AN IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH CLINT HILL PART TWO: INSIDE THE OLD FIRM DERBY
- Became the oldest player to make his top team debut for Rangers
- Takes us inside the passion of a collision with Celtic
- Memories of his goal on the turf of Gers’ greatest rivals
- Praise for the managerial class of Warburton and Weir
- Regret that the chance to play at Ibrox did not come sooner in his career
CLINT HILL was 37 years and 274 days old when he made his Rangers debut.
He remains the oldest player to make his top team bow for the Scottish giants in the club's illustrious history as they prepare to celebrate their 150th birthday next year.
Yet for one priceless moment in his days playing for the light blue half of the bitterly divided football city of Glasgow time stood still.
That was the moment when Clint Hill, battle-hardened veteran central defender in the twilight of his career, scored a goal in one of the most ferocious derby matches in world football. The Old Firm.
Rangers, who had climbed back to the top league after being banished to the Third Division for financial irregularities, were trailing 1-0 to their avowed foes Celtic.
They travelled to the home of the dominant Hoops at that time more in hope than expectation that they could eke out a derby day result.
Yet they were to manage a 1-1 draw on March 12, 2017, thanks to the unlikeliest of scorers.
Sport Careers Agency client Clint, this month appointed as the new assistant manager of Stockport County, recalled: ”It was a wide free-kick and our skipper James Tavernier didn't put his best delivery in for once.
”It came back to him and he slid it through to Emerson Hyndman who hit a great shot across the keeper.
”One of my first managers at Tranmere Rovers was John Aldridge who had been a legend at my boyhood heroes Liverpool and he was always in and around it looking for scraps.
”I took that from training with John, I remember how he would be sniffing about looking for goals and I thought: 'Just get in there'.
”It hit my SHIN, when the ball sat up it was as if the whole world had stopped. I was just thinking: 'Please get a good connection.'
”I just remember the noise when it hit the net and running to the corner where all the Gers fans were.
”Look, it was only a draw but with where the club was at the time then it was something to cling onto.”
Clint saw it all in a storied playing career in England that ended at the age of 39 and took in the likes of Tranmere Rovers, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Queen's Park Rangers.
He's been there, seen it and worn the sweat-soaked matchday shirt.
Yet he was blown away by the Old Firm game and he smiled: ”You simply can't explain the experience of what it is like playing in those games, you can't hear players 10 yards away.
”Weeks before there are people telling you that you have to win when you are in the supermarket!
”I can only imagine what life is like for Rangers players who win trophies, they are treated like GODS.
”I can't believe the link I have with the fans there, it's a little embarrassing because it wasn't a great season.
”Yet I get so much respect from the supporters because I think they realise I gave it everything I had.
”I just wish I had got there when I was younger and had a few more years there, it's a very special football club.”
On the day Clint scored his memorable goal Rangers were under the guidance of caretaker manager Graeme Murty with incoming Portuguese boss Pedro Caixinha, who would be a disastrous appointment, watching from the stand.
The coaching double act who had brought Clint in, Englishman Mark Warburton and Gers legend David Weir, had been brutally axed despite losing only 13 of their 82 games at the helm.
Hill reflected: ”I enjoyed my time at Rangers so much and Mark made it a safe environment to work in, he didn't like conflict or digging people out.
”At first that was hard for me because I was used to the world of Neil Warnock and Tony Pulis who had been my gaffers in the past.
”I often think that if it all kicks off in a dressing-room between players it can be a GOOD thing.
”So for me with Warburton and Weir it was about collaboration and not confrontation.
”Mark was a stockbroker to trade so he didn't come from your average football background.
”The older players might have been looking for him to be tougher on the kids at times but it was a learning curve for me.
”Listen, when I first got the phone call to join Rangers I thought someone was taking the p*.
”It was a helluva place and to be there at that age? I think the role for me when I went in was to be the back-up centre-back.
”Instead I forced my way into the team and I went from fourth choice to becoming a pick.
”We had the likes of Rob Kiernan, David Bates and Ross McCrorie coming through and they felt they needed the experience of the likes of myself and Phillipe Senderos who came in later.”
Warburton and Weir left Gers amidst acrimony and that never sat well with Clint who admired the way they worked at a club desperately striving to return to former glories.
He stressed: ”Both Mark and Davie are first of all very good people. Davie has a presence about him because of the career he had.
”And when Davie spoke, he spoke softly which MADE you listen. That's a great tool to have.
”We also had a clear way of playing which I admired, it's not a million miles away from what Steven Gerrard and Michael Beale had created at Gers before they left for Aston Villa.
”The difference is that in the Gerrard Era they had better players, simple as that.”
CLINT HILL ON THE SERVICE HE RECEIVED FROM SPORT CAREERS AGENCY**
”The staff are always on the end of the phone to do quick updates on your CV.
”I have challenged them for sure in the last year with that but they are great people and so helpful. They just get it done with the minimum of fuss.
”I love my Sport Careers Agency CV because it has the level of professionalism you want.”