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  • On Foreign Fields (2)

    It would be four more years until Hibs tasted European football again when they entered the Inter Cities Fairs Cup a tournament that came out of an idea discussed between Swiss football pools supremo Ernst Thommen, Ottorino Barassi of Italy and England’s Stanley Rous in 1955 all of whom later became senior officials of FIFA.

    The competition was set up to promote trade fairs between cities and was spawned from the fact that many cities that held trade fairs had football teams that would meet each other in friendlies.
    The criterion for entry was not based on domestic league position but on the fact that the club must come from a city that held an international trade fair. When Hibs entered the competition in season 1960/61 they had finished seventh in the Scottish First Division the season before when neighbours Hearts had won the title and entered the European Cup as a result, losing in the first round to eventual winners Benfica of Portugal.

    Much had changed in terms of playing personnel as far as Hibs were concerned with the Famous Five largely consigned to the history books by way of example. Round One of the Fairs Cup tournament paired the Easter Road men with Lausanne Sports of Switzerland with the first leg due to be played at the home of the Swiss team in October 1960. As it turned out Lausanne scratched from the tournament as a number of their key players would have been away on international duty and so Hibs were awarded the tie with a default 2-0 scoreline.

    Denied the opportunity to see their favourites in European action again the Hibs fans waited patiently for the second round draw to be made and when it was it caused a huge wave of excitement to sweep through Edinburgh when the tie came out as holders FC Barcelona versus Hibernian. The Spanish club was already a major force in European football and indeed was competing in both the Fairs Cup and the European Cup that season, the rules of both competitions allowing that to happen. Hibs fans were salivating at the prospect of seeing such a star studded side on their own turf and plans were put in place to ensure that the evening of Wednesday 14 December 1960 was left free for attendance at the home leg. As fate would have it a thick fog caused postponement of the game and so the clubs agreed that Hibs would visit the Nou Camp for the first leg and Barcelona would come to Scotland for the second.

    The tie in Barcelona was played on 27 December 1960 three days after Hibs had beaten Third Lanark 8-4 at Easter Road in a league game when Joe Baker had netted five times. Impressive stuff but the Spaniards would surely prove to be a whole different kettle of fish as although they’d only managed to beat a Zagreb Xl by an aggregate score of 5-4 in the first round of the Fairs Cup they were fresh off the back of a 4-3 aggregate win over holders Real Madrid in the European Cup.

    Bearing in mind that when Hibs arrived in Spain they were fairly close to the foot of the First Division table but still the Nou Camp was slightly more than half full with around 50,000 fans watching on in anticipation of an easy home victory. Suffice to say as Hibs set about causing a major sensation that would reverberate around Europe the home fans were far from happy and spent portions of the game whistling their derision at the Barca stars. Within ten minutes the visitors took the lead when Spanish international goalkeeper Ramallets fumbled a long through ball and Joe Baker raced in to take the ball around him and tap it into the net. Ten minutes further on and it was 2-0 after Johnny McLeod fired in a rasping drive from all of 25 yards. The home fans were booing their men now but bizarrely took to cheering and clapping when Hibs attacked! With seven minutes of the first half to go Koscis pulled a goal back and then before the break Baker was really unlucky to see a snap shot come off a post.

    After the interval the hosts piled on the pressure and within eight minutes of the restart they were level thanks to Koscis getting his second of the night. Of course just about everyone in the stadium now took the view that Barca would forge ahead and secure victory but clearly no-one had told the Hibs players about any such script and pretty soon there were loud appeals for a penalty when McLeod was hacked down in the box by Segarra but the Italian referee waved play on. That seemed to galvanise Hibs and in the 72nd minute a sweeping move ended with Tommy Preston lashing home goal number three. Incredibly, only three minutes later Baker made it 4-2 and a famous victory looked on the cards but Hibs were tiring now and the hosts were desperate to appease their angry fans. With their supporters indulging in a slow handclap Barca pulled a goal back six minutes from time when Koscis completed his hat trick after a goalmouth scramble and then the same player laid on an equaliser for Evaristo as the clock ticked down to time.

    Make no mistake, this was a terrific performance by Hibs who did themselves and Scottish football proud in almost defeating Barcelona at their own ground. It’s worth noting that as the weary Hibs players trooped off they did so to a standing ovation from the home crowd.

    The second leg was scheduled for 22 February and in the League and Cup up to that date Hibs played nine games winning seven, drawing one and losing one. Out of interest Hearts were one of the teams beaten as were Peebles Rovers by a margin of 15-1 with Baker scoring nine!

    The big day finally arrived and the Spanish superstars ran out of the players’ tunnel at Easter Road to a thunderous roar from the 45,000 fans packed into Easter Road. An impressive noise but outdone by the tumultuous welcome reserved for the men in green and white. The visitors made their intentions clear by fielding their most experienced eleven other than the fact that Ramallets was injured and so Medrano took over in goal. For their part Hibs introduced Bobby Kinloch into midfield and Willie Ormond on the left wing with Johnny McLeod moving to the right in place of young Jim Scott.

    A frantic start from both sides saw near misses at either end but on the ten minute mark a wonderful free kick from McLeod was headed strongly past Medrano by Baker to set the crowd alight. The lead lasted 17 minutes until Martinez got to the ball just ahead of Hibs keeper Ronnie Simpson to prod the ball over the line for an equaliser. Moments later Medrano saved brilliantly from Kinloch and then Garay was lucky to escape punishment after an horrendous challenge that left Baker limping. As half time approached Barca took the lead after a smart turn and shot from Koscis left Simpson without a hope of saving the effort.

    For the second half Hibs would be shooting down the famous slope and they were soon creating chances with the best of those setting Baker free in the box but after Gensana had hacked him down and 45,000 voices had screamed penalty the German referee Herr Malka inexplicably awarded an indirect free kick that came to nothing. At the other end Martinez had a golden opportunity to score a third for his side but from just eight yards he sent his shot miles over the bar. A second penalty claim for Hibs brought the same reward from the referee who was surrounded each time by the Barca players, all proclaiming their innocence. With seventeen minutes left to play the hosts got level after an Ormond corner was helped on by Sammy Baird and Bobby Kinloch nodded past Medrano from close range. That made it 6-6 on aggregate and so both sides knew that the next goal might be the one to take them through to the semi final.

    It’s pretty well documented what happened next but I make no apologies for repeating it here! Only five minutes remained to be played when Herr Malka finally decided that tripping players in the eighteen yard box constituted a penalty. McLeod was hauled down, Herr Malka pointed to the spot and the Spaniards went crazy. Hotly pursued by Segarra the Barca captain and a posse of his team mates the referee was forced back towards the half way line whereupon a number of policemen entered the field of play with one burly Sergeant having to physically restrain Segarra to prevent him assaulting the man with the whistle.


    It took fully five minutes to restore order during which time Bobby Kinloch stood calmly on the eighteen yard line with the ball under his arm. At last it was placed on the spot and cool as you like Kinloch sent it strongly past Medrano to make it 3-2. This prompted yet another outburst from the Barca players and at one point the referee stumbled and fell onto the track as the Spanish players tried to surround him. Step forward once more the men of Lothian & Borders Police Force to surround the referee until calm was restored. At length the game restarted and after a few minutes Herr Malka positioned himself close to the players tunnel, blew for full time and then sprinted to the safety of his changing room. The Hibs players and fans were of course ecstatic and it was only reluctantly that the Barca players shook the hands of their opponents. Later it was revealed that the door to the referees changing room had suffered damage when a number of Barca players had tried to kick it down.

    The following morning, in the cold light of day the newspapers made much of the disgusting behaviour of the Spanish superstars but to their credit the vast majority of sports reporters wrote many column inches praising Hibernian Football Club for their efforts over the two matches. No-one had expected Hibs to progress and that made victory all the sweeter. Amazingly Hibs had reached the semi final of a European tournament again and in time it became known that their opponents would be Italian crack outfit AS Roma.

    On 19 April 1961 Hibs were one of two Scottish teams in with a chance of reaching the final of a European competition. That night Rangers drew 1-1 with Wolves at Molyneux to take their European Cup Winners Cup semi final 3-1 on aggregate, Fiorentina awaiting them in the final. At Easter Road Hibs faced their first leg opponents AS Roma in front of 40,000 excited Hibee fans and once again found themselves involved in a match where hacking, kicking and spitting was to the fore. Going into the game Hibs lost the services of experienced left back Joe McClelland due to injury and his place was taken by young Joe Davin who would be involved in one of many controversial incidents during the ninety minutes.

    Very early in the game it became obvious that Roma were a very talented outfit and many journalists later proclaimed that when the Italians concentrated on the football they were as good as if not better than Barcelona. The problem was that the visitors also had a nasty side to their game and it was evidenced all too often with weak refereeing by the Swiss Herr Mellet not helping one little bit. The first fifteen minutes of action belonged to the visitors who were pacy and accurate with their passing if not their shooting but it all came together for them just after the quarter hour when Schiaffino beat Ronnie Simpson with a fierce drive from twenty yards. That reversal stung Hibs into action and on three occasions Joe Baker, heavily marked by two defenders throughout, came close with two attempts bringing the best out of keeper Cudicini and a third scraping the wrong side of a post. As half time approached Tommy Preston was unlucky to see a header come back off the bar but in the first minute of the second half Easter Road erupted as Johnny McLeod beat a couple of defenders to feed Jim Scott whose cross was collected 20 yards out by Baker and Joe foxed his markers by turning sharply and unleashing a fierce shot that went in off a defender.

    It was around this time that the Italians showed their nasty streak, beginning when Orlando deliberately back-heeled Joe Davin with the youngster falling to the ground in agony. No action was taken by Herr Mellet and whilst Davin was off getting treatment Roma regained the lead, a strong free kick by Lojacono striking the underside of the bar and crossing the line with Simpson beaten. Several more outrageous tackles by the Italians went unpunished with one by Fontani on Scott particularly brutal but all legal according to the man with the whistle. Justice was done however when ten minutes from time Johnny McLeod was fouled out on the wing and the same player took a lovely curling free kick that ended up going into the net at the far post. The game ended at 2-2 and whilst Hibs were cheered by their fans the Italians were quite rightly booed off the park.

    The return leg arrived in rapid fire time with Hibs in Rome just a week later and arriving there off the back of a fine 4-0 home win over Clyde in the league. In a masterstroke of deception the green and whites listed Baker at centre forward but actually gave him the number 8 jersey to wear with Bobby Kinloch donning number 9. It certainly played its part in fooling the home side and their 30,000 baying supporters who were getting drenched in a thunderstorm that lasted for almost the whole of the match.

    With Baker enjoying some freedom and his two markers following Kinloch here, there and everywhere Hibs started brightly and only a superb save by Cudicini stopped the visitors taking the lead from a Sammy Baird effort. Gradually the home side began to threaten and only an incredible miss by Manfredini stopped them taking the lead. To his credit the Italian striker didn’t let his head drop and after 20 minutes put the hosts ahead but the lead was relatively short lived as 12 minutes later Kinloch blasted the ball high into the net for a merited equaliser and the teams went in at the break level at 1-1. On the hour mark Baker picked the ball up midway inside the Roma half before setting off on a mazy run past three defenders and then rifling a low shot past Cudicini to stun the home crowd into silence. A mere 120 seconds later Kinloch’s measured cross was met firmly by the forehead of Baker and Hibs were 3-1 up and seemingly cruising.

    At this stage there were concerns that the Italians would adopt their nasty attitude but firm refereeing by Lequesne of France ensured that hacking was kept to a minimum. Sadly Hibs were tiring now and fell deeper and deeper into their own half, paying the penalty when Manfredini pulled a goal back and then Lojacono grabbed an equaliser. With fifteen minutes still to play it looked as though the Italians might grab a winner but a combination of great goalkeeping by Ronnie Simpson and another stunning miss by Manfredini meant the game finished at 3-3 on the night and 5-5 on aggregate.

    Had the current rules been in force Hibs would have been in the final, courtesy of their three away goals but the fact was that a replay was required and it was reported that Hibs lost the toss and so would have to return to Rome. In time it was suggested that Hibs had actually agreed to play in Rome after being given a financial guarantee by the Italian club but whatever the truth of the matter the replay took place four weeks after Hibs had played their last competitive match and it showed as the men from Easter Road were thrashed 6-0.

    An interesting point worth noting is that Roma were so taken with Baker they vowed to sign him. Joe did end up going to Italy but it would be Torino that captured his signature.
    Twice Hibs had played in European competition and twice they had reached the semi final. Out of interest, Celtic had yet to enjoy that experience and their wait would go on for a while yet as they’d just lost the Scottish Cup to Dunfermline meaning that the Fifers would represent Scotland in the next season’s European Cup Winners Cup whilst Hibs would once again compete in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

    **Programme Image courtesy of hibsprogrammes.co.uk**
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