Ibrox sell out predicted for Fernando Ricksen benefit

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BARRY Ferguson wants the Rangers support to put aside their anger at the club and turn out in massive numbers to support Sunday’s charity match in tribute to his old team-mate Fernando Ricksen.

While attendances have dwindled at Ibrox as the disenchantment with the current board has grown, the weekend match could serve as a pick me up, with so many former heroes returning for the Legends v All Stars game.

Fernando Ricksen returns to Ibrox to promote his upcoming tribute game. Picture: SNS

Fernando Ricksen returns to Ibrox to promote his upcoming tribute game. Picture: SNS

“It is Fernando’s day and I hope people remember that. I have seen what he has been through and I hope they come out and back him.”

The Dutchman was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2013 and when the two former captains met up at Ibrox yesterday, Ferguson admitted he was stunned by the way the illness had got to grips with his friend and he does not want him to pay the price for the current turmoil. Instead he wants everyone to revel in the return of so many players who have delivered silverware in the past and bask in the memories of better times.

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“The club is going through a difficult time but there will be good times again. I hope it’s sooner rather than later and they get back. But this is a celebration of Fernando and a chance for the fans to show their support. I am sure they will and it will be an emotional day. I was just delighted he asked me to be part of this game.”

Around 23,000 tickets have already been sold but briefs remain on sale from the club and Ferguson hopes those numbers will rise and the Dutchman can take his bow in front of a packed Ibrox Stadium.

“It’s such a shame what’s happened with his illness and it was a shock seeing him after a while.

“I would love to see a full house for him on Sunday because he deserves it. He was a successful Rangers captain and he won trophies at the club. So, let’s celebrate a good day out with some great former players who played a part in Rangers history.”

The ex players, who include Jorg Albertz, Michael Mols, Rino Gattuso, Ronald De Boer and Nacho Novo, as well as Andy Goram and Ferguson, will be managed by Alex McLeish and they will take on an All Stars squad which includes Teddy Sheringham, Ronald Waterreus, Des Walker, James Beattie and Zurab Khizanishvili and will be managed by another fans’ favourite, Graham Roberts.

With Ricksen and his daughter Isabella benefitting, along with Motor Neurone Disease Scotland and the Rangers Charity Foundation, Ferguson says the main focus will be on the fundraising but he conceded that all the players were also looking forward to reliving old memories.

“There was a great bond in that group, I am looking forward to seeing them. I am more looking forward to the night out afterwards! It will be great to be back in the dressing room with them again.

“As a person [Fernando] was a pest! There are a lot of perceptions of him but once you got him one-to-one you realised he was a complete gentleman. He was a bit crazy, but I quite like that in people.

“We had so many good moments together back then, on and off the pitch. There are plenty of stories but none I could repeat. There were a few team nights out and he was great fun.

“He was passionate on the pitch. He struggled a bit when he first came over, but once he found his feet he was a great player for the club. That showed you all about his character. He came though that sticky spell and became an important player.

“You don’t become Rangers captain without having something about you. It was great to play alongside him because he was always fully committed. He was a winner and that’s the type of team-mate I like. He bought into what Rangers are about. That’s the biggest thing when players come in from abroad. There have been plenty who didn’t realise you are under pressure in every single game and struggled. Fernando realised this is a special club.”

Claiming that his trip to Glasgow felt like “coming home”, Ricksen says he is excited about the game.

“I played most of my footballing life at a high pressure level – Champions League, cup finals and, of course, the Old Firm. That feeling you get leading up to those games is incredible. That’s the feeling I have at the moment and it will become more intense the closer it gets to Sunday.

“Since I was diagnosed with MND in October 2013 I thought I would never get that feeling again. But thanks to Rangers, my family, close friends and everyone who has supported me in these difficult times and the Rangers fans who will be coming to the game on Sunday, I will experience that feeling again. I want to thank them for making that possible.”

• Tickets are on sale from the Rangers Ticket Centre on 0871 702 1972 (option 1) and www.rangers.co.uk. Adults £12, concessions £8 and children £5, with family tickets (two adults & two children) £20.