Company behind productions on Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos turns focus to Glasgow Rangers for latest film

The Leeds-based media company behind productions on Leeds Rhinos and Leeds United have released a film about Glasgow Rangers. Ross Heppenstall reports.

They have produced films and an acclaimed docu-series about some of Yorkshire’s greatest sporting institutions, such as Leeds Rhinos and Leeds United.

Now, Leeds-based media company The City Talking Studios have released Rangers72, a feature film about Glasgow Rangers, which relives the Scottish football team's dramatic European Cup Winners’ Cup success.

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It was an extraordinary campaign featured numerous twists and turns and reached a crescendo at Barcelona’s Nou Camp on May 24, 1972. Rangers, managed by former player Willie Waddell, beat Russian side Dynamo Moscow 3-2 to win the club’s only European trophy to date.

Lee Hicken, the founder and chief executive of The City Talking Studios, based in Leeds.Lee Hicken, the founder and chief executive of The City Talking Studios, based in Leeds.
Lee Hicken, the founder and chief executive of The City Talking Studios, based in Leeds.

With the 50-year anniversary looming – and with the Ibrox side hoping for glory again ahead of their Europa League semi-final against RB Leipzig – the 100-minute film has been released.

It features narration by Hollywood actor James Cosmo, archive match footage, plus contributions from supporters and journalists who were there to witness the drama unfold.

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Central to the story, of course, are the players who made it happen, many of whom are set to attend the film’s premiere at the Everyman in Glasgow today (April 26).

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John Greig, Willie Johnston, Colin Stein, Willie Mathieson, Peter McCloy, Dave Smith, Alex MacDonald, Derek Johnstone and Derek Parlane recount a campaign which began with Rangers still recovering from the horrors of the Ibrox disaster on January 2, 1971, in which sixty-six supporters died following a crush at Stairway 13.

Rangers72 paints a picture of life in Glasgow in the early 1970s and details how Waddell led the club’s response to the tragedy, laying the foundations for their European success.

The City Talking Studios’ list of productions includes Do You Want To Win?, which chronicled Leeds United’s 1992 First Division title success under Howard Wilkinson, and As Good As It Gets?, which delved into the golden era enjoyed by Leeds Rhinos.

More recently, the company made the acclaimed Take Us Home: Leeds United, a docu-series about the Elland Road’s club resurgence under Marcelo Bielsa which was shown on Amazon Prime.

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Lee Hicken, the founder and chief executive of The City Talking Studios, says: “We worked with Howard Wilkinson and Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United and Brian McDermott at Leeds Rhinos – all formidable characters central to their club’s success.

“We knew how important Willie Waddell was to Rangers but of course we had the challenge of him not being here anymore so we couldn’t get his first-hand account.

“What I think we do well in the film is take Waddell to the screen through what the players said about him and we have also used his actual handwritten notes and tactics from the 1971-72 European campaign.

“From a creative point, we take his words and use them in the film so, even though he’s not here, he’s still a really important voice in the story. The way the players talk about Waddell in the film says everything about the respect they had for him.”

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The City Talking’s Giuseppe De Luca, who wrote and directed Rangers72, spent countless hours interviewing many of the team at their homes and in social settings.

He says: “We went to the pub with Willie Johnston, had a couple of beers poured by the man himself, and also spent time with Colin Stein at his local bowling club.

“Interviewing Willie Mathieson and Alex MacDonald was particularly emotional. When Alex talked about the impact Willie Waddell had on his career, he became quite tearful.

“It’s powerful stuff which football fan of all generations will love. This is a story which deserves to be told.”

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At times the events of Rangers’ 1971-72 European campaign bordered on make-believe.

After seeing off French side Rennes, they lost on penalties to Sporting Lisbon in the second round, only to be hastily reinstated when UEFA officials realised that Rangers should have progressed on the new away goals rule.

Italian giants Torino were the next team to be dispatched before Rangers before they then faced the mighty Bayern Munich, featuring Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller, in the semi-finals.

Once again, Waddell’s team proved too strong as goals from Sandy Jardine and Parlane sealed a 2-0 second-leg home win to book a final spot.

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Across town, Celtic lost on penalties to Inter Milan in the European Cup semi-final on a night which saw more than 150,000 supporters combined pack out Ibrox and Parkhead.

Throughout the campaign, Waddell would give his players pen pics of forthcoming opponents, along with a detailed dossier of their strengths and weaknesses.

Jock Wallace’s training methods saw Waddell’s squad become incredibly fit during pre-season trips to Gullane Sands when sprinting up the notorious ‘Murder Hill’ sand dune would leave players physically sick.

The trophy presentation was anything but conventional either. While Waddell’s team should have been out on the pitch hoisting the European Cup Winners’ Cup aloft, Greig was handed it deep within the bowels of the Nou Camp.

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At the final whistle, hundreds of Rangers supporters had invaded the pitch and clashed with police, casting a dark shadow over the club’s finest hour.

Rangers were subsequently banned from European competition for two years, with the punishment later reduced to one year following an appeal.

The City Talking Studios are working on a number of other exciting projects and Hicken added: “For Rangers, this matters as much as anything in the club’s 150-year history.

“Some of the older Rangers fans have said that the youngsters don’t realise how big and how important ’72 was. Rangers supporters in their forties and fifties onwards have told me they are really glad that this film has been made so they can see important this team was.

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“A lot of the younger generation’s parents or grandparents might have been in Barcelona, so it’s nice to have these stories passed on and documented in a film.”

Rangers72 will be released exclusively on DVD and BluRay, April 27. The film and accompanying coffee-table book is available to pre-order at Details of digital release will be announced in May.