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How Coleraine's Terry Cochrane walked off the pitch to make sure his goal was recognised in European tie at Eintracht Frankfurt

Liam Beckett


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Liam Beckett and his Coleraine team-mates were bemused at being briefly a man down during their European tie.

Liam Beckett and his Coleraine team-mates were bemused at being briefly a man down during their European tie.

Liam Beckett and his Coleraine team-mates were bemused at being briefly a man down during their European tie.

One of the perks of playing for a successful Irish League club is getting to compete on the European stage and rubbing shoulders with the big boys.

During my own career, the chances of playing against the very best in Europe were even greater because there was no such thing as qualifying rounds like we have nowadays. You were pitched right in there along with all the top club sides, so the likelihood of drawing a big gun was much higher.

I was lucky enough to play in all three major competitions - the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup - and there are plenty of stories to tell, but one of the most crazy and bizarre happened when I was playing for Coleraine against Eintracht Frankfurt of West Germany.

The away leg was played in the Frankfurt stadium and, although we had a real quality side back in the mid-1970s, on paper we were no match and stood no chance whatsoever against our full-time professional opponents who had World Cup stars in their ranks.

Such was the gulf in class and fitness levels in those games that they very often became little more than damage limitation exercises, which was the more preferable option to a gung ho approach which invariably left you wide open and possibly on the end of a good hiding - and I've experienced both.

Although the tactics focused on containment, there was always the temptation and desire to have a go if or when the opportunity arose, but you chose that option at your peril.

I can remember on arrival in Frankfurt's stadium foyer, we were asked to sign this massive visitors book and, as I was signing my name, I glanced across to the previous page only to discover that the last team to play the Germans was none other than the fabulous Benfica side of the '70s - and on closer inspection, there indeed were the signatures of Eusebio and Mario Coluna amongst many other household names.

It was a massive stadium with equally massive dressing rooms and a huge lift which transported the teams down into the tunnel at pitch level. As both teams lined up side by side, we joked that it might be the closest we'd get to the opposition all night.

One of the top players in our team was struggling to be fit enough to play and it was actually in the dressing room when the rest of us discovered he wouldn't make it.

Our team doctor had earlier taken this player into a separate consultancy room to see if he could get him fit enough to play but, unbeknown to the rest of us, he had also taken the bottle of brandy which was part of our kit (several of the players liked a nip of brandy before going out to the battlefield) with him.

It was about an hour before kick-off when the doc staggered out of the consultancy room to break the news that the player wouldn't be fit enough to participate.

It transpired that both of them were rather the worse for wear - because they'd collared the whole bottle and were well and truly winged!

I will never forget during a break in play in the first half, looking over at our bench and seeing the medic and player sat cuddled up side by side with their two heads resting against each other, both sound asleep.

As I've already said, this was a superb Coleraine side and another of our real star performers was Terry Cochrane, who a short time later got transferred to Middlesbrough and would become a regular Northern Ireland international as well.

On sheer ability alone, Terry was probably the one player we had who came anywhere close to the Germans' quality - and typical of him, he never really fancied playing any role in a defensive formation and who could blame him?

His strength was going forward with pace and running at defenders in the opponents' half.

Although Frankfurt were, as expected, dictating play and enjoying the lion's share of possession, the impossible happened and we scored.

Incredibly, Cochrane had robbed a player of possession on the halfway line, then skinned a couple of defenders, drew the goalkeeper off his line and drilled the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

We all went ballistic and mobbed him but, in no time at all, the Germans were back at us, battering us with everything bar the kitchen sink. They were forcing corner after corner and it was then that I heard the big deep Newry voice of our star midfielder Brian Jennings who shouted: "There's some **** hiding somewhere, c'mon, get the finger out!"

I did a quick headcount before the latest corner was taken and discovered that Brian was indeed correct - we had only 10 players on the pitch.

It was then that we realised it was none other than our goalscorer Cochrane who was missing, with one of our team spotting that he had actually left the field and was running around the running track at the far end of the stadium.

It transpired that the giant electronic scoreboard had got our scorer's name wrong and had, in fact, credited it to Simpson.

Terry being Terry, he was not one bit amused once he spotted the error and decided to go walkabouts to find the guy operating the scoreboard and have him amend it so that 'Cochrane' was up in lights. All in the middle of a European Cup Winners' Cup game - incredible.

Take my word for it, he was soon hauled back into the action and told in no uncertain terms never to do anything like that again. I often wonder if the like of that ever happened in a Euro game before or indeed since but, knowing Terry as I do, I very much doubt it.

In many ways, though, I wish he hadn't scored that night because it only made the Germans angry and they went on to beat us 5-1 on what was a truly memorable occasion in more ways than one.

Let's all be good sports

None of us need convincing nor cajoling when the subject of sport’s contribution towards a settled and peaceful Northern Ireland crops up.

‘Immeasurable’ is a word which often springs to my mind.

Now with all sport at a virtual standstill as part of the coronavirus lockdown, many of us will be feeling helpless in that we cannot offer our normal bridge building in the community like we always do. 

We can, however, all still play a constructive role in helping the NHS bring this pandemic to as swift a conclusion as possible by using our own initiative to highlight the dos and don’ts we must all adhere to.

I was recently contacted by the Health Minister, Robin Swann, who asked if I would make a short social media video on the three simple steps to follow if we are to get the important message across and I was delighted to see many other well-known faces from a wide cross-section of various sports doing their part as well.

÷ Wash your hands regularly and for a minimum of 20 seconds each time;

÷ Stay indoors whenever possible;

÷ Keep your distance, a minimum of two metres from other people at all times.

Please everyone stay healthy and responsible.

Time to cash out

There are lots of ‘will they, won’t they?’ debates at the moment around English Premier League players taking pay cuts — but surely there’s no need for debate.

Of course they should. I’m well aware that top earners already pay 50% of their wages in tax and that goes straight into government funds to be spent on the NHS as well as other services, but the 50% they are left with is still an enormous amount of money.

The current burden of financial hardship should not fall upon the shoulders of the ordinary non-playing club staff, who survive on what can only be described as a modest wage.   

No ifs or buts, Premier League players who earn obscene salaries must take a pay cut. Why are they waiting to be told, they should be leading my example. The money must be recouped from those who can well afford it, not from those already struggling to put a loaf on the table.

Belfast Telegraph