by Stuart Moriarty-Patten
20 January 1934: Rangers’ Jimmy Fleming scores nine goals in Rangers record win
On the 20 January 1934, a team from the Perthshire town of Blairgowrie, an area famous for its crops of strawberries and raspberries, hence the team’s nickname the Berry Pickers, travelled to Ibrox to take on the mighty Glasgow Rangers in the first round of the Scottish Cup.
Rangers were the reigning Scottish champions and had previously won the Cup seven times and so were naturally the hot favourites to beat a side who were competing in the Cup for the first time. On the day of the game, only 5,000 people turned up at Ibrox to watch what was expected to be little more than a training exercise for the Glasgow giants, but the few thousand that did come to watch were rewarded with a fantastic demonstration of attacking football from Rangers. The centre-forward Jimmy Fleming began the scoring after just 30 seconds, when he finished off a quick passing move between Willie Nicholson and Alec Venters. Nicholson himself doubled the lead after 6 minutes, finishing off a flowing move that involved all five Rangers forwards. After 10 minutes, the game was practically already over as Fleming headed in a Bobby Main cross for his second. Fleming completed his hat-trick on 30 minutes, making it 4-0 overall as he finished off a move between himself and Nicholson. One minute before half-time, Fleming netted his fourth as he tapped in from a Venters header.
Any thoughts that the crowd may have had that Rangers, with a 5-0 lead, would ease off in the second half were forgotten as the second-half continued in the same vein as the first. The Glasgow team continued to lay siege to Blairgowrie’s goal, but the underdogs nevertheless held firm for the first 10 minutes of the half before the floodgates well and truly opened, and Rangers banged in 6 goals in 10 minutes. Venters shot home fiercely on 56 minutes to make it 6-0 and a minute later Jimmy Fleming got his fifth and Rangers’ seventh. A goal by Doctor James Marshall on 59 minutes was followed by another double from Fleming on 60 and 62 minutes to see the score reach double figures. Marshall again on 66 minutes made it 11-0.
Rangers must have then taken a breather because the spectators had to wait a whole 14 minutes for the 12th goal, a second from Venters. Blairgowrie netted a penalty on 86 minutes through Fleckie to provide some consolation before another two from Jimmy Fleming on 88 and 89 minutes brought his total for the game to 9 and the score to 14-1. With almost the last kick of the game the visitors netted their second through Lynch, leaving a full time score of 14-2 in Rangers’ favour, equalling their previous best ever score when they defeated Whitehill by the same score in a second round Scottish Cup tie on 29 September 1883. Legend has it that the Blairgowrie locals had gathered in the Post Office to hear the results come through, and when the 14-2 score line was shouted out, one local comedian retorted; “Aye, but who for?”
Jimmy Fleming’s nine goals in that match is still the Rangers’ record for the most goals scored by an individual player in a single match, and to round off a successful few days, Fleming then scored five against Dundee in a 6-0 win away at Dens Park in the league the following weekend. He was however coming to the end of his career and his appearances were limited that season, although he still managed to score 26 goals in just 19 games. Despite that he was not picked for the final and made his last appearance for Rangers later that year on 28 October away to Queen of the South.
The Rangers’ historian, David Mason, has said of Fleming that, “There is no doubt that Jimmy Fleming stands as one of the all-time great Rangers players. It was a golden era for great forwards, and Fleming belongs in that company.” When he retired he had an enviable record. Between 1925 and 1934, Fleming played 267 times for Rangers, scoring 220 goals, including a record of 44 goals in the Scottish Cup, which still stands today. He also won three caps for his country and scored three goals, including both the Scottish goals in a 5-2 defeat at the hands of England at Wembley in 1930.
After the demolition of Blairgowrie, Rangers went on to beat Third Lanark 3-0 away in the next round, before beating Heart of Midlothian 2-1 in a replay, after drawing 0-0 at Ibrox. Then they defeated Aberdeen 1-0 at home in the quarter-finals, edged past St. Johnstone 1-0 in the semi-final at Hampden Park, before thrashing St Mirren 5-0 in the final to complete the third League and Cup Double in the club’s history. In fact, the 1933/34 season was a year in which Rangers swept all before them, they remained undefeated after a loss to St. Johnstone on 18 November 1933, and won all the competitions they entered into that season, lifting the Glasgow Cup, Scottish Cup, Charity Cup, Scottish League, and the Champions of Britain title with a 5-1 aggregate win over Arsenal.
One hundred and fifty-one domestic goals were scored, with the five against Arsenal making a grand total of 156 for the season, leaving another Rangers’ Historian, John Allan to write somewhat dramatically, “Season 1933/34 stood out in neon lights, sparkling in another Clean Sweep which found us winning once more the league and the three cups. No opposition could withstand our volcanic power. Our supporters, who followed us throughout the country, roared their joy as we galloped ahead with only two defeats in 50 matches. Records had to be rewritten. New space found in the clouds as the side produced the pyrotechnics. Some of the half-back and forward play was as colourful as anything seen from the best in Europe or South America. The air danced with sunshine when our boys hit the crest, and the mystique of Ibrox had the whole country talking.”
With Rangers being so dominant that year Blairgowrie could perhaps take some pride in the fact that no-one else managed to score two goals against Rangers in the Cup that season, and they nearly had a chance to extract some revenge when the two teams were due meet for the first time since 1934 to play a friendly last summer as a testimonial to Blairgowrie’s long serving president Billy Mackay. Mackay who was celebrating his 25th year at the club as manager and president was also a Rangers player between 1977 and 1984. Unfortunately due to a ruling by the Scottish Junior FA regarding the proposed date the game never went ahead, but it is hoped that it will happen this summer.