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Forget Lisbon, Wembley, Milan . . . Hampden should host the big one every year

MY BROTHERS are sentimental souls.

Zidane's volley at Hampden defined a stellar career. Picture: James Galloway
Zidane's volley at Hampden defined a stellar career. Picture: James Galloway

They are always anxious to provide me with mementoes of European Cup finals.

This tradition was started in 1967 when one of them tripped me up when I was channelling my inner Gianni Rivera against the world or perhaps it was my Jannie in the Riviera against the waiters.

Anway, suffice to say I ended up in casualty to have my chin sewn up just before Celtic won the European Cup. Acerbic observers of this column - and there are mere thousands of them - will bleat that I probably fell on red blaes while chasing a Mouldmaster. It must be pointed out that the injury was sustained on the black gravel of the car park at Busby railway station and I was in full control of a plastic ball with a skin so thin one would have thought it was an ego-driven pop star.

Gifts from other European finals have included postcards from my family while they have been enjoying stadium hospitality so lavish it was conducted in the Caligula suite and the presumably kindly meant statements that I could have joined them if I had not been covering the play-offs in the under-14 western Ayrshire league.

Despite these painful memories, I love the European Cup final. Celtic won it in 1967 - just after I left casualty - with players all born within 30 seconds of each other, all in the same ward to 11 sisters. Or something like that.

But the final has seeped into the bits of my memory others reserve for containing the whereabouts of their car keys or, more pertinently, just where one has left the car in the multi-storey car park.

Outside of the Brazil team of the 1970 World Cup and Maradona of 1986, the European Cup has given me the most wondrous memories in the biggest games even when I was consuming alcohol at such a rate I had to be put post-match on a large drip. And I apologise to Hen Broon for that.

My synapses crackle with the Best shimmy, the Cruyff goals, the wonderful AC Milan team, the football, bloody hell, the miracle in Istanbul, Henrik Larsson winning the match as a sub, and, most gloriously, John Terry falling on his bahookie and missing a penalty.

But there are missed memories from home. I was the only person in Scotland to have been born and not attended the 1960 final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt. Every other person I have spoken to was there in a European attendance that was given as 127,621 but surely should have been 5,275,263. They saw a match that finished 7-3 with defences on top.

I was also not there when Bayern Munich defeated Saint-Etienne 1-0 in 1976. I was busy editing stories about youngsters plunging to serious injury from platform shoes while the entertainment was being doled out up the road at Hampden.

I was also not there at Hampden in 2002 when Zinedine Zidane produced one of these moments that just does not win a European Cup but which defines a stellar career and indeed almost provides irrefutable proof of the beauty of football. No, I was - and I kid ye not and has there ever been any kidding in this column? - editing a European Cup pull-out in Spanish. There are those who will point out that I do not speak Spanish. But, then again, there are those with equal justification who assert I do not write English.

The point is not that I have missed the finals at Hampden. It is that Hampden should stage the final every year. I suppose it is all right every decade to give to Wembley or Lisbon for sentimental reasons but the greatest club game of the year should be played in the country that gave Europe its record attendance and its greatest scoring final.

There would also be the possibility that The Herald would splash out on my bus fare to the South Side or, at least, lend me a pair of stout shoes so that I could attend the best day in club football.

Sadly, there is about as much chance of Nigel Farage presenting the European Cup as there is of a Scottish team making the final. So let us have the big day here every year.

To paraphrase my old dad, if the mountain won't come to Mohammed then Mohammed must come to Mount Florida.

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