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  • On Foreign Fields (3)

    Part Three of John Campbell's European series.....

    In early September 1961 the men from Easter Road began their European campaign with a first round, first leg tie at home to Portuguese outfit Belenenses of Lisbon. The stadium was buzzing with the kind of excitement unique to European ties but the home support was soon stunned into silence as the visitors raced into a 3-0 lead with goals from Matateu who scored twice and Yauca but the one thing this Hibs side had in spades was determination and with the fans roaring them on they got level thanks to a couple from John Fraser and another, from the penalty spot, by a cool as a cucumber Sammy Baird.

    Despite both sides having chances to score again no more goals were forthcoming and so the Lisbon side left content with their three goals and confident they’d finish the job at home.
    Three weeks later and despite showing some poor form in domestic competition, Hibs went to the Restello Stadium, played some lovely flowing football and defeated their hosts 3-1. John Baxter’s opening goal rocked the Portuguese and when he scored a second they began to get very physical but the Hibees kept their cool, added a third through Eric Stevenson and lapsed only once at the other end when Matateu netted a consolation. Poor form in the league was the backdrop to Hibs’ next Euro outing and when both fate and another abysmal refereeing performance conspired against them they were thrashed 4-0 away to Red Star Belgrade at the start of November. Fate took a hand in determining that due to horrendous problems with fog the trip to Belgrade took 30 hours instead of 10 and included the need to travel the final leg of their journey after a 4.30am start on the day of the match. Add to that the fact that the German referee allowed the home players to kick Hibs off the park and the outcome is perhaps not quite so surprising. On one occasion in the game Jim Easton brought down a home player who then leapt to his feet before punching and kicking the Hibs man. The referee’s reaction to this was to send Easton off!

    When the return tie came about Hibs went into it without a manager as Hugh Shaw had resigned on the back of a string of dismal results. No surprise then that the lacklustre performances continued with the visitors winning 1-0 on the night and 5-0 on aggregate. It was a dismal day for Edinburgh as Hearts also bowed out of Europe, also going down 5-0 on aggregate with their conquerors being Inter Milan.

    Although they finished third from bottom of Division One in 1961/62, Hibs were back in Europe the following season and once again they would compete in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

    In round one of the competition Hibs were drawn against IFC Boldklub Copenhagen and that may have proved to be a quite daunting task as the Danes had a number of international players in their side but as it turned out the men from Easter Road won the first leg at home by four goals to nil and the return by three goals to two. First leg scorers were Gerry Baker, Eric Stevenson, Johnny Byrne and an own goal whilst in Copenhagen Byrne again found the target with Morris Stevenson getting the other two.

    The reward for progression was a tie against Utrecht of Holland with the first leg played in the Netherlands in late November 1962 and the Hibees went into it on the back of a pretty poor run of domestic form but still managed to eke out a good 1-0 win thanks to a goal by young Duncan Falconer.

    Two weeks later the sides met again in front of a pretty poor attendance of only 5,000 at Easter Road where the visitors levelled the tie through Guertsen after 23 minutes but all that goal did was to stir Hibs into action and a mere two minutes later Gerry Baker scored a stunning equaliser when he pushed the ball beyond their centre half, raced around him and then thrashed a low shot into the corner of the net. Sadly that goal sparked a display of foul play by the Dutchmen and it took all of Welsh referee Powell’s concentration to hold them in check. One of the Dutch defenders prime targets was 16 year old debutant Jimmy O’Rourke but the kid just kept picking himself up and getting on with it whilst displaying the kind of skill and determination that would see him become a firm favourite with the fans.

    Only two minutes of the second half had elapsed when Jim Scott forced a corner which he then flighted into a packed penalty area. In his desperation to clear his lines Decsev swiped at the ball and screwed it into the path of Morris Stevenson who quickly fired it through a sea of legs for Hibs’ second and final goal of the game. The 2-1 win took Hibs through on a 3-1 aggregate to set up a third round tie against either Valencia or Dunfermline with the Spanish side looking the more likely opponents after crushing the Pars 4-0 in the first leg tie in Spain. Astonishingly Dunfermline thumped Valencia 6-2 at East End Park meaning that a replay would be required as the tie finished at 6-6 with no sign yet of the away goals rule coming into being. As it turned out Valencia scraped through that replay 1-0 and so Hibs now knew who their next opponents would be.

    The third round tie was not played until March/April of 1963 and by the time the first leg came about Hibs had only played twice domestically since January due to Scotland’s worst winter in decades. It was no real surprise when they were trounced 5-0 in the Campa de Mestalla and it looked pretty certain that their interest in the competition had pretty well ended. In the return leg the Spaniards fielded their strongest eleven but to their credit Hibs managed to raise their game and record a merited 2-1 win with the only real disappointment on the night being that a meagre crowd of 4,000 was dotted around the vast stadium. In fairness the poor form of this struggling Hibs eleven probably contributed to the low turnout but it was the stay away fans that missed out because Hibs played really well, had the Spaniards worried when Tommy Preston and Gerry Baker each scored before a Nunez strike killed off any hopes of Hibs doing a Dunfermline and scoring six.

    The European adventure was over once more but credit must be given to Hibs for getting as far as they did in the competition especially when you bear in mind that up until the last game or two in the domestic league they had flirted with the nightmare of relegation.

    It would be season 1965/66 before Hibs were involved in European Competition again, entry into the Fairs Cup coming by virtue of a fourth place finish in the previous season’s domestic league. As fate would have it their first round opponent was Valencia with the Spanish aces visiting Easter Road in September 1965 for the first leg match. On their last visit to the Capital only 4,000 fans had turned out but this time the crowd was five times that number and they enjoyed an enthralling match with the visitors setting out their stall to defend deep whilst the home side was looking to get a nice first leg lead to take with them to the Mestalla. In a blistering opening period Hibs scored after just four minutes when Valencia keeper Zamora hesitated in coming for a ball lobbed into the box only to find himself stranded in no man’s land as Jim Scott looped a header over him and into the empty net.

    As the game wore on Hibs were unlucky not to get at least one penalty out of three reasonable claims but the Belgian referee Burguet simply waved those claims aside. Indeed it became known after the game that the referee had summoned Hibs captain John Baxter to his dressing room at half time to tell him that he must instruct the Hibs players to stop shouting to each other on the field! Baxter soon deduced that the request was made because the ref couldn’t speak English and so had no idea what the players were saying! Needless to say the shouting continued throughout the game and in the last minute of action 20,000 new voices were added to those of the players when big John McNamee rose majestically to bullet home a cross delivered by Peter Cormack.

    A month later around 65,000 fans were packed into the Mestalla for the return leg where Hibs knew a draw or even a 1-0 defeat would see them into round two but sadly the Spaniards had other ideas and Waldo soon made it 1-0 to the hosts. A second goal, scored from the spot by Sanchez Lage after the award of an extremely soft penalty meant the tie was balanced at 2-2. Efforts at both ends came to nothing and so a replay was required with Hibs losing the toss and so faced with the prospect of returning to Spain where no Scottish club had yet won a match.

    The replayed tie took place in early November on a very wet pitch after heavy rain had fallen for most of the day in Valencia. Woodwork denied both Jim Scott and John McNamee but in the end the better side won as the hosts scored three without reply. Sportingly the home fans applauded Hibs off the park at the end and the following day the sports papers declared that Hibs although beaten were the best foreign team to have played there!

    That brought an abrupt end to the European campaign but Hibs raised the spirits of everyone at the club by handing out an 11-1 mauling to poor Hamilton the following weekend.

    *Header image courtesy of progs.fairlyoriginal.com
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. DaveF's Avatar
      DaveF -
      Valencia at the Mestalla!

      Not likely to make a return there anytime soon unless we do a Fulham
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