Six members of a history-making Linfield team that almost caused one of the European Cup’s greatest upsets returned to Windsor Park to enjoy an emotional reunion with players from a Norwegian team they beat in the competition 46 years ago.
Einar Bruno Larsen, Terje Skogli, Thorvald Larsen, Leif Eriksen, Helge Sorlie and Kjell Marcussen, who were in the Valerengen team that lost 5-2 on aggregate as Linfield reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup in the 1966-67 season were in Belfast for a surprise visit.
“We didn’t tell them where they were going” said Herman Foss who’s part of a Valerengen old boys group that travels around Europe on sporting tours.
“”We’ve been in Dublin and the former players only knew that Belfast was on the itinerary for a day trip, but when we arrived at Windsor Park, one-by-one they recognised the stadium.”
Waiting at Windsor to greet them were ex-Linfield players who helped the Blues beat Valerengen 4-1 in Oslo and draw 1-1 in Belfast — Iam McFaul, Ken Gilliland, Jackie Patterson, Isaac Andrews, Sammy Pavis and Tommy Shields.
After beating Valerengen, Linfield almost made the semi-finals and but for a couple of goalkeeping errors they might have done, drawing 2-2 at home to CSKA Sofia before a 1-0 loss in Bulgaria.
Inter-Milan needed a play-off against CSKA to reach the European Cup final against Celtic who famously beat them 2-1 in Lisbon.
“Yes we might have got to the semi-finals of the European Cup,” Linfield chairman Jim Kerr told a reception for the Norwegians.
“If we hadn’t sold our goalkeeper Iam McFaul to Newcastle United, we may just have done it.”
Former Northern Ireland international McFaul said: “I don’t know about that, but getting to the quarter-finals was superb for us.”
Pavis, one of Linfield’s top goalscorers of all time, added: “It’s great to meet up with the Valerengen lads again, though I wouldn’t have recognised one of them.”
Tough tackling right half Andrews agreed: “I didn’t spot any familiar faces. I just nodded and shook hands with them.”
Gilliland said: “It was easy for us in Norway. We were on top from the very start. This is a special day and an unusual reunion.
“I would like to do this again especially to meet up with some of our old rivals from Glentoran.”
Shields who brought newspaper reports of the Valerengen ties, was in forgiving mood.
“I recall getting kicked two or three times in the first minutes and after we got a penalty, we dominated the game,” he said.
Patterson’s memories of the trip to Oslo surround meeting a film star and singer in the team hotel.
“Yul Brynner and Julie Felix were there for a Save the Children fund-raiser, but we couldn’t persuade them to come to the game,” he said.