Rome 1977: Through the eyes of the 11 Reds heroes
Exactly 40 years on from the historic night in Rome when Liverpool claimed the European Cup for the first time, we salute the 11 heroes who all played a major part in achieving glory.
The date of May 25 is remembered by many supporters for the miracle of Istanbul in 2005 but, long before that drama against AC Milan, the same day was the start of the club’s love affair with the competition.
Goals from Terry McDermott, Tommy Smith and an ice-cool penalty by Phil Neal established Bob Paisley’s men as the undisputed kings of Europe.
First published in the official matchday programme for last Sunday’s Premier League finale against Middlesbrough, we now reflect on that landmark triumph four decades ago courtesy of classic archive quotes from the players who wore the red shirt that night...
Ray Clemence: "We played extremely well in the first half in Rome, were 1-0 up at half-time, came out second half and [Allan] Simonsen – out of nothing – produced a wonder goal. You could see the team’s shoulders droop a little bit. We had to hang in there for the next 10 minutes and get everybody back together again and in that 10 minutes Stielike broke away one against one. I came out looking up, he hit me with the ball and it flew out of the danger area. Five or 10 minutes after that, Tommy Smith scored the headed goal and then Phil Neal. Once Tommy got us in front, on we went, but we had that 10-minute spell when Borussia looked the side who could win it."
Phil Neal: "When you think about the team that Bob picked, there wasn’t a big fella up front. Kevin Keegan was left to run at Vogts, Stevie Heighway was playing a roving role, flitting in and out, and there was room for Terry Mac or anybody else to join in. It was a very free formation, designed to pull the Germans around, and it worked. When Kevin was brought down for the penalty he’d been on a long run. I had about 50 yards to go to pick up the ball. I knew, and I could sense it while I was on my way to put the ball on the spot, that this was it. I was thinking to myself ‘C’mon Nealy, finish this off.’ I’d noticed that goalkeeper Wolfgang Knieb was a big lad, he’d towered over Ray Clemence on the way out. He was about 6ft 6in so I tried to keep it low, and it went low. It went in off the post, but so what? We’d got the cup."
Joey Jones: "The fans made a banner for me that said ‘Joey Ate The Frogs Legs, Made The Swiss Roll, Now He’s Munching Gladbach!’ It would only be for trying to tackle people – it certainly wasn’t for my silky skills because I never had any! It was made by a couple of fans who I really respected and I think as much of that banner as I do the medal. To make a banner about myself, when there were such great players at Liverpool, made me feel 10 feet tall. I had it for well over 20 years and the only place I let it go back to was the museum at Anfield."
Tommy Smith: "I think on that night we not so much became a European side but we played like a European side. Terry McDermott’s goal was outstanding. The little one-two, bang, bang, bang and he lifts it over the goalkeeper. They scored after a bad pass by Jimmy Case, but we took the game to them. We were patient and didn’t go gung-ho. Then I scored. They had failed to do their homework. We had arranged beforehand that I should go up for corners but they hadn’t prepared for it and I was left unmarked. Stevie Heighway was to chip the corner in and the idea was for me to flick it on to Keegan and generally cause confusion in the penalty area. Instead he drove the ball into the centre, I ran to meet it and connected with a perfect header. The goalkeeper never moved. I’d compare it to serving an ace in tennis or hitting a hole-in-one in golf. Everything about it was pefect."
Ray Kennedy: "Rome 1977. European Cup final. My favourite. We lost the FA Cup at the weekend after winning the league but when we went to Rome we knew we were going to win. We were ready. I enjoyed that more than any other. I think I played OK, but we won!"
Emlyn Hughes: "I remember walking up those steps to lift the cup and I felt privileged to do so. I was not thinking about myself, Kevin Keegan and the rest of the lads who’d just won the match. The names that were flashing through my mind were the likes of Roger Hunt, Ian St John, Ron Yeats, Shanks and Reuben Bennett. These were the men who had given us the chance to win the European Cup and who had put us in the position that we were in. As I reached out to collect the cup I knew that it was as much for them as for us."
Kevin Keegan: "This was the perfect ending to my career with Liverpool. What can I say about the fans? They were tremendous. It almost reached the stage where you expected it from them. The lap of honour was fantastic. I was so pleased for them. This was the perfect ending for me. I have no regrets. It was a fantastic way to finish."
Jimmy Case: "We were all totally surprised by how many fans were there. We knew how many planes were going out but that was it. I knew the types of fellas who would quite happily sell their cars to be there, but we didn’t think that one end of the stadium would be like that when we walked out. When we saw that, all thoughts of the FA Cup went out of our minds – how could you disappoint them?"
Steve Heighway: "I enjoyed those games in Europe when Bob would tell me to play up front, just run, keep mobile and take people off Kevin Keegan. I enjoyed not having a direct confrontation with a right-back, which I had in domestic football. Playing up front you could try to find a soft centre somewhere, keep probing around until you found a bit of success."
Ian Callaghan: "Rome was special. The first time you win something it always is. It was like winning the FA Cup for the first time in 1965. It was a great performance, especially after the disappointment of losing to Manchester United in the FA Cup final on the previous Saturday. It was special for me too because it was Kevin Keegan’s last game for Liverpool. He’d done so much here, was a great player, and he was off after the game. It was just a combination of everything. It was just a fantastic achievement."
Terry McDermott: "Walking out into the Olympic Stadium sent a shiver down your spine, even an hour-and-a-half before kick-off. There was a sea of red and white all around the ground. The Monchengladbach fans were squeezed into the corner, completely outnumbered by our fans. We had 35,000 there – absolutely staggering! I scored first to give us the lead and, for my goal, Kevin Keegan took Berti Vogts away to the other side of the penalty area. It gave me around 20 yards of space to run into, something you don’t normally get. Vogts should have been in the area trying to block the danger but he was so obsessed with trying to stick to Kevin, he was way out of position. When Steve Heighway released the ball, I was in. I saw their ’keeper Wolfgang Knieb coming out. He must have been about 6ft 8in, a real giant. I just sensed this huge shadow zooming in on me and I thought ‘I’d better get rid of this before he gets any nearer’ so I just hit it and it flew into the corner of the net."