What’s the old saying? ‘Out of sight, out of mind?’
Well that doesn’t really apply to Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox.
Obviously a lot has been written about the man this week after he came out on Dutch TV and told the world he was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 37. But for so many Rangers fans Fernando’s history at the club always ensures he was never forgotten.
He left the Glasgow in 2006 after six years at the club.
In that time he won two SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups. He also became the joint winner of the players player of the year award.
Taking you back to his first season with the blue half of Glasgow, Fernando joined just as the Dick Advocaat era was being ripped to shreds by Martin O’Neil’s Celtic side.
That Rangers side would give up their title with little more than a whimper. The side lacked guts, focus and determination. New right-back Dutch internationalist Fernando Ricksen was as guilty as the rest. That year he would be hauled off after just 23 minutes of his first Old Firm game as Celtic’s Bobby Petta made him look like a Sunday League player. He was sent off before half time in his next Old Firm match.
That same season he inexplicably told the world through his own website, that he meant to kick-out at Aberdeen’s Darren Young, saying Young needed ‘sorting out’. The challenge saw Fernando become the first player in Scotland to be suspended because of retrospective TV evidence.
After such a poor debut season Ricksen could have easily been forgiven for wanting to leave Rangers. But that isn’t Fernando’s way. He picked himself up, worked hard and became a stalwart for the Gers.
He would become a hero for the Rangers support as he battled for every ball and fell out with most of the opposition.
There is no doubt he always had flaws. He would react to provocation, he would lunge in recklessly with dangerous tackles and always struggled to curb his temper on the park.
Under Alex McLeish he was reinvented and became a strong unflinching midfielder who would team up with Alex Rae or Barry Ferguson and would bully opposing midfields. Pushed further forward would also see Ricksen score more goals (Notably a wonderful freekick against Aberdeen and a glancing header against Old Firm rivals Celtic).
Ricksen was made captain of Rangers during the 2004-05 campaign. This Fernando could not be called gutless or unfocused, this Fernando led by example. He would captain the side to their famous title triumph that culminated on ‘Helicopter Sunday’ the final day of the season. Rangers would pip Celtic to the title.
The image of Fernando lifting the championship that day will stay in the minds of many in Scottish football forever.
Now when summing up Fernando’s time in Glasgow you can’t forget his off the field antics. Some may be myths but most are likely to be true.
He famously chucked then Rangers chairman John McClelland into a swimming pool before a European match, ruining the chairmans £20k watch. It is also worth pointing out McClelland couldn’t swim and Ricksen himself had to help out his victim. Later on that month he would be banished from the Dutch squad after he smashed in a hotel door during another drunken escapade.
It was also reported in the front pages of the tabloids that Ricksen set off fireworks early one morning at his home and got into a fight with a neighbour. It was also claimed after Rangers title victory in 2003, that Fernando shouted abuse through the letterbox of another neighbour. That neighbour turned out to be Celtic midfielder Alan Thompson. Then there was the alleged affair between Fernando and glamour model Jordan.
His Rangers career ended when he would be sent home from the clubs tour of South Africa by new boss Paul Le Guen. It was alleged Ricksen, again alcohol fuelled, got into an altercation with an air stewardess.
When Rangers lost to Dick Advocaat’s Zenith side in the UEFA Cup final in 2008 it wasn’t strange to see Advocaat in the opposing touchline orchestrating a hurtful defeat onto Rangers. But to see Ricksen lift that trophy with another side was just odd and hard to take.
It was with great sadness that I read about Fernando’s illness this week. Just looking at the internet you can see what a harsh death sentence awaits the man. Many in Glasgow know of the disease, it took the life of Celtic’s Lisbon Lion legend Jimmy Johnstone.
At 37 its hard to believe that Ricksen has so little time left in this world.
I had the pleasure of meeting Fernando during my barman days. He always approached the bar with a cheeky smile and would ask for some crazy looking shots that he’d put together in an empty tumbler and pass on to his friends. One night in the VIP bar he offered to help my cousin (the VIP host) and chuck out some of the guests as it was getting to busy. He always just seemed mischievous but harmless with it.
When I look back at Fernando’s career I stick him alongside Dado Prso, Jorg Albertz and Rino Gattuso. They may have been born far from Govan but they knew what Rangers were all about and would have done anything and everything for the club.
I suppose its because of that passion he has for life and not just Rangers, to absorb this news is so difficult to accept.
Heres hoping Rangers can arrange some sort of benefit match between Rangers legends and Dutch legends.
Good luck Fernando and all the best!