John Colquhoun’s miss against Bayern

Our series “And That Was The Moment” tells the stories behind pivotal incidents that shaped the destiny of Scottish teams in European competition. This edition looks at John Colquhoun’s miss when clean through, Bayern Munich v HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN, 1988/89 UEFA Cup quarter-final, second leg

There are many reasons to rue John Colquhoun’s miss when one-on-one with Bayern goalkeeper Raimond Aumann on a portentous March night in 1989.

Chief among them was that it robbed the Edinburgh public of the chance to see Diego Maradona, Careca, Alemão et al play a European semi-final at Tynecastle, with Napoli instead heading to Germany.

Scottish supporters would curse that missed opportunity in the short-term. Later, as the 1990s drew to a close, Colquhoun’s failure took on a poignancy. For Scottish football, it symbolised the end of a second golden era in Europe.

In 1989 the only thing extraordinary about a Scottish team threatening the latter stages of a European competition was that that team was Hearts. Of the Scottish ‘big six’, the Edinburgh side had by far the weakest record on the continent, having never made the semi-finals of a major tournament. 

This was an era in which Aberdeen and Dundee United tore up trees for Scotland in Europe. The previous season – despite Graeme Souness’ best efforts – Rangers had lost in the European Cup quarter-finals to Steaua Bucharest.

Hearts had beaten Ireland’s St Patrick’s Athletic, Austria Vienna and Yugoslavia’s Velež Mostar to reach the quarters, where a Tynecastle thunderbolt from European specialist Iain Ferguson gave Hearts a 1-0 lead to take to Bavaria.

There they would face a formidable side that contained attack-minded defenders Klaus Augenthaler and Hans Pflügler, both of whom had scored at Pittodrie in the 3-2 defeat to Aberdeen in the 1983 Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final.

A disappointing crowd of around 25,000 turned out in Munich’s Olympic Stadium. “But the 2-3,000 Scots are making a hell of a spectacle,” says superbly named Austrian commentator Fritz von Thurn und Taxis. (Real name:  Friedrich Leonhard Ignatius Josef Maria Lamoral Balthasar Thurn and Taxis. No prizes for guessing which school he went to.)

In Munich Hearts blended youth with experience, with 18-year-old right-back Alan McLaren the rookie and 33-year-old keeper Henry Smith the elder statesman. Captain Gary Mackay returned from injury, while Eamonn Bannon’s European nous had already been key in getting Hearts to this stage.

In hindsight, the harbingers of Scotland’s demise in Europe are there. Alex MacDonald’s side simply don’t want possession of the ball and are happy to play the percentages, probe the channels and look for a chance from set plays – a Scottish anti-football that would arguably reach its height with Walter Smith’s infamous Wattienaccio system,  a tactic deployed with reasonable success with Scotland and Rangers in the 2000s but one that, with its negation of flair and self-expression, was ultimately self-defeating.

Bayern, slick in possession, play all the football and it’s no surprise when Augenthaler levels the tie on aggregate in the 16th minute. If Hearts had seen the elegant central defender’s goal in 1983 at Pittodrie, they didn’t show it: as had Aberdeen, the Jambos simply let him advance and watch in admiration as he lashes home from 25 yards.

“I think, with this 1-0, Bayern can carry on confidently from here,” von Thurn und Taxis says – and who could blame him? This was a side that had recovered from a 2-0 home defeat to Internazionale in the previous round to win 3-1 away. Surely little Hearts would now be turned over.

And yet. And yet. Just six minutes later, Hearts scramble the ball clear and lone striker Mike Galloway, dropping deep to the halfway line, lays the ball into Colquhoun’s path. Faced with a high Bayern line and only Augenthaler in front of him, the little attacker simply slips the ball around one side of the Bayern captain and runs around the other. He’s now 40 yards from goal with only Aumann to beat.

As Colquhoun races through, Hearts fans cast their minds back to 3rd May, 1986. With Hearts needing just a draw against Dundee at Dens Park to win the league on the last day of the season, the score is 0-0 and the second half ebbing away. 

Suddenly, Colquhoun has a two-on-one. All he has to do is play in John Robertson and the dynamite little striker will surely score. But Colquhoun’s composure fails him, he tries to go alone and is crowded out. Minutes later, Dundee’s Albert Kidd scores the first of the quick-fire double that allows Celtic to pip Hearts to the league.

Surely he’ll do the right thing this time?

With Pflügler in vain pursuit and Aumann not making himself especially big, Colquhoun puts his head down and pulls the trigger.

“He’s missed it! Oh dear, oh dear,” commentator Archie Macpherson says after Colquhoun slides his shot wide.

Perhaps Colquhoun’s lack of composure at vital times was what prompted his exit from Celtic as a youngster.

“John Colquhoun arrived from Stirling Albion…for about £60,000 to put pressure on Davie Provan,” former Celtic striker Frank McGarvey wrote in his autobiography, Totally Frank. “But Davie was miles better. John couldn’t cross a ball, whereas Davie would put it right on your head. John was a decent player, as he showed when he moved to Hearts, but he was not Celtic class.” 

The evening would become even more bitter for the ex-Celt. On 57 minutes Hearts, ever dangerous at set plays, performed a corner routine that ended in a cross that was flicked on by Colquhoun, only for the ball to come back off the far post.

“You have to say the Scots have deserved the 1-1,” von Thurn und Taxis says. The equaliser would have left Bayern needing to score two with half an hour left against a Hearts defence containing Craig Levein and Dave McPherson alongside McLaren – a tough proposition. 

But the second let-off from Colquhoun was enough to spur them into action. Twelve minutes later a diving header from Norway’s Erland Johnsen – not the last time that year that he would put Scottish hearts in mouths – put Bayern in front on aggregate.

“The second [goal] was most definitely offside,” MacDonald wrote later in Hearts’ official programme. (It most definitely wasn’t.)

MacDonald and Colquhoun with former Hearts co-manager Sandy Jardine

It was a lead they would not relinquish and Hearts were out. Their best European campaign it may have been but, had Colquhoun had a little more luck and composure, it might have become the stuff of legend.

As it was, Levein and McPherson were denied the chance to kick lumps out of Maradona at Tynecastle. More significantly Colquhoun’s miss – and Hearts’ dogged-but-doomed performance – set the tone at both club and international level for enduring Scottish heartbreak.

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