Rangers magic moment Nacho Novo is replayed by ‘prepared’ commentator as he reveals Walter Smith welcome

30 Apr 2022 | 08:26 | Football

“Make sure you go to Manchester. Rangers are coming.

“The Scots are heading to Manchester and you know what? Manchester may not be big enough.

“They won’t need a visa. They won’t need a passport. But the battle for tickets has begun now.

“Ask yourself, Manchester – they are on their way.

“Walter Smith guided they go to a fourth largest Europe Final. A crack in their second major European cup.

“And five years after Celtic take Seville, Rangers will wreak havoc across Manchester.”

Even now, 14 years later, Ibrox fans will get goosebumps hearing that.

Comment by Nacho Novo’ The penalty in the UEFA Cup semi-final second leg against Fiorentina was iconic.

With a shiver down his spine, most Gers bettors will be able to recite them by heart.

And no one could be happier than the man who somehow found the perfect words to describe one of the biggest moments in the club’s history.

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Peter Drury has no real relationship with Rangers before taking on the ITV gig for their European Championship that season.

But in the end – a painful final defeat to Zenit St Petersburg – he will, in essence, be linked forever.

This week, Rangers head into their first game of the fourth round of Europe since Novo’s free-kick sparked wild, jubilant scenes in Florence.

And for Drury, it will recall some special memories of that 2008 run and his dealings with the late Walter Smith and his friend Ally McCoist.

Just six months after the legendary Ibrox gaffer passed away, Drury is keen to see Rangers reach another Euro final with West Ham or Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.

Reflecting on that era – as well as the now-famous commentary – the 54-year-old says MailSport : “I always say that a commentary is only as good as the raw material it is talking about.

“And it’s a great story that I don’t want to tell. That’s not my story.

“That is the story of Rangers. That’s the story of Walter Smith. That is the story of Nacho Novo.

Nacho Novo scores from the penalty kick to put Rangers through

“For a commentator, it was a strange thing. Because I’m an Englishman, I feel like a space traveler.

“But it was a strange, wonderful run for Rangers. It was fun to be unexpectedly involved in it.

“Of course, there is the final against Zenit. But in retrospect, it peaked that night in Florence.

“It all comes down to a Novo kick. I couldn’t script or plan anything because I didn’t anticipate a penalty shootout.

“On that track, Rangers continued to draw in Ibrox and then competed away from home. They had a crazy game in Lisbon against Sporting when Steven Whittaker suddenly thought he was Lionel Messi. It was an amazing moment.

“With a draw at home by Fiorentina, we think Rangers’ luck has run out. We thought the Italians would win. So there was no preparation for that moment. The pre-match conversation revolved around ‘what if?’

“The final will be in Manchester and we know how well Rangers have tracked.

“So there’s no need for a genius to think: ‘Blimey, what if Rangers were in this thing? It would be absolutely crazy’.

“And of course it is.

“Before Novo took the kick, I just thought: ‘This is going to happen.’ Moving on, I remember waking up in my hotel room in Manchester that morning and the place was under siege. It is just extraordinary.

“The fact that it happened probably overshadows the words that I used for the last penalty kick. Manchester won’t be big enough. “

Drury was in a relationship with McCoist, who is now a seasoned commentator, having previously worked on games at ITV. But it was Smith’s welcome at Ibrox that blew him away.

And for one season, he’s been immersed in the Rangers’ incredible campaign.

“I remember at Ibrox against Sporting, we had the honor of being invited into Walter’s office after the game for a glass of wine,” Drury said.

“It is priceless. Just to be at the famous Ibrox offices in that company.

“It would be poignant, shortly after Walter’s death, if Rangers could reach another Europa League Final.

“Rangers was a great club to deal with at the time. We were outsiders at ITV but Walter greeted us. And the whole run was an unexpected story.

“If I could sum up that night in Florence, it was just one of the great rewards of career and life.

“In the tunnel area then there was David Weir, who was probably 57 years old or something.

“Rangers played almost 70 games that season and he was in almost all of them.

“The poor man put his body in the line. After that game, he could barely put one foot in front of the other.”

Drury is keen to be in Germany for Thursday night’s first leg against RB Leipzig but will instead be in Leicester for the Foxes’ Europa Conference League match against Roma.

But he is desperate for WOOD io van Bronckhorst side to get through it and potentially set up an England final against the Hammers.

And he hopes that whoever stands on the mic feels the same joy he did.

“It will be phenomenal,” Drury said. Can you imagine Rangers vs West Ham United in Seville?

“And it’s not impossible. It’s certainly more possible than Rangers beating Fiorentina 14 years ago.

“The Rangers didn’t have a chance that night so they had a chance against Leipzig.

“I want to play the game and I want Rangers to get through.

“I’ve been told that Fiorentina’s commentary is something that Rangers fans love and it’s a thrill for me.

“I’m grateful for that because I’m so lucky to be there. I hope whoever is at the microphone in this semi-final gets to witness something like that.”

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