40 YEARS ON AND ROY CAN’T FORGET...
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