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16 October 2014

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Hibernian reach the first European Cup semi-finals 1956

When Jock Stein came to Hibs as manager in 1964, he built on their European tradition. Often known as a dour character, Stein was more of a showman than he's given credit for. He had just taken over at Easter Road and won the Summer Cup. But Hearts were in Europe and Hibs weren't, so Stein went on the offensive and arranged a game against Real Madrid (October) – then the most famous club in the world.

Pat Stanton recalls being asked to mark Puskas. He recalls: "I got a wee insight early on into Puskas when he went over the top on me. I was a bit taken aback. Here was the world-famous player sorting out me, a young laddie from Niddrie. Anyway we won 2-0 and did a wee lap of honour afterwards."

Dundee's defeat to AC Milan would be revenged four years later when, in season 1967/68, Hibs faced Italian giants Napoli after ejecting Porto from the UEFA Cup competition, winning 3-0 at home and going down 1-3 in Portugal. The Hibees were beaten 4-1 by Napoli in Italy before rallying to put five past Dino Zoff at Easter Road and go through to the third round. Here they were put out by Don Revie's all-conquering Leeds side who went on to win the competition.

The following year Dunfermline would go on to be European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-finalists in 1968/69, then in season 1972/73 the year after Rangers ill-fated final, Hibs qualified for the European Cup-Winners' Cup. The Edinburgh side beat Sporting Lisbon 7-3 and Besa from Albania 8 -2 (helped by two hat-tricks by Jimmy O'Rourke) before going out to Hajduk Split (4-2, 0-3) in the quarter finals.

Central to this impressive early record in European competitions, then, are four characters: Gordon Smith (Hibs and Dundee), Jock Stein, (Hibs then Celtic), Bob Shankly (coach with Stenhousemuir then manager of Falkirk, Third Lanark, Dundee, Hibs), and chairmen with the necessary vision such as Harry Swan at Hibernian.

A side-effect of this internationalism was the emergence of the independence of the manager in charge of the playing staff (when Tommy Docherty replaced Bobby Brown in charge of the Scotland team in 1971 he was given a free hand, and paid significantly more than Sir Alf Ramsey.) But with this success came clubs undoing. The year of Dundee's European adventure 1962-63 season, there was a mini-revolt from the Players wanting bigger signing on fees for winning the League.

Dundee were to lose Ian Ure (to Arsenal) in 1964 for a Scottish record transfer fee of £62,500 and the following year lost their Scottish all-time record goals scorer (50 League and Cup goals) - Alan Gilzean, who was sold for yet another record Scottish fee to Spurs for £72,500. Shankly was disillusioned with the board and was quoted as saying: "They'll sell the groundsman if you make them an offer".

Success bred ambition but ultimately few of the smaller clubs could sustain it. While Hibs and Dundee and Dunfermline were pioneers they would soon see their playing staff and managers poached by clubs with deeper pockets. Little it seems has changed in the intervening period.

Thanks to Dunfermline Athletic FC, Hibernian Historical Trust and Dundee FC for help with this article.

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