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The year Linfield lost £1,000 reaching the European Cup quarter-finals

As the Blues prepare for their biggest European clash in over 50 years, we take a walk down memory lane and remember games from the great 1960s

Blues hero: Phil Scott, a key player for Linfield in Europe, scored 220 goals for the Blues
Blues hero: Phil Scott, a key player for Linfield in Europe, scored 220 goals for the Blues
Windsor wonder: Sammy Pavis was such an influential striker for the Blues in domestic and European action
Players from the Linfield and Valerengen European Cup tie in 1966 were reunited at Windsor in 2012
Current Linfield ace Jordan Stewart with his grandfather, the fantastic Blues striker Phil Scott in 2014
Ken Gilliland
Halcyon days: programmes from Linfield’s 1966/67 European Cup adventure
Halcyon days: programmes from Linfield’s 1966/67 European Cup adventure
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

What a difference a half-century makes. For Linfield - who are just 180 minutes away from pocketing mega millions if they win their next two European games - actually lost money the last time they did so well on the continental stage in 1967.

The Irish League champions stand to earn a mouth-watering £4m if they can overcome Azerbaijan champions Qarabag in home and away games on Thursday night and next week to reach the group stages of the Europa League.

But 52 years ago, when Linfield last got through two rounds of a major European competition, they lost nearly £1,000.

Back then, the Blues made it to the quarter finals of the prestigious European Cup with victories over teams from Luxembourg and Norway, and archive TV footage shows the club's late secretary Harry Wallace bemoaning the price of success.

Wallace said: "To date we have lost just short of £1,000 on our first two rounds simply because we haven't drawn big names."

Yet the records show that the Windsor Park games against Aris of Luxembourg and Valerengen of Norway drew bigger crowds than any of Linfield's recent Europa League matches.

The big difference nowadays is the prize money on offer from footballing bosses in Uefa.

The Blues are already assured of nearly £1.5m for beating HB Torshavn from the Faroe Islands and FK Sutjeska from Montenegro and could bank £4m if they win their Europa League play-off games against Qarabag.

The latest run of success for Linfield has been made all the more remarkable by an emotional family tie that links the 1960s side and the current team, who are trying to bring back the glory days this week.

For Jordan Stewart, who pulls on the number 10 jersey for the modern day Linfield heroes, is the grandson of Phil Scott, the Windsor Park legend who wore the same number 10 shirt when he helped the Blues create that little bit of history in the old European Cup back in the '60s.

Scott, who scored a total of 220 goals for Linfield in 400 games, died in May 2014 just a week after he made an emotional return to the scene of his Windsor Park triumphs before a Linfield game against Glentoran, for whom Jordan Stewart then played.

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Current Linfield ace Jordan Stewart with his grandfather, the fantastic Blues striker Phil Scott in 2014

Linfield will be the underdogs on Thursday night as they try to become the first Irish League club to advance to the lucrative group stages of the Europa League, but they weren't exactly favourites in the European Cup back in 1966.

Yet their former player-coach, Tommy Leishman, a hard-as-nails Scot who had been a rock of Bill Shankly's Liverpool team, is convinced that his talented Linfield team should have made it to the semi-finals, though the Blues couldn't have possibly asked for a worse start in Europe.

In the first minute of their first game against Aris in the Stade Municipale in Luxembourg they were stunned by a goal, but fought back to go into a 3-1 lead through goals from Phil Scott, Sammy Pavis - who died last month - and Bryan Hamilton, who would eventually become one of the Blues' most successful exports to English football.

Aris responded with two more goals, which left the fixture delicately poised at 3-3, setting up an intriguing return game at Windsor Park on September 14, 1966.

Official records say a crowd of 8,930 watched Linfield record an easy 6-1 win. Scott got two of the goals, Pavis hit one, but the man of the match was Liverpudlian Arthur Thomas who netted a hat-trick.

Thomas, who had joined the Blues from Ballymena United and who later emigrated to Australia, where he passed away in 2007, described that match as the highlight of his Linfield career and requested a copy of a documentary video I made about Linfield in 1992 to be sent to him.

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Windsor wonder: Sammy Pavis was such an influential striker for the Blues in domestic and European action

In a letter to me he said he actually scored four goals against Aris but the referee disallowed one of them because he said that Thomas' colleague Billy Ferguson was offside.

Thomas said: "He was on the wing and not interfering with play. If that goal had stood, I would have been the joint top scorer in that season's European Cup with Paul van Himst of Anderlecht.

"I finished up as second highest scorer with five goals, which wasn't bad for part-time player."

In the next round of the European Cup, Linfield were drawn to face Norwegian champions Valerengen.

The first leg was held in Oslo on October 25, 1966 and Leishman tried to play down the fans' wild expectations of another runaway victory to match the 9-4 aggregate triumph over Aris.

The plan, he said, was to keep it tight at the back and rely on Pavis, Thomas, Scott and Tommy Shields, a speedy winger from Dromore in Co Down, to play on the break.

Just as in Luxembourg, Linfield fell behind to an early goal from their hosts.

But what was to come was beyond any Blueman's wildest dreams as Scott equalised with a breathtaking volley before Pavis put Linfield ahead, while Thomas scored a third from the penalty spot and Hamilton made it 4-1 before half-time, cementing the first away win by an Irish League side in Europe.

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Halcyon days: programmes from Linfield’s 1966/67 European Cup adventure

The return leg on November 8 against Valerengen at Windsor Park was an anti-climax in front of 6,735 fans who knew the job was done.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw, with Linfield's goal coming from Thomas.

But bore or no bore, Linfield were - quite unbelievably - through to the quarter-finals to play Bulgarian side CSKA, an army side from Sofia.

However, the first game at Windsor Park started disastrously.

Linfield's new goalkeeper Tommy Moffatt, brought in to replace Iam McFaul who had been transferred to Newcastle United, had a nightmare.

Only two minutes were on the clock and 10,136 horrified supporters looked on as a speculative 30-yard shot from CSKA's Romanov sailed past a rooted-to-the spot Moffatt.

However, against the odds a resilient Linfield were able to bounce back with a 2-1 lead they took into the interval with goals from Hamilton and Shields.

In the second half, Moffatt was beaten again by another long range effort from Romanov.

Two weeks later in Sofia, however, Moffatt redeemed himself with a heroic shot-stopping display to keep the score down to 1-0.

The irony was that in the semi-final, Inter Milan needed a play-off game to defeat CSKA Sofia and book a final place in Portugal against Celtic, who became the first British club to win the European Cup, creating the legend of the Lisbon Lions with a 2-1 triumph over the Italian giants.

Tommy Leishman told me in a video interview for the Linfield story that he thought the club could have beaten CSKA Sofia if the club hadn't sold McFaul to the Magpies.

"I don't know about that," said McFaul, a former Northern Ireland international and Newcastle Untied manager who gave Paul Gascoigne his big break. "But getting to the quarter-finals was superb for us.

Seven years ago, six members of Linfield's 1966-67 team were reunited in an extraordinary get-together with their opponents from the Valerengen side they beat 50 odd years ago.

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Players from the Linfield and Valerengen European Cup tie in 1966 were reunited at Windsor in 2012

The Norwegians, who were part of their club's 'old boys' network, called at Windsor Park during a whistle-stop visit to Ireland.

Waiting to greet them were ex-Blues players Iam McFaul, Ken Gilliland, Jackie Patterson, Isaac Andrews, Sammy Pavis and Tommy Shields.

Hardly surprisingly, given the passage of 46 years, Pavis said few of the players recognised each other. Tough tackling wing half Isaac Andrews, who's still a regular at Linfield games, said: "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."

Shields brought newspaper cuttings about the games to the catch-up, along with bitter-sweet memories.

"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 remembered more about celebrities he met in Linfield's hotel in Oslo than about the Norwegian opposition.

"The actor Yul Brynner and Julie Felix, the singer, were there for a Save the Children fundraiser, but we couldn't persuade them to come to the game," he said.

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