Peter Cormack recalls day Hibs beat Real Madrid - 50 years on

Gento and Puskas arrive at Turnhouse Airport. Peter Cormack is pictured below
Gento and Puskas arrive at Turnhouse Airport. Peter Cormack is pictured below
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Fifty years on and it still takes pride of place in Peter Cormack’s trophy cabinet, the watch presented to him on the night Hibs beat the mighty Real Madrid at Easter Road.

As unlikely as it may sound to the younger members of the Edinburgh club’s support, what would today be tagged a “challenge match” against the five-times European Cup winners in 1964 provided one of those epic floodlit nights which all who were there will never forget.

A seven-goal hammering for Jock Stein’s side had been predicted by Willie Kemp in The Scotsman, with the Spanish side still boasting four of the team which had beaten Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden in what is regarded as the greatest European Cup final ever: Jose Santamaria, Pachin, Francisco Gento and Ferenc Puskas, scorer of four of those goals.

For the 18-year-old Cormack, just to be on the same pitch as those players was a dream come true – but his evening was to get even better as he volleyed home the opening goal after only 13 minutes, Hibs completing a memorable 2-0 victory as a Willie Hamilton dummy saw the ball catch Real’s Zoco by surprise as he diverted it into his own net six minutes from time.

Cormack recalled: “Hibs had played in the Fairs Cup in the previous two seasons but weren’t involved that year so Jock Stein managed to bring Real to Edinburgh. As a boy I could only have dreamt of playing against the likes of Gento and Puskas, they were my heroes, so to be on the same pitch as them was unbelievable.

“I remember just hoping on the day that I’d be playing and then having my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t let myself, my family or friends down, that we wouldn’t get a hammering which they were perfectly capable of handing out. But I think in such matches you lift your game because of the respect you have for them. You know if you sit back and let them play then they’ll murder you, that if they get an early goal they could go on to give you a drubbing.

“I was just determined to do well, to never stop working and to do my absolute best.”

Despite those fears, it was Real who found themselves on the back foot, Cormack volleying home Neil Martin’s knee-high cross to give Hibs that early, confidence-boosting lead. He said: “I didn’t score many goals with my left peg but I think when that happened it lifted us all. Then when we got to half-time it was a case of looking to keep it going.”

Persuading Real to travel cost Hibs a hefty guarantee which resulted in prices for the terracing being increased to six shillings – or 30p in today’s money. Even a 30,000 crowd wasn’t quite enough for Hibs to break even, but those who were there certainly got their money’s worth.

Cormack, who went on to enjoy a trophy-laden career with Liverpool, said: “Back then we weren’t as familiar as we are today, thanks to television, with the great teams of Europe and beyond. You had to go and see them in the flesh if you wanted to watch football at that level.

“So this was a one-off chance for Hibs to see a team such as Real Madrid. It was a magical night to have been playing, I’d never have thought I’d play against guys like Santamaria, Pachin, Gento and Puskas, far less score against them.

“We were all presented with a watch bearing the Real Madrid crest to mark the occasion and I still have it in my cabinet.”