Anyway, in season 1971/72 the opposition kept coming and we kept knocking them over.
So it was that I staggered home drunk and full of ecstasy (remember it was 1972, that means I was very happy) after the sons of had humbled the mighty men of Munich and for good measure Dixie Deans had ballooned a crucial penalty into orbit and put the beggars out of Europe (some things never change).
When I got home my whisky bottle was as full as a Catholic Primary School, It contained the princely sum of £41 which you may consider to be peanuts nowadays, but in May 1972 I was able to get a weeks full board in the Hotel Vistasol, Calella for £28 so there was enough for a few sangrias. About forty of us booked that trip, for one teddy bear in particular it was to change his life!
Our first night on Spanish soil was a real hoot for most of us, actually four of us were marked absent for breakfast the next morning. It was only when the three of us arrived back in the hotel foyer after tampering with some Scandinavian tottie that we realised that something was well and truly up!
What was up was that one of our party, Alan Ritchie from Partick had mysteriously fell from the 8th floor of a neighbourhood hotel and landed head first in their swimming pool. Alan was in a coma for around 3 months, Willie Waddell even visited him and his parents in a Barcelona hospital whilst fighting a two year ban for Rangers. Legend has it that the first words Alan spoke when he came out of the coma were ³Did the Rangers win²? Alan went on to make a full recovery, became a scratch golfer, worked full time for about fifteen years, then began to have further neurological problems and passed away in his sleep about 5 years ago, aged 38, R.I.P. Sticks.
Naturally Sticks tragic accident put a severe dampener on the whole proceedings but as King Freddie Mercury was later to sing -¹The Show must go on¹ ! Our next few nights were spent drinking, crying, wondering why but finally deciding to cheer our team to the hilt for Alan¹s sake more than our own needs.
So it was with heavy heart that we set off first thing that morning of May 24th from Calella train station on our date with destiny. One massive cargo later, we were taking over the Ramblas, Barcelona¹s version of George Square. We met up with the Jersey Bears who regaled us with tales of the knocking shop they had visited the night before. This was to have funny repercussions for they found out on their way hone that they were all dosed up to the hilt with the ŒJohn Knox¹. Instead of rushing home to the arms of their loved ones, they were rushing to the Jersey Pox Clinic.
As luck would have it, the doctor on call was a Jock Bear. As they all filled out their registration document, you know the sketch ³Where did you catch it²? -²Barcelona²? ³Purpose of visit² - ŒWatching Rangers¹. The doc was heard to exclaim ³Is there a fuckin epidemic in Glasgow².
I must stress at this point that all bears were as you would expect in great form and there was no trouble whatsoever with the local Catalonians or El Plod. The whole day passed very happily and there was no inkling of the barney rubble which was to follow.
The game itself was over in a flash. The sons of were superb the first half and well worth the 2-0 half time lead. After wee Buds third it should have been a case of how many but Willie Mathieson¹s gaffe let the Russians in for an easy goal and then the panic set in. They scored again and we were hanging on a bit towards the end but thankfully we held out. Again I must stress that the pitch invasion at the final whistle was a pure mixture of joy and utter relief, nobody had any violent thoughts in their heads.
The Spanish police simply over reacted - nothing more. When they charged the bears off the field, most of us simply tried to get off the field but one elderly Rangers supporter had tripped while trying to run and at least 4 Spanish cops were weighing into the old-timer with the batons.
I¹m not trying to say that all bears are angelic, but we do not like to see liberties being taken so when the fans saw the old guy taking a hiding, they charged BACK onto the field and set about the four big men who were leathering the pensioner and that¹s what sparked most of the nasty¹s. The blunt truth is the square go that ensued, the bears were getting the upper hand until the shooters came out. The bottom line is you cant beat guns so we scarpered pronto!
By this time, the Guardia Civil knew they had been publicly humiliated, especially as the local Spaniards who were at the game were vociferously cheering the Rangers support for their actions, and were looking for retribution wherever they could find it.
So instead of celebrating our first European trophy in style, we had to scurry onto any bus heading back along the coast and most of us spent the night trying to phone home to assure our loved ones that we were OK.
Yes it was a strange old week one way or another, but one that I remember quite vividly still. Its very disappointing to think that Rangers as a club have not really built on that triumph and 25 years on we are not any further forward in a European sense.