Jimmy Bell at Rangers: "He was the unofficial gaffer" - players pay tribute to legendary kitman after sudden death
“He typified everything you needed to be to be a Rangers player,” said the Kelty Hearts manager, who made 109 appearances for the Ibrox side and won five trophies during his time at the club. Bell outstripped Thomson and nearly everyone else at Rangers in term of length of service and worked for the club for over 30 years until his untimely death earlier this week. He was carrying out his duties as recently as Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Celtic at Parkhead.
Bell initially drove the Rangers team bus to matches before moving on and being put in charge of the first-team kit. He worked under 11 permanent Ibrox managers, stretching as far back as Graeme Souness.
“He set the highest standards from the minute you walked in the door to the minute you left,” said Thomson. “He let you know if you were not pulling your weight.
“He was almost an unofficial gaffer. He was an absolute diamond guy … once you won him over and got past that hard side. It probably took me six months!
“I still remember asking him for a pair of socks. He was like: ‘can you no’ get a pair of socks at Hibs?!’ I was scared to ask him for a pair of socks as a Rangers first-team player. That was the hard side. It was to let you know you had to prove yourself before you could start asking for and demanding things even if it is an innocuous request.
"I was a bit petrified of him at first but when you had won him over you could not ask for a better kitman. You did not want for anything. European trips, he had it all: gloves, hat, snoods, leggings. And he looked after you with strips at the end of the season.”
Maurice Ross paid tribute to a genuinely loved character. The Cowdenbeath manager played alongside Dutch internationalists such as Ronald de Boer and Arthur Numan for Rangers between 2000 and 2005 but he remembers Bell treating everyone the same. He was never starstruck.
“It’s one thing having your kit ready,” said Ross. “But there are certain standards that have been ripped out of certain football clubs.
“Jimmy may have been only a so-called ‘kit man’ but Jimmy would tell you what it was like. He would tell you the old stories and how you need to prepare. How you need to be on time. He was very much working class. A hard man. A family man. He didn’t give his hand too quickly.
“There’s too many people who will tell you they love you within two minutes of meeting in a pub nowadays: ‘Oh you’re a legend’. Jimmy wasn’t having all that. ‘I’ve seen Souness, I have seen Greig,’ he’d say. ‘I have seen the best of the best.’ It was like he ran the lower levels of the club.”
Ross last saw Bell last month at the Rangers Training Centre. “I was up watching the young lads,” he said. “He was helping me get a strip signed for charity. As ever, he was helping someone out.”
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