John Greig MBE - The Greatest Ever Ranger (Part 3)

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Rangers have a very proud history in Europe being the first Scottish club to play a competitive European tie whilst participating in the European Cup in season 1956-57 season and became the fist Scottish or British Club to reach a European final when in 1961 we lost 4-1 on aggregate to Fiorentina in the inaugural European Cup Winners Cup final. During this campaign we defeated Wolves in the semi-final the game that gave us the wonderful Wolverhampton Town song which has thankfully, found it’s way back onto our hymn sheet in recent years.

As we will all be aware of, John Greig was the only captain to lead Rangers to a European trophy when he captained Rangers to the historic and exhilarating victory over Moscow Dynamo on that unforgettable night on Barcelona (May 24th, 1972). John Greig also has the distinction of playing in two Cup Winners' Cup Finals as he also played in our defeat at the hands of a young and upcoming Bayern Munich team that contained the likes of Beckenbauer, Muller, Maier and the scorer of the winning goal, Roth.

The 1967 Cup Winners' Cup Final was historic in the fact that it was the first time two clubs from the same city had played in both major European Finals in the same year. Ultimately, Rangers wouldn’t match Celtic’s victory and were defeated 1-0 by the Germans in a game played in Nuremberg. Losing this final was a disappointing end to a disappointing season that saw Rangers finish the season trophy-less for the first time since 1951-51 season and saw Celtic claim a clean sweep of trophies. This was also the season that bore witness to one of the most embarrassing defeats in our history when a Berwick Rangers side (inspired ironically by Jock Wallace) knocked Scott Symons' charges out of the Scottish Cup. A result tha,t at the time, and is still thought of, as nothing other than a catastrophe.

However, the defeat at Berwick hastened the introduction of much needed young blood with Sandy Jardine and Alex Willoughby both brought into the team. Willoughby would score 16 goals in 14 games, a run that astonishingly saw him dropped from the Cup Winners' Cup Final and replaced by Roger Hynd, a huge error of judgement from Symon that arguably cost Rangers the Cup Winners' Cup Final that year. Rangers had defeated some very decent teams to get to the final with Glentoran, holders Dortmund, Real Zaragoza and Slavia Sofia all put to the sword. The tie against Real Zaragoza was decided by a coin toss after the clubs draw 2-2 over two legs. The Rangers team that evening was Norrie Martin, Kai Johansen, Davie Provan, Ronnie McKinnon, John Greig, Sandy Jardine, Davie Smith, Willie Henderson, Roger Hynd, Alex Smith and Willie Johnston.
 
Wikipedia link - click here.
 
 
We would ultimately gain revenge on Munich when we defeated them in the semi-final of the same competition in 1972. The calibre of opponents we faced during this competition was simply outstanding. Not only Munich in the semi-final, but we overcame the likes of Rennes and Sporting Lisbon. However, the Munich side were mightily impressive and would go on to win the European Cup three years in succession. They also contained 6 West German internationals who would help their country win the European Championships mere weeks after Rangers defeated Munich. Sandy Jardine and the young Derek Parlane (who replaced Greig in the starting 11) scoring the goals.
 
 
The highlight of this campaign was a balanced side, scoring in every away tie we played, the critical goals from Colin Stein, Willie Johnston and Alex McDonald and the conversion of Derek Johnstone into a superb centre-half. The early tie against Sporting was decided on away goals after Rangers lost 4-3 in Portugal after winning 3-2 at Ibrox. However, with the scores tied, the officials commenced a penalty shoot-out that we eventually lost. The officials had forgotten about the away goals rule and declared that the Portuguese side had progressed and only changed their mind when challenged by Rangers officials and Scottish media once they realised their mistake.

The final in Barcelona was unforgettable and one of the major achievements in our long and proud history. Our opponents were of outstanding quality, as was shown in the latter part of the game as the Russians tried to overhaul our 3 goal salvo. This was Rangers' 14th European Campaign and was already our 3rd Final (we had also reached the semi-finals for the European Cup) and we became the first club to have reached three Cup Winners' Cup Finals. Willie Waddell’s charges had a determination to exorcise the memories of Nuremburg and had a brilliant knack of raising their game in Europe that season which was in stark contrast to our domestic form.

The game was hugely anticipated and everyone hoped that it would live up to the friendly between the two clubs when the Russians toured Britain in 1945 in a precursor to European Football. The match at Ibrox was fascinated, with 90,000 fans missing work and school to witness the light-blues take on the welcome visitors from Russia;  a game that would see The Rangers play in blue and white hoops!

Rangers, as always were well supported in Barcelona with in the region of 16,000 fans making their way by varying methods to witness Rangers' triumph. Rangers dominated the game for around 50 minutes and raced into a three goal lead thanks to Colin Stein and Willie Johnston. Despite a late rally from the Russians Rangers held on and won the game 3-2 finally getting our hands on a European Trophy at the 3rd attempt.

The scenes at the final whistle are well documented and the over-reaction from Franco’s fascist Police Force was an utter disgrace and spoiled what should have been the best evening in our illustrious history. Historically, the events that evening have been blown out of all proportion with the Rangers support being accused of rampaging and destroying chapels and assaulting nuns. None of which is even close to the truth. In fact, the Rangers support are held in great esteem in Barcelona for putting the fascist Police in their place. The subsequent UEFA ban led to Barcelona inviting Rangers to their pre-season celebrations the following season and Barca captain Carles Puyol stated as much when interviewed prior to last seasons Champions League encounter.
 
BBC Report of the Match - click here.
 
 
 
I guess the saddest aspect of the events was that John Greig wasn’t allowed to lift the trophy in front of the static Rangers support, but the celebrations on their arrival back in Scotland and at Ibrox certainly made up for any disappointment.