The Rangers Road to Glory in 1972
Feature by farley1968
Updated Monday, 2nd April 2007
Final - 24th May 1972 - Nou Camp Stadium, Barcelona
Confidence in the Rangers camp was high and most players believed that this was their year. As the teams came out that night in the Nou Camp, all of them were amazed at the huge number of Rangers supporters in the ground. Rangers banners, scarves, flags and bunnets were everywhere - it was a fantastic show of dedication by the success starved support. It was hard to believe there was a Russian team, their small band of supporters and some neutrals in the crowd - it just seemed such a Rangers occasion.
The match started and in the first minute John Greig put in a crunching tackle on Dynamo captain Sabo. Although both teams at first appeared nervous, Rangers settled and began to stroke the ball around with confidence and style, whilst remaining tight at the back. In twenty-four minutes Dave Smith sent a perfectly flighted ball through the middle of the Russian defence. Colin Stein chased it, got on the goal side of the defender and crashed a tremendous shot high into the roof of the net past Russian goalkeeper Pilgui. As Stein wheeled away in celebration large numbers of the Rangers support ran onto the field to join their heroes. The Spanish Police and stewards moved them back into the stands and terraces.
Five minutes before half-time Dave Smith who was playing majestically crossed the ball into the box. As the Russian goalkeeper hesitated, Willie Johnston rose and headed in goal number two. Again the fans came onto the park although not as many this time. The score at half-time was 2-0.
Video: First-Half highlights
On forty-eight minutes Willie Johnston latched onto a huge punt up field by Peter McCloy. The ball eluded the Russian defence who claimed for offside but Johnston beautifully brought the ball under control and crashed a shot into the bottom corner of the net.
The fans on the terraces were delirious with joy. Never in their wildest dreams did anyone expect to be 3-0 up in a European Final.
After fifty-five minutes Dynamo made a substitution. Estrokov came on for Jakubic. Estrokov was one of the players who Waddell had highlighted on his spying mission before the final.
On sixty minutes the tide had turned and Rangers were under severe pressure. Evruzhikin fastened onto the ball and hit it across goal. Estrokov was there and he forced the ball over the line to make the score 3-1. Shortly after he nearly did it again but his shot flashed over the bar. Rangers were a bit rattled and were worried after the memory of the Sporting match at Ibrox. Dynamo mounted wave after wave of attacks and two minutes from the end the Russians scored again through Makovikov. Waddell had warned his team that the Russians were a great side and would never give up and that certainly ringed true.
Shortly afterwards the Spanish referee Ortiz de Mendibil blew for full time.
Video: Second-Half highlights
The Rangers had won the 1972 European Cup Winners Cup.
As soon as the whistle sounded the fans poured onto the pitch to be with their heroes. Although at first good natured and in celebration, some crushing did occour and some players have spoken of their fear of accidental injury by ecstatic fans. The players returned to the changing rooms and awaited the trophy presentation.
On the pitch the fans were still celebrating as the police tried to move them back for the presentation. At first the police tactics were reserved, but soon batons were drawn as the police charged the fans, wildly smashing heads. No PA announcement had been made in English requesting that the support move back. Charge after charge was made between Police and fans until the situation was under control. There is no doubt that the Police provoked the scenes with extremely heavy handed measures in what was a celebratory mood for the Rangers support. After all this was a famous victory for the club - not a defeat.
Inside the Nou Camp, John Greig and Willie Waddell were ushered into a small room where the captain was presented with the trophy. Greig was told the players could not go back onto the pitch because of the trouble and they should leave as soon as possible.
It was a disgraceful way to treat a team which had just won a European trophy. Greig had been denied the one thing he desperately wanted - for the players to parade the trophy in front of the Ibrox legions that had travelled in huge numbers and backed their team.
Greig and Waddell returned to the changing room where they presented the trophy to the other players and the champagne celebrations began.
Once the players left the Nou Camp they returned to their hotel where there was a champagne celebration laid on. The Torino coach Gustavo Giagnoni had come along to congratulate the team and ended up staying and singing songs with John Greig and the players. Other "friends of Rangers" were also at the hotel for what was a very memorable occasion.
At lunch-time the next day, the coach left the hotel and took the team to the airport. The coach took the team straight over to their plane to avoid any possible crushing by fans who were also at the airport for their flights home. However some fans who were also embarking on another flight, spotted their club captain and raced across the tarmac to mob John Greig as he carried the trophy aboard his flight home. It was a very emotional moment for both John Greig and that small group of fans.
That evening at Ibrox, 25,000 fans gathered in the teeming rain to celebrate with the team and glimpse the trophy which meant so much to them all. Many thousands more were not at Ibrox as they were still on their travels back from Spain.
The players along with the coaching staff were on board an open lorry which drove around the Ibrox track. A Pipe band played, the fans celebrated, danced and sang as they roared their approval of the effort the players had made during a dramatic European campaign. It was a very memorable night at the end of an extraordinary season.