Per la coppa Italiano - the Huish games.

The Glovers had faced continental opposition on a number of occasions over the years. Even going back to the 1930's. In 1933 Yeovil played Division one Czeck side Sports Klub de Nachod, a club still going today and playing in the fourth level of Czech football. 

They arrived with a young side, full of fitness and skill, presenting the Yeovil captain with a pendent before the match. Yeovil's more physical side of play was too much for the Czecks, winning by a comfortabletable margin of 8-3, in front of just a couple of hundred fans 

Even before that in 1930, The Glovers advertised a visit by the full Dutch International side. A match that would witness a scramble for tickets today. Alas, the Dutch side pulled out forty-eight hours before kick off. Yeovil hurriedly arranged a game with Boscombe instead. 

After the World famous 1948-49 FA Cup run, no other than Barcelona invited the Glovers on an all expenses paid trip to Spain and a match thrown in. The ultimate gentleman Alec Stock, always a man of principles refused, the club had already arranged a trip to play Guernsey and Jersey.

Sweden's IFK Stockholm being another notable appearance, in March 1955 they came to Huish only to sent home on a 5-0 defeat. IFK Malmo, also paid a visit in 1977, again tasting a 2-1 defeat with Albury and Hickton scoring for the Glovers.

Of course, all friendlies with no real competitive edge to proceedings. That was all about to change. 

At the end of the 1975-76 season , third in the table Atherstone Town arrived at Huish. A match that if Yeovil ended up victorious it would guarantee them runners-up spot in the Southern Premier league behind the all conquering Wimbledon side. Added to the prize, as announced in the Western Gazette was that the club would qualify for the Anglo-Italian Cup. 

The Anglo-Italian Cup was the brainchild of Gigi Peronace, an Italian, who can lay claim to be football's first players agent. It was Peronace who had enticed ex-Yeovil legendary Manager Alec Stock to manage Roma. An English speaker to near native speaker level, charasmatic and likeable he also negotiated the deal that took the great John Charles to Juventus. Where even to this day he is a legend. Later also instrumental in Jimmy Greaves transfer to A. C. Milan. 

Gigi Peronace and Alec Stock 

The bonus of European competition, even this tenuous was met with excitement by the Huish faithful. Atherstone knew the script. Frank McMahon' second half penalty at the Brutton's End sealing a 2-0 victory after Ken Brown had put Glovers into a first half lead. " que sera sera, wherever we'll be we'll be, we're going to Italy" rang out from the chorus behind the goal. The matches were still a year away though, played at the end of the following season. 

Pre-internet days not much was known about the Anglo-Italian Cup. It was originally formed in 1970 and played between teams from the lower areas of Division One and higher placed teams in Division Two in England matched with Italian Seria B and C teams. However the games, had a reputation for violent encounters between players and fans alike. Thus, the teams at the top table of English football decided to not continue in its participation. 

One person who knew the reputation of the cup better than most was none other than  Yeovil's player-manager Stan Harland. 

Big Stan had been the Swindon Captain in 1970 when they had won the final against AS. Roma over two legs. A Roma side including future England manager Fabio Capello. 

   Stan Hartland shakes hands before the riot 

Stan's Swindon side also reached the final a year later. This time against Napoli in front of 55,000 Neopolitans . In the 63rd minute Horsfield put Swindon into a 3-0. It was too much for the locals, beer bottles rained down, fires were lit in the stands as the Italian fans rioted all around. With eleven minutes remaining Austrian referee Paul Schiller had seen enough and abandoned the game through fears of safety and the waves of tear gas now wafting across the pitch. Swindon were awarded the cup. The rioting continued outside of the stadium for hours after. The incident was not isolated West Brom had also played in a riot against Vincenza again the match having to be abandoned.

Yeovil's mediocre 1976-77 season came to life on the 27th April when Yeovil played their first competitive European match in the Anglo Italian Cup . A Tuesday evening match at home to Turris. Plying their trade in Seria C, Turris were a team of players mostly at the end of their careers, journeymen footballers who had mostly earned their corn in the lower tiers of Italian football. 

Turris 1976-77

There were exceptions though, Giuseppe Greco in midfield , had two months before made his Italian Under-20s debut.  Greco later would go onto play for Lazio in Seria B, earning an Italian Under-21s appearance along the way. Also playing was defender Salvatore Albano, who had European Fairs Cup experience with Napoli in the early 70s. 

                           Giuseppe Greco

If the excitement of entering the cup had appealed to the Glovers fans at the end of the previous season, it had most definitely had worn off by the time the Turris team ran out at Huish in their all red kit.  As a crowd of barely 1800 turned up to watch Yeovil's first adventure in Europe! 

However,  those that did turn up were soon witnessing typical Italian football of the 70s!  The referee for the game was no nonsense Ron Crabb from Exeter one of the country's top referees and highly respected . Referring  in the old Division One (Premier League) and later being awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the game. Ron sadly died in 2018.

Ron Crabb with Jimmy Case. 

Big Ron Crabb was used to dealing with the likes of  Case, Hunter and Bremner. He was having none of the Italian antics and gave Yeovil two penalties in the first eight minutes, both penalties given away by Albano,  and both despatched by Frank McMahon past the young Italian keeper Enzo Strino.

Silvatore Albano, obviously not enamered to a cold night in Somerset, completed his nightmare first half with being sent off just before half time. A punch thrown at Yeovil's player manager Stan Harland!  Obviously a very brave man!

Silvatore Albano

The Italian press saw the proceedings totally  different to their English counterparts and to the 1800 witnessing it. In an Italian report  translated to  English 

"Referee Crabb gave two non existent penalties and Turris had to contend with the competitive fury of the British side "

It stayed 2-0 until half time, Referee Ron having more 'Mama mias' thrown at him than an Abba tribute band as himself and the teams made their way down the narrow green door to the changing rooms under the main stand. 

The second half kicked off, and before most Glovers fans had supped the last of the Bovril, young Bill Albury had put the Glovers 3-0 up.  However the ten men Turris kept going and showed great technique and speed when they decided to play football.  That was rewarded with a goal in the 85th minute by young Greco.  

However,  Yeovil were not finished and scored two in the last five minutes from Doug Hickton and that old stalwart and fans favourite Dicky Plumb. Ron Crabb calling time on a very entertaining match and result soon after. 

On the Saturday, Turris travelled to Bath City, they didn't get much luck there either, losing 2-0. The club, continued playing in Seria C until 2012. At that point they folded with increasing debts. Yet, with Italian football a club folding doesn't necessarily mean a club dieing. They changed their name to FC Torre Neopalis 1944, and were immediately reinstated to Seria C., where they still play to this day. 

After the combative Turris side has been sent on their way to play Bath ,the next match took place the following Saturday against Bari. A team located on the Adriatic coast, or for the geographical minded on the heal of Italy's boot shaped feature. 

If Turris has been a team of journeymen players then Bari couldn't have been more different. They had  previously played in the top flight of Italian football . Although in 1977 finding themselves in Seria C. Considered one of the sleeping giants of the league. 

In short, they were to be respected!  This was obvious when the Bari team headed through the Huish forecourt all in bright red team tracksuits which to the locals  marked them out to be a 'proper' football team! 

Bari 1976-77

They had amongst their ranks players such as Goalkeeper Gino Feriolli,  who had started his career at Juventus.  Then there was defender,  Angelo Frappampina,  who a few years later would be lining up behind no other then Diego Maradona for Napoli . 

Angelo Frappampina 

Although the real star of the Bari side was Domenico Penzo.  Penzo a couple years later would be partnering the great Paulo Rossi for Juventus as they became champions of Seria A. Also one of Juventus star players as they won the European Cup winners Cup in  1983-84  beating Porto 2-1 in Basel. 

Four years after the Yeovil match,  Penzo would be the second highest scorer in the top flight of Italian football just one goal behind Michel Platini. Later signing for Napoli and like Frappampina playing alongside Maradona. Selection for the Italian National team arrived, although never getting off the subs bench.

Domenico Penzo

To top it all off, managed by Giocomi Losi. Losi as a player spent all his career at Roma. Later earning eleven caps for Italy and being part of the infamous Battle of Santiago match with Chile at the 1962 World Cup . A match considered to be the most brutal football match ever witnessed

With players of that calibre the 2500 who turned up at Huish were assured of a good and exciting match, they got that and a whole lot more. Yeovil v Bari for those that were there will never be forgotten.! 

Giacomi Losi at the 1962 World Cup. 

The man tasked with officiating this extraordinary match was Les Shapter, from Torquay. A FIFA qualified referee who a year earlier had caused controversy by sending off Fulham's George Best

After Les had got the match underway it became quickly obvious to all that Bari were good, actually they were more then good they were brilliant.  Playing football that folk from Somerset only would get to watch on the BBC's Sportsnight on European Cup nights. Rapid one touch passing, keeping the ball for lengths of time, and then lightening fast when an opening was observed. It was beautiful to observe.

Yeovil managed to hold out until the 23rd minute when Bari's stocky twenty- six year old forward Marco Biloni scored at the Bruttons end.   The goal seemed to satisfy Bari and spur Yeovil.  In the the 35th minute in one of their first real attacks the Glovers were awarded a soft penalty after a foul on Harland.

The reaction to the penalty decision turned Bari from skillful brilliant footballers into what can only be described as psychopaths!  They vented their anger on Stan Harland and big Stan, knowledgeable enough in these tactics after his Swindon experiences wound up the Bari defender Materazzi until the defender took a swing at Harland. Shapner had little hesitation in showing him the red card.

If the name Materazzi sounds familiar, his son was the recipient of Zinedine Zidane's head in his chest in the 2006 World Cup final. Although having the last laugh by ending up a World Cup winner.


Materazzi and Son 

Finally after what seemed like an eternity,  Harland took the penalty and equalised at the Queen's Street end. Harrassed all the way back to the halfway line for his trouble!

Half time came and the Bari players continued arguing with anyone they could,  Les Shapter like Ron Crabb a few days before against Turris, seeming to be the brunt of the abuse as he headed for his half time tea. 

Bari returned after their break it seemed calmer and more focused after Geocomi Losi's team talk . They returned to the gifted technical bunch that had started. It wasn't long before they took the lead in the 47th minute with a well worked goal from Bari's born and bred young striker Giuseppe Rafaele. 

Rafaele, scorer of Bari's second goal 

All seemed to be going fine and a decent game of football was taking  place. The Italians with their skill and pace and the British with their physical strength breaking up their play. That was until the 71st minute when bearded Rod Adams had the audacity to equalise for the Glovers.

The Bari players protested to referee Les that a Bari player had been fouled in the build up,  but he was having none of it and awarded the goal!.

Bari continued their mix of skillful brutality though but Yeovil didn't shy away from the battle, giving as good as they got. Fouls piled up as both teams faught for national pride. However Bari took the lead for the third time in the 83rd minute. The ever dangerous Guiseppe Penzo scoring with a first time shot from inside the Queen's Street eighteen yard box that gave Mike Franklin in the Yeovil goal no chance. 

With only seven minutes remaining Bari decided that was enough and in typical Italian fashion decided to waste time at any given opportunity. The slightest contact being treated as if a sniper had shot their legs away. The main stand, never shy of letting their feelings known, started to stamp their feet in unison on the wooden floor in annoyance. 

Then it happened!  

What happened next has gone down in folklore in Glovers fans memories.  The version of events vary from person to person. 

Time was fast running out and Adams was replaced by big Frank McMahon. Frank was to those that saw him play  a no nonsense,  hard tackling midfielder who scored many an important goal for the Glovers.  He was also Irish, red headed and as the atmosphere was at near boiling point, McMahon plus brutal Italians was just the ideal mix for what was about to entail. 

Time was fast running out as  Yeovil had a corner under the shadow of the main stand at the Bruttons end.  Big Frank took up a position at the near post marked by Ambrosi.  The two players were jostling to hold their position as the ball was floated into the back post as it sailed over everyone. Big Frank though who had been on the field for literally seconds had had enough of Ambrosi's attention and it is claimed  laid a right hook on him that took the defender clean of his feet!  Now, the incident is full of confusion, some Yeovil fans saw it as a stone thrown from the Brutton end and not Frank's fist that struck Ambrosi. The Bari players also believing this. Still to this day, Bari fans label the match. 

'II Bari e l'Europa: la Coppa Anglo-Italiana del 1977 e la sassaiola di Yeovil' ( Bari and the 1977 Anglo Italian Cup and the stone of Yeovil' 

The incident, no matter how you saw it was the fuse that set of dynamatic scenes of utter bedlam down at the Brutton's End. The now enraged Bari players were surrounding Shapter with one adding credence to the stone theory by holding a small chunk of rock in his hands. All the while Ambrosi lay flat out by the side of the goal, attended by their trainer who was signalling to the bench for a stretcher or a priest whatever could get to Ambrosi first!

After what seemed like an eternity, Ambrosi was stretchered off, given a warm 'farewell' from the old boys and girls in the main stand. The Bari players decided to continue and get their win. There being barely five minutes left to play. Once can be assured if they were losing they would not have continued the match and walked off en-mass. By now, the Glovers fans had taken on the resemblence of a baying mob demanding blood or victory, both if required.

Bari's Ambrosi, was it a stone or McMahon? 

Bari, were now down to nine men, having used their substitute a few minutes earlier in an attempt to waste more time. It was all Yeovil, the Italians encamped in their own penalty box. They had completely gone, their heads and any chance of the earlier fine football. 

Again, Yeovil forced a corner in the 88th minute. The crowd screaming encouragement from all areas of the ground. It floated in, an Italian defender made an attempt to clear, his tired legs only sending it to Harland about ten yards out. His right foot connecting with it sweetly sending it through a sea of legs and whizzing past Ferioli in the Bari goal. Bedlam again! This time from the crowd and the Yeovil players in equalising and obtaining a draw against the brutally brilliant Italians.

Bari didn't react, they wanted the match over with and to never return to those pastures again. 

The nine men of Bari kicked off to the sirens of a local ambulance pulling up outside Huish. Young Ambrosi being invited to sample the British NHS system at Yeovil hospital.

Bari kicked off again, trying to pass it through the midfield, instantly losing it to local boy Kevin Leigh, who saw a massive gap between the Italian defence and space behind it, he played a perfectly weighted through ball, Doug Hickton was on it in a flash. Ferioli caught in two minds wether to stay or close Hickton down. He chose the later. Hickton was too cute for him, as Ferioli dived at the striker's feet, Hickton chipped it over him into the now empty net. The scenes were indescribable! Hickton ran towards the Brutton's End and was mobbed with joy. Bari players laying all over the field like ants after a good spraying.

Shapter blew the final whistle two minutes later, as Bari, all the soul sucked out of them slowly crawled back down the tunnel. The Yeovil players obtaining back slaps from all quarters by fans who had run onto the hallowed sloping  turf. 

It had been one of the most remarkable games ever witnessed at Huish in its then fifty-seven year history. A match, as said earlier never to be forgotten by those witnessing it.

Ambrosi, was released a little later with no noticeable injuries and was back with his team mates as they headed to Heathrow for their flight back home. 

Bari,  gained in strength over the following years. They obviously had a secret admiration for the British players at Yeovil as not many years later a string of English players plied their trade for Bari,  Gordon Cowans,  Paul Ridout but most famously David Platt who they paid a then club record of £5.5 million for.  All playing in Bari's San Nicol stadium purpose built for the Italy 1990 World Cup. The stadium was the venue World Cup third place match between Italy and England, a match Italy won 2-1.

The San Nicol stadium, Bari

However in more recent years the club went into financial melt down, owing € 40 million Euro. Finally in 2018 the club with new owners disolving the club and renaming them SSC Bari. Finding themselves in Seria D. The Bari fans are still fanatical though once drawing 50,000 to a play off match a few seasons previously. 

So, the England matches of the Italian Cup were over. The Glovers ending up top of the English group on goal difference. The Italian leg of the 1977 Anglo Italian Cup were to come a couple of months later! Which will be covered in the next article on Casuals to Petters to Town. 

Happy days! 


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