Rangers' quest to sign Craig Levein from Hearts - illegal meeting, hotel car park and the Spurs factor
Former Scotland manager Craig Levein has revealed intimate details of Rangers’ attempt to sign him from Hearts and pair him with Richard Gough.
Levein recalled illegally meeting the Rangers management team of Graeme Souness and Walter Smith in a hotel car park near Edinburgh during the 1980s. They discussed a potential transfer to Ibrox for the then-Tynecastle defender.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Levein said Souness had agreed to sign Gough from Tottenham Hotspur and wanted the pair to form a new central defensive partnership in Glasgow.
“When I was at Hearts I was injured at the time but Graeme tried to sign me,” explained Levein, currently an advisor to Brechin City’s board. “When he was at Rangers I was at Hearts as a young player. I’d actually just torn my cruciate ligament. I didn’t know I’d torn my cruciate ligament but I had an injury.
“I can tell this now because he [Souness] isn’t working and he won’t get brought up in front of the beaks or anything – and I would be terrified if he did, you know.
“I got a phonecall from a journalist asking if I’d be interested in signing. It was quite a long conversation but eventually I found out it was Rangers. And would I meet Graeme Souness and Walter Smith to have a chat?
“Now you can speak to another club within six months of your contract ending. But in those days, way back in the 80s, you weren’t allowed to speak to any other club without your club’s permission.
"So, just on the south side of the Forth Bridge, there was a motel there. We met on the slip road down to the kitchen area of the hotel. I get there in my car and I come over the top of this little hill. I look down and there’s this big Jaguar sitting at the bottom of this little road.
“I get out of the car, I go over and knock on the window. Here’s Watty Smith sitting in the driver’s seat. He says: ‘Get in the back.’ I get in the back and Graeme’s in the back, slinked down so nobody can see him. There wasn’t anybody there.
“I get into the car and they start talking about ‘you’ve played against us a few times, we think you’ve played really well’.
“What's really interesting about this is Dundee United had just sold Richard Gough to Tottenham probably about four or five months before this meeting took place. Graeme said to me: ‘We want you to sign. We’re bringing Richard Gough back in the summer.’
“I said: ‘He’s just gone to Tottenham.’ He said: ‘Don’t worry about that. It’s all been sorted.’ Dundee United wouldn't sell Richard Gough to Rangers, but obviously Graeme’s [got] contacts at Tottenham.
“So he went down to Tottenham for one season and then he signed for Rangers. So I was thinking: ‘Wow, getting a chance to play alongside Richard Gough would be great.’
“But in the end I s**t myself basically because I thought: ‘If anybody finds out I’ve had this conversation then I could be in big trouble.’ So I walked away from it. I was injured anyway.
“There were some financial incentives involved as well, which I’m regretting as well,” laughed Levein.