Rangers Legends: Gazza takes centre stage in charitable finale to 150th anniversary match

Even when restricted to a cameo role, Paul Gascoigne inevitably stole the show on his return to Ibrox for Rangers’ 150th anniversary celebration match.

The 54-year-old, whose physical appearance provides a reminder of the personal demons he has battled for much of his life, was only able to join the action in the closing few minutes as a substitute for the Rangers Legends side.

Rapturously acclaimed by the impressive crowd of 38,071 at Ibrox, the benevolence of Gascoigne’s former England squad mate David James allowed him to get his name on the scoresheet as the World Legends goalkeeper deliberately allowed a trundling shot to squirm past him into the net.

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It was a moment which emphasised the largely light-hearted mood of an occasion bathed in the early spring sunshine.

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Some of the waistlines may have expanded and hairlines receded since those on show were in their pomp. But even at the predictably sedate pace of proceedings, it was clear that the competitive fire is not easily doused within individuals who spent so many of their earlier years in driven pursuit of some of the game’s greatest honours.

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst himself was testament to that. The Rangers manager, one of the leaner and fitter of those lacing up the boots again, raised the tempo with a crunching challenge on Michel Salgado which wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of the El Clasico fixtures in which they previously went head-to-head for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

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It wasn’t just the opposition who found themselves at the sharp end of van Bronckhorst’s obvious desire for victory. His compatriot and team-mate Ronald de Boer was berated when he failed to pick him out in a promising position on the edge of the World XI’s penalty area.

Van Bronckhorst played for an hour, leaving the pitch to a warm ovation from the Rangers fans. He will hope he and his players are receiving similar acclaim next Sunday when a more intense and demanding atmosphere envelops Ibrox for the crucial Premiership fixture against Celtic.

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Paul Gascoigne salutes the crowd as he makes a late substitute appearance for the Rangers Legends side against a World Legends XI at Ibrox on Saturday. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

There was no home win for van Bronckhorst this weekend, however, as the World Legends ran out 3-2 winners and provided ample entertainment for those whose attendance also contributed funds to Luis Figo’s charitable foundation.

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The Portuguese icon, player-manager for the visitors, was among the most accomplished performers on view as he proved that class is permanent. That is also true in the case of Gheorghe Hagi, father of Rangers playmaker Ianis. At 57, the Romanian great was the oldest player involved but showed some sublime touches.

Shota Arveladze’s flying header from a de Boer cross gave Rangers an interval lead in the 80-minute match but the World Legends side took control in the second half. Brazilian star Kaka set up the equaliser for former Valencia midfielder Carlos Marchena before Figo reprised his combination with his former Portuguese international team-mate Nuno Gomes to put the visitors 2-1 up.

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The best goal of the afternoon came from another Portuguese player, Ricardo Quaresma beating Neil Alexander in the Rangers goal with a magnificent finish off the outside of his right boot.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst threads a pass beyond Brazilian star Kaka during the 150th anniversary match at Ibrox. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
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But the last word was left to Gascoigne with the celebrations in the stands after his goal matches by the affectionate reaction towards him from both sets of players.

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