Eddie Rutherford

Scotland international footballer

Born: 8 February, 1921, in Glasgow.

Died: 29 June, 2007, aged 86.

LIKE the rest of his Rangers team mates playing at Cliftonhill in Coatbridge on 30 April, 1949, Eddie Rutherford was not initially aware of the full significance of their 4-1 victory over Albion Rovers.

The Ibrox club had gone into their final Scottish League Division A fixture of the season as second-favourites to win the title. Dundee led the table by a point and required only a draw in their last game at Falkirk to become champions.

Rangers took a 2-0 half-time lead against already relegated Rovers with goals from Willie Thornton and Jimmy Duncanson, the latter heading home a typically precise cross from left-winger Rutherford. At Brockville, Dundee had missed a penalty but the goalless interval scoreline still kept them on course to win the league.

In the second half, however, events took a dramatic turn and a piece of Scottish football history was created. As Rangers cruised to the 4-1 win in their match with centre-forward Thornton completing a hat-trick, Dundee remarkably lost by the same scoreline to Falkirk. Rangers were the champions and, having won the Scottish Cup the previous week and the League Cup a month earlier, became the first team to win the "treble" of domestic trophies.

The feat has been repeated nine times since, on six further occasions by Rangers and three times by Celtic, but in 1949 the full magnitude of the achievement was not immediately appreciated with the Scottish press focusing more on how Dundee had thrown away the title. As time progressed, however, that Rangers side were afforded their rightful place in the Scottish football pantheon and men like Rutherford would regard it as their finest hour.

A product of the local Govan High School, Rutherford began his playing career with Battlefield Amateurs before moving into juvenile football with Mossvale YMCA. He attracted the attention of Rangers whose legendary manager Bill Struth signed him on professional forms in 1941. It would be another five years, however, before Rutherford would make his first team debut for the club as he spent most of the Second World War away on military service.

He did appear as a guest player for both Lincoln City and Bradford City while on leave before returning to Scotland in 1946. On 19 October that year, he finally made his first appearance for Rangers in a 1-0 defeat of Queen's Park at Ibrox in a League Cup tie. Rutherford was deputising for Willie Waddell, the celebrated Scottish international right-winger.

Claiming that position, his natural one, on a regular basis was unlikely for Rutherford but he went on to display excellent versatility and ability with both feet by playing much of his Rangers career on the opposite flank. He made just five league appearances in his maiden season with the first team, scoring his first goal for the club in a 5-0 defeat of Clyde at Ibrox as they held off Hibs' challenge to win the 1947 championship, but injury to Waddell allowed him to claim his first major honour when he played in the inaugural League Cup final against Aberdeen which saw Rangers win 4-0.

Rutherford established himself as a first team player the following season which included his baptism to the Old Firm fixture against Celtic. It was an occasion he would recall fondly as he scored in a 4-0 triumph for Rangers at Parkhead in front of 60,000 spectators on 2 January, 1948.

Rangers went on to lose the championship to Hibs, but it was a campaign which saw Rutherford achieve peak form. He helped his club win the Scottish Cup in a replayed final against Morton, was also part of the Glasgow and Charity Cup winning line-ups and was called up for his senior international debut against France in Paris at the end of the season.

Rutherford played at right-wing in a team which included luminaries such as goalkeeper Jimmy Cowan, centre half George Young and forwards Billy Steel and Gordon Smith, but Scotland slipped to a 3-0 defeat. He was never selected by his country again, although he did play and score for the Scottish League in a 4-0 win over the Irish League in Belfast in September 1950.

His career flourished regardless at club level as he was a key contributor to Rangers' treble success and then in 1949-50 scored seven goals as they retained the title and collected a third successive Scottish Cup winners' medal when East Fife were beaten 3-0 in the final. The same opponents, however, prevented another treble for Rangers by knocking them out of the League Cup in the semi-finals.

The closest Rutherford came to another major honour was in 1951 when he was part of the side beaten 3-2 by Dundee in the League Cup final. After 28 goals in 140 appearances for Rangers, he was transferred to Hearts in November that year in a swap deal which saw Colin Liddell move in the opposite direction.

Rutherford was almost an ever present in his first season at Tynecastle, making his debut in a 4-3 home win over Queen of the South and quickly endearing himself to the Hearts support. One of his 15 goals in 50 appearances for the club came in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell in the 1952 Scottish Cup semi-final replay, but Hearts lost the second replay and would come no closer to a trophy during Rutherford's spell at the club.

With injury plaguing him more regularly, he was sold to Raith Rovers for 500 in January 1955 but left the Kirkcaldy club just five months later to sign for Hamilton Accies. He was considered a tremendous influence on their younger players but after just one season with them, which saw him score six goals in 21 appearances, Rutherford was forced to retire in the summer of 1956. He later ran a newsagent's shop in Rutherglen.