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Fifty Years Ago - Barcelona Bound


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Johan, Johan, Johan Fyfe.

 

I liked Graham Fyfe as a player, he was often described as versatile or carelessly deemed a super-sub'. The number ten before the concept had been articulated, was skilful, talented and knew where the goal was. Graham had fast feet but possessed no pace. He was clever but lacked patience. He played spectacular games whilst challenged by a brooding personality. His nickname, 'Johan' emanated from his performances in the Nou Camp during the Juan Gamper Tournament. The year after the ECWC victory, Rangers were invited back by Barcelona to compete in the competition and Fyfe's wonder displays and goals were compared by the Catalan press as being comparable to Johan Cruyff.

 

The bottom of the table clash between Rangers and the men from Methil attracted 25,000 to Ibrox on the 9th October'71. The teams were : Rangers - McCloy, Jardine, Mathieson, Greig, McKinnon, Smith, Henderson, Conn, Stein, Fyfe and, MacDonald. East Fife - Gorman, Duncan, Clarke, Cairns, Martis, Thomson, Bernard, Hamilton, Hughes, Honeyman and, McQuade. It began well, the Ref' awarded a penalty in the second minute, dispatched by Sandy. The newly promoted Fifers were exponents of the 'off-side trap'. It was a most effective tactic, better exhibited by the then Aberdeen and Arsenal. Half-time was 1-0 Rangers.

 

I had arrived late, courtesy of the aforementioned Tunnock's van and had missed the penalty. Forty minutes of watching the East Fife back four stepping up, all holding their arms aloft claiming off-side was a chore. A couple of minutes into the second half, clever Graham took the ball in on the edge of the D, intimated another ball wide, turned and passed the ball into the net from 20 yards. Doddie added a third on the hour mark and the threat of being bottom of the table dissipated. It was Tannadice next week and the hope was for a point to keep us out of the relegation zone.

 

Scotland played Portugal midweek, newly appointed Tommy Docherty's first match as Manager. His trip to Tynecastle had confirmed Sandy Jardine as starting right back, Jim Cruikshank did not make it because the Doc' drafted in Arsenal's Bob Wilson. The Gunners Keeper was the first to be capped by Scotland on the strength of his old man being a born Scot. The Hibs pair of Stanton and Cropley made the national eleven : Wilson(Arsenal), Colquhoun(Sheffield United), Hay(Celtic), Jardine(Rangers), Bremner(Leeds United), Cropley(Hibs), Gemmill(Derby County), Johnstone(Celtic), Stanton(Hibs), Graham(Arsenal) and, O'Hare(Derby County). We won 2-1 with the Rams pairing of Archie Gemmill and John O'Hare notching the goals.

 

It was all change, the Tams no longer occupied number one in the UK charts. Maggie May by Rod Stewart and the Faces had taken over the top spot. Now, this caused uproar in the band, the three original Small Faces took umbrage at being labeled Rod's backing band. Bassist, Ronnie Lane explained they had rid themselves of 'Lead singer syndrome' when Steve Marriott had left the Small Faces. They had invited in Rod and Ron Wood to form the Faces, now three albums in on Warner brothers. Rod explained he had another recording deal with Mercury and as such, was a 'Separate Entity'?

 

Just for the record, Graham Fyfe was at Rangers for seven years, 1969-1976. He made 87 appearances, scoring 31 goals. He was transferred to Hibs along with Ally Scott in the deal that brought Iain Munro to the club.

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John 'Jerry' Kerr was within weeks of ending his dozen years as manager of Dundee United when Rangers pitched up, hoping to at least secure a point to keep them out of the relegation zone. The speculation was that 34 year old Jim McLean would journey the length of Dens Road to take over from the retiring Kerr. The west Lothian born Kerr had previously been both a Rangers player and Coach. He managed United to home and away wins over Barcelona in 1966.

 

Jerry was a mixture of old school and the innovative. He is credited with United being called, 'the Arabs'. In the early-mid sixties the Tannadice pitch was such a ploughed field that Kerr's solution was to flatten the surface with tons of sand. The innovation was inspired by his wife, Barbara. She suggested United change from their traditional black and white colours to tangerine after a pre-season visit to the States in 1969. It was a most popular move, as a schoolboy playing amateur football at that time; it seemed every other side played in the kit.

 

The Tannochside RSC bus departed early, pre-match lunch was taken at the Isle of Skye Hotel, Perth. Again, playing for the school mitigated against attendance and I was confined once more to the Fir Park enclosure. Morton and a free pie was poor return. Dundee United lined up : McAlpine, Rolland, Cameron, Markland, Gray, Henry, Reid, Copland, Gordon and, Devlin. Rangers ran out with : McCloy, Jardine, Mathieson, McKinnon, Smith, Greig, Henderson, Conn, Stein, Fyfe and, MacDonald. The given attendance was 17,000.

 

As stated, BBC Radio Scotland's match day coverage began at 15.30hrs, live commentary began at twenty to four. A clearly excited David Francey was garrulous, Rangers were unexpectedly three up after half an hour. Doddie had notched a double and Colin, Colin Stein had also arrived at the party. The news improved just before half time as the Skipper scored a fourth. At Fir Park, John 'Jumbo' Muir was revelling in 'Well fan cult status, he was remonstrating with Keeper, Keith MacRae over Morton's goal in a 3-1 claret and amber victory. Rangers went nap in Dundee through Sandy Jardine just before the hour mark and Jackie Copland finished the scoring with a final minute consolation for the Arabs.

 

A 1-5 victory was unexpected among both the Rangers support and the Portuguese press. A Bola's headline screamed, "They're a Lot of Big Horses". Apparently, we had frightened Dundee United to death and had given the ball a doing too. Evaluating our players A Bola painted a colourful picture, "McCloy is very tall and possessed god hands and reflexes". The only rated defender was John Greig, "however, he is more than a defender, he attacks like a grown up". The midfield was rated, "Jardine is fulcral to all Rangers attacks, combines well with Penman and Fyfe". Our forwards were scattergun, "Henderson dribbles too much, Stein is the great demolition man and, MacDonal has a common name but an uncommon approach". Finally, A Bola's concluded, "the old firm rivalry is not what they say, there are no deaths".

 

Rangers were struggling to stay in contention in the Championship but the Tannadice victory had moved us up to ninth in the table. It was official, we were mid table opposition. Sporting Lisbon had won all six of their opening league fixtures and were sitting proudly at the top of the Portuguese table. They were due at Ibrox midweek and a huge surprise awaited as they emerged from the tunnel.

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This is brilliant stuff. There’s a book in it, surely.

 

A good Rangers team. One tradesman, one mercurial talent and the rest high level performers. The Portuguese journo got it right about Greig.

 

The only D’ited players I remember are McAlpine, of course, and Rolland. 

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"More than a Sporting Chance".

 

 

Times have changed quite considerably in the last half century. Within minutes of a Euro draw, we have reams of information on our opponents. Back then, we relied on a Journalist with a good contacts book to tell us the club's players to watch, where they came from and, our chances of progression. The Sporting Club de Portugal were better known as Sporting Lisbon thus I knew they came from the country's capital city. I knew three of their players had represented Portugal against Scotland the midweek before, they had won the ECWC several years before and, Benfica were their great rivals. I did not know what colours Sporting wore?

 

Autumnal nights at Ibrox under the floodlights were a great excitement. Fifty-five thousand others agreed and as Rangers emerged from the tunnel the cheers began. The old Main Stand contained wooden furniture and flooring. Twenty-odd thousand feet drumming made an eerie sound, it was a bass throb-like back beat. When Sporting emerged, the cacophony was strangled, then morphed into a mixture of cheers and jeers. The Portuguese were replete in green and white hoops. Constantly we are told, ra Sellik's colours are unique and Sporting's jerseys are the nearest I have seen to the separated brethren's green'n'grey.

 

I was sandwiched between my old man and Grandfather in Section G, the seats immediately to our front were empty. As the welcome for the teams began to drift, an entourage carefully guided a very ill man to those seats. It was Lex McLean, days after cancer surgery. He was swaddled in an overcoat, wore a Cossack hat and, had a tartan wrap placed on his lap. In the centre circle the Skipper removed a bandage from his face and head before the stiffening wind did it for him.

 

In those days Rangers pre-match build up was spent at Largs. On the Tuesday afternoon, in a relaxing game of fives Greig had kept his eye on the ball and ran straight into stacked benches. It took ten stitches under the chin to stem the blood although this did not stem his enthusiasm. He was told not to shave until the stitches had been removed, Greig announced he would not shave until Rangers were out of Europe. The teams that evening were Rangers : McCloy, Jardine, Mathieson, Greig, McKinnon, Smith, Henderson, Penman, Stein, Fyfe and, MacDonald. Sporting Lisbon : Damas, Laranjiero, Hilario, Goncalves, Calo, Carlos, Chico, Nelson, Yazalde, Vagner and, Dinis.

 

The tie was done and dusted in thirty minutes? Rangers raced into a 3-0 lead as the Portuguese keeper struggled with the swirling wind. The first arrived in the ninth minute, Stein had been fouled and Andy Penman stepped up to flight the ball into the box. Clearly the Keeper floundered in the vortex and Stein nodded into an empty net. This was Penman's last contribution to both game and campaign, he limped off to be replaced by Alfie Conn. Ten minutes later Henderson was upended and Dave Smith set up to provide from the set piece. It was a glorious thumper from Colin Colin Stein, forehead to the rigging. Another ten minutes, another free kick, this time Conn touched the ball to Henderson, he jinked right and let fly an unstoppable shot from the corner of the box. Three nil was the half time score.

 

Often my Old man brought a newspaper to the game. Half time entertainment was the guy who owned the local record shop playing a selection of Engelbert, Matt Monro, Sinatra ballads. Anyways, the then broadsheeted Scottish Daily Express was removed, unfolded and, perused. It had a feature by John Fairgrieve on Sporting's main man, an Argentinian called, Yazalde. He was prolific and earned the nickname, 'O Abono de Familia' - the family subsidy. His record of 46 goals for the club that season won a lot of Escudos in win bonuses for team mates. Dad thought Fairgrieve was the best.

 

The second half was bemusing, the Derry demanded all out attack and more goals, the players did not know whether to stick or twist. Hesitancy was abroad and Sporting stepped up, notching their first in the 70th minute. A parried shot from McCloy fell to the Brazilian, Chico. He looked offside and his half hearted scuff found the net. The Linesman raced to the centre line. It was all Sporting and with five minutes to go, Rangers fans were whistling for the end. Two minutes left and Gomez stole in at the back stick for the visitors second. The match finished 3-2.

 

As the crowd filed out of the old Stadium, the feeling was the pendulum had swung. Lex McLean was being helped from his seat and my Grandad asked what he thought of the tie? A half smile crept across an ashen face, "we have more than a sporting chance". Willie Waddell agreed, he remained bullish, "we're in front, they have to catch us". A relieved Fernando Vaz offered, "Rangers were brilliant in the first half but our two second period goals has put the tie in the balance". Likewise the respective press were also diverse in interpretations.

 

The Record's John MacKenzie cut to the chase, "the performance of last night's defence in the last half hour leaves me with no confidence that they can stand firm in Lisbon". Ken Gallacher nailed the dichotomy, "the first thirty was their finest attacking performance in Europe, the last twenty was the most depressing". One element of the Portuguese press shone a different light, A Bola claimed, "the Scots goals all came from dubious free kicks. The Scots overindulge in provocations and commit foul after foul. They're hard, more than hard, they're violent". 

 

Other Lisbon blats were more respectful, Diario de Noticas had a headline, "A Hurricane named Stein". Apparently, Colin was the epitome of a player in the paradigm of wet and windy conditions. It got quite romantic with Sandy, "this player is an artist in the art of playing football, full of style and suppleness, a player with talent and class". The Journal do Sporting liked Alfie Conn, "he is magnificent with a motor never going out of tune". However, their main headline was, "A Defeat that's a Victory". It went on, "everything was against Sporting, the weather, the crazy support, the Officials" then went well flowery with, "the Lions vibrations set a second half rhythm spreading out to Loch Lomond" - what's Portuguese for Spiers?

 

Two Sporting players gave post match interviews. Calo thought Rangers were more of a team than Scotland, specifying the Gers attack as more dangerous. The influential Yazalde was in no doubt, "their defenders are fearsome but if we can score first in the return the tie is ours". The return match had everything, ninety minutes, then thirty minutes extra time, then a coin was flipped, then the Ref' ordered penalties to be taken, then John Fairgrieve grabbed Willie Waddell with a copy of the UEFA rules ..............

 

Remember, "we have a Sporting chance"!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have Rangers always had this 'take the foot off the gas' mentality?  

 

I recall being a kid, in the 80s and early 90s and noting it. Games where we could easily win 6 or 7-0 but have instead slackened off after 3 or 4.

 

We're currently as bad as ever for it -very frustrating ...sorry to go off on a tangent on such a great thread.

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On 19/10/2021 at 13:41, 26th of foot said:

The only rated defender was John Greig, "however, he is more than a defender, he attacks like a grown up". The midfield was rated, "Jardine is fulcral to all Rangers attacks,

 

On 19/10/2021 at 13:41, 26th of foot said:

Stein is the great demolition man

That Portuguese writer chap was a good judge. 

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