On the 3rd of May 2022, Rangers Football Club lost one of their most cherished heroes.

He may not have pulled on the famous blue jersey but Jimmy Bell was more than just a bus driver and kitman, he represented the club with class and distinction for over 40 years.

His sad passing at the age of 69 rocked the institution and his presence is one that has left a lasting impression on all who had the privilege of coming across this uniquely special character.

The Rangers Review spoke to some of those who had the pleasure of knowing the one and only Jimmy Bell right through his rein, from players of the 80s and 90s, right through to Calvin Bassey and former manager Michael Beale.

Jimmy, the bus driver

Jimmy joined Rangers from Parks’ of Hamilton in 1981 where he previously worked as a mechanic and driver. He would drive the Rangers team bus before becoming the kitman. Colin Miller joined the club in 1984 and he remembers Jimmy with great fondness.

“Jimmy at that point was the bus driver for us. You could tell right away what a character he was and just how much Rangers meant to him. I've never seen anyone drive a bus like this in my life. He could drive a bus like most people would drive a trolley in Tesco, it was unbelievable.

“He took so much pride when the bus pulled up in front of Ibrox and you were leaving to go to games. It meant so much to him to sit behind the wheel. 

"When you got on the bus you were always wearing your Rangers suit and tie, it was just all part of the privilege of being at the club and Jimmy wore that blazer with a great deal of pride.

“The lads used to wind him up, they’d say, ‘Jimmy, you’re taking your time the night!’

“His love for the club was incredible. Jimmy was from Shotts and I grew up in the village of Allanton. Jimmy’s family knew my mum’s family so we very much had that Lanarkshire connection. He was very approachable, he loved the game, he loved his football and he loved the Rangers.

“It's no coincidence that Jimmy was so long at the club. You only survive because you're good at what you do and also have character. Jimmy wasn't shy at giving you the belt now and again. His quick wit was fantastic and you need that around the football club because of the pressure that everybody's under, especially at Rangers, you need someone that can break the ice a wee bit.

“Every club has these characters. Generally, they're older gentlemen that have been around and bought the t-shirt. Even when I was down at Derby County, with Billy Davies in the Premier League as Billy's first-team coach, there were a couple of older gentlemen that were kitmen that had been there through the Brian Clough era.

“Jimmy Bell became part of the institution, he was part of our family.”

How two local teams in Stirling and Alloa ended up with the best kit that any amateur team’s ever had

Steven Boyack spent nine years at Ibrox coming through the ranks as an apprentice during the illustrious Nine-in-a-Row era. The cheeky chappie from Stirling adored Jimmy and his dry sense of humour.

“I got on famously with Jimmy because I was there a long time. It took a wee bit of time to build a relationship with him.

“He was a hard, hard man. It’s fair to say you had to earn your stripes from Jimmy. Any of the younger boys will remember, you didn’t just go to him and say, ‘Can I get a pair of boots?’

“You had to earn your pair of boots. Quite often you were asked, ‘What the fuck have you done for Rangers?’

“The first time I went away with the first team I got pulled into the squad for a massive game against Famagusta. We went across to Cyprus and we used to take our own chef to places so we got a meal and then Jimmy would go round and leave a chocolate outside everybody’s hotel room door at night.

“Of course, me being me, an 18-year-old full of cheek, I go down the next day and said, ‘Jimmy, you forgot to leave any chocolates outside my door, where's my chocolate mate?’ Jimmy said, ‘What the fuck have you done for the Rangers and I’m not your mate!’ You knew your place, I couldn’t even get a Mars bar off him.

“I went back to Ibrox numerous times as a Hearts player or a Dundee player and after you left Rangers he kind of kidded on he didn’t know you. You’d say, ‘Alright Jimmy?’, and he’d say, ‘Who the fuck are you talking to?’

“The only person that I’ve ever heard slag him is Durranty. He used to love Durranty. Jimmy used to drive the bus to matches and he would turn round to say something and Durranty would shout, ‘Face the front driver!’

“If anyone else had said that he’d probably have stopped the bus and knocked you about but he loved Durranty.

“When Rangers went from Adidas to Nike, all the Adidas stuff became null and void so Jimmy said to Michael Stone and I, ‘Boys, do you want to give me a hand, you can take this away.’

“We filled up our cars with training gear. I lived in Stirling at the time and Michael lived in Alloa. The two local amateur teams that played in Stirling and Alloa had the best kit that any amateur team’s ever had.

“I must’ve had 20 sets of training gear that were all embroidered with Rangers logos. I’ve got pictures of guys who are massive Celtic fans training in all the Rangers kit.

“Jimmy liked that. I remember telling him and he said, ‘That’s good boys!’”

READ MORE: The making of James Tavernier: How a full-back joined Rangers 100 club

Jimmy, the weightlifter

Charlie Miller was part of the legendary Nine-in-a-Row squad littered with household names, he says Jimmy played his part as Rangers swept all before them. His death is one that still hurts to this day…

“He was my pal, I loved him to bits.

“He was a grumpy-faced wee c**t but that was just his persona. He was a great man with a great heart.

“It was a square-go trying to get strips off him at times. It was like Aladdin’s Cave with some of the strips he had in that place.

“I never thought Jimmy Bell would ever pass away in my life, I thought he would’ve lived till he was 100.

“The wee man bled blue. He loved the club, he loved being there. It was his dream job, obviously, he wasn’t a player but was as close to it. The players all loved him and I speak for 99.9 per cent of the players who worked with him.

“He had a great sense of humour, he was one of us and I mean that in that he hated getting beat. It hurt him as much as it hurt the players.

“He loved driving the bus with the music on going to games. He had his own cassette or CD of songs going to games. He was a gem, he was a great human being.

“When I made my debut I thought I was just helping Jimmy with the kit at Pittodrie that day. I was up at the stadium early doors putting the kit out with Jimmy and then we came back to the hotel together. I think he knew that I was playing and I didn’t and he kept it to himself. Then Walter named the team two hours before kick-off and I was playing.

“He loved his job and he did it very well. He knew how to put the badge on the strip properly. When you see some strips, they’re dodgy. The wee man knew how to get a strip done properly.

“He just knew how to get us prepared properly for games with the proper outfits. Everybody doesn’t realise how hard a job it is getting kit organised. People just think kit just arrives and it’s all embroidered and got people’s names on it but it certainly is not.

“He loved Durranty, that was his bestie. We all loved him, we took him to our hearts and he knew how to look after the boys.”

Jimmy Bell, the ‘kit manager’

Tommy Moller Nielsen worked as Rangers' first-team coach under Walter Smith and Dick Advocaat. The late Manchester United scout told the Rangers Review of the time Jonatan Johansson fell foul of his arid sense of humour and how he had to dissuade Advocaat from tinkering in Jimmy's kit room.

“Rangers is a massive club that is really high class, there’s not many clubs you can say that about.

“Big clubs mean big personalities but the most important thing is the people who are in the club and Jimmy Bell was one of them. He liked to call himself the kit manager.

Rangers Review: Tommy Moller Nielsen and Jimmy Bell alongside Walter Smith and Archie Knox in the Rangers dugout.Tommy Moller Nielsen and Jimmy Bell alongside Walter Smith and Archie Knox in the Rangers dugout. (Image: SNS)

“He was a real Rangers man. He was special, but he was so dedicated to his work and dedicated to the manager who was there. The respect he had for Rangers was absolutely amazing.

“He could be a moaner at times, if there was anybody who stepped a little bit aside or didn't realise what it was about then Jimmy was the first man to really show them and he was not afraid telling them - even if it was a big star. He would tell them about the club and its background. When Jimmy said something to those players, they respected it. He was tough to the players at times but they loved him because he was a soft guy with a big heart.

“All the time when you came into his room to get something he refused. I’ll never forget the time my father was the national team coach of Finland and he said, ‘We’ve got a young boy playing for the Under-21s, you should have a look at him,’ it was Jonatan Johansson.

“Jonatan came in on trial first and he needed a pair of trainers for running. He was doing well and we wanted to sign him. There was a bit of to-and-fro with his agent. But Jimmy refused to give him a pair of trainers until he had signed for the football club. He was really hard. Jonatan came to me at training and said, ‘What do I do?’

“I said, ‘You need to sign because he will not give you those trainers unless you sign.’ His room was packed with Nike trainers at that time. But Jimmy was just like, ‘Sign or you're not getting anything.’

“I remember when Advocaat came in. I had a meeting with him and Bert van Lingen and they were asking me about things. Dick was very keen that everything was in order with the kit and he said, ‘Listen, this is a big football club and we only have one kitman, do you think we should take one more?’

“I said, ‘No way, don’t do that because Jimmy will not work with other people in his room. He’ll want to do everything by himself. Dick wasn’t so sure but after one month he said to me, ‘You were right there.’ He did everything but he could not work with anybody in there because that was his room.

“Those people are very special to a football club and it’s important you have them. We have them at Manchester United as well. People that have been working in some positions for many years. They care so much about the football club. A football club the size of Rangers or United cannot live without those people.”

The Bassey/Bell bromance and 55 influence

Calvin Bassey joined Rangers from Leicester City as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in the summer of 2020. He may have come from a completely different background to that of Jimmy but he holds a special place in the Fulham defender’s heart, even if it took a while to understand him.

“Jimmy stood for what Rangers is and he stood for everything we tried to be as players. He was, honestly, the nicest man ever. He was so Scottish you can’t explain it. I can’t explain Jimmy. No one could ever be like Jimmy, he’s a legend man.

“At first, I couldn’t understand what he said. He used to always call me a dafty! 

“But he was so respected at the club and he was sort of intimidating as well but when you get to know him he’s a big softy. He made us aware of what Rangers meant, especially the year we went unbeaten and won the league, that was crazy.

“It was such a big thing. If Celtic had won 10-in-a-row people said it would have finished Scottish football - which I don’t think it would’ve. But it was such an important year and Jimmy would always say, ‘Every game’s important no matter who we’re playing.’

“He did his best every single day. It’s weird for me to say the kitman was doing their best - but the kit was always mint. He knew 25 players and everything they wanted. Everyone had different match day routines and he knew what each player needed.

“I used to wear extra large shorts and extra long socks and I always had them. They were always presentable. He’d always make sure we looked presentable when we walked out because he was the last person we would normally go to before we did. He’d either give you gum or something to inhale to clear out your nose.

“He’d always make sure you were looking your best. He was big on looking smart, and something he said was, ‘If you look good, you play good.’

“You can’t put into words how important he was. He’s almost like the furniture. Rangers won’t be the same without him.”

Rangers Review:

‘The grandad of the football club’

Former Rangers boss Michael Beale enjoyed a close bond with Jimmy during his first spell at Ibrox as first-team coach under Steven Gerrard. He says he was much more than just an employee.

“Jimmy was one of the guardians of the training ground. When you came in you saw him first thing in the morning. He always used to hide the chocolate stash. We were always friends because on away trips he used to come and give me my share to hand out to the rest of the first-team staff.

“My relationship with Jimmy was huge. I was fascinated by Gascoigne, Laudrup, McCoist, Walter and Graeme Souness so I’d ask him a lot of questions because he lived through that.

“When I came back into the club, I really felt his presence not here. The best moment for me in the time I’ve been associated with Rangers, I wasn’t actually at the club. It was when Glen Kamara scored and kissed the armband. I was in my house and got a bit emotional about that and whenever I see that now, it gets me.

“Glen just did it instinctively but it showed what he meant to everybody. You think about Glen’s background and where he’s come from and Jimmy, you couldn’t find two further points apart.

“When I got the news at Aston Villa, it was early in the morning and I literally had to get up and just go for a walk. I didn’t actually take the session that morning because it was just such a shock.

READ MORE: The making of Allan McGregor: The years that formed a Rangers legend

“When I think of Jimmy, I think of his friendship with Davie the masseur, 'Disco', they were like a double act and always together, thick as thieves.

“He would speak to me about his dogs so I really felt it when I came back in. When I went into the kit room and saw all his stuff out it hit me again. With the anniversary of his death coming around it’s something a lot of us will be thinking about at the club.

“The football club’s an institution but it's about people. It’s people that make any environment, it’s not the facilities, it’s not the buildings, it’s the people inside it and he was someone that was so rich in terms of the history of being there and what he’s seen and gone through.

“He had his own little ways, he was tough and he used to bark - but not with me. We had a different relationship. Straight away, for whatever reason, he took a liking to me and the feeling was mutual.

“He was hard but very fair and all of the players absolutely loved him. He was like the grandad of the football club. He was the older man in the building that you could go and have a chat with that would tell you there was nothing wrong with you and at another time knew how to put an arm around you.

“He wasn’t just an employee, he went above that. It was his life to be part of Rangers. Outside of Rangers, he had his family and friends but they all knew as well that he was at his best when he was inside the club.

“He wasn’t an employee of the club, he was a custodian.”