THE noise cascaded down from the terraces. It carried the strong whiff of alcohol and a heavy hint of irony.

“Veni Uni!” was the cry. “Ingredimini eos!” was the chant. Classicists will note that the first translates as ‘C’mon the Uni.” The second is the Latin version of that ancient Caldedonian battle cry: “Gerrintaethem.”

For the benefit of historians, the venue was Westerlands in Anniesland, Glasgow. The occasion was the second round Scottish Cup replay between the University of Glasgow and Albion Rovers. The date was January 14, 1976, and the 40th anniversary of the university’s famous joust with the Rovers will be celebrated at an anniversary dinner next week whose vivacity will not be compromised by the mere detail that the Uni boys were beaten 1-0 by the Coatbridge side.

There is much that survives from that January day. Ten of the 11 players are still around to remember the time when Arthur Montford and his camera crew came to Westerlands, when Jock Wallace, the Rangers manager, paid to watch a cup tie and when the gate receipts were ultimately collected in a beer glass. “The big dimpled kind,” according to a reliable witness.

This testimony is all the more convincing because it comes from Vinny Smith, now a sheriff in Lanarkshire, who on that day was the club president and was burdened by having to organise a replay that met both with SFA regulations and with the unrelenting scrutiny of Tom Fagan, the Albion Rovers chairman, who was not celebrated for his cavalier attitude when it came to matters financial. The entry price was 35p and when it became clear that the crowds gathering for the afternoon kick-off would not clear the turnstiles in time, the doors were opened and the pint glass came out. “I remember paying Mr Fagan out in bags of change,” Sheriff Smith remembers. The official attendance was 1300 but it is likely that more than 2000 watched the match.

Amid the calls of ‘Come on number V get stuck into them’ and the sight of a young lady embracing the corner flag, the university took Albion Rovers to the very limit, losing the replay only to a late goal. The team contained a quorum of future lawyers, a sufficiency of accountants and teachers, and a scientist who would go on to be a CSI investigator. It also included a future surfer and an entrepreneur who went on to own oil fields.

But the game was the thing in 1976 and the players look back on it, if not quite as their day in the sun, then their afternoon in a bright if chilly Glasgow. There is a sense, too, that the match has never ended. Many of the players went on to wear the colours of Westerlands, the team of University of Glasgow graduates. Many, too, continue to socialise 40 years on. The dinner in the university on Saturday will bring players from Australia and Texas and a former coach from Switzerland. Rovers may have won the match but it lies unremembered in Coatbridge. It is the very stuff of myth and legend among the erstwhile students who graduated to real life but still cling fondly to that day when a third round tie against Partick Thistle seemed not only possible but likely.

The replay followed a draw at Cliftonhill where Tom Cairns scored the goal that brought both teams to Westerlands on the Wednesday. The coach, John Pollatschek, believes his side was unlucky not to prevail in the replay.

Pollatschek, had earned his coaching licences both from the SFA and FA, was a dedicated student of the game. His team remember a disciplined and aware coach who employed a fluid 4-3-3.

“Initially, the team was a little bit overawed and overwhelmed by the media interest which the match had generated and with the large noisy crowd,” he says. “However, all settled well and I felt that with more self-belief in front of goal we could have beaten Albion Rovers.”

Pollatschek left the university later that year to lecture at the Scottish School of Physical Education where he remained until 1990. During that time, he also coached Clydebank, Hamilton Academical and the Scottish women’s team. In 1990, he moved to Switzerland to take up a post at the International school of Geneva. He retired in 2008 but still lives there.

He remembers, though, that day in 1976. “The lasting memories came from the crowd,” he says. "The absentees from classes at the university provided entertainment throughout. I remember some comments directed at me including why weren’t the ‘alcoholic substitutes’, Hennessy and Booth, being used and why was I running on to the field to attend to the striker’s head injury when it was obviously cramp, etc.”

The players have strong memories of him. “We were a fit, committed bunch,” says the then captain, Donnie Ferguson. “We trained twice a week and we were organised. We rarely lost more than a goal. If we had scored first in the replay we would have won.”

Jeff MacDonald, once a full back with an explosive shot became a big shot in the oil industry. He retains an interest in the business but he shrugs off the term oil mogul that is thrown in jest at him. He did become a serious businessman with strong interest in Houston. He remembers his playing days with affection but never considered playing on though his brother, Kevin, was an accomplished Liverpool midfielder who now works with the youth teams at Aston Villa and stands in as manager of the first team on the regular occasion of a sacking. The former university player divides his time between Texas and England and says simply: “I have had a good life.”

The only player who has not survived is John Gemmill, a graduate in psychology. There is, inevitably, a story about his day in front of a feverish and illustrious crowd. “He was a big Rangers man and he was keen to impress Jock Wallace,” remembers Cairns. “But he was devastated when he was put clear through and shot past.”

Legend has it that Jock Stein may have been in the crowd, too, though newspaper reports – by such alumni of the press box as Ian Archer, Glenn Gibbons and Jock MacVicar – do not mention his presence. Wallace, though, had to pay to get in. “There were all those phone calls from managers asking for tickets,” says Smith. “Tickets? There was no time to organise any of that. They were told everyone had to pay. We gave Tom Fagan his share and the rest went to the university. I think we got a set of strips.”

And the colour of those? “Yabba dabba della, we’re the boys in black and yella,” comes the massed response from players and former president.

That day the university played in the dark blue of the Scottish Universities team to avoid a colour clash with Albion Rovers but other details escape the memory of most. Dave Watson, a commanding centre half who now runs Ayr United’s academy set-up after a career in accountancy, says: “I remember everything surrounding the match. The media, the coach telling us we had to wear a suit and me and my defensive partner Jim Hannay turning up in jeans and the feeling afterwards that this had been a big day in my life.

“I look at some of my academy players when they play a semi-final or a final and I think this could be the biggest match of your lives. They may not go on to have a bigger one. That was the biggest match of my life.”

It carried a lesson, too. “It made me aware of the benefits of coaching,” he says. He learned how to read a game. But he says of that match in 1976: “I never stop thinking about it.”

At that, a gathering of former university players in the Griffin Bar in Bath Street is buffeted by the wind as the door opens to blow in Jim Hannay, Watson’s one-time defensive partner. “I have not seen him in 30 years,” he says. They immediately discuss who was to blame for that Albion Rovers goal all those years ago. They know it matters not but it is a link to a shared past.

As Storm Frank rages outside, the bar buzzes to a remembrance that is warm and invigorating. The boys of ‘76 are back in town.


The coach

John Pollatschek left the university later that year to lecture at the Scottish School of Physical Education where he remained until 1990. During that time, he also coached Clydebank, Hamilton Academical and the Scottish women’s team. In 1990, he moved to Switzerland to take up a post at the International school of Geneva. He retired in 2008 but still lives there

The team (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper Mick Caldwell (from Lanarkshire, went on to make a career in social work)

Jeff MacDonald (from Inverness, the oilman who divides his time between Houston and England)

Jim Hannay (a Glasgow lawyer)

Dave Watson (accountant who works at Ayr United academy)

Donnie Ferguson, captain (Gatehouse of Fleet, a head teacher)

Dave Swan (CSI forensics investigator in England)

Stevie Mooney (teacher)

Tom Cairns (accountant from Ayrshire)

John Brannigan (spent his career as a European HR director for a number of global electronic companies.

Dave Cummings (the surfer, skateboarder and mandatory drop out)

John Gemmill (a psychology graduate who is the only member of the team not to survive to celebrate the 40th anniversary)