IT is fair to say that Gordon Dalziel had pretty limited ambitions when he was first drafted into the Rangers squad for an Old Firm game at the age of just 19.
“My biggest concern was where I was going to sit,” he said. “I was thinking: ‘I hope the manager lets me sit with the team in the dugout’. I didn’t want to sit up in the stand.”
Yet, the striker, much to his disbelief, found himself named in the starting line-up for a league meeting with Celtic at Parkhead in 1981. What is more, he scored the Ibrox club’s opening goal in front of a crowd of over 48,000 in a classic encounter which finished tied 3-3 at the end of 90 coruscating minutes.
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“Davie Cooper, who I used to travel with, was sitting next to me in the dressing room,” said Dalziel. “I was still in my suit about an hour before kick-off. He says to me: ‘What are you doing? Get changed!’ I asked him: ‘What are you talking about?’
He replied: ‘You’re playing!’
“It hadn’t registered with me that John Greig had read my name out. It was Sandy Jardine . . . Davie Cooper. . . Bobby Russell . . . Derek Johnstone. . . Jim Bett. I didn’t think I deserved to be among the players who were there. It passed me by.
“I was sick with worry before the game. The nerves definitely got to me. The atmosphere in an Old Firm game just hits you when you walk out on to the park. “I remember saying to Davie: ‘What the hell am I going to do here?’ He said the greatest thing, something that has stuck with me ever since. He told me: ‘Just run. I’ll find you’. I thought: ‘That’ll do for me!’”
The occasion got more surreal for Dalziel when, after Tom McAdam had netted an early goal for the home team, he scored an equaliser in the fifth minute.
“Derek Johnstone headed a cross from Davie Cooper into my path,” he said. “I scored with the worst diving header ever. I didn’t know where to go to celebrate because I scored at the Celtic End and the Rangers fans were at the other end of the park. But it was a fantastic experience.”
Handing the teenage Dalziel, who had just a smattering of first team games to his name at that early stage in his career, his debut in the Glasgow derby match despite his tender years and inexperience certainly proved to be an inspired decision by Greig.
The former Rangers forward is confident Pedro Caixinha, the current Ibrox manager, will be rewarded if he gave Myles Beerman a start against Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden this Sunday.
Beerman, who is just 18, has been impressive at left back in the three first team games he has played for the Govan club since club captain Lee Wallace picked up a stomach injury earlier this month.
The Maltese defender has helped his club keep clean sheets in Ladbrokes Premiership matches against Kilmarnock and Aberdeen away and Partick Thistle at home and increase their chances of qualifying for the Europa League.
Caixinha could bring back Lee Hodson, the Northern Ireland internationalist who did well in the last Rangers match against Celtic at Parkhead last month as his side earned a deserved 1-1 draw.
However, Dalziel, who works as a pundit for Radio Clyde and has seen Beerman in action in all three of the games he has played in senior football, is adamant the raw but gifted kid deserves to retain his position.
“I was at the Partick Thistle game at Ibrox on Saturday for Superscoreboard,” he said. “I think he’s a terrific, young, talented player, I really do. He still needs to do a little bit of work defensively, still has a bit to learn.
“But going forward it is a different story. The way he has fitted into the role has been impressive. He just looks comfortable for me. I thought Rangers were dire in the first 30 minutes against Thistle. He was the only one of their players who looked capable of doing anything. He is a potent attacking force.”
Dalziel added: “I think the young lad deserves to play. He’ll most likely be up against James Forrest and probably won’t ever have had as hard a game.
As an 18-year-old, it will be tough for him playing in a Celtic v Rangers game at Hampden in front of 50,000 fans.
“But sometimes you have got to say: ‘On you go. I believe you’re good enough.’ In my experience, kids like Myles rise to the occasion. I hope the young boy gets his chance.
“Look at the three games he’s been involved in. Rangers haven’t conceded a goal. What else can you ask of him?
If he was a forward and he had scored six goals in three games then the manager wouldn’t be able to leave him out of the Celtic game.
“I don’t care what age you are, if you’re good enough it will bring the best out in you. I’ll be very disappointed if he’s left out. I think the boy should get the opportunity to show what he can do. The team hasn’t conceded a goal against Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Partick Thistle with him in it. I think it would be very harsh to leave him out.”
David Bates, the 20-year-old centre half who has deputised for Clint Hill in the last three Rangers games, has also done well since being promoted to the first team and Dalziel would also like to see him given the chance to pit his wits against Moussa Dembele.
He believes that Rangers will benefit in the long-run from putting their faith in the best talents to emerge from the youth ranks at Auchenhowie.
He said: “I hope David Bates plays as well. He deserves his chance too. These guys can only learn from the experience. They will be playing against the best players in the country. That will only bring them on.”