Hampden responsible for largest attendance at a UEFA European match
Hampden Park still holds the record for the largest attendance at a European Cup football match more than 40 years later.
It’s hard to compare Hampden Park of old with the Hampden Park of new. Modern day stadiums have more safety precautions to abide by, mandatory seating is also required in all stadiums in Britain, and fans nowadays expect a little more comfort whilst watching the football. Match-days are now as much a working class release as a middle class spectacle. Roy Keane’s “prawn sandwich brigade” comment springs to mind.
However, in previous decades, football was viewed by many as a working class man’s sport, with little or no regard for safety. Crowds would regularly reach into the 100,000’s. Hampden in fact still holds some of the largest attendances ever recorded at a football match.
One such record held by Hampden is the largest attendance ever recorded at a UEFA European club match.
The 1970 European Cup semi final between Celtic and Leeds was the largest attendance for a European match ever, the record still stands to this day. Officially there were 136, 505 people inside the stadium, with a further 20,000 said to be unofficially through the turnstiles.
Dubbed the battle of Britain, the champions of Scotland had played the champions of England, with the victor securing a place in the final of the European Cup.
Leeds were overwhelming favourites for the match, with Don Revie’s team costing more than six times Jock Stein’s locally based squad, however Celtic were going into the match 1-0 up from the first leg, and the majority of the team were former European Cup winners.
With the game being switched from Celtic’s spiritual home of Celtic Park in the East End of the city to the South Side of the city accommodating more fans into the stadium. It has been said that Leeds fans only purchased 5000 tickets, meaning that there were officially more than 130,000 Celtic fans in the stadium. (Unofficially there could have been as many as 150,000 supporters watching Jock Stein’s side.)
Celtic started well, with six corners in the first eight minutes, constant pressure, it only seemed like a matter of time before they took the lead, however Leeds were not going to be swept aside and in the 14th minute Billy Bremner, tied the match, letting rip with a magnificent 30 yard shot that thundered in off the inside of the post.
Celtic were shell-shocked but quickly recalibrated and continued their onslaught of the Leeds goal, with Leeds clearing two net bound shots from their goal line.
Jimmy Johnston was tearing the Leeds back line apart and at one point after being tormented once again Norman Hunter shouted to Terry Cooper, “just kick him” with Cooper retorting, “you try and kick him”.
Terry Cooper told Billy McNeil years later, that he still suffered Jimmy Johnstone shaped nightmares, in which he endlessly failed to get the ball off him.
Celtic eventually won the match 3-1 with goals from John Hughes and Bobby Murdoch sealing the tie.
Sadly Celtic would ultimately succumb to Feyenoord in the final. (Funnily enough, Wim Jansen was in the Feyenoord team that night.)
However 130,000 Celtic fans and the whole of Europe would never forget the night Celtic swashbuckled their way to victory, in the original Battle of Britain.