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  • The 'Other' Semi Final

    Everyone knows we reached the semi final of the European Cup but how many Hibs fans realise we came close a second time in Europe?

    As any Hibs fan worth their salt will tell you, Hibs were not only the first Scottish side to play in European competition but the first British side and not only that, they reached the semi final of the European Cup! All true and all part of the rich history of the club but it seems a pity to me that little is said of the fact that Hibs reached a second European semi final just a few years later, knocking Barcelona out on the way!

    The Inter Cities Fairs Cup in season 1960/61 was basically a competition between clubs that had been invited by UEFA to take part, unlike in modern times when participation is determined by the finishing place in a clubs domestic league. The invitation was timely because Hibs had just endured a pretty mediocre domestic campaign with salt rubbed in the wound due to the fact that Hearts had been crowned League Champions. A seventh place finish was pretty poor for Hibs, especially when taking into account the fact that Joe Baker finished top scorer in Scotland with a stunning 42 goals, but the fans got a lift from the fact that European football would once again grace the Easter Road playing surface.

    The first round draw paired Hibs with Swiss club Lausanne Sports but as the date for the first leg of the tie approached, Lausanne withdrew from the competition and Hibs were handed a ‘walk over’ and progressed into the draw for the second round where their opponents could hardly have been more difficult – Barcelona. In preparation for meeting a European club, Hibs hastily arranged a home friendly against Bayern Munich and won 3-0 but it is only fair to point out that Bayern was not the club it is in the modern age. Still, it was a confidence booster and Hibs had a mixed bag of domestic results ahead of the first leg in Spain with the last of those being an 8-4 home win over Third Lanark in which Joe Baker scored five!

    On 27 December 1960 Hibs ran out of the tunnel at the Nou Camp and found the stadium about two thirds full but deafeningly noisy just the same. The hosts had a star studded team and no-one expected anything other that a comfortable home win. No-one that is except the men in green and white who played superbly and led 4-2 with time rapidly running out but Barcelona grabbed a late double to tie the match at 4-4. Due to their other commitments, including playing in the European Cup (competing in both tournaments was allowed back then) Barcelona didn’t arrive at Easter Road for the second leg until 22 February 1961 when they met a Hibs eleven that had demolished Peebles Rovers 15-1 with nine goals from Baker and then lost 2-0 at Parkhead in the fixtures immediately prior to this clash. Much has been written regarding the events of that night so no detail is offered here but suffice to say Hibs won 3-2 and so progressed into the semi final of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup on a 7-6 aggregate.

    In Mid April 1961 Hibs hosted AS Roma for the first leg of the semi final and the Italians arrived full of confidence, declaring Scottish football to be inferior and their case had received quite a boost from the fact that in the week before, Scotland had been thrashed 9-3 by England at Wembley. It was up to Hibs to prove them wrong and they very nearly did, hampered from winning the game by a weak and inefficient Swiss referee. Roma had a sprinkling of foreign players in their line up including two Argentinians, Manfredini and Lojacono and the Urugayan, Schiaffino but Lojacono in particular had a nasty side to his game. Blessed with an abundance of skill he spoiled all of that by kicking wildly at opponents and indeed he even swung a boot at the referee at one point but he went unpunished and scored both Roma goals in a 2-2 draw. There is no doubt Lojacono should have been sent off as should Orlando who committed a vicious back heel on Hibs left back Joe Davin with the defender having to go off for treatment and the visitors scoring one of their goals at that time. Hibs’ goals came via Joe Baker and Johnny MacLeod but the Easter Road crowd of around 40,000 could only file out in disappointment as they could not see their favourites progressing in the second leg in the Italian capital.

    The Hibs team for the first leg was Simpson, Fraser, Davin, Grant, Easton, Baird, Scott, Preston, Baker, Baxter and MacLeod.

    That second leg match took place just a week later and when Hibs arrived in Rome it was in the middle of a heatwave. Travelling to their hotel and from there to the match stadium they were stunned to find the place locked up and as it was a public holiday in Italy no-one could be found to open the place up to allow Hibs to train on the playing surface.
    On the afternoon of the game a freak thunderstorm hit Rome and as a result the home crowd was only around 35,000. Manager Hugh Shaw pulled a fast one on Roma by having Bobby Kinloch and Joe Baker switch jerseys and of course that meant Bobby got some very ‘close attention’ from the home defenders whilst Joe revelled in the space he was finding!

    The hosts scored first through Manfredini but the lead lasted just ten minutes as Bobby Kinloch powered home an equaliser. Ronnie Simpson in the Hibs goal made a string of fine saves and the match remained tied until the hour mark when Joe Baker dribbled past three defenders before sending a glorious left footed drive into the top corner to put the Hibs ahead. Three minutes later the Baker boy was at it again, his header stretching the Hibs lead to 3-1. By now the home fans were getting mightily fed up with their heroes and were screaming for action and a 67th minute strike by Manfredini helped to get them back behind their team. Five minutes later it was 3-3 with Lojacono the scorer and Hibs had Simpson to thank for two wonderful saves that ensured the game finished at 3-3 on the night and 5-5 on aggregate.

    The Hibs team for the second leg was Simpson, Fraser, Davin, Baxter, Easton, Baird, MacLeod, Baker, Kinloch, Gibson and Ormond.

    Of course if the current day rules had been in play back then, Hibs would have progressed to the Final on the basis of having scored more away goals in a tied match but back then it was a matter of a replay and this is where things become a little bit unsavoury as regards how Hibs conducted themselves. As paraphrased from the club’s own Matchday programme from a later date, Roma offered to play the third match in neutral Switzerland or France but for Hibs a third match in Italy would mean more money than could be generated in a neutral country or even at Easter Road for that matter. So, we are told that the Hibs hierarchy of the day seized the short term opportunity of earning money rather than having a real chance of progressing to the final. What’s more, Hibs had a full month after their own season ended when they did not play at all whilst the Italians completed their own domestic league programme and were match fit.

    In the meantime, Joe Baker had become totally disillusioned because his request for a pay rise of £5 per week was dismissed out of hand by Chairman Harry Swan and Joe was made available for transfer. Needless to say the queue of interested parties was lengthy and as it turned out Joe would play in just one more game for Hibs before being sold to Torino and that was the play off match against Roma.

    On 27th May 1961 Hibs were trounced 6-0 in Rome and it could have been worse. Four down by half time the 45,000 crowd laughed and whistled as an unfit Hibs team chased shadows and Manfredini helped himself to four goals. Others were added by Lojacono and Selmosson whilst at the other end Joe Baker looked every bit as dispirited as his team mates. The whole thing was badly handled and it is true to say that Hibs went into a bit of a slump following that and did not really begin to revive until the arrival of Jock Stein as manager in 1964.
    The Hibs team for the play off was Simpson, Fraser, McClelland, Baxter, Easton, Baird, MacLeod, Kinloch, Baker, Gibson and Stevenson.

    It is a great pity that this ‘other’ semi final is spoken of so little because in itself it was as great an achievement as that reached by the side losing out to Stad Rhiems in the European Cup not so many years earlier.
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