Atletico Madrid, 1974 – “As bad a match as I was ever involved in,” Davie Hay

Davie Hay was once involved in a god-awful fixture between Celtic and their current European opponent’s, Atletico Madrid. The Celtic legend participated in the European Cup Semi-final clash against the Spanish team in 1974; a game that would live on in infamy for the atrocious behaviour of the Atletico players in a powder-keg football match.

With scant regard for the health and safety of the Celtic players, the opposition targeted our team for some unsportsmanlike treatment. Scottish full-back, Hay, was involved and in the thick of the action for the Bhoys that night and remembers it as a game that beats all others for tempers flaring and patience pushed to the absolute maximum. Ateltico Madrid attacker, Ruben Ayala, was sent for an early shower for his attacks on Hay and two of his comrades would join him in seeing red that evening too.

Looking back on it all, the 75-year-old said, via The Herald: “I would say the European Cup semi-final against Atletico was about as bad a match as I was ever involved in. It was that kind of game. Let’s put it this way, it was pretty unusual for an outside left to get sent off against me! Ruben Ayala was one of three Atletico players who got sent off that night. I think if another of their players had been red carded we would have been awarded the game.

“The tactics they used showed they wanted not to win at all costs. They wanted to stay level going into the second leg. We knew we were up against it going over to Spain. But, having said that, it was late on in the game before they scored. They had an Argentinian manager, Juan Carlos Lorenzo.

“Jock Stein did tell us not to get involved in anything beforehand. When Celtic played Racing Club in the World Club Championships play-off in 1967, their players retaliated to the treatment they received and they were perceived afterwards as being just as culpable for the trouble.

“He was determined that nothing untoward came from our end, that we didn’t let the club down, that we couldn’t be seen to be retaliating. I’m not sure if that was the right thing to say. Who knows? We won the Scottish title and the Scottish Cup and got to the European Cup semi-final that year so we were not a bad team ourselves.

Glasgow Celtic’s center forward Dalglish, left, tries to shoot in front of Atletico de Madrid’s center half Heredia in European soccer cup semi-final match in Madrid on Wednesday, April 24, 1974. (AP Photo/L. Gomez)

“But there were fewer of the Lisbon Lions in that side than there had been in the final four years earlier. No team compares to the Lisbon Lions. It was disappointing. But the biggest disappointment of my football career was losing the final to Feyenoord in 1970. It didn’t compare with that disappointment.”

Celtic Ambassador and perennial figure around the club these days, the Scot recalls being involved with Atleti once again when he was manager of the club this time around.

“We played Atletico in the European Cup Winners’ Cup when I was manager,” he added. “We actually drew 1-1 with them in Madrid and then lost 2-1 in Glasgow. But the reason for that was there were no Celtic fans inside Parkhead. Celtic without fans? For me, that was why we lost. We had done so well in the first leg over there.”

With a wisdom that would do many well to listen to, the Celtic icon insists it’s all water under the bridge now. He continued: “But I have moved on. I think in life you have to move on. When you look at what is going on the world just now, you do think that maybe if people could come together a bit more there would be fewer problems.

“Nothing I say will change the result. The memories of the 1974 game were still quite fresh going into that double header. But now it is nearly 50 years ago. What happened probably shouldn’t have happened, but it is in the past. I am sure Celtic will feel that way and Atletico for that matter.”

Hay has been pleased with the results and performances so far under the returning Brendan Rodgers, and admits it’s difficult for Celtic at this level but that that shouldn’t discourage us from playing our game the correct way.

“They did well against Atletico at home and I am sure we will see further improvements going forward,” he said. “But it is difficult, it is a high level. Just one slip cost them last time out. You get punished at that level.

“The standard of opposition they face in Europe is far greater than what they face in Scotland and they can’t afford any lapses in concentration, especially any defensive lapses. They have to be tight when the opposition have got the ball.

“But Brendan has most of his strongest players available. The team almost picks itself now. That wasn’t the case at the start of the season. I hope that Celtic get a result, but I also hope it is a match that is played fairly and well.”

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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