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When Dundee conquered Anderlecht and set Belgian record at Heysel Stadium

The Dundee players returned to a heroes' welcome at Tay Bridge Station following the win in Belgium. Image: DC Thomson.
The Dundee players returned to a heroes' welcome at Tay Bridge Station following the win in Belgium. Image: DC Thomson.

Dundee’s European Cup stars came out of cold storage 60 years ago to become red-hot heroes in front of a record crowd in Brussels.

The Dens Parkers qualified for the European Cup quarter-final against Belgian champions Anderlecht following victories over Cologne and Sporting Lisbon.

Anderlecht were among the favourites having seen off the mighty Real Madrid in the preliminary round before defeating CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria 4-2 on aggregate.

The Belgian club was now making its mark following severe setbacks in the early days of the European Cup when there had been a 10-0 defeat by Manchester United in 1956.

The Evening Telegraph described Anderlecht as “one of Europe’s outstanding teams in the post-war era”.

Anderlecht included nine internationals in their ranks including Paul Van Himst and Joseph Jurion who were regarded amongst the cream of European footballers.

Van Himst was still only 19 but had already been voted Belgium’s Footballer of the Year twice with Barcelona and Real Madrid among the clubs linked with signing him.

The brilliant Jurion, who scored the winning goal against Real Madrid, suffered from myopia and wore special glasses on the pitch which made him instantly recognisable.

The winter to end all winters

The first leg of the tie had been scheduled for February 13 in Brussels before football was brought to a virtual standstill by the unprecedented cold snap, dubbed ‘the winter to end all winters’, and between January and March, hardly a ball was kicked in anger.

The Big Freeze dictated a postponement until March 6.

Dens Park was a blanket of snow during the Big Freeze of 1963. Image: DC Thomson.

In anticipation of a bumper crowd, Anderlecht had moved the game from Astrid Park to the Heysel Stadium – the national stadium – which could hold over 60,000 fans.

The weather and the decision by Anderlecht to impose a domestic TV blackout on the quarter-final match had prompted ticket sales to rocket.

Shankly’s men were at full strength as the teams took to the field in front of 64,703 noisy fans which remains the biggest crowd ever for any football match in Belgium.

Anderlecht: Fazekas, Heylens, Cornelis, Hanon, Verbiest, Lippens, Janssens, Jurion, Stockman, Van Himst, Puis.

Dundee: Slater, Hamilton, Cox, Seith, Ure, Wishart, Smith, Penman, Cousin, Gilzean, Robertson.

High up on a specially built, tiered platform eight TV commentators from five countries including Alex Cameron from Scotsport were virtually breaking out in a sweat.

The Eurovision cameras were warming up but as the whistle blew a voice said, ‘Two minutes to go’ and the TV cameras missed Alan Gilzean’s quick-fire opening goal in 65 seconds.

Dundee training in Brussels ahead of their quarter-final first leg tie against Belgian side Anderlecht in 1963.

Ure, Robertson, Smith, Penman, Cousin and Gilzean were all involved in the build-up.

Gilzean took the return pass and struck a powerful low shot past Hungarian goalkeeper Árpád Fazekas to give Dundee a dream start.

Gilzean’s goal was one of just three Dundee shots on goal to Anderlecht’s 14 in an action-packed first half as Dundee soaked up the pressure and hit the Belgians on the break.

Bert Slater made three fantastic saves and Bobby Cox cleared off the line twice following Dundee’s opening goal as the Belgians ramped up the pressure.

Bert Slater was in goal for Dundee at the Heysel Stadium. Image: DC Thomson.

Gilzean then made Anderlecht pay for a string of missed chances on 18 minutes when he doubled Dundee’s advantage with a magnificent goal.

Cousin went out to the left-wing and his cross was touched sideways by Robertson.

Gilzean ran on and gave the goalkeeper no chance from 20 yards.

Anderlecht’s only goal came from the penalty spot on 36 minutes when Cox was penalised for handball despite claiming it hit his chest.

Belgium international Martin Lippens coolly dispatched the spot kick past Slater.

Dundee were dreaming of the semi-final

Dundee went in 2-1 up at the break and the players spoke in the dressing room about the prospect of possibly beating a club which had eliminated Real Madrid.

The Dee stunned the Belgians with a third soon after the restart.

Gilzean knocked down a Hamilton lob and Cousin was left with the easy job of netting.

The game was put beyond doubt on 71 minutes.

Gordon Smith was amongst the Dundee scorers. Image: DC Thomson.

Gilzean rose with Fazekas and the ball broke in front of an open goal.

Smith stormed in from the wing and scored with his left foot.

The goal appeared to knock the stuffing out of Anderlecht.

The poor bloke who was in charge of Heysel Stadium’s huge scoreboard display was also cursing Dundee.

He had had to keep climbing up to replace the panels every time a goal was scored.

Gilzean played on with an ankle injury that he suffered after just 20 minutes but he went to hospital at full-time to get the nasty gash stitched up.

At the final whistle, Dundee’s noisy travelling support gave their players a tremendous reception.

In their excitement some fans climbed the barriers around the pitch and carried goalkeeper Bert Slater shoulder high.

The Anderlecht fans gave Dundee a standing ovation.

The travelling fans were jubilant and marched through the streets of Brussels after the match singing Dundee songs.

The triumphant Dundee players returning from Brussels following the victory. Image: DC Thomson.

Anderlecht general secretary Eugene Steppé said his side underestimated Dundee.

“I did not think they could play as they did,” he said.

“They played with their brains and their hearts all the time.

“Anderlecht were like a lovely wrist watch – nice but not gold.”

Second leg was another record-breaker

The second leg on March 13 1963 would take place in front of just over 38,000 fans which was the biggest attendance at Dens since the ground record was broken by the 42,034 at the Scottish Cup tie against Rangers in February 1953.

The bespectacled Jurion said before the match that Anderlecht were confident they would beat Dundee but he didn’t think they could overturn the aggregate score.

Jurion was a popular draw when he arrived at Tay Bridge Station in Dundee in March 1963. Image: DC Thomson.

Alan Cousin should have had the game sewn up within six minutes of kick-off.

Slater made a clearance which went straight down the middle of the park.

Alan Gilzean outjumped Verbiest and knocked it into the path of his strike partner whose weak shot from 16 yards trundled softly past the post.

Both sides were looking good in the early exchanges.

Anderlecht were playing some fabulous football under the floodlights.

Bert Slater pulls off another save during the topsy-turvy game against Anderlecht at Dens. Image: DC Thomson.

On 29 minutes the early Belgian pressure paid off and they went in front when Ian Ure was pulled out of position by Paul Van Himst.

He flicked the ball over right-back Hamilton’s head and the unmarked Stockman smashed it into the roof of the net from 12 yards to give his team a glimmer of hope and silence the large Dens Park crowd.

Dundee went straight up the park and might have had a penalty when right-back Plaskie appeared to bundle Robertson off the ball inside the box.

Alan Gilzean was not looking as sharp as he did in some of the previous games but he was still taking two opposition defenders with him wherever he went.

Alan Gilzean was a constant handful for Anderlecht despite playing with an ankle injury. Image: DC Thomson.

A Cousin lob from 20 yards was tipped against the bar by Trappeniers who recovered quickly to poke the ball away with Gilzean diving at full stretch for the rebound.

Dundee went in a goal down at half-time but were still 4-2 ahead on aggregate.

Dundee were the more aggressive side after the interval and went looking for the quick goal which would put the tie out of sight.

On 61 minutes Cousin set off on a great run.

He beat two defenders and cut the ball back for Gilzean who managed to get his foot to it but the goalkeeper dived across the line and kept it out.

Smith was now coming more and more into the game.

Another shot from Smith went just past the post.

Penman was next to go through alone as the home pressure continued to mount.

Alan Gilzean rushes in with Dundee increasing the pressure on the Anderlecht defence. Image: DC Thomson.

Dundee gathered strength in the closing stages as the Belgian champions ran out of fuel on the wide open spaces of the Dens pitch.

The pressure paid off on 78 minutes.

Smith crossed and Gilzean went up for the ball with two Belgian defenders.

The ball broke to Cousin who swept it low into the net from 18 yards.

The timeless Smith capped his display with a glorious winner just four minutes later.

A few hundred fans then ran on to the pitch at the end of the match to congratulate the players but they were quickly directed away by the police.

A few spectators were so overcome by the excitement of it all that they had to receive medical treatment.

It was the perfect tonic to mark the sudden end to that long dreary winter.