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Willie Woodburn

Signed from Musselburgh Athletic in 1937, Woodburn was a true colossus in the Scottish game and one of the finest centre-halves to play for Rangers and Scotland.  Good in the air, good on the ground, Woodburn was capped twenty-four times for Scotland played 325 games for Rangers and won every domestic honour with the Light Blues. 

Woodburn, part of the 'Iron Curtain' defence of the late 1940s and early 1950s, was a member of the first Rangers team to win the domestic treble, in 1948/49. Nicknamed 'Big Ben', he collected four Scottish championship medals, four Scottish Cups and two League Cups in an illustrious career at Ibrox.

But Woodburn will be best remembered as the player whose career was prematurely ended when the SFA imposed a unique life ban in 1954.  Early in his career Woodburn carved a reputation for himself for hotheadedness despite his skills, which won him the accolade of 'greatest centre-half in the world'.  In 1947 he received a 14 day ban for a "violent exchange" with Motherwell's Dave Mathie, then in 1953 he punched the Clyde striker Billy McPhail, which earned a 21-day ban. Later that year, Woodburn was sent off for retaliation in a match with Stirling Albion and when the clubs met again, the following season, in a League Cup tie at Ibrox on 28 August 1954, Woodburn took exception to a bad foul and retaliated by headbutting a Stirling player.  

The SFA convened a disciplinary hearing the following month, which lasted just four minutes, and Woodburn was suspended sine die. The England international Tom Finney, one of many well-known forwards Woodburn had encountered in his international career, described the ban as "a grave injustice". His life time suspensionon in 1954 was a shattering blow for a man who fell foul of his own quick temper, but who was never known as a dirty player by fans or opponents.

The SFA lifted the suspension three years later but, at 38, Woodburn never returned to football, his career forever tarnished by the ban.   He died in November 2001 at the age of 82.    Teammate Willie Waddell summed up Woodburn to whom playing for Rangers meant so much: 'He was always a fierce competitor...but I think that basic determination was distorted by the mystique of Rangers.  There is no doubt that in our time the very act of pulling that blue jersey over your head did something to you'.