IT had been a tense and exciting night of European football at Ibrox, played out on a waterlogged pitch on a bitterly cold night as sleet rained down on players and fans.

It was March 19, 1969. The event was the first leg of the Fairs Cities Cup quarter-final. Rangers against Atletico Bilbao. Alex Ferguson (partially obscured in main image) headed Rangers into a sixth-minute lead. Andy Penman made it 2-0. The Spanish side pulled a goal back. Rangers’ skipper John Greig missed a penalty.

The 2-1 lead, noted the Glasgow Herald’s Raymond Jacobs, was enough to win the tie but it was a “dangerously narrow margin” with which to win the two-leg war. Away goals counted double in the event of a draw on aggregate; it was an ace that Bilbao held up their sleeves.

Rangers struggled to repeat their first-half effervescence after the interval. The Spanish goal and the penalty miss had deflated the Glasgow side. The players, said Jacobs, grew as restive as the fans at their inability to score again. The visitors’s defence grew more confident, if also more ruthless.

Orjan Persson had come on for Ferguson with some 15 minutes left. Still Rangers battled, still Bilbao held firm. Then, with scarcely three minutes on the clock, Colin Stein provided an assist for Persson to get the third goal. Sixty seconds later, the roles were switched; and Stein (above) fired home the fourth goal. Rangers 4, Bilbao 1.

Two players, one of them Rangers’ Willie Johnston, were sent off in the return leg in Spain on April 2, but Rangers emerged the victors, and met Newcastle United in the semi-finals.

This, alas, was where Rangers’ European run came to an end: they lost 2-0 on aggregate, and the second leg, in Newcastle, was marred by a pitch invasion by hundreds of Rangers fans.

Read more: Herald Diary