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Big Jorg compares Sunday to 1997 & comments on our character


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by Bert Mitchell

JORG ALBERTZ watched in total fascination as Rangers won Sunday's first Old Firm battle of the season at Ibrox and the memories came flooding back.

On January 2, 1997, Albertz and his Light Blues team-mates shrugged off the ravages of a flu bug to record an emphatic 3-1 victory over Celtic at Ibrox that paved the way to the final title of the legendary nine-in-a-row championship run.

Great Dane Brian Laudrup did not make it, Paul Gascoigne had to be subbed midway through the second-half and with the Gers dressing room resembling a casualty ward at half-time, Albertz himself threw up.

But a patched-up Rangers, galvanised by an early scrapbook strike from the Hammer, held on until Erik Bo Andersen made the most of two Albertz assists to complete a deflating victory on a previously Paolo Di Canio-inspired Hoops.


Fast forward 12 years and the Rangers class of 2009 were robbed of the services of flu bug victims Madjid Bougherra and Lee McCulloch, as well as the injured Kevin Thomson, while Kenny Miller was forced to play through the pain barrier due to a hamstring injury.

Looking on, the Gers great couldn't help but recall that similar episode of mind over matter from the 1990s.

Albertz said: "I remember that one and the lead up to the New Year game back in 97 well. All week we had struggled with a flu bug and most of us didn't train.

"Pretty early it was obvious that Brian Laudrup was not going to make it and I will never know how Gazza started that game, never mind how he came back out for the second half.

"I wasn't much better and spent most of half-time retching. I was not alone.

"But we knew what was required and we knew that if we could get a result then it would hit Celtic hard. When you know that something as important as nine-in-a-row is on the line you find a way and maybe dig that bit deeper."

He added: "I have to say that we got the best possible start when I scored with a free-kick inside the first 10 minutes. I do not think I ever made a sweeter connection with the ball.

"But at half-time I could see the gaffer Walter Smith looking at every one of us and he did not like what he saw. Coisty was struggling, Gazza said he was ready for the second half, even although he could barely speak, and I spent most of the break with my head in a bin.

"When the second half started, Celtic came out the traps like mad men and we struggled to cope. Pretty soon both Gazza and Coisty were subbed and the gaffer brought on Charlie Miller and Erik Bo Andersen. That proved to be a great tactical move as the gaffer always reminds me.

"With maybe five or so minutes left I set up Erik and he put us two-up and as Celtic became stretched, Erik did the business again for us.

"When we got back into the dressing room we were almost too drained to speak but there were a lot of smiles.

"I think we knew then that we had passed what would be our biggest test on the way to winning the ninth title and so it proved.

"So I have no doubt that Rangers will get a huge lift from their win on Sunday and it will also probably make the dressing room that bit tighter and closer."

Turning his attention specifically to Sunday's Ibrox victory, the Hammer believes that even this early in the campaign there was a six-point significance attached to the 2-1 win for Walter Smith's men.

The former Germany international said: "I have no doubt in saying that winning the first Old Firm game of the season is worth six points.

"On top of that, without key players like Bougherra, Thomson and McCulloch, the gaffer has seen that he can bring in other players and shuffle his side. The players that helped get Sunday's win will have taken enormous confidence from it."

Albertz added: "I think Rangers also passed a huge test of character after the defeat by Sevilla.

"So Walter knows that he has a squad with real character and a bit of depth and now although Celtic may still be a point ahead, it is them who are under the most pressure."

Publication date 06/10/09


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