"The Greatest European Story Ever Told" is an epic undertaking started by the brilliant Wooltonian to raise money for The Hillsborough Justice Campaign. It is no longer available in book-form and not hosted anywhere for free access but Wooltonian sent it to us to share with Reds all over the world at LFChistory.net. The Greatest European Story Ever Told (GESET) stands at over 100 pages and covers every match the Reds have played in Europe since Liverpool's first game against KR Reykjavik in August 1964. It tells the stories of the games and interweaves many humorous fan recollections regarding their adventures away from home.
Queens Drive, West Derby, 24 May 1973. Over a quarter of a million people are lining the streets to celebrate the most momentous season yet in the history of Liverpool Football Club. At the front of the open-top bus, Peter Cormack, Phil Thompson, Larry Lloyd, Kevin Keegan and reigning British light-heavy-weight boxing champion John Conteh are parading three trophies. The League Championship - a record-equalling eighth triumph - has been in the bag for almost a month now. Likewise, the Central League title. But it's the big one in the middle, the Uefa Cup, that's attracting the most attention. It means that Liverpool have finally arrived in Europe. To Bill Shankly, Uefa Cup success meant so much. The title win may have been the bread and butter, but glory in Europe was the realisation of a long-held ambition and the culmination of eight consecutive seasons of continental action - a feat no other English club could boast.
The squad that kicked off the 1972/73 campaign was one of the strongest at the club for years. With the exception of Tommy Smith, Ian Callaghan and Chris Lawler, the side had been totally rebuilt. There were new heroes - players like Ray Clemence, Emlyn Hughes, Steve Heighway, Kevin Keegan and John Toshack. "There was always great optimism in the camp and at the start of the 72/73 season it was no different," says Brian Hall, another valued member of the squad. "That was very much the nature of Bill Shankly. He inspired confidence in the lads. If he told us once, he told us a thousand times that we were the greatest. It gave us a tremendous self-belief, and I don't remember one time when we ran out with doubts that we wouldn't win. "With the exception of Keegan and Cormack, the majority of the side had been playing together since the 1970/71 season. We'd reached the FA Cup Final and the semi-final of what was then, the Fairs Cup, and the following year we came within a disallowed goal of winning the championship. Although we hadn't won anything, we'd come quite close and the 72/73 campaign was the continuation of this progression.
A confident start to the season saw Liverpool lay an early claim as pretenders to Derby County's championship crown. By the time the Uefa Cup trail began in September, a run of form had been established. Comparatively easy wins over Eintracht Frankfurt, AEK Athens, Dynamo Berlin and Dynamo Dresden set up a titanic clash with Uefa Cup holders Tottenham Hotspur that Liverpool eventually won on away goals. The two-legged final was an epic. Borussia Monchengladbach, a name would be etched into Anfield folklore, boast 11 full internationals and players like Bertie Vogts, Jupp Heynckes, Rainer Bonhof and Gunter Netzer. The pre-match talk from their camp revolved around how they'd come to Anfield and attack. But straight from the kick-off it was obvious that they intended nothing of the sort. Netzer, thought to be their main attacking threat from midfield, occupied a deep-lying position, and the Borussia defence soaked up Liverpool's pressure with ease. With rain falling heavily, however, large puddles appeared and parts of the pitch became submerged. After 28 minutes, Austrian referee Erich Linemayr took the players off the field. He waited 20 minutes before officially abandoning the match. One player who didn't welcome the abandonment was Brian Hall. "I came off the pitch with no reason to believe I'd played badly. I was playing against Bertie Vogts, and the fact that I'd had a reasonable 20 minutes against him shows I didn't play badly. I turned up the following night fully expecting to play again only to be told an hour before kick-off that I wasn't in the team. It was a little annoying to say the least." Hall was replaced by John Toshack whose aerial presence, Shanks believed, would upset the German defence. Toshack had been furious about being left out the previous night and after a blazing row with the boss he thought his Anfield career was over. The decision to reinstate him was an inspired one. Toshack linked up with Keegan to devastating effect as Liverpool ran riot and overwhelmed Borussia. Twice in the first half, he provided the killer assist for Keegan. On 62 minutes, Borussia's weakness in the air was again exploited as Larry Lloyd powerfully headed home a Keegan corner.
With the clock ticking away, however, Borussia were awarded a penalty in front of the Kop. "Jupp Heynckes was a powerful striker of the ball," recalls Ray Clemence. "But I'd watched him take a penalty a few weeks earlier when he put the ball to the keeper's right, and I made a mental note of that. As he kicked the ball, I was on my way and I managed to get a hand to the ball and push it around the post." The importance of the save would not become apparent to a fortnight later. Liverpool, it seemed, were home and dry, but Shanks had other ideas. "We're here on a mission and not for fun," he warned as the team arrived in Germany. "Although we're three-nil up, it's not all over. It's only half time." An estimated 4,000 Liverpudlians followed the Reds to Gladbach in the Ruhr Valley, and their nerves were put through the shredder on the night. Borussia were unrecognisable from the first leg, laying siege to the Liverpool goal inside the Bokelbergstadion straight from the kick-off. Netzer controlled the game and before half-time Heynckes had scored twice - the second a delightfully curled effort past Clemence with that emphatically 70s black-and-white panelled ball.
Fortified by a Shankly call-to-arms at half time, Liverpool hung on desperately to their slender aggregate advantage. As the tension built and the minutes ticked away, Shankly paced up and down the touchline, constantly checking his watch, before the final shriek of Russian referee Pavel Kazakov's whistle hailed a European first and an unprecedented Liverpool double. Skipper Tommy Smith proudly collected the giant silver vase and paraded it before a mini pitch invasion of jubilant fans. Success in Europe confirmed what Shankly already knew - his second great side had come of age. On the plane home from Germany, he told reporters: "The people on the Continent are beginning to get frightened of Liverpool. Gunter Netzer told me so tonight." The German striker was right. A new force in European football had emerged.
Marks, recap on all games, scorers and attendances ;
Liverpool 2 (Keegan 12, Hughes 75)
Eintracht Frankfurt 0
Eintracht Frankfurt 0
The Munich Olympics had delayed the start of Eintracht's domestic season and they arrived on Merseyside without having played a competitive game. A hard-fought goalless draw in the return saw Liverpool progress.
Liverpool 3 (Boersma 9, Cormack 28, Smith 78 pen)
Liverpool 3 (Hughes 18, 44, Boersma 87)
The atmosphere in Athens was anything but subdued. "When we got back to the dressing room Shanks told us not to bother with a shower," says Brian Hall. "We came out and the streets were lined with thousands of Greeks. It was a frightening sight, but they'd stayed behind to applaud us!"
D Berlin 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool 3 (Boersma 1, Heighway 25, Toshack 56)
D Berlin 1
A potentially daunting journey behind the Iron Curtain turned out to be a dull and uneventful first leg, and Liverpool earned a creditable goalless draw before completing the job with ease at Anfield, courtesy of goals from Boersma, Heighway and Toshack.
Liverpool 2 (Hall 25, Boersma 60)
D Dresden 0
D Dresden 0
Liverpool 1 (Keegan 53)
"When we got to Dresden," says Hall, "we were told the authorities wouldn't be issuing our fans with visa's. But when we arrived at the stadium there were about 1,000 Scousers in the stands. They’d managed to beat the system to cheer us on."
Liverpool 1 (Lindsay 17)
Liverpool 1 (Heighway 55)
Spurs had beaten Wolves in the previous year’s final, but the away goals rule took the Reds through after a nail biting finale in the second leg.
Liverpool 3 (Keegan 21, 33, Lloyd 62)
A final tie that epitomised Liverpool's growing European guile. "We'd learnt a lot from playing the top continental sides," says Ian Callaghan. "They were more patient and we followed suit. We were the first English club to play possession football. Just pass to the nearest red shirt. It was really as simple as that."
Captain Tommy Smith remembers...
"We'd gone close before in 1965 when a dodgy referee cost us a place in the final of the European Cup and then the following year we got beat in the Cup Winners Cup Final. Shanks was delighted to get his hands on a European trophy and there's no doubt we deserved it. "The Uefa Cup was always regarded as the lesser of the three European competitions, but it was the hardest of them all to win. There was an extra round for starters, and the two-legged final didn't make it any easier. You'd also come up against emerging clubs who were on the verge of great things, like Monchengladbach for example. "In the first leg at Anfield, the ground was so hard the water wouldn't drain away. It was like trying to play football in a pool. The ref called the game off, but Shanks had seen enough in that time to change his tactics for the following night. I think someone was looking down on us that night. We were struggling without the big man Toshack up front and the rain proved to be a blessing in disguise. "In the second leg the boss told us to contain them and hit them on the break. It was aerial battle and it was up to me as captain to organise us so we conceded no further goals. Joe Fagan said afterwards that it was the best game I'd ever played for Liverpool as skipper. "I never realised how big the cup was. It had a big stone base and weighed a ton. I remember on the lap of honour some big fat guy jumped on my back and I nearly collapsed. After such a gruelling match I was absolutely knackered. I eventually made it to the dressing room and I said to Shanks, 'Here you are boss, the cup's yours'. I handed it to him, but I don't think he realised how heavy it was either. He nearly dropped it!"
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