Willie Henderson recalls agony of Rangers' 1967 Euro defeat

Willie Henderson has nothing but admiration for the Lisbon Lions after their glorious European Cup success 50 years ago.

Rangers took Bayern Munich to extra time before falling to a 1-0 defeat in the 1967 European Cup Winners' Cup final in Nuremberg. Picture: Getty Images

He was even part of the celebrations at Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza Hotel last week ahead of a major event at the SSE Hydro.

However, it only re-opened old wounds that Rangers came up agonisingly short in making the extraordinary year of 1967 even more glorious for Scottish football.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Half a century ago today they strode out at the not-so-neutral venue of Nuremberg to face Bayern Munich in the Cup Winners’ Cup final a week after Celtic’s historic 2-1 win over Internazionale.

It had followed Scotland’s humiliation of World Cup holders England the month before while Kilmarnock lost in the Fairs Cup semi-final to Don Revie’s Leeds and Dundee United defeated Barcelona home and away in the same competition.

Having taken care of Glentoran in round one, Rangers impressively knocked out holders Borussia Dortmund, winning 2-1 at Ibrox then drawing 0-0 in Germany despite playing for nearly an hour with ten men.

Bobby Watson had to go off with a knee ligament injury and there were no substitutes in those days.

However, a disastrous over-reaction to their shock Scottish Cup defeat at Berwick in the January was to prove pivotal in Rangers’ hopes of success even although they marched all the way to the final.

The powers that be wanted scapegoats and, inexplicably, decided that the strikers, Jim Forrest and George McLean, should carry the can.

They never played for Rangers again and both left Ibrox with Forrest being sold to Preston North End and McLean moved on to Dundee.

Former winger Henderson said: “It wasn’t right. It should never have happened and I don’t think there is any doubt that the decision to sell these players could have cost us the final and probably did.

“Both of them were goal-scorers and natural front players and it seems remarkable that at a time when we were doing well in Europe the club would make them pay for the result at Berwick. There were politics at play in these days and in hindsight it’s obvious to see it was a bad move.”

After a 2-2 aggregate with Zaragoza, Rangers remarkably progressed on the toss of a coin. Then Slavia Sofia were beaten 1-0 away and at home, with Henderson scoring the Ibrox clincher.

Rangers valiantly took 
Bayern – complete with Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller – to extra time but lost out to Franz Roth’s 
hook shot early in the second period.

Defender Roger Hynd was played as the main striker and, ironically, the best chance of the game fell to him and the weakness of his effort allowed Maier to save.

Henderson remains baffled. He said: “I don’t know whose decision that was, because it wasn’t Scot Symon’s.

“Even then we took Bayern Munich deep into extra time before they scored.

“What Celtic had done was sensational and there was an opportunity for Rangers to create a great double for 
Glasgow and Scottish football and it was such a bitter disappointment that we couldn’t do it.”