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Rangers: Johnston, Stein & McCloy relive 1972 Cup Winners' Cup win

Rangers' Derek Johnstone and Tommy McLean celebrate after winning the Cup Winners' Cup in Barcelona
Rangers’ Derek Johnstone and Tommy McLean celebrate after winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in Barcelona
Europa League final: Eintracht Frankfurt v Rangers
Venue: Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville Date: Wednesday, 18 May Time: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen to live commentary on Sportsound and follow live text updates on the BBC Sport website & app

Rangers’ finest hour started in France and ended on a milk float. Or was it a coal lorry?

A European Cup Winners’ Cup run that claimed Sporting Lisbon, confused a referee, infuriated a battered and bruised German icon and was aided by a handful of dodgy Russian photographs, all culminated in Barcelona and a date with Dynamo Moscow in the final.

It would turn into one of the most glittering nights in Rangers’ history, but one marred by clashes on the pitch that saw them unable to defend a trophy that was claimed with character and conviction.

Here, as the current Rangers side bid for glory 50 years on in Wednesday’s Europa League final, three members of that famous 1972 team take us through the story of the Barcelona Bears.

Who says the referee is always right?

Rangers kept their best performances for Europe in 1971-72. They lost four of their first five league games and 11 in total, finishing behind Celtic and Aberdeen.

But their continental campaign started well with a 1-1 draw at French side Rennes and a 1-0 home win before they faced Sporting Lisbon. The Scots won the home leg 3-2 then lost away by the same margin in normal time.

Both sides scored again in extra time to make it 6-6 on aggregate. Dutch referee Laurens van Ravens then ordered a penalty shootout, but he really should not have…

Goalkeeper Peter McCloy: Ah, the Sporting Lisbon fiasco. The referee didn’t understand the away-goals rule. We thought we were through after extra time but he wouldn’t have it.

Striker Colin Stein: We missed all our penalties – they were diabolical.

Winger Willie Johnston: Everybody thought we were out, even the gaffer Willie Waddell. It was a reporter – John Fairgreave – who came into the dressing room and said we were through because of away goals. The ref had got it wrong.

Colin Stein
Colin Stein scores against Sporting Lisbon at Ibrox in a 3-2 first-leg win

Beating Bayern & kicking the Kaiser

With the referee overruled, Rangers were through to a quarter-final with Torino. A 1-1 draw in Turin and a 1-0 win at Ibrox set up a semi against a Bayern Munich side sporting Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Paul Breitner, Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness.

Johnston: They beat us 1-0 in extra time in the final in 1967. It was the week after Celtic had won the European Cup. They came home to a great reception – we came home to two men and a dog.

McCloy: Bayern gave us a right battering in Germany. They could have scored two or three but we defended well and got a 1-1 draw.

Johnston: Beckenbauer lost the plot, he kept shouting about Stein, pronouncing it Stine. Steiny just kept kicking him.

Stein: We got off to a great start in the second leg, with a Sandy Jardine goal five or six minutes into the game, and we never looked back. Derek Parlane added a second but Bayern were always playing second fiddle to us.

Mission to Moscow & Nou feeling

Only one club now stood between between Rangers and a European trophy – Dynamo Moscow at Camp Nou…

McCloy: When we got to the stadium, all you could see was Rangers fans. Waddell said, ‘You see what it means for all these people? You have to go out there and win it for them’. That was the lift they gave us.

Stein: Waddell gave you photographs of the guys who’d be marking you. He told John Greig about their playmaker, Yozhef Sabo. He got the ball at the start of the game and John tackled him… it was grievous bodily harm. You wouldn’t get away with it nowadays, but Sabo didn’t touch the ball again for about an hour.

Johnston: Colin Jackson did his ankle in training the day before, Ronnie McKinnon broke his leg against Sporting Lisbon, and John Greig was struggling. He ended up playing with a special shinpad like the ones cricketers wear. John, myself and Jardine all played in defeat in 1967 and knew what is was like to lose a final, we didn’t want that to happen again.

Willie Johnston
Willie Johnston nets one of his two goals against Dynamo Moscow in the final

Rangers were 3-0 up in the first 50 minutes with goals from Stein and a Johnston double. But as they began to tire, goals from Vladimir Eshketrov on the hour and Aleksandr Makhovikov three minutes from time made it 3-2…

Johnston: We were hanging on at the end. Then the fans came on to pitch as they thought time was up. So did I.

Stein: They [Dynamo] made a song and dance about that – which is only right – they said it was affecting them but it affected us as well. I thought the game was over too, then I looked and the referee was pointing for us to carry on.

Then when the full-time whistle went, everyone came on to the pitch. If the Spanish police had left them it might have been OK, but I think some supporters saw others getting hit and just reacted.

McCloy: Spain was under the military dictatorship of Franco and the police took a dim view. They came on with the batons and of course there was a riot. We never got to get the trophy presented to us on the pitch.

Johnston: It was the only time Colin Stein beat me in a sprint – he was away down the tunnel, but I couldn’t get off the pitch because I was surrounded by fans. I think they got the trophy somewhere in the tunnel. John and Waddell went away and came back to the dressing room with it.

Rangers goalkeeper Peter McCloy is mobbed by fans at full-time
Rangers goalkeeper Peter McCloy is mobbed by fans at full-time

The celebrations – milk float or coal lorry?

Rangers would be unable to defend the trophy after being banned from European competition as a result of the clashes. But the days after the game offered a chance for the supporters to take in the historic moment.

Stein: The wives and mothers and fathers came to our hotel, but Waddell sent them away after two hours because ‘this is a night for the boys’. He put them all on a bus back to their hotels.

McCloy: We didn’t see them until the flight home. We flew into Prestwick Airport and there was fans everywhere lining the road to Ibrox.

Johnston: It was an anti-climax. We went back to Ibrox and went around on a milk float.

Stein: We got on the back of a coal lorry and it was peeing with rain. That’s how the crowd got to see the cup, it was a bit of a comedown from Barcelona.

McCloy: It was a coal lorry, nothing but the best for the best. At the time you don’t realise how special it was.

Rangers parade the Cup Winners' Cup at Ibrox
Rangers parade the Cup Winners’ Cup at Ibrox
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