IT WAS 30 YEARS AGO TODAY
"After many, many years of fighting. They have a European trophy, the European Cup Winners Cup. And on come their supporters".
Those were the words of a jubilant Archie McPherson after the final whistle had gone on that famous night in the Catalan capital. Five years after Lisbon, and Nuremberg, Rangers had finally put an old monkey on their backs to bed. It was outrageous that a club of Rangers size had not won anything on the European stage until that night. It is also an interesting statistic that Rangers have not been to European semi-final let alone a final- since that triumph in Barcelona, giving the thought that this was their last chance to get their hands on such a bauble before Scottish Football¹s glory years descended into the long and distant past.
Despite the negativity that surrounds the "Barcelona Bears" achievement, it really is something worthy of celebration, something the club seems to have forgotten given the rather pathetic replica of the trophy that is on display in the trophy room.
The media also look on this night as a night of shame - due to the aftermath- rather than a night of celebration for Rangers and Scottish Football.
It was of course Rangers third final in this tournament. They lost over two legs to Fiorentina 4-1 on aggregate in the 60-61 final, and of course the 67 final against Bayern Munich is etched in the minds of all who were around at the time as, it not only came a few days after Celtic had conquered Inter in Lisbon, it stopped Glasgow from becoming the first city to hold the two major European trophies simultaneously.
Friday sees the 30th anniversary of this night. A damming statistic on the club's failure to reach anything like the heady heights of the early years of our European adventures. Three finals in a decade between 1961 and 1972 is some record compared to the none that we have reached since then, although the Champions League run of 92 is the biggest theft of a European Cup final place that ANY club has had to endure and UEFA's failure to deal with Marseille is the biggest scandal that European governing bodies have had to impose on the remaining member clubs, quite how AC Milan feel about the whole thing is something you can only wonder at.
On the way to the final in Barcelona, Ranger seen of four very strong sides before meeting the unknown quantity that was Dynamo Moscow. Rennes, Sporting Lisbon, Torino and Bayern Munich were all formidable opposition, with the Portuguese, Italians and Germans worthy of special mention. In fact the Bavarians started their dominance of European football with 3 consecutive European Cups just a year after they had fallen at the hands of the men from Govan.
Compared to Celtic's run in 67 of Zurich, Nantes, Vojvodina & Dukla Prague and Aberdeen's run in 83 against Dinamo Tiran, Lech Pozan , Bayern Munich and Waterschei it wouldn't take a Philadelphia lawyer to argue that Ibrox squad had the harder run to their respective final.
That is not trying to take anything away from the achievements of both clubs. Best of luck to them, but it is far time that the Scottish media recognised this as a worthy achievement for a Scottish club and not as some sort of embarrassment for the country as a whole.
The riot in Barcelona was regrettable. However, although not totally innocent, the travelling Rangers support that night has every right to feel that they got a bad press. When the final whistle blew to start the celebrations, the fans that came on to the field came on to celebrate with their heroes something Celtic's travelling support had done in Lisbon 5 years earlier without any problem and not to cause any problems for the Spanish police. The Spanish police's over reaction to the situation is all the more baffling when you consider that there was virtually no Russian fans in the stadium, therefore confirming that the pitch invasion was brought about through celebration and not provocation.
One has to wonder what the outcome would have been if the English police had reacted the same way to the members of the Tartan Army who vandalised the Wembley goalposts in 77, a pitch invasion that seems to have the blessing of the current crop of Scottish Football writers.
The plain and simple truth is that a lot of people can't handle that fact that we, at a time of domestic indifference, managed to win a European trophy and will use anything possible to dismiss the achievement.
My own personal pride of the achievement is soured by the fact that it is belittled in this country. Our failure to live up to early promise in Europe is also something that niggles me, although that has more to do with our nations production line of quality player coming to a dramatic halt than anything on the clubs behalf.
Tonight I'll lift a beer and toast a bunch of players - one of which I am named after - and their victory in a match that took place around 9 months before I was born, I urge all like minded Bears to do the same. I will also look to the future and hope that it brings some more glory on this stage (I insist that the UEFA cup is an achievable target considering the last two winners of the tournament) as this is where we belong, playing the crop of European football, not the also-rans of the Nationwide.
As the song says "bring on the Spaniards by the score"
24th May 1972
European Cup Winners Cup Final: Nou Camp Stadium, Barcelona
Rangers 3 Moscow Dynamo 2
RANGERS: McCloy, Jardine, Mathieson, Grieg, D. Johnstone, Smith, Mclean, Conn, Stein, MacDonald, W. Johnsone
Scorers: Stein(24) Johnstone(40,49)
MOSCOW DYNAMO: Pilgui, Basalev, Dolmatov, Zykov, Dobsonov,(Gerschkovitch), Zhukov, Baidatchini, Jakubik (Eschtrekov), Sabo, Makovikov, Evryuzhikbin
Scoers: Eschtrekov (55) Makovikov (87)