1865 - 1920
WILLIAM WILTON was the first manager of Rangers Football Club but he had already been at the club for 16 years before he was appointed to the post.
When Wilton joined Rangers in September 1883 he had no responsibilities for football, although he played for one of the junior teams.
His skills as an administrator and organiser were what the club valued and, anyway, in those days the team operated without a manager.
Within six months, however, Wilton had been appointed secretary to the reserve teams and by 1889 he was match secretary of the first team.
Tactics, such as they were, he left to senior players but, nonetheless, in the 10 years Wilton held the post Rangers won two Scottish Championships (1890-91 and 1898-99) and three Scottish Cups (1894, 1897 and 1898).
Wilton it was who set the code of discipline for the players which still endures today. He insisted on smartness and standards of dress and made players understand the responsibility of what it meant to be a Ranger.
When the Scottish League was formed in 1890, Wilton became its first treasurer and, of course, his Rangers shared the first Championship with Dumbarton.
In May 1899, Wilton was given the dual role of manager and secretary when the club became a limited liability company.
His appointment came at the end of a season in which Rangers had achieved
the perfect League record. Eighteen games, eighteen victories and 79 goals scored at an average of more than four a game.
No team – before or since – has ever had a 100 per cent record in a competitive domestic league anywhere in the world.
Rangers were to win seven more Championships under Wilton’s guidance. And by the 1919-20 season Wilton, along with his assistant William Struth, had laid the foundations for a period of dominance which was to last until the Second World War.
Wilton, however, would not live to enjoy their success.
The day after the last game of the season in May 1920, Wilton set out to spend the Bank Holiday at Gourock.
Rangers had won the Championship by three points from Celtic and Wilton was looking forward to some rest.
It was not to be. Wilton drowned in a boating accident on the first day of his holiday.
John Allan’s book, The Story of the Rangers, paid him this fitting tribute: “The ideals for which he strove are still sought after by those who are left in custody of the cherished traditions of the club.”