This is the sixth in a series of interviews with former Glentoran players and managers where they talk about a photograph that means a lot to them. This one was published in the Gazette when Sam Robinson spoke to the legendary Rab McCreery, who had a 10 year career at right back between 1972 and 1982, including the unique distinction of captaining the club to our unbeaten Gibson Cup win in 1980-1981
The squad in training in Turin with manager Arthur Stewart (back left)
“These photographs depict events around our European Cup second round tie against the mighty Juventus in October 1977.
This was my eighth game for the Glens in Europe and after an epic display (against a side containing no fewer than nine full Italian internationals) at the Oval we were eagerly anticipating the second leg. Our morale was boosted considerably when all the players chipped in £15 each (a week’s wages at the time) to allow big Fred Devine to travel with the squad. The club indicated it wasn’t in a position to pay to take Fred as he was on the fringe of the side at the time, so he was initially left out, That action typified the Glentoran team at that time. It’s a tired cliché but we were “one big happy family” with no cliques. When we went out socially, we all went together, the talk was always of football and what we were going to do on Saturday afternoon.
We arrived in Turin On Monday morning, 31ST October 1977. The accommodation was excellent, and the hospitality was to include a trip to the Cinzano bottling plant at Santa Victoria De Alba. Cinzano produce Martini and at the time they were involved with the sponsorship of the crack Italian side. One of the photographs show us being taken around the plant by Simeone Barbero, the Technical Manager. The tour was something I’ll remember for a long time. At the end we were presented with the smallest “miniatures” you’ve ever seen. Smaller than Johnny Jamison!
Afterwards the management entertained us at the Muscatel restaurant beside the factory. It was there that a number of Juventus fans realised who we were and tried to give Alex Robson a hard time. Anyone who knows Alex will know just what a bad move that was.
Rab (striped t-shirt) talks to Ronnie McFall, Johnny Jamison and the late Malcolm Brodie (Belfast Telegraph) during the visit to Cinzano.
One disappointment on an otherwise memorable trip was the standard of the facilities for training and at the ground, the Stade Communale. Basic didn’t do it justice. Juventus were one of the biggest clubs in the world, yet their toilets consisted of a hole in the floor, and very little else. The ground at the time was typically continental. Drab concrete terracing with little character. However, fill it with 60,000 screaming Italians and the character changed dramatically.
Juventus scored their opener when we were still counting the crowd. Their fervour and patriotism had raised our game. We took top the pitch believing we could face any team in the world, No player was any better or worse than any other in our minds, It was an honour to pull on a Glentoran shirt and as a result the enthusiasm always got us through.
5-0 says one thing on paper. But when you consider that Juventus side were beating AC Milan, Roma and the like by similar margins it starts to become something of an achievement.
Denis Matthews, our goalkeeper, played a blinder and I remember him pulling off a wonder save, punching the ball away from a devastating strike. Bur as quickly as Dennis punched it out the ball passed him going in the other direction, delivered by the boot of a certain Franco Causio. However, we left the pitch with pour heads held high.
The squad members are shown the Cinzano bottling plant.
After being finally able to sample some of the local produce, we gathered together in the hotel foyer on Thursday morning for the journey back to Belfast. It was then that the couriers informed us the airport was fogbound and we’d have to travel by coach across to Switzerland. During the coach trip, Billy Caskey confidently announced we were travelling across “the Scalps”. Then again Billy is from Millisle!
It was a great time to be at Glentoran and it provided me with many happy memories and good friends. The most important thing about playing for Glentoran is to realise what an honour and privilege it is to play in a red, green and black shirt and that everything else is a bonus. Once that pride and motivation are in place, everything else follows. These photographs show what you can achieve when your heart is in it.”
Glentoran Team: Dennis Matthews, Rab McCreery, Ronnie McFall, Roy Walsh, Alex Robson (captain), Arthur Stewart, Victor Moreland, Johnny Jamison, Billy Caskey, Qinton McFall, Warren Feeney sub. Stephen O'Neill (aother squad members: Trevor McCullough, Andy Dougan, Peter Dickinson, Freddie Devine)
Rab two weeks before leaving for Turin