Italian job well done
IT is rightly regarded as the finest moment in Blackpool's history since the Matthews Final in 1953.
Blackpool came to Italy, saw and conquered, beating Bologna on their pitch in the 1971 Anglo-Italian Inter-League Cup Final.
They not only subdued the opposition, one of Italy's finest clubs, but also silenced 40,000 home supporters as fanatical as any in Europe at the time.
By contrast, a smattering of Blackpool fans made the journey – the rest stayed at home and watched a thriller unfold on TV.
The Seasiders upset the odds to became the toast of English football.
The Anglo-Italian Cup involved half a dozen league clubs from each country and had been introduced the previous season, when Swindon Town defeated Napoli in the final.
In 1971, Blackpool, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield, Stoke, Swindon, and West Brom did battle with Bologna, Cagliari, Inter Milan, Roma, Sampdoria and Verona.
It looked rather bleak for the Seasiders in the first half in Bologna.
The Italians, so dangerous breaking from midfeld, created most of the openings and 19-year-old John Burridge, just starting out on a career remarkable for its longevity, was called on to make agile saves from strikers Perani (twice), Savoldi and Pace.
However, Pace did manage to beat Burridge on 32 minutes to put the hosts in front 1-0 at half-time. But the Seasiders stormed back after the break, turning the contest on its head.
The pivotal point was John Craven's 62nd-minute equaliser, hit well into the corner of the net from just inside the box after a quick one-two with Bill Bentley.
A penalty shoot-out loomed but extra-time brought glory for the Blackpool side managed by Bob Stokoe.
Micky Burns struck in the 99th minute to send the Blackpool fans wild.
Dennis Wann, brought on as a substitute for exhausted teenager Alan Ainscow, swept a pinpoint 30-yard pass up the left wing. Burns cut inside and unleashed a tremendous 25-yard shot which swerved away from keeper Vavassori and into the net.
Blackpool qualified for the final again the following summer, losing 3-1 to Roma in Rome.
But after Newcastle had defeated Fiorentina in the 1973 final, the tournament was abandoned mainly due to lack of interest.
Bologna: Vavassori, Roversi, Prini, Cresci, Janich, Gregori, Perani, Rizzo, Savoldi, Scala, Pace
Blackpool: Burridge, Hatton, Bentley, Ainscow, Alcock, Suddaby, Burns, Green, Graven, Suddick, Hutchinson
Give cup conquerors the freedom of the borough
Here's how The Gazette's Patrick McEntee reported on the game in The Gazette's special edition of June 14, 1971...
THE conquering heroes of Blackpool – every one of them who took part in the Anglo Italian League tournament but particularly the 13 who won the memorable final against Bologna – should get the freedom of the borough.
Thanks to their success in Bologna, England has now won three European trophies this season. At club level our stock abroad has never been higher and these Blackpool players carried England's flag just as proudly and well as Leeds and Chelsea in this ancient university town in northern Italy.
Being at this final was an unforgettable experience. Standing in the press box, I had a perfect view of Blackpool manager Mr Bob Stokoe's jig of delight along with the other Blackpool officials when the final whistle ended 120 minutes of gruelling action on a hot Italian night.
The small but loyal band of Blackpool supporters, who had made their trip to Italy in charter flights, waved their union jacks and tangerine and white scarves high on the terraces.
The disappointed Bologna fans who did so much to restore one's faith in the sportsmanship of Italian soccer supporters, sportingly waved their red and black banners in tribute as the victorious Blackpool team did a lap of honour, skipper John Craven waving the 22-inch high gold trophy aloft.
Another English team had triumphed against the odds in Europe and being British at that moment in the stadium was the supreme status symbol.
Against the odds I said... and I mean every word. For the dice were loaded in favour of the Italians almost of necessity and Blackpool had to overcome the disadvantages that any visiting English team would have encountered. Remember, too, that they are a second division side, while Bologna finished fourth in the Italian first division.
The biggest disadvantage was the heat. Despite a 5pm kick-off, the temperature in the sun bleached stadium was in the high sixties, beautiful for the fans, murderous for British players.
Blackpool had to fight its effect and the lung-bursting strain of the dry air, a combination that sent several of them tumbling down with cramp late in the game and in extra-time.
On an occasion when most of the crowd were supporting the other team they also had to adjust their game to take account of the fact that the Austrian referee would allow little of the tackling we take as normal in the English game.
And they disciplined themselves so superbly that they not only achieved this but gave Herr Schiller, whose decisions seemed to rather to favour Bologna, no trouble at all.
It's true Mickey Burns and Johnny Johnston were both booked but there was nothing aggressive about their offences.
The game was impressively clean and sporting throughout, with hardly a bad foul in the entire 120 minutes. Both teams deserve a lot of credit for this.
But briefly Blackpool won because they had in the end an apparently greater determination and will to win than the individually more skilful Italians.
The way they picked up their weary legs to go into a half hour of extra-time, for men unused to such conditions, demanded character of the highest order.
No praise is too high for the way these Blackpool players fought back from behind to win. They were all magnificent.
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