Former Rangers manager Graeme Souness has labelled the Glasgow side’s previous refusal to sign Catholic players as “absolute nonsense”, saying it “belonged in the dark ages”.
Souness managed Rangers – who were viewed as Glasgow’s ‘Protestant club’, while local Old Firm rivals, Celtic, were viewed as the ‘Catholic club’ – from 1986 to 1991. Between the 1920s and 1989, Rangers had an unwritten rule that the club would not sign any player known to be a Roman Catholic.
However, in 1989, Souness brought this policy to an end with his controversial signing of high-profile Catholic footballer and former Celtic hero Mo Johnston.
“That, whether they like it or not, was the correct thing to do then and the club have benefited since then,” Souness said during a recent Paddy Power interview with Irish pundit Eamon Dunphy.
“That was 19-whenever… but that [sectarian] stuff belonged in the dark ages.
“I understand why it’s happened in history, but it should never have been allowed to be the case. I think it was 116 years of not signing a Catholic player – it’s absolute nonsense.
“When I went to Rangers, as Steven Gerrard will have found out in recent months when he took over managing the club, you don’t realise how big Rangers and Celtic are,” the former midfielder added.
“They’re not football clubs – they’re institutions.
“In England, people might disagree with this, Man United certainly are, Liverpool certainly are.
“Beyond that…not so sure.”
This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:
Saturday 12th January
West Ham United v Arsenal – 12:30pm
Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool – 3:00pm
Burnley v Fulham – 3:00pm
Cardiff City v Huddersfield Town – 3:00pm
Crystal Palace v Watford – 3:00pm
Leicester City v Southampton – 3:00pm
Chelsea v Newcastle United – 5:30pm
Sunday 13th January
v AFC Bournemouth – 2:15pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United – 4:30pm
Monday 14th January
Manchester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 8:00pm
Picture: Then-Glasgow Rangers manager Graeme Souness (right) with Maurice Johnston, the first high-profile Catholic to play for Rangers.