The Non Old Firm Battle of Britain History

On Thursday the UK footballing press will once more be focused on the aptly named ‘Battle of Britain’, as Tynecastle stadium hosts the Europa League play-off match between Hearts and Tottenham.

In recent times matches between Scottish and English opposition have occurred on a reasonably regular basis, however generally it is either Rangers or Celtic involved.

It wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most Scottish football fans that this is, in fact, the first time a non Old Firm side has met English opposition in European competition in over a quarter of a century.

That most recent clash between sides from North and South of the border occurred in the 1984-85 UEFA Cup, when Dundee United were narrowly defeated by Manchester United.

What may surprise some is that Scottish sides outwith the Old Firm have been drawn with English opposition 13 times in Europe, which means 26 individual matches in total – involving no fewer than 7 different Scottish clubs.

The history books don’t paint a positive picture for Hearts ahead of their match against Spurs, although one side have a very impressive record against English opposition – Dunfermline Athletic. The Pars were also the first non Old Firm Scottish side to face a team from South of the border.

Dunfermline Atheltic 2 – 1 Everton (0-1, 2-0)
1962-63 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup First Round

Everton made their first appearance in European competition, and after their first continental opponents from Greece withdrew from the competition, they faced Dunfermline. The Pars had reached the quarter finals of the Cup Winners Cup the previous season, but narrowly lost the first leg of the tie at Goodison Park through a goal from Dennis Stevens in front of 40,000 spectators. However, Jock Stein’s Dunfermline managed to overturn the single goal deficit at East End Park, and prevailed 2-1 on aggregate following a 2-0 victory in front of over 20,000 fans.

Kilmarnock 1 – 6 Everton (0-2, 1-4)
1964-65 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Second Round

Kilmarnock were far less successful than Dunfermline when they faced the Goodison Park side two years later. Goals from Temple and Morrisey gave Everton a two goal cushion in the first leg at Rugby Park, and although McIlroy gave Killie hope in the second leg by giving them an early lead, Everton replied with four goals of their own to give them a comfortable aggregate victory of 6-1.

Kilmarnock 2 – 4 Leeds United (2-4, 0-0)
1966-67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Semi-Final

The Rugby Park outfit faired much better against the mighty Leeds United, who had just finished runners up in the English top division, and would later go on to win the Fairs Cup in 67/68. The damage was done to Killie in the first half of the first leg at Elland Road, as Leeds scored four goals, with Rod Belfitt netting a hat-trick past Scottish international goalkeeper Bobby Ferguson, who was soon to join West Ham United for a record fee for a goalkeeper of £60,000. Kilmarnock scored two goals of their own, but could only manage a goalless draw at Rugby Park, and Leeds went on to the final – only to lose out to Dinamo Zagreb.

Dundee 1-2 Leeds United (1-1, 0-1)

1967-68 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Semi-Final

On their way to winning the Fairs Cup, Leeds once again met Scottish opposition, and once more it was at the Semi-Final stage. Dundee, a side that included a young Jocky Scott, went behind at Dens Park in the first leg to a 26th minute strike from Paul Madeley. But it took just 10 minutes for Bobby Wilson to level the match, which ended 1-1. The return leg at Elland Road was equally as close, and the tie was only settled with 10 minutes remaining when Eddie Gray fired Leeds into the final – where they would defeat Hungarian side Ferencváros to win their first European trophy.

Hibernian 1-2 Leeds United (0-1, 1-1)
1967-68 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Third Round

Eventual Fairs Cup winners in 1967/68 Leeds United faced Hibs in the Third Round, and won the first leg at Elland Road 1-0 thanks to a 4th minute goal by Eddie Gray. Hibs striker Colin Stein had a goal ruled out by the linesman, after the referee had initially given the goal. At Easter Road in the return leg, Hibs equalised on aggregate through Colin Stein, also in the 4th minute. But Jackie Charlton broke the hearts of the Hibs fans when he scored the winning goal with just 6 minutes remaining.

Greenock Morton 3 – 9 Chelsea (0-5, 3-4)
1968-69 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup First Round

After finishing 6th in Scotland’s top division in 1967–68 Morton qualified for European competition for the first, and to date only, time. They fell at the first hurdle, and were soundly beaten by Chelsea, 5-0 at Stamford Bridge before they regained some pride with a narrow 4-3 loss at Cappielow.

Dunfermline 1 – 0 West Brom (0-0, 1-0)
1968-69 Cup Winners Cup Quarter Final

Dunfermline continued their impressive form against English opposition as they defeated Midlands club West Bromich Albion over two legs. Following a goalless draw in Scotland, the Pars progressed after an impressive 1-0 victory at the Hawthorns. Dunfermline were then beaten in the Semi-Finals of the tournament against Slovan Bratislava, but this was the furthest the Pars had ever been in continental competition.

Dundee United 1 – 3 Newcastle United (0-1, 1-2)
1969-70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup First Round

Newcastle United, who were the holders of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup at that time, began their defence of the trophy at Tannadice against Dundee United. A Wyn Davies double gave the English side a two goal lead, before Scott pulled one back for the home side with 13 minutes remaining. An injury time Dyson goal at St James’ Park put the tie beyond the Scots.

Hibernian 0 – 3 Liverpool (0-1, 0-2)
1970-71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Third Round

The first leg of this tie, played at Easter Road, was decided by a single goal from Welshman, and future Real Madrid manager, John Toshack. The goal came with just 15 minutes remaining, in front of over 30,000 fans in Edinburgh. The tie was put beyond the Hibees at Anfield, as the English team won 2-0 with goals coming from Steve Heighway and Phil Boersma. Liverpool were managed by the legendary Bill Shankly at the time.

Aberdeen 2 – 5 Tottenham (1-1, 1-4)
1973-74 UEFA Cup Second Round

Spurs met Scottish opposition for the second time in Europe, following a Cup Winners Cup victory against Rangers 11 years prior to this clash, and eventually ran out comfortable victors over Aberdeen. The home leg at Pittodrie ended 1-1, giving Aberdeen hope for the trip to White Hart Lane. But the English side proved too strong at home, and hammered the Dons 4-1 in London.

Hibernian 0 – 0 Leeds United (0-0, 0-0 – Leeds won 5-4 on penalty kicks)
1973-74 UEFA Cup Second Round

The 1973/74 UEFA Cup Second Round threw up a rare occurrence as there was two ‘Battle of Britain’ ties between Scottish and English clubs. Hibs travelled to Elland Road for the first leg of this tie, and won a lot of admirers with their display against Leeds United. Their plan to attack the English League leaders raised quite a few eyebrows among the media, but apparently Jimmy Hill had nothing but praise for the Scots’ display. They returned to Easter Road with a credible goalless draw, but after an identical scoreline in the second leg, Leeds prevailed 5-4 on penalty kicks.

Aberdeen 0 – 5 Liverpool (0-1, 0-4)
1980/81 European Cup Second Round

The champions of Scotland met the champions of England in this clash, but sadly for Aberdeen it ended in an emphatic victory for the Anfield side. A one goal win at Pittodrie was followed up with a resounding 4-0 victory in Liverpool, with goals in the second leg coming from a Willie Miller own goal, Phil Neal and Scots Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen. Liverpool would go on to win the tournament, defeating Real Madrid in the final.

Aberdeen 4 – 2 Ipswich Town (1-1, 3-1)
1981/82 UEFA Cup First Round

The following season, after losing their Scottish league crown, the Dons faced Ipswich Town in their first European tie of the new campaign. The league runners-up fared much better against the Tractor boys than they did against Liverpool though. After a 1-1 draw in Ipswich, Aberdeen prevailed 3-1 at Pittodrie to go through on aggregate. The victory was made all the more impressive due to the fact that Ipswich were actually the defending UEFA Cup champions at the time.

Dundee United 4 – 5 Manchester United (2-2, 2-3)
1984/85 UEFA Cup Third Round

The last occasion that a non Old Firm side faced English opposition, and a tie that Dundee United came very close to winning. Goals from Paul Sturrock and Paul Hegarty earned the Tangerines a respectable 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in the first leg, with a Gordon Strachan penalty and Bryan Robson strike giving Man United 1-0 and then 2-1 leads. But in a five goal thriller at Tannadice the Red Devils won 3-2 to progress to the next round. The Manchester club again went into the lead on two occasions, through goals from Mark Hughes and a Gary McGinnis own goal, but the home team once again pulled the game level each time, goals coming from Davie Dodds and then Hegarty. But this time there would be a winning goal, and it came for the English side when Dutch midfielder Arnold Mühren won the tie with 12 minutes to go.

Overall Record of non-Old Firm sides against English opposition in Europe

Played 28
Won 3
Drawn 9
Lost 16



L Dunsire

Hearts supporter and film enthusiast from Musselburgh. Follow me on Twitter @lauriedunsire