How Rangers' 1992-93 Champions League campaign still sticks in Mark Hateley's throat

Rangers came agonisingly close to the final of the inaugural Champions League, and it remains a source of deep regret for Mark Hateley.

Former Rangers striker Mark Hateley. (Photo by Ross Brownlee / SNS Group)

The Ibrox striker missed a key portion of the campaign after being sent off in the first half of a 2-1 win against Club Brugge but the red card, added to events before the game, leave a sour taste even now.

In one of the club’s most memorable seasons, Rangers became one of the stars on the now synonymous logo and, after defeating Leeds United in the ‘Battle of Britain’, fancied themselves to go all the way in the first ever group stages of the re-formatted European Cup.

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However, his dismissal at Ibrox meant Hateley was missing for Rangers’ vital away trip to face eventual group winners, and trophy winners Marseille, but the former Ibrox striker has recalled an unknown French agent encouraging him to miss the game, which still rankles.

Referee Ryszard Wojoik prepares to send off Rangers striker Mark Hateley as Rangers face Club Brugge in March, 1993.

As soon as he saw red for a tussle with Rudi Cossey, he remembered the phone call shortly after the draw was made “asking me not to play in the game against Marseille.” Hateley initially dismissed it as a wind up attempt.

“I’d put that French agent’s call to the back of my mind but when I got sent off for nothing after 20 minutes against Brugge at Ibrox, that was when the penny dropped,” Hateley told BETDAQ.

“Straight away I thought there was something wrong with the game, with the referee… You don’t get sent off for nothing at Ibrox in front of a partisan crowd. It was really disappointing and the ugly side to the beautiful game.

"As soon as the red came out, I said to Walter Smith, ‘we’ve been done by the referee here and time would bear the proof’ and it did…”

Rangers kept stride with eventual winners Marseille, who boasted future French World Cup winner Marcel Desailly (right) within their ranks.

Manager Smith has also queried the sending-off that night. The winners of each group progressed to the final, where Marseille defeated AC Milan. Rangers finished second after being held in the final match of the section by CSKA Moscow. The Russian champions had already been beaten 6-0 by Marseille to add a healthy goal advantage to the French side’s chances too.

Claims have been made, but never proven, though the French champions were later stripped of their league title in 1993 over a bribery scandal, and unable to defend their trophy – which Hateley still maintains could have been Rangers’.

“When we saw the group, we believed we could win it and go all the way to the final, we were a good team. All things being equal, we could have got to the final that year and should have. We were playing well, we won the treble that season, scored a load of goals. But the disappointment is we were cheated by Marseille out of that final spot. It’s a bittersweet memory and one that will stick in the throat for a long, long time.

“We pretty much went to a semi-final of the Champions League in its inaugural year, so of course there was some pride,” added Hateley. “But we should have been in the final, we were good enough to be in the final and we were probably good enough to beat AC Milan but it’s one of them where you think ‘if only…”

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