History descends on Hampden Park once more

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John Gorrod
Deputy Sports Editor

Hampden Park has played host to the crème de la crème of footballing fixtures in its 112-year history.

And, last Sunday, another was added to that roll of honour.

The Glasgow Giants of Celtic and Rangers went toe-to-toe once more.

After the three-year wait , the match that Scottish football has been yearning for was delivered, with a 2-0 victory for Celtic.

Not that the Old Firm haven’t battled at the national stadium before. They have – many times.

But there was a feeling that this one, with the drama intensified by the spectacular fall from grace of Rangers, was more unique than the rest.

The Hoops are Premiership champions. The Gers are League One champions currently 13 points adrift of Hearts in the Championship.

Never before had the two played in such circumstances.

What better stadium to receive the most poignant Old Firm game in recent history than one shrouded and steeped in the glories of the beautiful game of yesteryear?

Built in 1903, Hampden Park is situated in the south of Glasgow and is the home of Queen’s Park FC and the Scottish national team. The current capacity is around 52,000.

After the new North stand was opened in 1937, England paid a visit and the fixture drew a crowd of over 149,000 people. Unsurprisingly, it remains the highest attendance ever seen at Hampden and was the world record at the time.

A brace from Robert McPhail of Rangers and Preston North End forward Francis O’Donnell’s strike ensured a 3-1 victory for the Jocks over the Auld Enemy.

On 18th May 1960, the greatest club in the world, Real Madrid, graced the Hampden pitch in their 7-3 defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt to claim a fifth consecutive European Cup. It is a feat that has not been matched since, and will never be done again.

In the semi-finals, Madrid eased past bitter rivals Barcelona, who, by quirky coincidence, had one of the world’s most prolific strikers in the form of Luis Suarez.

The 130,000-strong Glaswegian crowd at the final would have had good cause for sensing an unlikely upset before the game. Frankfurt, somewhat of a dark horse, had demolished Rangers to the tune of a 12-3 aggregate scoreline in the semi-final.

But, despite the Germans taking an early lead, Madrid rallied to deliver a masterclass in attacking football. The great Hungarian, Ferenc Puskas, scored four goals and Alfredo Di Stefano, who is Real’s second all-time top scorer with 216 goals, netted a hat-trick.

One of the most entertaining finals ever seen, the ten-goal show remains a record for the last stage of the competition.

On 15th May 2002, the Champions League (formerly called the European Cup) final was held at Hampden. And the old stadium did not fail to work its magic.

Real Madrid were again contenders, chasing their 9th success in Europe’s most prestigious competition. As in 1960, a German side prevented a Glaswegian representative in a Hampden final. This time, Bayern Leverkusen knocked out Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.

The Spaniards went ahead via an 8th minute goal from Raul before Leverkusen levelled when Lucio, who would go on to win the World Cup with Brazil in the summer, headed in.

Just before half time, the Hampden crowd witnessed the greatest goal ever scored in a Champions League final. Brazilian full-back Roberto Carlos raced down the left flank to hook a high, hopeful cross into the box. Zinedine Zidane, the legendary French midfielder, watched as the ball dropped towards him before swivelling to volley the ball, at head height, into the top corner.

Vicente Del Bosque’s men maintained the 2-1 lead to cement their status at the European Cup/Champions League’s most successful side.

Now an all-seater arena, Hampden Park is rated in the Five Star category by UEFA.

More recently, it was transformed for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in order to host track and field events.  The pitch was raised by 1.9 metres and, in front of a bumper crowd, a Usain Bolt-inspired Jamaica 4x100m relay team clinched gold.

And the Hampden experience is not exclusive to the world of sport. The Rolling Stones headlined the first gig to be held at the stadium in 1990, while Tina Turner performed a decade later. In June, rock legends AC/DC will make an appearance as part of their ‘Rock or Bust’ tour.

The Old Firm derby has a lot to live up to.