Rangers mourn club legend Ronnie MacKinnon after his death aged 83

Rangers mourn club legend Ronnie MacKinnon – the defensive rock who shackled Pele and helped Scotland to their famous 1967 win over world champions England – after his death aged 83

  • MacKinnon made almost 500 appearances for the Ibrox club in 1960s and 1970s
  • He won 28 Scotland caps, playing in memorable games with England and Brazil
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off! 

Rangers are mourning the loss of one of the club’s greats after the death of Ronnie MacKinnon at the age of 83.

A defender of composure and exceptional pace, MacKinnon made almost 500 appearances for the Ibrox side, winning two league titles, four Scottish Cups and three League Cups.

He was a mainstay of Scot Symon’s Treble-winning team in 1963-64 — one of the club’s most revered line-ups — but cruelly suffered a broken leg during Rangers’ run towards European Cup Winners’ Cup glory in 1972.

Also capped 28 times by Scotland, MacKinnon’s international career contained some golden memories. 

After jousting with Pele in 1966, he was part of the team that secured a special place in Scottish sporting folklore by inflicting a swaggering defeat on World Cup holders England at Wembley a year later.

Scotland’s Ronnie MacKinnon (right) squares up to Brazilian legend Pele during a friendly match ahead of the 1966 World Cup

MacKinnon, who has died aged 83, played almost 500 times for Rangers in the 1960s and 70s

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Following his departure from Rangers, MacKinnon moved to a new life in South Africa and spent 30 years there before returning to Scotland to live on the Isle of Lewis.

The Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club recently held a MacKinnon tribute night in Stornoway that was attended by former team-mates Peter McCloy and Alex MacDonald, alongside Rangers chairman John Bennett and chief executive James Bisgrove.

Confirming his death, a club statement read: ‘Everyone associated with Rangers Football Club is saddened to learn of the passing of former player, Ronnie MacKinnon, at the age of 83.

‘MacKinnon, a Hall of Fame member, won two league titles, four Scottish Cups and three League Cups, while he was also capped 28 times by Scotland.

‘The club extends our sympathy to Elizabeth, his widow, and all his family.

‘The family request that their privacy is respected at this sad time. The club will pay further tribute to Mr MacKinnon in due course.’

Initially a winger, MacKinnon attended Govan High School alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and, like the future managerial icon, took some of his first steps in football with junior team Benburb. His burning ambition, though, was to find a home along the road at Ibrox.

‘I was Rangers daft and always wanted to play for them,’ MacKinnon recalled in an interview to mark his 82nd birthday last year. ‘I dreamt it would happen but never thought it would.

‘I had the luck to be playing for a junior team one day and I had a good game. It was at Renfrew Juniors’ stadium.

McKinnon (second left) helps to crowd out Geoff Hurst during Scotland’s famous 1967 win over world champions England at Wembley

He was part of the Rangers team defeated by Bayern Munich in the 1967 European Cup Winners’ Cup final and is seen here trying on a hat in Nuremberg

‘I went home and the phone went, my mum answered and she was all flustered. She told me it was Scot Symon on the phone and I couldn’t believe it. He told me he wanted me to come to Ibrox at 9.30am the next morning.

‘It was like winning the lottery. I walked into training and there were all my heroes. I thought I was dreaming. There was Willie Woodburn, George Young and all the greats. They made me feel at home and shook my hand.

‘I was last on my first day at training. But gradually, over time, I got stronger, and my leg muscles were getting stronger, until eventually they couldn’t catch me. I was away.’

In his early days, he once filled in for Jim Baxter at left-half but dislodging the genius from Fife was never going to be possible. Then came a suggestion about central defence.

From that moment onwards, there was no looking back.

‘I was quite keen on centre-half,’ said MacKinnon. ‘My twin brother Donnie was a centre-half and we could practice together.

‘I had played seven or eight games for Rangers and then I was starting in the 1962 Scottish Cup final against St Mirren.

‘I couldn’t believe it. I was playing with Baxter and (Eric) Caldow and guys like that but they made it easy for me and to win a medal was incredible. Scot Symon was so happy with me, he kept playing me and in 1963/64 we won the Treble.’

MacKinnon is mobbed by jubilant fans after Rangers beat Slavia Sofia to reach the 1967 final

Firmly established at Rangers, a Scotland debut then followed in 1965. It wasn’t a bad start as MacKinnon contributed to a 1-0 win over Italy at Hampden, with club colleague John Greig scoring the winner.

A year later, MacKinnon tangled with Pele in a 1-1 friendly draw against Brazil at Hampden. The famous image of them in heated discussion, however, really related to someone else.

‘Pele wasn’t happy,’ admitted MacKinnon. ‘Billy Bremner was only a wee guy but he was hard as nails and he was trying to do ‘keepy-uppy’ with Pele.

‘He asked me to speak to Bremner about his tackles. I said: ‘Any other player but not him!’

In April 1967, he revelled in keepy-uppy of a different nature as Baxter led the humbling of England on their own turf with a 3-2 victory in the Home Inter-nationals. It was the first loss suffered by the world champions in 20 matches.

‘Has there ever been a better performance from a Scotland team?’ MacKinnon mused in 2021. ‘I think not.’

A month later, however, his emotions were taken in a different direction as Rangers agonisingly lost the European Cup Winners’ Cup final to Bayern Munich after extra-time in Nuremberg.

Unlike some others in that team, MacKinnon would not gain the restorative reward of glory five years later.

MacKinnon (back row, second from right) lines up with the Rangers team in 1967

A scramble at a corner-kick in the second-round tie against Sporting Lisbon left MacKinnon in agony on the turf. His leg was broken.

He received a medal after Willie Waddell’s team went all the way to a final victory over Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona but, then in his 30s, a year out of the game ended his time at Rangers.

‘It was horrible,’ he recalled. ‘With any leg break, it all depends where it is. To try and get back in the team was a hell of a job. It knocked me back to square one.

‘It showed that you are in the hands of the gods.

‘But I got a good offer to play for Durban United and I loved it out there.’

From South Africa’s sunshine coast to his later years in the Outer Hebrides, MacKinnon’s achievements continued to be recognised with rightful reverence.

His place in the Rangers pantheon is beyond dispute.


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