goals in those matches, however, many of them central to the triumphs Rangers recorded in that fruitful period of their history under legendary manager Bill Struth.

Williamson collected a full set of domestic winners' medals from his time with Rangers, but it is with the Scottish Cup that his name is inexorably linked. In 1948, he had not featured in any of the games during Rangers' run to the final against Morton and was again left out as the teams drew 1-1 at Hampden.

For the replay, which drew a then record midweek crowd of 133,750 to the national stadium, Williamson was called up by Struth and responded by heading the only goal of the game beyond Morton's celebrated Scotland goalkeeper Jimmy Cowan five minutes from the end of extra-time.

Remarkably, Williamson repeated his Scottish Cup fairytale the following year as Rangers retained the trophy. Making his first appearance of the campaign in the final itself, he scored one of the goals as the Ibrox side defeated Clyde 4-1 at Hampden. Williamson was born in Glasgow and initially looked set to focus his sporting attention on rugby where he played for Lenzie Academy. His ability with the round ball, however, saw him signed by his local junior team Kirkintilloch Rob Roy as a 17-year-old in 1939. War broke out soon afterwards and, as a student teacher at Jordanhill College, Williamson was excused a call-up to the armed forces.

He moved briefly from Rob Roy to Petershill, another of Glasgow's leading junior clubs, before Rangers signed him in 1941. Williamson scored on his league debut in December that year, in a 3-0 win over Airdrie at Ibrox, but was absent for most of the war after he voluntarily joined the Royal Navy. While he came home occasionally to turn out for Rangers while on leave, he played most of his football during the war as a guest for Manchester City.

Nicknamed ''Sailor'' by his team-mates, Williamson enjoyed a prolific permanent return to Ibrox in 1945-46 when his 14 goals in 25 games helped Rangers win the last wartime league championship by eight points from Hibs. He collected his first major honour with the club the following season, scoring one of the goals as Rangers defeated Aberdeen 4-0 at Hampden in the final of the inaugural League Cup.

Aside from his Scottish Cup triumphs in 1948 and 1949, however, Williamson remained in the striking shadows at Ibrox behind men such as Thornton and Jimmy Duncanson. He did make enough appearances in 1949-50, scoring 11 goals in 19 games, to complete his set of winners' medals as Rangers won the title by a point from the brilliant emerging Hibs side of the time.

Williamson was transferred to St Mirren in February 1951 and the following year moved on to Stirling Albion where he played for a further three seasons.

After a brief spell as a coach with Queen's Park, Williamson returned to the rugby field where he played until he was 40 with Lenzie Academy, the school where he remained a highly respected PE teacher and later assistant rector until his retirement.

 
 
 

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