When we made our "Gallant Bid"
For Bears of my generation, the Cup Winners Cup triumph in Barcelona came a wee bit too early. I was nine at the time so it was the usual struggle/tantrums with my Maw just to stay up and watch the game - as it was, I think I saw about twenty minutes and was then shipped off (presumably screaming) to bed.
My Gran came in to tell us Rangers were winning 2-0 and then I have the simple and pleasant memory of me and my brother being woken up and told Rangers had won.
So, like many of us, I had to live the experience vicariously. My Dad and Uncle went - my Dad thanks to a highly fortunate late win on the horses - with three mates, two of whom were regulars in the grey 'Miller Slaters' van which took six of us crammed in, to Ibrox from Paisley every other week. The fifth member of the Spanish posse (Jackie Tierney) was a drinking crony of the Kelburne Bar gang and the fact he was a Tim was overlooked, since he wanted to go and promised to behave himself. So off they went...
I've spoken to them all since 1972, and there are three things which stick in their memories.
The thing the Paisley Bears couldn't figure was why they got such a hostile reception from some school kids when they hung a Union flag from their apartment, following on from the attitude by the cops shown when they landed in Spain.
Turns out that the Generalissimo had been stirring the pot about taking back Gibraltar again, but how were they to know?
Most of the adult Catalans were, I'm told, much kinder to the Scots, something all of our crowd confirmed. No doubt the Cold War and fears about the USSR helped ensure the locals were behind the 'Gers too.
The other thing which amazed was the sheer size of the Camp Nou and the sheer number of Rangers fans there. At the end of the game, my Uncle Stewart thought he'd better go down and see what was going on - it turns out they were on the top tier and he nearly had a coronary when he saw how far down the pitch was. The good thing was that this kept them away from the fighting on the pitch - the bad thing was that by the time they eventually got out, the Guardia Civil were on the warpath and battering heads at random.
Stewart tells me they couldn't get a taxi back for love nor money, and the walk back to their apartments soon became a run as the real intentions of the police became clear. Eventually they legged it and dived into a bar, only to be confronted with a mass of American sailors in their dress whites who turned as one to look at five dishevelled, knackered and hysterical Jocks who had just clattered in on them by chance.
After a quick explanation, our boys were quickly hidden behind a wall of Yanks and when the Polis appeared they took one look at the pride of Norfolk, East Virginia, then about turned smartly, looking for easier targets. My Uncle, usually no friend of the USA, will always be grateful for that one, particularly when he found out that so many innocent Bears took a pasting that night.
The story, of course, has a happier ending than not being allowed to defend the trophy. My Dad brought back a Spanish guitar and my brother (then aged eight) had the very good fortune to have a Primary School teacher who gave him guitar lessons. Thirty years later he¹s a virtuoso guitarist player, has been in two successful bands. Needless to say, if his Dad hadn't had a result on the horses...
Now, European football has changed and not for the better. But - and it's a big but - if sides like Alaves or Feyenoord can make it to a European Final then there is no reason on this earth why Rangers FC can't do so.
If we do, I'll be moving heaven and earth to be there because it may well be THE game, the one we look back on in thirty years and smile about. See you there.
When we made our 'Gallant Bid'
When we made our "Gallant Bid"