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A Stop on our way to the Cup Winners Cup Final 1966

This was before the days of wall to wall TV football and long before the luxury of substitutes (As those who saw the game against Celtic later in this year’s campaign can testify). We knew little about football outside of the UK apart from the very few global names of that day (Real Madrid, Inter, Juventus & Dynamo Moscow being the main ones I recall). Europe was an exciting new adventure and we relied almost entirely on the Echo to give us the facts about each exotic new name we were drawn to play against.

To put what follows into context, this was also the era when bookings were rare and sendings off even rarer (Around this time, Everton and Leeds Utd were hauled before the League for their poor disciplinary record because both had had about Three players sent off that SEASON. A long ban for a player being sent off would be five or six games- and to earn that you had to practically take someone’s leg off.

In the build up to the match, one fact came to light that sticks in the memory - Liege had a centre forward called Roger Claessen. A player who had committed fouls so serious that he had been suspended for something like six months in his domestic league – and yet he was eligible and permitted to play in European games!

When the game kicked off, we soon found out why this player had such a reputation – Liege were a very physical team even for those days and Claessen in particular kicked cobs out of all and sundry. He didn’t tackle, he was far cruder than that. As the match worse on towards half time, the Kop got more and more restless because the referee (French I think) chose not to see what Claessen was doing.

As the players came out for the second half, I watched Tommy Smith and Ron Yeats having a quite animated conversation as they walked out onto the pitch. Liege continued much as they had in the first half and early in the half the ball was passed through to Claessen who set off at pace towards goal. He never knew what hit him. With perfect timing Smithy tackled him from one side and Rowdy from the other and he went down like a sack of spuds. The physio’s were with him for a fair few minutes and the Kop gleefully sang “EE-Aye Addio the centre forwards dead”. They carried him off and he didn’t reappear.

Think Wimbledon at the time of the Crazy Gang and you have an idea what Liege were like.

Copyright - Zappa - originally posted on RAWK's forum

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