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BON­FIRE NIGHT 1975.The date is cru­elly ap­pro­pri­ate, be­cause that evening the van­i­ties of Derby County’s great­estever per­for­mance in Europe were well and truly in­cin­er­ated.

Two weeks ear­lier a Char­lie Ge­orge hat-trick had seen Derby stun a starstud­ded Real Madrid 4-1 in the Euro­pean Cup, a scin­til­lat­ing, cham­pagne per­for­mance. No-one took the sec­ond leg at the Bern­abeu for granted, but nei­ther did any­one but the most op­ti­mistic Madrile­nian see this com­ing: Real 5, the English Cham­pi­ons 1. The Rams were out cold.

This week marked the 40th an­niver­sary, and Derby’s then England cen­tre-half Roy McFarland be­gins an in­ter­view with the words: “None of the play­ers ever speak about that game.It’s never men­tioned.”

How­ever, he’s per­suaded to watch, for the first time ever, a black-and-white video on YouTube. Madrid score three (“oh, that’s a shock­ing goal to con­cede”), Char­lie Ge­orge buries a 25-yarder (“sweet strike”) and, at 3-1 with seven min­utes to go, Derby are still ahead . Then Madrid’s cap­tain Aman­cio Amaro tum­bles in the Con­ti­nen­tal way and the referee gives a penalty.

“Rewind, rewind,” Roy in­sists, lean­ing for­ward and jab­bing a fin­ger at the screen.

“That was never a penalty. He’s knocked the ball too far ahead, I’ve got it cov­ered. .he knows he’s lost it and he’s gone down. Rod (Thomas) hasn’t touched him. It’s pres­sure from the crowd (120,000 were in that night).”

Mrs McFarland sug­gests that maybe, af­ter40 years, Roy should let it go.

Four-one – and then Car­los San­til­lana scores a fan­tas­tic fifth in ex­tra time and it’s all over. McFarland re­mem­bers the dress­ing room.

“We were dev­as­tated.” he says. “We couldn’t be­lieve what had hap­pened. It was like the death of a friend or some­one in the fam­ily, that was the feel­ing.

“There was no shout­ing, no point­ing of fin­gers. All you could hear was the sound of grown men cry­ing. Worst of all was Bruce Rioch, be­cause he’d failed a fit­ness test and didn’t play. He thought he’d let us all down.

“Derby County just didn’t have dis­as­ters like that.Not in Europe, not in the League.”

There were, of course, mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances. Fran­cis Lee was sus­pended thanks to his in­fa­mous punch-up with Nor­man Hunter four days ear­lier, Rioch was miss­ing and McFarland him­self played with a thigh strain ,need­ing three jabs of cor­ti­sone to get him through ex­tra-time.

“The var­i­ous units, the front three, the mid­field ,the defence, none per­formed well on the night,” he says. “Madrid scored an early goal and they just grew in be­lief.”

In­ter­est­ingly, it’s not just the play­ers who don’t dis­cuss Novem­ber 5, 1975. It’s been largely erased from fans’ mem­o­ries too ;they pre­fer to re-live the story of the won­der­ful first leg and an ear­lier 3-0 beat­ing of Euse­bio’s Ben­fica, in the days when Derby walked tall in Europe.

“Those great nights were the high­light of my ca­reer, same for most of us,” says McFarland, who at 67 still looks al­most fit enough play.

So we have cof­fee, for­get the Bern­abeu and re-run first leg high­lights in­stead, with Barry Davies’ ex­cited com­men­tary, in BBC colour and al­to­gether more cheer­ful.

DIS­AS­TER: Madrid score on that fate­ful night at the Bern­abeu

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