THE 1959/60 European Cup unfolded in a frenzy of figures. A torrent of goals flowed in front of mammoth crowds. 

In only the competition’s fifth season it was already proving to be a winner.

The semi-finals and final were historic in more ways than one. Rangers, having avoided the might of both Real Madrid and Barcelona, were paired with Eintracht Frankfurt in the last four.

If that seemed liked the best outcome then the Ibrox side were soon reappraising that school of thought. Their 12-4 aggregate defeat remains the highest scoreline for a European Cup/Champions League semi-final.

The final that year was in Glasgow and the 127,000 who packed into Hampden – still a record crowd for a UEFA Final – were afforded a treat.

As were the millions watching at home on television, savouring the first ever European match to be broadcast live and in full throughout the UK and 12 other nations.

There would be no stopping the all-conquering Madrid side of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano as they claimed a fifth successive title. Their 7-3 victory over Frankfurt is still the highest ever scoreline in a European final. 

Little wonder those who were lucky enough to be there in person – including Sir Alex Ferguson – still purr about it to this day. 

Having beaten Anderlecht, Red Star Bratislava, and Sparta Rotterdam – the latter via a play-off at Highbury – to reach the last four, Rangers were quietly confident about going all the way, especially with the final taking place on their doorstep.

In the end, there was almost a sense of quiet relief among Scot Symon’s players that they didn’t end up facing Los Blancos after all.

“Everyone was in awe of Real Madrid,” admits Davie Wilson, the former Rangers outside left, ahead of tomorrow’s 60th anniversary of their first leg with Eintracht.

“They had won the first four European Cups and were the benchmark. But, to be honest, we were just delighted to be in the draw for the semis and in with a chance of playing in the final. Rangers were so used to playing at Hampden back then that we fancied our chances against anyone there.

“But we were pretty naive and played against Frankfurt like we would have done against a Scottish team. We should have tried to keep it tight and contain them away from home but, in fairness, Eintracht were much better than us. I don’t think many teams could have lived with them. I didn’t go to the final but I remember the city was buzzing ahead of the match.

"To have the likes of Di Stefano and Puskas – probably the two best players in the world then – playing at Hampden was great and they put on some show for the fans.

“And we were just a wee bit relieved that it wasn’t us out there facing them! Having lost 12 goals over the two legs against Eintracht, goodness knows what Real Madrid would have done to us.”

With five weeks between the two legs of the semi-final, Rangers had a lot of time to stew over their 6-1 defeat in Germany. Their domestic form suffered as a result and they failed to retain their league title, although did claim the Scottish Cup.

“It’s fair to say there was a bit of a hangover!” added Wilson, now a spritely 83 years old. “We played five league games in that period and didn’t win any of them. The Eintracht defeat was a real sore one and I reckon it probably cost us the league that season.”
European success may have eluded that generation of Rangers players – Wilson (inset) featured in the Cup Winners Cup final defeat to Fiorentina a year later – but on the domestic front there was plenty more for the winger to cheer about. Four league titles, five Scottish Cups, and two League Cups tell their own story.
In collaboration with author Alistair Aird, Wilson has now committed his memories to print, with notable contributions from Walter Smith, Willie Johnston, Denis Law and the afore-mentioned Ferguson.

“I am really excited to see Wilson On The Wing in print,” he added. “I wasn’t convinced anyone would want to read my story or buy the book but Alistair always had faith in the project and my family also saw this as being something of a legacy. It’s been really good recounting tales from my football career. I don’t like to boast about what I achieved in the game; I just loved playing football.”

Wilson remains hopeful that the current crop of Rangers players will deliver a long-awaited league title once play eventually resumes.

“The saying ‘once a Ranger, always a Ranger’ definitely applies to me and I try to get along to as many games at Ibrox as I can. With a bit of investment in the playing squad, I’m sure Steven Gerrard and the team will have Rangers back where they belong as champions of Scotland.”

Signed copies of the book can be pre-ordered from the Wilson on the Wing Facebook page.