Obituary: Ian Petrie Redford, footballer.

Ian Redford: Midfielder who had a rare intelligence, an eye for goal and a defence-splitting pass. Picture: SNS
Ian Redford: Midfielder who had a rare intelligence, an eye for goal and a defence-splitting pass. Picture: SNS
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Born: 5 April, 1960, in Perth. Died: 10 January, 2014, in Irvine, aged 53.

Ian Redford, who has died at the age of 53, was not your average footballer. Raised as the scion of a prosperous farming family, he became an influential player with Rangers and Dundee United, among other clubs, in the 1980s and is high on the list of those who should have played for Scotland but was not selected due to the plethora of midfield talent that the nation enjoyed at that time.

In his recently published and well-received autobiography, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, which he penned without the need for a ghost writer, Redford revealed that for much of his life he had suffered depression, perhaps triggered by the early death of a much loved sibling, and a crippling deafness in one ear that makes his achievements on the field even more remarkable.

The number of warm tributes to Redford since his death was announced are evidence of his popularity among fellow players and fans alike. As a person he was a likeable individual, and as a player he had a rare intelligence as an attacking left-sided midfielder with an eye for goal and a defence-splitting pass.

Born to a Perthshire farmer, Ian senior, and Elizabeth, Redford’s early life on the farm was by his own account blissful until his brother Douglas contracted leukaemia, and his own deafness was diagnosed at the age of six.

A damaged nerve in his left ear proved irreparable and a specialist warned that playing contact sports could lead to complete deafness. Redford decided to play on, though the disability did hamper him in later years.

The family buckled under the pressure of coping with Douglas’s leukaemia. In December, 1972, at the age of 12, Redford was playing football when he found out that his brother had just hours to live – he had not been told of the seriousness of the illness.

His parents inexplicably sent Redford and his sister Jill to school on the day of the funeral. In his memoirs, Redford recalled: “The emptiness I felt during that time haunts me to this day. It was a total, unforgettable nightmare. My life felt like it had just imploded with the shock of it all.”

Educated at Perth High School, Redford’s footballing talent was obvious from an early age. His father had started a youth football club, Errol Rovers, and it was immediately successful, with Ian and his cousin Gavin both playing in a team that included future internationalist Raymond Stewart and other future professionals such as Gary Murray and Russell Cosgrove.

Redford was signed by Dundee FC manager Davie White on a Schoolboy “S” Form at the age of just 13. When he took over the managership of the Dens Park club in 1977, Tommy Gemmell, of Lisbon Lions fame, also made a point of encouraging local talent and he helped to coach Errol Rovers for a time.

That led directly to Redford being called up to full professional status by Gemmell at the age of just 16. His confidence grew with such displays as scoring all four goals in a win over St Mirren, and though the player himself wanted a move to England, his father’s love of Rangers made it difficult to turn down a move to Ibrox when then manager John Grieg offered a Scottish record fee of £210,000 in 1980.

The quiet, shy and retiring Redford was not always at ease in the dressing room, which can be a cruel place, but he learned to stand up for himself, famously coming to blows with Rangers’ tough defender Tom Forsyth. It was all settled, however, and though he suffered the odd injury, Redford was a key member of the first-team squad for five years.

By Rangers’ standards, it was an era of under-achievement, but he still won medals. He missed a last-minute penalty against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup Final of 1981, but made up for that with a fine display in the replay, which Rangers won 4-1.

Though he played 250 times in all for Rangers, he is best remembered by the club’s fans for his late winner, coming on as substitute and sending a precise chip shot into the top corner, in the following season’s Scottish League Cup Final, also against Dundee United.

A loser’s medal came in the 1982-83 League Cup Final in which Redford played left-back in a 2-1 defeat by Celtic, before he gained a third winner’s medal in the 1984-85 League Cup Final, a 1-0 win over Dundee United.

It was to that club that Redford moved in 1985, where he came under the authoritarian leadership of manager Jim McLean. It was United’s glory era, marked by their progress to the final of the 1987 Uefa Cup.

Redford himself said that the highlights of his career at Dundee United were the two wins against Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach in the quarter- and semi-finals respectively. It was Redford’s last-minute goal which sealed victory against the German side and put United into the final.

He advanced an interesting theory about Dundee’s failure to win the two-legged final against IFK Gothenburg, citing the “lack of atmosphere” in the Swedish stadium compared to Barcelona’s Nou Camp.

Redford finally got his move south, joining Ipswich Town in 1988. He played three seasons there before returning north to join the club he supported as a boy, St Johnstone, and then had spells with Brechin City and Raith Rovers. He earned another domestic medal with the latter club, coming on as a substitute in their famous 1994 League Cup Final victory over Celtic. It was his last match as a player.

Redford had already prepared for his retirement, opening a classic car museum and restaurant at Bankfoot in his native Perthshire in partnership with car restorer David Brain. Sadly, the venture did not last long but Redford would later make other occasional forays into the tourist industry, including selling salmon fishing lets on the Newtyle upper and lower stretch of the River Tay.

In the 1990s, Redford took the necessary exams to become both an accredited coach and a licensed football agent. His six-year spell as a players’ agent was not markedly successful and he had recently taken up a role in the other sport he loved, golf, as a marketing representative for a course design company.

At one point Redford considered becoming a professional golfer. He loved the game and played off scratch for most of his life, and his identity on Twitter, @MrBHogan, is a tribute to the legendary Ben Hogan. Redford both inspired, and was inspired by, his son Ian, who is indeed now a golf professional.

Redford had recently returned to Ibrox to work as a match day host, and following the publication of his memoirs, he had undertaken a round of interviews all marked by his honest account of his life troubles. He really appeared to have beaten his demons, as shown by memorable appearance on Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball programme as recently as a fortnight ago, which makes his demise at his own hands so inexplicable and tragic. He will be much missed by his family and friends, and by lovers of cultured football at which he was a master.

Redford is survived by his wife Janine and children Ian and Natalie.