Craig Moore: Defender on living the dream with Rangers and Australia

It was the moment the Rangers fans have been dreaming of. After nearly a decade of being in the wilderness, of seeing their bitter rivals Celtic at the top again and again and again, another Scottish title was finally theirs.

A startlingly consistent season where they created a huge chasm of points between them and their hated neighbours, Rangers were celebrating a historic 55th Premiership crown. And almost more importantly, stopped the Hoops from getting 10 in a row.

For Craig Moore, a veteran of 12 trophy-laden years at Ibrox in the 1990s and 2000s and more than 170 games for the Gers, salvation tastes sweet.

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“They’ve been ultra-consistent this season, their form has been incredible,” Moore says.

“They’re still undefeated, they’ve had something like 22 clean sheets, which is remarkable. A big year, a big season for it to happen with Celtic chasing 10 in a row and certainly no Rangers supporter wanted to see that happen.

“Steven Gerrard looks as if he’s going to deliver what all Rangers supporters were desperate to see him do.”

With not a single league defeat and just five draws from 33 matches, Rangers’ high-pressing, high-intensity approach has been near unstoppable. While Celtic have lurched from disaster to disaster, the blue half of Glasgow has been a model of calm and consistency under manager Steven Gerrard.

Few know the Ibrox pressure-cooker better than Moore, who won everything possible in his time at Rangers. The centre back was part of double-winning seasons in 1996, 1997 and 2000, as well as the famous treble campaign of 2002-2003.

Moore is full of praise for Englishman Gerrard, who is in his third season in Scotland but in just his first senior managerial post.

“Gerrard’s done a very good job,” the Australian says.  “Initially he came in and made a lot of changes, last season he brought in maybe 15 or 16 new players. And it’s very hard to gel together and make the progress that Rangers needed to make, but he’s been given time.

“I think the club has been supportive – but at the same time it’s always looked as if it was improving and getting better under Gerrard, so he’s done a wonderful job. This season they’re all probably benefiting from all the hard work that’s been put in.

“It’s been an incredible season. The run that they’ve had, they’re performed well in Europe, so it’s been a really good season. The pleasing thing about Rangers this year has been that the whole squad has contributed.

“Last season they relied heavily on the goalscorer [Alfredo] Morelos, whereas he probably hasn’t scored as many this season that he would like. But there’s been other players that have been able to step up.

“[Ryan] Kent had a really positive start to the season, you’ve got the experience in and around the place of Jermain Defoe. You’ve had [Cedric] Itten who’s come in and done quite well, [Kemar] Roofe has been excellent, they’ve had a really good share of goals.

“[James] Tavernier has been unbelievable. You can go through every player in the team but also the players coming off the bench are making huge impacts.”

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For Moore, who left Rangers to join Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach in 2005 before eventually retiring in 2010, the timing couldn’t be sweeter. After more than a decade back in his native Australia, which included a stint as director of football at A-League outfit Brisbane Roar, he returned to live in Scotland last year.

Now working as an agent and talent scout, the 45-year-old sees more opportunity in the UK than down under.

“I spent 13 years in Australia, there’s a lot of changes in the game there but there’s still a lot of uncertainty,” he admits.

“I just wanted to return to something that I know, that I have good experience in and the respect through what I did in my career allows me to have the conversations that I’d like to have over here in terms of generating business, whether that be representing players, helping coaches or purchases of football clubs.

“Covid’s difficult for everybody but really I’m trying to build something that in the future means that there’ll be opportunity to help players, guide them through their careers and hopefully get them to a place where financially it works out and its good for everyone.”

Moore’s playing career took him from the working-class suburbs of western Sydney to Glasgow, Crystal Palace, Germany, Greece and two seasons in the Premier League with Newcastle United.

He is regarded as one of the finest defenders ever produced by Australia and earned 52 international caps for the Socceroos.

But his affinity for Rangers, the club that plucked him from Canberra as a wide-eyed 18-year-old and gave him a shot, remains ever-strong.

“I had 12 amazing years at Glasgow Rangers, which is a massive, massive football club with support all over the world,” Moore recalls.

“People still recognise me today because of that brand. I don’t know how many times I’ve come back through Glasgow airport and it’s ‘welcome back Mr Moore’.

“Here there’s that respect for football, for what people have achieved in football, and that comes down to the culture.”

It was thanks to Scotsman Eddie Thomson, then coaching Australia’s national team, that the centre half ended up at one of world football’s biggest clubs as a teenager 28 years ago.

“Once I had a trial there and had a feel for the place, I loved it,” Moore admits.

“I fell in love with it straight away. It was a challenging place, but at the same time I saw opportunity. I was lucky I made my debut in my first season, but you had to work your way into that first-team.

“There was your Richard Goughs, who was an unbelievable captain, your Ally McCoists, your Mark Hateleys, your Andy Gorams, Stuart McCalls, Ian Fergusons – the list went on.

“And then the Gascoignes and the Laudrups came in. Then I went under a different era with Dick Advocaat, with the Dutch players with the de Boers, van Brockhurst, Claudio Reynas… the people that I played with in my time at Rangers in three different teams, it was incredible.

“It’s an experience and great memories that I look back on now and think what a great run I had for somebody who came from the western suburbs of Sydney and ended up playing with players who were far better than me.

“To be honest, some of these players went on and played at the highest of levels and represented their countries and won huge amounts of trophies. I was fortunate enough to do all of that with those players.”

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Apart from his days at Ibrox, Moore is best known as a tough-tackling central defender for the green and gold. Part of Australia’s Golden Generation – a group that included Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer – he helped end the country’s 32-year World Cup qualification drought in 2006 and was also part of the squad that almost got past the group stage in 2010.

“In 2006 nobody knew what they were walking into – fans and also us players, although we did have the experience of playing at a decent level,” Moore recalls.

“So we weren’t shocked by what we were going to see. For me it was just a wonderful platform for Australian football to, I guess, realise its potential after the rollercoaster rides of unsuccessful campaigns and every four years its highs and lows.

“To get there was something that was really, really special. We performed extremely well, and then 2010 was what happened was no longer qualifying for the World Cup is enough, it’s how far can you go in a World Cup.

“That’s the expectation and pressure that comes with it, but that was no problem. 2010 didn’t match the performances and the hype of 2006 but we still showed an unbelievable resilience, great character, something that’s in the Australian DNA are a poor first game against Germany.

“But I think we ended up not qualifying through the group on goals. My experiences with the national team – whether they be a training camp, a friendly or World Cups – it was always first-class because we loved meeting up and coming back and working together… it was fun. We always felt we had something to prove.”

Craig Moore: Defender on living the dream with Rangers and Australia
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