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  • On Foreign Fields (6)

    It would be the 1972/73 season when Hibs next competed in Europe and rather than the UEFA Cup they found themselves in the European Cup Winners Cup because although they’d not won the Scottish Cup the previous season they had lost the final to Celtic and the Parkhead club had also won the league and so entered the European Cup.

    Round One brought Hibs together with Sporting Lisbon of Portugal with the first leg being played at the Jose Alvalade Stadium on 13 September 1972. The hosts wore their normal green and white colours that night whilst Hibs played in a change strip of purple and white and years later Pat Stanton would declare that of all the European matches he’d played for Hibs the one in Lisbon was in his view the best team performance of all. Given the win over Napoli for example the Hibees must really have been good that night and yet they lost to Sporting 2-1 with Arthur Duncan getting what could prove to be a vital away goal.

    For the return leg a fortnight later around 26,000 fans roared the Hibees on and were hugely rewarded for their efforts by a quite stunning performance by Eddie Turnbull’s team. Wearing tops with green sleeves rather than the traditional white had the fans talking even before kick off but that quirk was soon put aside as the 26,000 savoured six fantastic goals with Jimmy O’Rourke getting a hat trick, Alan Gordon two and an own goal from Manaca whilst the visitors got a consolation goal via Yazalde. The next morning the Scottish sporting press was fulsome in its praise with the Daily Record for example leading with the headline NOW HIBS JOIN THE EUROPE GREATS and their reporter Bob Patience starting his text with ‘All Scotland must salute super Hibs this morning.’ Once the excitement had died down and the dust had settled came the realisation that one of Europe’s top sides had been humbled 7-3 on aggregate by Hibernian and the reward for that victory was a second round tie against FC Besa and unknown quantity from Albania.

    It was late October when Besa visited Edinburgh and as they ran out onto the field of play at Easter Road the 22,293 Hibs fans in the stadium were wondering if the home side could provide another European goal blitz. They would not be disappointed as the visitors were completely outplayed and after just twelve minutes of play they were 2-0 down following goals by Alex Cropley and Jimmy O’Rourke, the latter going on to get his second consecutive home hat trick in the competition. Further goals came from John Brownlie and Arthur Duncan who got two whilst Kariqi received warm applause from the home crowd for his consolation effort. Needless to say the second leg was a bit of a formality and Hibs settled for a 1-1 draw in Albania, Alan Gordon the marksman to ensure an 8-2 aggregate win. Other games in that round worthy of mention saw Atletico Madrid, Leeds United and Hajduk Split all scrape through on the away goals rule with the latter having to fight all the way to overcome Welsh Cup winners Wrexham. In fact it would be Hajduk Split that Hibs would meet next, in the quarter finals.

    A lengthy break meant that Hibs did not face the Yugoslavians until the following March; just a couple of months after they’d humiliated Hearts by crushing them 7-0 at Tynecastle. For the Split game Hibs once more donned their all green tops as they ran out onto the pitch at Easter Road to the roar of 28,469 fans but at the end of the game those same fans jeered Spanish referee Camacho who had a nightmare of a game. As to the game itself it would be the performances of Edwards and Gordon that had the fans chatting on their way home. Edwards was in the middle of a domestic suspension but was eligible to play in this European tie and he had a magnificent game, at the heart of everything good in an attacking sense whilst Gordon rapped in three cracking goals in a 4-2 win. Only eight minutes had passed when Edwards sent over a measured cross and Gordon bulleted a header past Sirkovic to make it 1-0. Fifteen minutes from the break Senor Camacho made his first critical blunder in not awarding Hibs a penalty when Gordon was hauled to the ground by Holcer. The decision not to grant a spot kick merely served to fire Hibs up and sixty seconds later big Alan got his and Hibs’ second. A place in the semi final looked a distinct possibility because little had been seen of Hajduk as an attacking force but out of the blue they cashed in on some poor marking and Hlevnjak nodded the goal that made it 2-1 at the interval.

    For the second half Hibs were shooting down the famous Easter Road slope and within a couple of minutes they were 3-1 up as Arthur Duncan converted an Edwards pass. With twenty minutes left Gordon secured his hat trick and gave Hibs a 4-1 lead which would have given them a really strong chance to progress but once again a defensive lapse proved costly and Hlevnjak scored a second for the team nicknamed the ‘pirates.’ On the night Hibs were by far the better side but the Yugoslavs showed enough to suggest the return leg would be anything but plain sailing and so it proved to be as goalkeeper Jim Herriot had an absolute howler, conceding three goals the result of which was Hibs losing the tie 5-4 on aggregate. It was a painful blow as Hibs really did look as though they had the ability to go all the way in the competition but once again, as seemed to happen at crucial times, Turnbull’s Tornadoes let themselves down badly.

    Courtesy of a third place finish in the previous season’s domestic league, Hibs qualified to participate in the UEFA Cup and the draw for the first round paired them with Icelandic opponents in the shape of Keflavik. Given that Icelandic football teams were not felt to be ‘glamorous’ the attendance at Easter Road was pretty modest but those that did attend witnessed a rare goal by centre half Jim Black and another from Tony Higgins as Hibs secured a 2-0 win to take with them into the second leg. The conditions in Iceland were perhaps not surprisingly wet and windy but Hibs never looked in danger as Pat Stanton’s goal cancelled out one by Zakariasson to produce a 1-1 scoreline on the night and a 3-1 win on aggregate. Keflavik goalkeeper Olafsson was voted man of the match so that suggests Hibs were indeed the better side.

    The reward for disposing of Keflavik was a tie against old adversaries Leeds United with the first leg played at Elland Road on 24 October 1973. Prior to the game the Leeds captain Jack Charlton had said in a press interview that Hibs and their fans should save their money and not travel to Yorkshire as the result was a foregone conclusion. It seems likely that Eddie Turnbull pinned that report up in the Hibs dressing room because his players were magnificent that night and might have won had a shot from Higgins not screwed wide and another from Stanton brought out a world class save by the Leeds goalkeeper.

    I was at that match and after it I waited outside the players’ entrance to congratulate the Hibs men on their performance. As I waited I spotted Jack Charlton coming down the stairs and shouted to him that maybe his team and supporters should save the train fare to Edinburgh. Charlton looked embarrassed and didn’t respond but I was chuffed to bits when Stewart Brown who followed Hibs all over, wrote in the Edinburgh Evening News the following day that ‘One fan gave Charlton a taste of his own medicine and the lanky Leeds captain didn’t like it.’ Let me say I had no regrets about shouting those words to Charlton who surely deserved them due to his arrogance!

    Two weeks later Leeds arrived at Easter Road and Hibs pummelled them from start to finish. Manager Don Revie set his team up like some sort of Italian outfit with the heavy emphasis being on packing his defence. Fiery little Scot Billy Bremner played at sweeper and was magnificent throughout although why Eddie Turnbull didn’t instruct Jimmy O’Rourke to ‘sit on’ Bremner’s shoulder I’ll never know. On the night Leeds made no fewer than five goal line clearances, saw a shot come off the post with their keeper beaten and owed much to their young goalkeepers Shaw and Letheren who pulled off save after save. Of course only one of those keepers was on the field at any one time. Shaw started the game but was injured during it and Letheren took over the role.

    Ninety minutes came and went without a goal and it was the same outcome after thirty minutes of extra time. A penalty shoot out was required and first up for Hibs was Pat Stanton who’d scored a hat trick against Clyde three days earlier. Pat placed the ball on the spot and turned away to set himself for his run but Letheren in the Leeds goal was unhappy with the placing of the ball and so referee Schiller of Austria moved it. That was really unusual and Pat might have done it himself but he chose not to and sickeningly he missed his attempt, the only player to do so as Leeds took the tie 5-4 on penalties. It was another case of so near and yet so far for Hibs but if nothing else they’d shown Jack Charlton that they were a really good side and might well have toppled their English opponents had even one of their many chances gone in.

    **Image courtesy of hibsprogrammes.co.uk**
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. DaveF's Avatar
      DaveF -
      Loved the bit about Jack Charlton

      Well done John - I trust you have that Evening News report framed!
    1. linlithgowhibbie's Avatar
      linlithgowhibbie -
      Was at Leeds that night,, we were absolutely stupendous, as were our fans.
      On a side note I lost my job for ggoing to that game after being refused the day off!!!
    1. PeeJay's Avatar
      PeeJay -
      Congratulations on nailing that lanky Charlton!
      I remember watching the Leeds away game on the telly and thinking Hibs were every bit as good as Revie's great Leeds team and I was convinced we would do them at ER, because we really were just as good if not better... such a disappointment then to lose out in such a cruel manner.
      We lucky ones (oldies) really had some truly memorable European nights - time we got back into Europe on a regular basis to let the "younger" fans know what it's like to be up there amongst Europe's finest.
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