‘A fantasy staged in heaven’

Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt, 1960 European Cup final, Hampden Park

The impact of Real’s destruction of Eintracht in Glasgow was such that it marked something of a Year Zero for post-war Scottish football, changing the thinking of those who would go on to shape its greatest moments

Music fans of a certain vintage know the legend of the Sex Pistols’ first gig in Manchester: there was hardly anyone there, but everyone who was went away and formed a band.

Among those in the paltry audience on 4th June, 1976, were future members of The Smiths, Joy Division and The Fall. The Pistols’ incendiary live show had changed the way those present thought about music and their own expression of it.

For Scottish football the 1960 European Cup final, between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt at Glasgow’s Hampden Park, had a similarly seismic impact on those who attended.

The Pistols gig was at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, but there was no chance of the 1960 final taking place at Lesser Hampden, the comparatively dinky ground (its original capacity upon opening in 1924 was 12,000) used by Queen’s Park reserves. Instead 127,621 souls swelled the terracing of the monolithic main ground that May evening to watch German cracks take on Spanish superstars, who lined up thus:

Domínguez, Marquitos, Santamaría, Pachín, Vidal, Zárraga, Canário, del Sol, Di Stéfano, Puskás, Gento.

Real mastered their opponents, the bumpy pitch and the dreaded “Hampden swirl” to win 7-3 and the impact of their display was such that recitation of the starting XI became a test of allegiance to the beautiful game in playgrounds across Scotland. In Jonny Owen’s 2015 film on Brian Clough’s great Nottingham Forest side, I Believe In Miracles, Scottish forward John O’Hare – 15 at the time of the Hampden game – reels off that Real team from memory, 55 years on.

A young Denis Law, fresh from a British-record £55,000 move from Huddersfield to Manchester City, was among the 70 million people in 13 countries who watched the first European Cup final to be broadcast live. The black-and-white images of Real’s demolition job allowed them to put faces to the mythical names that had made Madrid the European Cup’s second home.

Bill Shankly, Jim McLean, George Graham, Frank McLintock, Billy Bremner and most of Celtic’s 1967 European Cup-winning squad were among the future Scottish greats in the ground.

But of those attendees who, in a footballing sense, went away and formed a band, two men loom largest.

Thirty-seven-year-old Jock Stein, appointed to his first managerial post at Dunfermline two months earlier, was one of the locals at Hampden looking to “enjoy their national game as only foreigners can play it,” as Hugh McIlvanney, then a young reporter for The Scotsman, put it.

Many were there to cheer on Real’s opponents. Eintracht had won 12-4 on aggregate in the semi-finals against a Rangers team held in high regard in Glasgow and many who had seen their 6-3 victory at Ibrox thought they had a chance of an upset.

Ian McMillan, who had played for Rangers home and away against Eintracht, was at the final.

“I stipulated that Eintracht were the best team I played against,” McMillan said, “but, with many thousands, I watched in wonder when they met and were beaten by Real Madrid… It changed the face of Scottish football.”

For the chief catalyst of that change an obsession began that night at Hampden. Stein, his reputation already on the rise after an innovative spell as coach of Celtic reserves, drank in Real’s heady brew of pace, skill and movement.

“That European Cup final in 1960 at Hampden was the game that triggered it all off for Jock,” Jim Craig, right-back in Stein’s great Celtic team, told the Daily Record in 2017.

Stein was mesmerised by the contribution to the attack of Real’s full-backs.

“We realised then that, to be a team as Real Madrid were, we ought to have players coming into scoring positions outwith the forwards,” he said. “Their
full-backs came forward and were an important part of the team.”

Aside from the blistering performance of Jimmy Johnstone – another Hampden attendee in 1960 – Celtic’s victory in 1967 was marked by the contribution of the side’s marauding full-backs, Tommy Gemmell on the left and Craig on the right.

Craig laid on Gemmell for the piledriver that levelled the game for Celtic, while Gemmell’s incursions late on against a bedraggled Internazionale defence helped create the space that allowed Stevie Chalmers to side-foot home the most famous goal in the history of Scottish club football.

But Stein also recognised that Real blended romanticism with pragmatism, a quality of his that was often overlooked as the Lisbon Lions’ myth of “pure, beautiful, inventive football” – a myth fuelled as much by Stein as by anyone – was written.

“Another important factor was that the centre-half was purely just a defender who, when in trouble, just kicked the ball anywhere,” Stein said of Real. “He was very safe and that allowed the people around him to get on with the game and get forward.”

Students of Celtic’s stuffy away performance away to Dukla Prague in the 1967 semi-final, and later of their dogged display in Italy against Fiorentina in the 1970 quarter-final, would hear distinct echoes of this observation.

Ironically the player who had most impressed Stein in 1960 was the one whose role he failed to mimic in his Celtic teams.

“He mentioned he had gone along to the game to see Alfredo Di Stéfano. Jock had heard this player was in a different league from everybody else,” Craig said.

“He mentioned Di Stéfano wasn’t a centre-forward or a midfielder but just a player who played wherever his team wanted him to be and set up the play.”

Di Stéfano’s ability to be what Johan Cruyff, speaking later about England’s Steve McManaman, called el socio del todos – a partner to everyone – was perhaps one aspect of Real’s 1960 vintage that Stein failed to mirror.

It was a failure that arguably cost Celtic a second European Cup in 1970, against Feyenoord in Milan. George Connelly – the Celtic player under Stein in possession of the most Di Stéfano-esque poise – was omitted from the starting XI against Feyenoord for a match in which ball retention would prove decisive.

Alex Ferguson, a 19-year-old apprentice at Queen’s Park, was in Hampden’s schoolboy enclosure in 1960, having been given complimentary tickets by the club and thereby avoiding record Hampden prices of between five and 50 shillings.

Ferguson had been among the Rangers fans who saw Eintracht complete their semi-final demolition job with a 6-3 win at Ibrox. “They were the best team I’d ever seen in my life,” Ferguson said of the Germans, “and then they got slaughtered 7-3 in the final!”

Twenty-three years later, Ferguson once again had free entry to see Real Madrid play a major European final, this time as manager of Aberdeen, the Spaniards’ opponents in the 1983 Cup Winners’ Cup final in Gothenburg.

In 1960, as Real and Di Stéfano had paraded the trophy to thousands of rapt fans at Hampden, Ferguson had skipped off to catch the last bus home. With Di Stéfano now in charge of Aberdeen’s opponents, Ferguson prepared to pay him overdue homage.

Along for the ride as Ferguson’s advisor on the trip to Sweden was Stein, who suggested that his protégé give Di Stéfano a bottle of whisky before the game.

“Let him feel important,” Stein told Ferguson, “As if you are thrilled just to be in the final.”

Ferguson took Stein’s advice but, for the younger man, deference to Di Stéfano and Real was never going to be an issue. Although, like Stein, Ferguson had been entranced by Real in 1960, he also despised that for which he felt they stood

Ferguson, as you may have heard, grew up in Govan. There, in the shadow of the shipyards, hatred for what was perceived as the sporting wing of Spanish fascism was as commonplace as Glaswegian drizzle.

“Franco’s team,” he called them years later as Manchester United manager, when Real had made overtures to sign Cristiano Ronaldo. “I wouldn’t sell them a virus.”

On a rain-lashed night in Sweden, Aberdeen were infectious as the former Queen’s Park trainee masterminded victory over the hero of Hampden to give Scotland its last major European trophy.

By then, it wasn’t the first time that Di Stéfano had had his thunder stolen by Glaswegian gallusness.

Four years after that 1960 victory sealed their fifth European Cup in a row, Real were back in Scotland. This time they were in Edinburgh to play Hibernian, whose young new manager had used the Spaniards’ enduring magnetism to persuade his board to pay the exorbitant £20,000 fee required to ensure their presence.

“Jock was nothing if not determined,” then-Hibs player Peter Cormack wrote of Stein in his autobiography, From The Cowshed To The Kop. “He was going around Easter Road telling anyone who would listen about the football and financial benefits for Hibs in staging such a match.

“Over 30,000 fans happily paid six shillings (thirty pence), which was double the normal gate money, to watch Hibs take on a Real Madrid team that contained Puskás, Gento and Santamaría.”

Di Stéfano was notable by his absence, having left Real that summer for Espanyol, but that is unlikely to have diluted Stein’s joy at winning 2-0. Cormack, who scored the first, highlighted the role of Stein’s “tactical brilliance” in the victory:

“He had us playing a four-two-four system and the Spaniards were not used to the opposition team being so attack-minded against them.”

That aggressive 4-2-4 system would be the backbone of Celtic’s success against Internazionale in 1967 – and prompt Di Stéfano to reciprocate Stein’s request of 1964. Celtic, the new European champions, were asked to round off their all-conquering 1966/67 season with a testimonial, or “benefit match” for Di Stéfano. Against Real Madrid. In the Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

Before 100,000 fans Jimmy Johnstone led Real a merry dance, setting up Bobby Lennox for the only goal of the game as Celtic confirmed their place as Europe’s number-one club side and Johnstone justified his nickname, Jinky.

“Johnstone gives the impression of thoroughly enjoying this,” commentator Bob Crampsey says. “Sock round the ankle, standing on the ball.”

“Di Stéfano didn’t know what had hit him,” Gemmell told BBC Alba in 2016. “As soon as wee Jinky got the ball, all you could hear was: ‘Olé! Olé! Olé!’ He was going up to defenders and going past them as if he was a bullfighter.”

The wee man from Viewpark had hardly let go of the ball all night and was in possession in the centre circle as the final whistle blew. Instinctively, he scooped up the ball and, with one hand, held it aloft.

“In the Bernabéu stadium: one man,” team-mate Bertie Auld said. “Jinky. They stood and they must have applauded…ten minutes?”

It was Hampden 1960 in reverse as Spaniards lauded Scots, who had finally achieved that elusive mastery of their national game. It was also a sweet moment for a player who was one of the 127,000-odd that had looked on in awe seven years before on that May evening in Glasgow.

“The match remained the biggest single influence on my career,” Johnstone said of Real-Eintracht. “It was like a fantasy staged in heaven. I had never seen football like it, nor would I ever again. I’ll recite the names of that Madrid forward line till the day I die.”

At the post-match banquet, according to former Celtic director James Farrell, Di Stéfano insisted on a commemorative photograph of “that Madrid forward line” – with one addition. The caption under the photo would have read:

Di Stéfano, Puskás, Gento, Santamaría, Johnstone

One can only imagine the thrill felt by Johnstone, and the other Celtic players who had been in attendance at Hampden, to have beaten Real at their own game just seven years later. Of all the bands formed in the aftermath of Hampden 1960, the one put together by Jock Stein in 1966/67 was surely the greatest.

One Comment

  1. Brendan Corrigan

    Mark, Great article, brought back memories, not included in yours was the night that Celtic beat Leeds United at Hampden in 1970, where a crowd of over 100,000, enjoyed an oh so sweet victory, beating them in both legs!

    Good luck, hope you are well.

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