The 7th January is home to a unique record registered in the Scottish football history books.
120 years past, Rangers embarked on one of their most successful seasons in their history, for in the 1898-99 season, the club’s 26th season in football and the ninth season of the Scottish Football League, Rangers went on to achieve a one hundred percent record of 18 wins from 18 matches.
It is a record which, in the matter of hard, actual results, has never, or may possibly ever be equalled. On the question of intrinsic value, there is no immediate necessity to dilate or discuss. For this title remains unique in the annuals of British football.
Governed by match secretary, William Wilton, the quest for the league title would commence at home to Partick Thistle – winning 6-2 at Ibrox – on 20th August 1898 and finally achieved on 7th January 1899. Commanding victories, such as 10-0 over Hibernian, an 8-0 win against Clyde and 4-0 performance away to Celtic Park, ensured confidence amongst the Ibrox faithful that a special season was in their grasp. The Championship was eventually decided by a 7-0 win over Dundee at Ibrox but the players continued their glittering league form and finished the season to claim the 100% winning record. The team averaged more than four goals per match, 79 goals were scored by Rangers in the league with only 18 conceded. Club captain, Robert Cumming Hamilton, would finish as Scotland’s top goalscorer – finding the net 21 times during the league campaign.
Above: William Wilton
An instructive discussion could be carried on for a long time regarding the comparative merits of the achievements of teams which may have represented the club, and there would be found many ready to motion certain other achievements of Rangers’ more modern history as second to none. However, whatever may be the opinions or prejudices of individuals, nothing can deprive the 1898-99 team of the unique distinction of having gone through an entire League competition without losing a single point. Looked at from any angle, it is one a performance great in the extreme, testimony at once to the endurance, the enthusiasm, and the skill of the players who accomplished it.
On the day when Rangers completed the record by defeating Clyde, at Shawfield Park, R.C. Hamilton, the captain, speaking at the tea party which always followed the matches played in Glasgow, said their success was due:
“Largely to the splendid esprit de corps that had animated the team. They were heart and soul for the club, prepared to fight out every match to the last second; and, indeed, the story of their victories shows that without indomitable courage this unmatched record could never have been created.”
Outwith the Scottish league, the men in Royal Blue seen off Hearts, Ayr Parkhouse, Clyde and St Mirren to reach the Scottish Cup Final. Though they would narrowly miss out on a domestic double losing 2-0 to Celtic at Hampden. As well as this disappointment, Rangers would crash out of the Glasgow and Charity Cups, a feat in itself as some merit, but were unable to success on all fronts. Though the lack of an additional trophy does not take away the gloss of a monumental season for the Glasgow club.
Above: Rangers 1899 star John McPherson’s Glasgow cap in our museum.
In the same year, after achieving the record, Rangers would move to their current location of Ibrox Stadium and appoint their first ever manager in match secretary, William Wilton. The rest, as they say, is history.
Above: Wilton’s signature, on Rangers documentation dated from 1899, in our museum store.
Rangers team of 1898/99.