European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972
Our domestic form had started badly when Celtic beat us twice in the qualifying section of the league cup, and we had also made a poor start in our league campaign, so if someone told me that we would triumph in Europe that season I would have sent for the men in white coats to take them away.
Our first game in Europe, we played the stylish French side Rennes and drew 1-1 away and beat them 1-0 at Ibrox. The French coach was a bit unhappy at the style of play by Rangers in the first leg so he said they would show the Gers how to play football in Glasgow. They didn't, we won and they went out. In the next round we drew Portuguese side Sporting and the two games were to produce thrills and great drama. In the first leg at Ibrox we went into a 3-0 lead, only for the Portuguese to score 2 goals to make the first leg 3-2, and I thought to myself that we were heading out of the cup. It looked as if I was right for in the second leg watched by a crowd of 60 thousand fans, Sporting scored after 26 minutes, but to our great credit Colin Stein scored 60 seconds later but the home side then scored again and I thought that we were heading out; but no, Colin Stein scored in the first minute of the second half to make it 2-2, and I said “please rangers just hang on and we will be through”. But no, Sporting scored again to take the tie into extra time, and talk about nervous my heart was pounding and the pressure was killing me, but in extra time Willie Henderson scored in the 10th minute. I’m thinking “just hold on” as I was struggling to breathe by this time but Sporting scored again through Perez, to make it 4-3 to them and 6-6 on aggregate.
I thought “thank God we are through on the away goals” and that’s when the drama started. I heard the commentator say there is drama at the stadium; the referee has ruled there is to be a penalty shoot-out as away goals did not count double in extra-time. I just looked at my dad and we both sunk back in our chairs to watch the kicks being taken. We only scored 1 penalty and that was us out I thought, and the Sporting fans went crazy and carried their keeper off shoulder high and I felt as if I was going to vomit. But that was not the end of the drama because there was a journalist called John Fairgrieve who rushed from the press box and managed to get into the Rangers dressing room and waved a Uefa rule book at our manager Willie Waddell and told him that Rangers had won as away goals did count in extra-time. The Uefa representative at the match was sent for and he confirmed that away goals did count double in extra-time, and Rangers were through, and my Dad and I did not know if we should laugh or cry! Talk about drama.
Then came the quarter-finals where we played Italian giants Torino, the first leg was away and we drew 1-1, and in the second leg at Ibrox with a crowd of 75,000 we beat them 1-0 with a goal scored by Alex MacDonald. Then came the big one; we got paired with west German giants Bayern Munich and I thought we had done well getting this far, and did not think we would go any further. The first leg was in Munich and Bayern scored in the 23rd minute, but Rangers kept their cool and in the 49th minute were rewarded with a equaliser when Zobec headed into his own net, and we held on for a draw, but to be honest we could have scored a winner. In the second leg at Ibrox Rangers scored in the 1st minute, and the 80,000 crowd went crazy and I turned to my dad and said “I think we can beat them”, and in the 23rd minute Derek Parlane scored to make it 2-0 and Ibrox exploded under a bedlam of noise, and the sight was unreal, grown men crying and hugging one another and that was the scoring done and we were into the final. What a feat.
Our domestic form was still poor and we got knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Hibs, and finished in third place 16 points behind Celtic, but we still had our big final to look forward to. Then came the big night in Barcelona where we played Moscow Dynamo in the final, and my house was full with my mother, father, and uncles sitting down dressed with all the Rangers gear on. Praying; “Please God let us win our first European trophy”. Our team that night was: Peter McLoy, Sandy Jardine, Willie Mathieson, John Greig, Derek Johnstone, Dave Smith, Tommy McLean, Alfie Conn, Colin Stein, Alex MacDonald, Willie Johnston.
The game started and Dave Smith was outstanding and we scored in the 24th minute through Colin Stein, and I think the whole of Glasgow must have heard the cheering coming out of my house. When Willie Johnston headed home 5 minutes before half time, I thought it was all over as we were playing well at the start of the second half and within 4 minutes we had made it 3-0 with Willie Johnston scoring again, and I thought there is a God after all and he has answered my prayers.
My house was bouncing, we were all hugging and shaking hands, and the noise level was scary and I thought the roof was going to cave in. But no, nothing is that simple with Glasgow Rangers, and Moscow pulled 1 back within 10 minutes of our third goal and that gave them hope and they started to put pressure on. But our defence was performing heroics, and were holding out well, but then with 3 minutes to go they scored a 2nd goal and my heart sank, and the whole house fell silent. I’m thinking “please God you can’t be that cruel, let us win our first European trophy”. By this time my father was hiding behind the couch and could not look, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack, as my heart was pounding that much.
With a minute to go thousands of Rangers fans invaded the pitch thinking the game was over and they had to be cleared before the match could restart. Then at last, the final whistle went and at last we had won a European trophy, but thousands of fans came back on to celebrate and were caught up in fights with the Spanish police, who started to panic and were wielding their batons, and this was taking the shine off our victory. Rangers were not allowed to be presented with the cup on the pitch and instead John Greig was presented with the trophy in a small room in the dressing room which was the sad part. When Rangers returned to Scotland, the trophy was paraded round a packed Ibrox, with all the players on the back of a lorry, and my dad I agreed to milk it for all we could, as we did not think it would ever happen again in our lifetime. Talk about being proud, it will always remain in my heart, until the day I die that I had seen my beloved Glasgow rangers win a European trophy, and it had taken 16 years and 83 European games to achieve it but it was worth the wait.
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Credit to Minstral on RangersMedia for writing this article.