Former Rangers Legend Sandy Jardine Passes Away at Age 65

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2014

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 3: Former Rangers player Sandy Jardine attends the service to commemorate the 40th Anniversary Memorial of the Ibrox Disaster  held at the Ibrox stadium on January 3, 2011 In Glasgow, United Kingdom. The Ibrox disaster occurred on January 2, 1971 at the end of an Old Firm game when 66 people lost their lives in a crush as crowds left the stands. (PHoto by Danny Lawson - pool/Getty Images)
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Former Rangers and Hearts full-back Sandy Jardine has passed away in his sleep, losing an 18-month battle with cancer at the age of 65.

The news was confirmed via a statement on Rangers' official website, which remembered Jardine as "a man of dignity, class and honour." Jardine died peacefully and was surrounded by family during his final moments.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who spent two years at Ibrox alongside Jardine, led the tributes to a professional who excelled at the Scottish club between 1965 and 1982, as reported by Sam Adams of the Mirror:

From Cathy and I, this is some of the worst news we have heard. Sandy was a noble and courageous man. The respect he is held in at Rangers is immense. He was one of the greatest players ever to wear the jersey. To Shona and family, we express our sympathy and sadness.

Jardine, who made his debut aged 18, enjoyed an era of success with Rangers before moving to boyhood club Hearts. He won three top-flight league titles, five Scottish Cups and five League Cups. The pinnacle of his club career came in 1972, when he was part of the team that beat Dynamo Moscow 3-2 to secure the UEFA European Cup Winners' Cup.

The defender also racked up 38 appearances for Scotland, scoring one goal across nine years with the national team. This came during the 2-0 Hampden Park victory over Wales in 1974, where Jardine's penalty just before half-time followed an earlier strike by Kenny Dalglish, as reported by the Scottish FA.

Remarkably, Jardine was never cautioned at international level.

1986:  Alex Ferguson (right)  Manager of Aberdeen hugs Sandy Jardine (left) of Hearts in commiseration after the Scottish Cup Final match at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Aberdeen won the match 3-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport
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He netted 77 goals in nearly 800 appearances for Rangers, per the club's statement. Current manager Ally McCoist called Jardine "a Rangers legend in every sense of the word" during his reminiscent tribute in which he also named his friend "a truly remarkable human being."

Chief executive Graham Wallace said Jardine "epitomised everything that is good about Rangers Football Club." He made specific mention to his contribution "both on and off the pitch," highlighting an individual who fought for Rangers throughout his later days.

A key figure of the Rangers Fans’ Fighting Fund—a group set up to battle against administration by calling on supporters to "generate essential revenue," per the club's website—Jardine even led a protest of thousands to Hampden Park's doorstep in order to challenge sanctions that thrust Rangers to the brink of folding.

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 3:  Former Rangers player Sandy Jardine (right) and Reverend Stuart D MacQuarrie (left), speak during a memorial service to commemorate the 40th Anniversary Memorial of the Ibrox Disaster  held at the Ibrox stadium on Jan
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The club's tribute acknowledges Jardine's dedication to looking after Rangers' trophy room and archives, while also referencing his important role in creating the organisation's Hall of Fame. Jardine was also a pivotal member of the Former Rangers Players' Benevolent Fund and resided on the Board of the Rangers Youth Development Fund, dedicating most of his life to ensuring various areas of the club ran smoothly.

Tributes continue to pour in across social media. Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph, plus current Rangers players Steven Smith and David Templeton, led the plaudits:

Jardine's influence is embroiled within Rangers history, and his involvement with the modern club ensures he will remain a source of inspiration for generations of players and staff to come. While Rangers' statement says, "Sandy will be missed by everyone who knew him," real pangs of pain are also sure to be felt by many who didn't.