How Sprott silenced the Ibrox roar with a giant-killing goal 30 years ago
At 18-1, the odds were stacked against Hamilton pulling off a shock against big-spending Rangers
TODAY marks the 30th anniversary of one of Scottish football’s biggest shocks, when Graeme Souness’s big-spending Rangers were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by bottom-of-the-table Hamilton Accies.
And for the Accies goal hero on that momentous day, defender Adrian Sprott, the memory of that afternoon at Ibrox remains just as vivid today.
“I travelled through to Hamilton for the game with Ally Brazil. We only confirmed the bonus that day, not really giving it much consideration as we didn’t think we would win!” laughed Sprott from his home in Spain.
In contrast to Rangers’ high-profile players such as Terry Butcher, Chris Woods, Colin West and Graham Roberts, the bookies had Accies at 18/1 to win at Ibrox, given they were bottom of the Premier League, and had famously gone until the end of November before winning their first league game of the season 3-1 at Hibs.
“I remember hearing on the tannoy after 35 minutes that he had broken the record,” said Sprott. “The game in general was backs-to-the-wall stuff. Not because we planned that, just Rangers were a quality outfit.
“But Rangers under Souness were trying to play a European style of football and most of the play was in front of us, not around the side or behind us.
“As long as Dave McKellar in goal dealt with the long-range stuff [which he did] we had a chance. In addition, Kevin McKee had a great game against Davie Cooper and Stevie Clarke was rattling Souness. They were key.”
Having managed over the first 45 minutes to suppress Rangers, who were on their way to winning the league title having already lifted the League Cup, Hamilton were readied for onslaught in the second half by manager John Lambie, who had prepared the team for the cup tie in his own inimitable way.
Sprott reflected: “I recall a trip to Blackpool prior to the game. Or trips! These did always seem to coincide with a pigeon convention at the Tower. Not sure how John managed to convince the board to travel.
“We found our top-quality accommodation where I shared not just a room but a bed with Alex Taylor! It was large bed thankfully, otherwise the smell of fish would have been too strong. Alex owned a fish shop, I recall.
“Also, we shared the only window with next door – it had the partition wall running through it. It was a fight to get fresh air in the room when the smell of fish got too strong and when next door were feeling the cold. It was January.”
That happy jaunt to the seaside seemed a million miles away as Rangers laid siege on Dave McKellar’s goal. But, against all odds, Sprott scored a shock opener.
“I’m not sure how I came to be in the Rangers box. I certainly wasn’t in the game plan,” he admitted. “I can only think, marking Robert Fleck, that we just drifted into the Rangers half and I ended up losing him and found myself in the box. I remember we had a free-kick on the main stand side of the pitch near the halfway line.
“Gerry Collins, I think, took it. A long ball into the Rangers box where Dave McPherson, under no pressure and trying to keep possession, took his eye off the ball and it found its way into my path. I struck it well with my left foot across Woods and the rest, as you say, is history.
“They say silence is deafening. Well it was for about two or three seconds after the goal as the Rangers supporters fell silent in disbelief, before the sound picked up and they got behind their team for the last 20.”
However, while they had Sprott to thank for the goal, it took a wonder save from a Colin West header by McKellar – who would later end up at Ibrox as No.2 to Andy Goram – to preserve the Accies’ lead.
“At the end, we went to clap the Accies fans who were celebrating in the corner. There were a few photos taken next to the dugout.
“I went to the bus after the game, only to find Fergie [Accies’ legendary fan] in it. I returned to the stadium to find everyone up in the suite having a beer, so I joined them for one.
“The enormity of what I had done didn’t register with me. Alan Dick [the club secretary] said he would substitute that win for league survival. No-one agreed. We all thought we could survive. I guess Alan was correct.”
SINGING THE BLUES: Head in hands, Robert Fleck watches as Ally McCoist misses a goden opportunity and Rangers’ misery deepens.