Ronnie McKinnon, the footballer, who has died aged 83, was a cultured defender at the heart of the 1960s Rangers side that battled Celtic for domestic dominance; he won two league titles, four Scottish Cups and two League Cups, and was also part of the Scotland team that famously beat the World Cup holders England at Wembley.
Ronald McKinnon was a “Glasgow islander” – a term denoting those in the city whose families had come from the Scottish isles – and was born into a Gaelic-speaking family in the city on August 20 1940; his father was Murdo, his mother Annie. His twin brother Donnie would also become a centre-half, playing for Partick Thistle for 14 seasons.
A passionate Rangers fan from an early age, Ronnie started out on the wing before moving to defence, and was spotted by Rangers when he was playing for a junior side, Dunipace. When he got home, he recalled, “The phone went, my mum answered and was all flustered. She told me it was [the Rangers manager] Scot Symon on the phone and I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen my mother so happy and I found it hard to sleep that night.”
Signing in 1960, he made his first-team debut the following year, and was in defence as they beat St Mirren 2-0 in front of nearly 128,000 fans at Hampden Park to win the 1962 Scottish Cup. They retained it in 1963, with victory against Rangers’ hated rivals, Celtic, and beat St Mirren in 1964 as part of the domestic treble (in the league, they finished six points clear of Kilmarnock and eight ahead of Celtic).
As Scot Symon’s side broke up, and Celtic began to assert their dominance – winning the title for nine years in a row between 1966 and 1974 – McKinnon stayed around as David White and then Willie Waddell took over the managerial reins. In 1967, they lost to Bayern Munich in Nuremberg in the final of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup; gallingly for them, it was six days after Celtic had become the first British team to win the European Cup.
In 1970 he was captain in the absence of the injured John Greig as Rangers won another League Cup, beating Celtic. But disaster struck the following season, against Sporting Lisbon in the second round, second leg of the Cup-Winners’ Cup. McKinnon broke his leg early on in what turned out to be his last game for the club – who went on without him to win the trophy at the end of the season.
He had played 473 games in 12 years for Rangers, winning nine major trophies and winning 28 Scotland caps, beginning with a fabled 1-0 victory over Italy in 1965. There were two particular highlights. One was a 1-1 draw against Brazil in 1966 as the South Americans warmed up for the World Cup. A famous photo from the game shows Pele remonstrating with McKinnon, who recalled: “What many forget is that Pele knew how to look after himself. Billy Bremner gave him a lot of attention, but the wee man from Raploch left the field with a black eye.”
The other highlight was the celebrated 3-2 victory at Wembley against England, eight months after their old rivals had beaten West Germany to win the World Cup, that had Scots fans proclaiming their side as “world champions”.
Though his parents watched every match at Ibrox, the Wembley game was a rare away outing for McKinnon’s father, Murdo. “As I left Wembley to travel to the after-match function with the team, I spotted him waving to me from the crowd,” McKinnon recalled. “It was a wonderful feeling to see my father so chuffed for me.”
After recovering from his broken leg, McKinnon moved to South Africa, where he played briefly for Durban United. In later life he moved back to Scotland, living on the Isle of Lewis, of whose Rangers Supporters Club he was an honorary member, often accompanying them on their trips to Ibrox.
Ronnie McKinnon is survived by his wife Elizabeth.
Ronald McKinnon, born August 20 1940, died September 17 2023