Days We’ll Remember: No. 3 – The 1977 European Cup Final

No. 3 – The 1977 European Cup Final

Here, TIA Columnist Jim Gibson recalls our European Cup victory over Borussia Monchengladbach, a historic night when Liverpool captured the most prized club trophy in world football and also an emotional night with Tommy Smith making his farewell appearance before retirement and Kevin Keegan doing the same before his move to SV Hamburg…

“Every minute we do things that define the next hour. Every hour we do thnigs that define our day. There are days that define the next month or year. But there are moments in life that define everything: When Emlym Hughes, smile broader than the mersey, picked up big ears, on a warm summers night in 1977,and hoisted it in the air, a hundred different moments and strands had come together at once. Liverpool had climbed the highest mountain in football and were crowned as the kings of europe and the kings of football.

Liverpool had arrived top of the bill on the world stage and is so doing, this one moment signalled Liverpool’s dominance of British and European football for the next 15 years, and defined the next 28 years which ended in Istanbul where Steven Gerrard picked up that very same trophy to take home forever. But Im getting ahead of myself.

The formation of Liverpool football club, the buying of anfield, the all red strip and the championship wins: Many moments lead to that May night in Rome in 1977. But the seeds we sown back in 1965 by scotsman who more than anyone, was responsible for that night. He bought most of the team that played that night, but it was his vision for Liverpool that defined the club.

“I want to build a team that’s invincible, so that they have to send a team from bloody Mars to beat us.” And that is what Shankly did. In our first ever European cup competition in 1965, we lost to the eventual winners Inter Milan in the semi finals. We were the better team and the referee has since admitted to being bribed. In short: The European cup was stolen for us then. But Shanks still had a mission. In 1973 and in 1976 we won the UEFA cup. Which some say was just as hard a tournament back then. So the 1977 was a kind of treble, and a kind of revenge, but more than anything, the moment Liverpool become truly great.

The amazing thing about the team that night was that it was built on a shoestring budget from almost totally unknown players: Ray Clemence,19 (Scunthorpe), Phil Neal (Northampton), Emlyn Hughes (Blackpool), Joey Jones (Wrexham), Kevin Keegan (Scunthorpe) were all unknowns signed from lower league clubs very cheaply. Tommy Smith and Ian Callaghan were products of the club, Case and Hieghway were signed as young amateurs. Only Ray Kennedy (Arsenal) and Terry McDermott (Newcastle) came from the same league and cost money !!!

Terry McDermott (LFC player 1974-82) speaking to the offficial Liverpool website: “Rome will never fade from my memory. I’ll always remember it until the day I die, walking out into the stadium and seeing the red and white chequered flags, I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve never seen anything again since. It was just atmosphere and an incredible feeling to see those fans. There must have been at least 30,000 Scousers there and it was just phenomenal. We walked on to the pitch about an hour before and thought ‘Christ, how can we get beat for these lot’ and obviously we didn’t.”

Emlyn Hughes (LFC player & captain 1967-79):”I remember walking out onto the pitch before the game and I thought to myself ‘Jesus Christ we’re back in Liverpool!’”

Among the mass of flags that greeted the Liverpool players the most eye-catching was without doubt the one in tribute to the European heroics of popular full-back Joey Jones. With reference to the games against St Etienne, Zurich and now the final against Moenchengladbach it read – Joey ate the Frogs’ Legs, Made the Swiss roll, Now he’s Munching-Gladbach.

Against a Borussia side that included established international players like Vogts, Bonhof, Heynckes and Simonsen the task facing Liverpool was an almighty one but with such fanatical support ringing in their ears they took to the field in confident mood and took the lead through Terry McDermott midway through the first half.

Tommy Smith speaking to the offficial Liverpool website: We got out there and it was untrue and I think on that night, we not so much became a European side, but we played like a European side. Terry McDermott’s first goal was outstanding. The little one-two, bang, bang, bang and he lifts it over the goalkeeper. Absolutely brilliant.

Terry McDermott speaking to the offficial Liverpool website: “My goal I remember perfectly well. I’ve seen it that many times on television. Although it wasn’t the best, it was the most important. Cally passed the ball to Heighway and he’s played a great through ball to pick out my run. I’ve got Wolfgang Kneib – he was about 9ft 2in – running out at me. I thought, ‘Aye aye, hit it before he comes and clatters me.’ It could have gone anywhere, but it went in the back of the net.”

Borussia levelled early in the second half but the game was turned on its head when Tommy Smith nodded home from a corner just after the hour mark. With eight minutes remaining Kevin Keegan, playing the game of his life, picked up the ball just over the halfway line and, with his shadow Bertie Vogts trailing in his wake, embarked on a surging run that took him to within shooting distance of the Borussia goal. As he teed up his shot from 12-yards out Vogts predictably sent him sprawling to the turf. It was as clear-cut a penalty you’ll ever see. Referee Mr Wurtz had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and up stepped Phil Neal to seal Liverpool Football Club’s most momentous triumph.

This was the moment the club had strived for since that Sunday afternoon back in August 1964 when they set off on their first ever European excursion to Reykjavik and for Bob Paisley, the longest serving member of the Anfield staff it was the ultimate triumph.

Bob Paisley (LFC manager 1974-83): To come away from Wembley (Cup final) and play like that was a feat in itself. Then our spirit was further tested when we made a mistake and gave away a brilliantly taken goal. Their response speaks volumes for the players and shows just what great professionals they are. We’ve done the country proud and this is my greatest moment.

Success in Rome was the fulfilment of a 13-year odyssey for players, staff and fans alike.

Liverpool FC – Borussia M’gladbach 3:1 (1:0)

20:30 – 25/05/1977, Stadio Olimpico (Rome)
European Champions’ Cup 1976-1977 Final

1:0 Terry McDermott (28)
1:1 Allan Simonsen (51)
2:1 Tommy Smith (65)
3:1 Phil Neal (83 Pen)

Liverpools Team : Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Tommy Smith, Emlyn Hughes (c), Joey Jones, Jimmy Case, Terry McDermott, Ian Callaghan, Ray Kennedy, Kevin Keegan, Steve Heighway.