Ex-Rangers and Hibs man Sammy Baird dies aged 79

FORMER Rangers, Hibs and Scotland player Sammy Baird has died at the age of 79. A much respected inside-left who spent the most productive years of his playing career with the Ibrox club, Baird passed away peacefully at home yesterday morning.

Born and raised in Denny, he began his career with junior club Rutherglen Glencairn before signing for Clyde in 1949. He helped the then Shawfield outfit win the Scottish B division title in 1952 before earning an eye-catching 12,000 transfer to Preston North End in the summer of 1954.

Scot Symon was manager of Preston at the time but left shortly afterwards to succeed Bill Struth at Rangers. Such was Symon's admiration for Baird, he brought him back to Scotland in June 1955 when Rangers paid out 10,000 for his signature.

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He enjoyed five highly-successful years under Symon as a fiercely competitive and free-scoring inside forward. Baird scored 52 goals in 179 appearances for Rangers, winning league championship medals in 1956 and 1957 and being part of the 1960 Scottish Cup- winning team. He also played in Rangers' first European Cup fixture against Nice in 1956.

It was during his time with Rangers that Baird made all seven of his appearances for Scotland. He made a scoring debut in a 2-0 win over Yugoslavia at Hampden in November 1956 and was in the side who defeated West Germany 3-1 in Stuttgart the following year. Baird's last game for Scotland was at the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden when he scored his country's goal in the 2-1 defeat to France.

Baird left Rangers in October 1960 to join Hibs in a 5,000 transfer, spending two years at Easter Road. He was part of the Hibs team who defeated Barcelona in the 1960-61 Fairs Cup. He moved on to Third Lanark in 1962 then finished his playing career at Stirling Albion before being named manager of the club in 1963. He led Albion to the Second Division title in 1965 with a record points total, but was sacked three years later when his team were relegated.

Rangers last night expressed their sadness at Baird's death which will almost certainly be marked at Easter Road on Sunday when two of his former clubs face each other.