STEVEN WHITTAKER wrote his name into Rangers folklore when the Light Blues triumphed in Lisbon.
However, the former Ibrox star admits all he was thinking about was running away from his own box.
Whittaker netted one of the club’s most famous goals in modern times during the Gers’ march to the UEFA Cup final in 2008, notching a sensational solo strike in the 90th minute against Sporting CP.
The versatile stopper had been thrown on by Walter Smith to help strengthen the defence – but he instead sealed 2-0 aggregate win in the quarter-final after robbing Abel Ferreira, dancing past three challenges and firing beyond Rui Patricio.
Whittaker is given regular reminders of the ‘special’ evening, albeit usually while being told that he scored against a backdrop of punters screaming for him to pass.
He said: “I only came on with 20 minutes to go and we were 1-0 up. Given the home leg was 0-0, Sporting had to score two goals to go through.
“So we were relatively safe and just had to avoid doing anything daft – my job was to shore up the midfield and freshen things up.
“When I stole the ball all I was thinking was: I need to run away from our goal! It was as simple as that, to relieve some pressure.
“But we sprung on the break and the defenders expected me to pass it to Daniel Cousin on my left and it opened up. I threw a couple of dummies in and just kept going, past defenders.
“The moment when I found the corner was incredible, although everyone says to me that they were screaming at the telly: ‘Pass it! Pass it! Oh, he’s scored!’ It was one of those occasions when everything went right.”
He added: “To this day, that’s the one goal people tend to talk about when they speak about my five years at Rangers. It was a great memory for me and a fantastic moment for the club. To cap it off with a goal was special and something I’ll never forget.”
Rangers will be back in the Portuguese capital on Thursday evening to face Sporting’s fierce city rivals Benfica, with the mouth-watering clash pitting the two sides with a 100 per cent record in Group D against each other.
And Whittaker sees no reason why Steven Gerrard’s side cannot replicate the Class of ’08 by notching a massive victory in Lisbon.
He also fully expects his former club to progress from the section after hailing their progress in Europe in recent campaigns.
Dunfermline defender Whittaker continued: “I think both Rangers and Celtic fared well in European competition last year and seem to have taken that into this season. Rangers, especially, have had some great results and seem to be thriving.
“I don’t know whether European football maybe suits this Rangers side, but I don’t think they’ve got anything to fear and I fully expect them to qualify from the group and see where the tournament takes them.”