Manchester United, Porto, Arsenal, Sevilla, Roma – the Europa has some big guns

THE EUROPA League struggles to win public acclaim until the very last stages, but one look at this season’s list of entrants is a reminder that some big names are among the contenders. Wolverhampton Wanderers may have been playing in the competition since early summer, but they have clearly been stimulated by European football coming back to Molineux. Wolves have successfully negotiated three rounds, scoring … Continue reading Manchester United, Porto, Arsenal, Sevilla, Roma – the Europa has some big guns

Manchester United 1968 – triumph before the fire went out

WE’VE ALL seen the footage of George Best rounding the keeper, of Bobby Charlton weeping, of Matt Busby embracing the players, remembering the fallen of Munich, and of Eusebio congratulating Alex Stepney on a superb save. It’s an episode in the history of the game that is as vivid as the unfamiliar blue shirts that Manchester United wore on May 29, 1968. Manchester United’s European … Continue reading Manchester United 1968 – triumph before the fire went out

Europe’s Champions: 1957-58 Real Madrid

REAL MADRID completed a hat-trick of European Cup wins in 1958, but they had to work hard for the top prize in a gruelling final with AC Milan in Brussels. In doing so, Real also completed the double of domestic league title and European Cup for the second successive season. Nevertheless, football historians have always wondered if Real would still have been crowned champions of … Continue reading Europe’s Champions: 1957-58 Real Madrid

Europe’s Champions: 1956-57 – Real Madrid

AFTER setting the benchmark for European football, Real Madrid strengthened their squad with the signing of France’s Raymond Kopa, the Reims inside forward who had impressed Real when the two teams met in the European Cup final of 1956. Kopa’s arrival made Real an even more compelling team and sent a signal to the rest of Europe that the club could acquire the best talents … Continue reading Europe’s Champions: 1956-57 – Real Madrid

Great Reputations: AC Milan 1961-1963, the Nereo empire

WHILE Internazionale are credited with being the arch-exponents of catenaccio, the nerazzurri were not the first Italian team to adopt the defence-minded approach that squeezed the life out of Italian and European football. Inter’s stable-mates, AC Milan, were the forerunners. Nereo Rocco, from Trieste, first used the system at Padova, where he led a modest team from Veneto to third place in Serie A. After … Continue reading Great Reputations: AC Milan 1961-1963, the Nereo empire

Europe’s Champions: 1955-56 – Real Madrid

REAL MADRID made their international reputation in the first five years of the European Cup, in fact the club were firm advocates for its introduction. Since 1955-56, Real have rightly been indelibly linked with the premier football club competition. The idea of a pan-European tournament had first been mooted in the 1920s, but the lack of infrastructure to support such a venture was a hurdle. … Continue reading Europe’s Champions: 1955-56 – Real Madrid

Great Reputations: Red Star Belgrade 1973-74 – the team that changed English football

IN 1978, Chelsea chairman Brian Mears, desperate to change the fortunes of his ailing club, started to court Miljan Miljanić the Yugoslav coach rated among the best in Europe. Miljanić sat in the Stamford Bridge stands, dark glasses shielding him from the autumn sun and watched a calamitous first-half display by Chelsea against Bolton Wanderers. For a man used to rubbing shoulders with Europe’s footballing … Continue reading Great Reputations: Red Star Belgrade 1973-74 – the team that changed English football

Great Reputations: Anderlecht mid-1970s, trusting in purple

BELGIAN teams never made much of an impact in Europe in the early years of UEFA’s club competitions, the country was largely seen as an also-ran when it came to football. Teams like Anderlecht and Antwerp sustained very heavy blows in the first European Cup tournaments, often suffering double figure aggregate defeats. But the dynamic across the continent began to change in the 1960s and … Continue reading Great Reputations: Anderlecht mid-1970s, trusting in purple

1968, the year it came together

ENGLISH football was not quick to warm to the prospect of pan-European football and, it had no representation when the Coupe des Clubs Champions Européens kicked off in 1955, an early post-austerity attempt at sporting integration and collaboration. The author, James Walvin, in his seminal work, The People’s Game, remarked that “few areas of European social life seemed more obviously amenable and geared towards international … Continue reading 1968, the year it came together

GOTP Notepad: 1968 – Europe’s top clubs

THESE were the days before oligarchs, oilmen and Chinese conglomerates. Football was still about the rich and poor, but clubs could still rise through the ranks through skill and judgement, not just by sheer wealth and power. In 1968, Europe’s top six clubs, considering domestic strength, European success and cultural importance were: 1 – Real Madrid The club was a long way from its glorious … Continue reading GOTP Notepad: 1968 – Europe’s top clubs

Europe’s giants of all sizes, Part 1

AS we head towards the inevitable European super league, the rest of the continent’s clubs must be wondering what lies in store for those that find themselves excluded from the great gravy train that will emerge from a future shake-up of football. It would be easy for onlookers to only see a landscape that is dominated by Barca, Bayern, Real and PSG, but across Europe, … Continue reading Europe’s giants of all sizes, Part 1

Great Reputations: Celtic ’67 – a victory for sport

JOCK STEIN said it all really: “I want to be remembered for the football we played”. He was referring to Celtic’s first European Cup final appearance against the formidable Inter Milan in Lisbon and the possibility of defeat, something that Stein’s side were unaccustomed to experiencing. Fifty years on, the quality of Celtic’s football in that glorious season and the scale of their achievements is … Continue reading Great Reputations: Celtic ’67 – a victory for sport