Bobby Shearer

BOBBY SHEARER Footballer

Born: 29 December, 1931. Died: 5 November, 2006, aged 74.

BOBBY Shearer was straight out of the mould of Rangers full-backs. He seemed to stand 5ft 7in square, he had legs like tree trunks and his red hair was a beacon wherever the battle was fiercest.

A Hamilton man, he signed for the Accies from local side Burnbank Athletic in 1950 and quickly established himself in the first team, playing in every position except goalkeeper.

In December 1955, finding his resources at full-back somewhat stretched - Willie Woodburn had been suspended sine die and George Young moved to centre-half from right-back - Rangers manager Scot Symon paid Accies 2,000 to take Shearer to Ibrox, where he immediately made the No 2 jersey his own.

He was to spend almost a decade at Ibrox, playing over 400 matches, including 165 games in succession, a consistent run free of injury and suspension of the sort it is difficult to imagine today.

Rangers' famous Iron Curtain defence may have rusted, but soon there was a back three which tripped off the tongue as Billy Ritchie, Shearer and Eric Caldow became the first three names on the team sheet and as the Fifties gave way to the Sixties and young guns such as Jim Baxter, Willie Henderson, Ralph Brand, Davie Wilson and the even younger John Greig emerged, Rangers, in spite of sterling resistance from great Kilmarnock and Hearts sides, took a near-stranglehold on Scotland's trophies. Many people argue that that squad: Ritchie, Shearer, Caldow, Greig, McKinnon, Baxter, Henderson, McMillan or McLean, Miller, Brand and Wilson was Rangers' most attractive if not greatest team.

Shearer was perhaps a pack horse surrounded by thoroughbreds, but he was the on-field driver which kept the team going forward.

Caldow had succeeded Young and Ian McColl as Rangers' captain, before being appointed as Scotland's captain, but his quiet, undemonstrative style of leadership didn't meet with manager Symon's approval and the latter handed the leadership of the team to Shearer, who had been one of his first signings.

Very much in the mould of Jock "Tiger" Shaw as a captain, Shearer led Rangers to a string of domestic successes. His roll of honour at Ibrox included six league titles, three Scottish Cups and three League Cups. In 1961, he made his Scotland debut when he was picked to face England at Wembley, the first of four caps gained in successive matches within a one-month period.

England, of course, won 9-3, prompting the accusation they had pulled a fast one by using an orange ball which neither Shearer nor Caldow would kick, and which Celtic goalkeeper Frank Haffey and, another debutant that day, Billy McNeill, resolutely refused to go near. Nobody told that joke better or more often than Shearer when, in retirement, he became a popular speaker on the after-dinner circuit.

His Rangers career ended in May 1965, when he moved on to Queen of the South as a player-coach. From there, he returned to Glasgow, as manager of Third Lanark during the dark days when the club was being ruthlessly asset-stripped. When Thirds folded in 1967, he went home to Hamilton, where he did everything: groundsman, general dogsbody and manager for a spell. He may be feted as Rangers' captain, but his service to his home-town team was no less distinguished.

His post-football career saw him with several business interests, in the building trade and bus hire, before he became such a popular after-dinner speaker. He was always a welcome guest at Ibrox and his passing will be mourned by Rangers' fans who never saw him play.

Two vignettes from his playing days perhaps sum him up. During one Old Firm match at Parkhead, he and the similarly-statured and equally committed Neilly Mochan of Celtic contested a 50/50 ball on the halfway line in front of the old Jungle. Both made 20-yard runs to the ball; neither would chicken out of the challenge. They collided like two runaway trains, the ball never moved, but both players rebounded several feet to end up prone on the pitch - the fans of both sides loved it.

Another time, at Pittodrie, referee Tom "Tiny" Wharton awarded Aberdeen a goal which Shearer felt ought not to have been given. The next day's Sunday papers included a back-page picture of the 6ft 3in Doug Baillie attempting to haul the diminutive Shearer away from the 6ft 5in Mr Wharton - the aggrieved wee man was not for backing down, even when caught between two colossi of the Scottish game.

His example of loyalty to the club and total commitment on the park was typically Rangers, and it is probably fair to say, growing up beside him in that star-studded Ibrox dressing room shaped the attitudes of his most-distinguished successor as Rangers captain - John Greig.