Try to imagine it today.

The scene is the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid. The result: Spain 2, Scotland 6. It actually happened 50 years ago this week and, typically with Scotland, the win followed two disastrous defeats and a week on the sauce by a thirsty post-season Scotland squad, led a bubbly dance by the great Jim Baxter.

Yesterday I met Ian Ure, now aged 72 and one of the Scottish survivors from that famous night in Madrid. Ure's career was a saga in itself, having starred for a Dundee side which reached the semi-finals of the European Cup before being sold to Arsenal in 1963 for £62,500. The fee was a world record for a centre-half.

With his distinctive mop of blond hair and tall, rugged features, Ure often resembled a Norse warrior on the pitch and he found his way to the top of the English game. His career was blighted by injury and erratic form at Arsenal – and at Manchester United – but none of that diminishes the memory of those heady days in 1963 when he had the football world at his feet.

Dundee's 1962/63 season remains staggering. En route to the European Cup semi-finals they hammered German champions Cologne 8-1 at Dens Park, and also saw off Sporting Lisbon and Anderlecht before facing AC Milan in the last four.

Tying 1-1 at half-time in the first leg in the San Siro, it has been alleged by John Rafferty, the old Scotsman football correspondent, among others, that Dundee got ahead of themselves and went ludicrously gung-ho, ending up losing 5-1 on the night. Bob Shankly's men won the return at Dens 1-0 but the dream was over.

"We should have won the European Cup that year," said Ure. "I am convinced we would have. The final was at Wembley [against Benfica] and the pitch was like a bowling green in the early 1960s and would have suited our style of play.

"But that night in the San Siro we got hit with three rapid goals in the second half and the game was over. Typical Italians; bang, bang, bang – that was it. But at half-time, at 1-1, by God we felt we were right in it. We were every bit as good as Milan."

That was early May. Within weeks the talk was of Ure's imminent move to Arsenal for a record fee, but one more bit of business awaited him: an end of season Scotland tour under manager Ian McColl, taking in three away matches: Norway, Ireland and Spain.

This was a Scotland squad dripping with talent, and with consistently parched throats: Baxter, Willie Henderson, Ian St John, Denis Law, Dave Mackay and others. The sepia-tinted talent of these players alone is enough to make a modern Scotland fan weep.

"We had a strong squad back then and, as preparation for facing Spain, we played Norway and Eire," Ure recalled. "These were supposed to be skoosh games – back then Norway and Eire were nothing. Well, we lost to both and I think I know why. There was some heavy drinking the night before both games.

"We lost 4-3 to Norway in Bergen. For the Ireland game, the selection committee axed half the team. We got to Dalymount Park where it was blowing a gale and we lost that one 1-0. These were two bad defeats and the press were going mad at us."

Bedraggled Scotland duly arrived in Madrid, seemingly to be clubbed like a seal by Spain, who 12 months later would be crowned European champions.

"We got to Madrid and by this point Ian McColl didn't have a clue what he was doing – he was done-in by those two defeats. We played a makeshift team in Spain that night, and yet look at the players we fielded: [Billy] McNeill, Baxter, Henderson, Law, St John, Davie Wilson and more.

"Spain took the lead early on [after seven minutes] and I can remember Billy McNeill and I both scrambling to retrieve the ball from the back of our net and saying, 'Jesus Christ, this is going to be some night.' We thought we were in for a hiding. But then we equalised, and got another, and another, and we went in 4-2 up at half-time.

"We popped in two more for good measure. The Spanish crowd didn't like it one bit. Stuff was being thrown on to the pitch."

On the spot the Scottish press fairly changed their tune. From lambasting the players as slovenly no-gooders, Baxter and co were suddenly decreed to be the greatest exponents in all Christendom.

Yet was it really such a big thing among the players? "No, not really," said Ure. "Don't get me wrong, it was a fine win, and to score six goals anywhere is good going. But the gap between Spain and Scotland back then was nothing like it is today. So, no, we were by no means flabbergasted."

Ure was arguably typical of some fine Scotland players of the time. He duly signed for Arsenal that summer but, unlike St John and Alan Gilzean, his Dundee team-mate who went to Tottenham Hotspur, he would not excel in England, in part due to a troublesome right knee that grew more ruined with every passing season.

After life at Dens Park, playing in England was a culture shock to him. The place was littered with quick, darting inside-forwards and battering-ram strikers.

"Up until then I was the one that did the tackling, but down there everyone – forwards, inside-forwards – was tackling me," he said. "There is no doubt about it, it was a big step up for me for me to play for Arsenal.

"I had terrible knee troubles from about my second season at Arsenal [1964/65] and was swallowing pills just to keep me on the park. I feel, but for my knee trouble, it could have been so much better for me down there. But I still had nine enjoyable years in England."

In 1969, Ure was surprisingly signed by Manchester United, and both he and Arsenal kept his terrible knee problem a secret. "At the time they were looking for a stop-gap centre-half. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for them, they didn't know how bad my knee was.

"The medical at Manchester United was a farce. They said to me, 'can you bend your knee?' I said, 'aye, watch . . .' That was it. My knee was passed fit. I keep saying it: I wouldn't have signed me in the state I was in Because of my knee, I'd basically been on the slide since the mid-1960s."

For all that, June 13, 1963 is a date in Spain which Ure will never forget.