WILLIE WADDELL'S achievements as a football administrator are embodied in the steel and splendour of Glasgow's Ibrox Stadium, home of his beloved Rangers, although he was also an outstanding player, manager and sports writer.
Ibrox's status as a ground which compares favourably with any in Britain, and all but a few in Europe, was confirmed hours after his death when Scotland's World Cup match against Portugal was staged there.
While Waddell was the visionary behind its modernisation, it was to his bitter regret that it took the Ibrox disaster of 1971 to force the club to confront the future. Only one minute remained of an 'Old Firm' derby game on 2 January when Celtic's Jimmy Johnstone netted what seemed certain to be the only goal. Hundreds of dejected Rangers followers headed for the exits, only for a great roar from those left inside to indicate that their team had equalised. Colin Stein had scored, and many who were in the process of leaving via Stairway 13 tried to scramble back up the steps. They ran straight into those coming out. Under terrible pressure, barriers buckled and hundreds of spectators were trampled underfoot: 66 died, and 145 received serious injuries.
Waddell, then Rangers' team manager, resolved that Ibrox would be rebuilt along continental lines. In 1974, at the World Cup finals in Germany, he saw the model for his ideal '21st-century' stadium in Dortmund. On his return he set about raising pounds 12m to reconstruct Ibrox. Today it houses half the 80,000 who squeezed in on the day of the tragedy, but almost all are seated.
He made his first appearance for Rangers as a 17-year-old right- winger in a 1938 'friendly' against Arsenal, scoring the winning goal. Known in the game as 'the Deedle' from the rhyming slang 'Deedle Dawdle' for his surname, he went on to form a formidable partnership with the late Willie Thornton, and won 17 international caps before retiring in the 1955.
Waddell entered football management with Kilmarnock. Under his guidance, 'Killie' became only the third provincial team to break the post-war grip of the Glasgow and Edinburgh giants by winning the Scottish League Championship. In 1965 they needed to beat their closest rivals, Heart of Midlothian, in the capital on the final day of the season by two goals, and achieved a famous 2-0 victory.
The following year Jock Stein's Celtic began their extraordinary run of nine consecutive titles, and in response to their rivals' stranglehold Rangers called Waddell back into the fold in 1969. He led them to European success in the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1972 in partnership with the coach, Jock Wallace, and then became General Manager. Rangers won two trebles of League, League Cup and Cup before he stepped down in 1978.
Waddell's authority at Rangers was such that even trainee journalists applying to work on the club newspaper had to be vetted by him. During his own career as a press man, before and after managing Kilmarnock, he penned opinionated columns in the now- defunct Evening Citizen and Scottish Daily Express.
In his later years he became vice-chairman and then an honorary director of Rangers, who owe much of their present pre-eminence in terms of facilities, resources and playing success to his single-mindedness.
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