1962. That’s when football began, as far as I am concerned. I had maybe been taken along to Rugby Park before then but I doubt it and, if I was, it would have been under sufferance!
In April, Scotland beat England at Hampden for the first time in 25 years and that hugely captured my imagination. I bought Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly and devoured each issue. In September of that year, Killie played Rangers at the same Hampden Park in the League Cup semi-final. I went with my dad and another father and son, both Rangers supporters – no segregation in those days – and can remember how awestruck I was by the size of the crowd, the noise, the scale of the stadium, the height and brightness of the floodlights …. and that Killie actually beat the mighty Rangers! I wasn’t at the final against Hearts – the Frank Beattie/Tiny Wharton match – which we lost. The only explanation I have after all these years is that it was a dreich October day with lashing rain and Hampden had very little cover in those days.
In December, Killie hosted Moscow Torpedo in friendly match. The Russians had played Rangers and beat them 6-0 a couple of days before and were to play Hearts after Killie.
Rugby Park was busy that night and here was the fabulous team of Moscow Torpedo, clad in all-white with a large blue “T” on the left breast. This was the time of the Cold War; in fact, I see that the League Cup final was played a day before the end of the Cuban missile crisis (perhaps the imminent threat of nuclear destruction rendered the match trivial in my old man’s eyes)! The Russians could have been from another planet to me in my feverish excitement!
Killie won what I remember as a fantastic match 4-2. My taste for the exotic dish which is European football was firmly established.
It would be two more years before Killie made their first entry into European club competition, in the clumsily-titled Inter Cities Fairs Cup (ICFC). This was a competition started to promote clubs whose cities hosted trade fairs (honestly!) but qualification by merit into what was UEFA’s third-tier competition behind the European Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup had crept in. Killie qualified by having finished runners-up in the Scottish League in 1963-64.
The First Round draw was unkind, pairing Killie with Eintracht Frankfurt of Germany. Eintracht were a legendary name in Scotland, not only for their part in the European Cup final of 1960 at Hampden when they were defeated 3-7 by the peerless Real Madrid but because they had defeated Rangers 6-1 and 6-3 (no – they didn’t play at tennis!) in the semi-final.
By 1964, they were not the same force, however, and had qualified for the ICFC because they had finished third in the previous season’s (inaugural) Bundesliga. They were also German Cup runners-up.
Four players remained from the 1960 final – Loy, Stinka, Lindner and Stein.
Yet Killie were no novices, having competed in New York against top sides from Europe and the Americas in 1960, 1961 and 1963.
At this point, I will confess that I have not lived in Kilmarnock in all my time as a supporter. In those days, the family lived in Glasgow and I was dependent on my father taking me to matches. So, dear reader, I have to report that I was not present as Killie won 5-1 to overturn a 0-3 first leg deficit at Rugby Park and topple Eintracht Frankfurt!
The match is part of Killie folklore and the match highlights are easily accessible online. For the record, Huberts put Eintracht four goals ahead before Ronnie Hamilton, destined to be a club chairman, and Brian McIlroy gave Killie a 2-1 half-time lead.
Jim McFadzean, a highly versatile player deputising for Matt Watson at left-back, made the score 3-1 early in the second half before Jackie McInally, father of Sky TV pundit Alan, scored a fourth Killie goal. The match was held up by the first crowd invasion of the night and, on the resumption, Hamilton scored his second goal with a deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area.
My main recollection of the match is doing my paper-round the next morning with Killie all over the papers, not least the lead story on the front page of the Scottish Daily Express which featured a picture of a seventeen year-old Tommy McLean being chaired off by his team-mates. Great stuff!
In the next round, Killie were drawn against Everton with the first leg on 11 November 1964 at Rugby Park. The Toffees had finished third in the English League the previous season, four points behind the champions, their city rivals. They had not started the 1964/65 season in such stellar form and lay in tenth place when they came north.
At the time, Everton were known alternatively as the “Bank of England Club”, because of the generous investment of their chairman and Littlewoods Pools owner, Sir John Moores, or “The School of Science” due to the classy football favoured by their manager, Harry Catterick.But Killie could take heart from having lost by only the single goal when the two sides met in New York in 1961.
The Everton side contained a sprinkling of Scots – Sandy Brown, Jimmy Gabriel and Alex “Golden Vision” Young – and they were too strong for Killie, winning 2-0.
Despite an Early goal by Brien McIlroy, it was a similar story in the return match at Goodison Park where Everton won 4-1 with two goals from Fred Pickering and one each for Colin Harvey and Young.
Pickering later recalled the games:
“I have clear memories of the games against Kilmarnock. Killie had a central defender called Jackie McGrory, who I had played against a few weeks earlier. I had played for England Under-23s against Scotland at St James’s Park. Jimmy Gabriel and Billy Bremner were also in the Scottish team that day but we won 3-0 and I scored a hat-trick.
“So I remember being quite confident about playing against this lad again and I managed to score twice.”
So Killie’s first venture into Europe ended after a brief but glorious run, but I had still to experience my first competitive European match! That was soon to change as the club’s fortunes in domestic competition ended even more gloriously on 25 April 1965 at Tynecastle when the club was crowned Scottish champions for the first time in their history!
INTER-CITIES FAIRS CUP
02/09/64 Eintracht Frankfurt 3(0) Kilmanock 0(0) (Att. 35,000)
22/09/64 Kilmarnock 5 (2) Eintracht Frankfurt 1 (1) (Att. 14,930)
Scorers: Hamilton 2, McIlroy, McFadzean, McInally
11/11/64 Kilmarnock 0 (0) Everton 2(0) (Att. 23,561)
23/11/64 Everton 4 (2) Kilmarnock 1 (1) (Att. 30,730)