Per la coppa Italiano - The Italian matches

The 1976-77 season had technically ended for the Glovers. A seventh place position in the Southern Premier league was not seen to be good enough for the ever demanding  Glovers fans who wanted and expected more! Stan Harland's bombastic reign was nothing short of controversial at times. A player that oozed class on the pitch mixing it at times with thuggish tackles and actions leading to an awful disciplinary record. 

Additionally Harland had a penchant for having a complete lack of respect for senior players or their past achievements. A prime example of this when fans favourite Dicky Plumb referred to the manager solely by his surname. Harland paid in kind by doing the same to Dicky.

Stan Harland was also never one to shy aware from giving his view, sometimes in what appeared pure arrogance to the fans. Blaming the playing woes on everything and anything, usually the Huish pitch, apart from his team selection and tactics. Rumours, later confirmed, reported players struggling with his 'my way or the highway' attitude. One former player in later years describing him as the most arrogant and worst manager he'd ever played for.

Things off the field of play were just as troublesome the club debts rising year on year. Assisted with a high increase in the wage bill under Harland. The board putting out that if it continued within three years the club would fold.

The Anglo-Italian Cup was seen as a way to increase dwindling revenues, the board banking on high crowds to witness Yeovil playing in competitive matches against European opposition. They were wrong. Over the two matches against Turris and Bari, barely 4000 had attended. 

With all that said, The Glovers were still in with a great chance of reaching the final in Italy. Lieing top of the English group.

Anglo-Italian Cup team 1977
Yeovil's Anglo Italian squad 1977

Stan, who had two Anglo-Italian Cup winners medals already under his belt , wanted a third. The players had no let up and were training for the three weeks between the league finishing and before Yeovil's European debut.

So in mid June 1977,  two months after the English leg of the games it was time to head off to Italy and  Yeovil's first ever matches on foreign soil. 

The Green and White supporters club had been advertising in the programme throughout the season for any fans who wished to make the trip to Italy .   This at a time when the good folk of Yeovil holidayed mostly in far flung places such as Weymouth,  Minehead and for the continentally minded, the Isle of Wight. 

The program advertisements though reaped rewards and  at least three supporters took up the chance to travel to Italy amongst them Derek Norman and Ian Wild and Les Wallis,  who can lay claim to be the fans that  have travelled the longest ever to watch a Glovers match!  It certainly must have been a trip that every Glover, then and since has envied. 

The players thankfully didn't have to fund their own trip. The Anglo-Italian committee had given each club finances to pay for it. Which kind off begged the question where did the Anglo Italian committee get the money from? Their was no sponsorship or TV rights. 

The squad arrived at Gatwick Airport along with John Lukins from the Western Gazette and Brian Moore the chairman who decided to add romance to the trip and brought along his wife. 

The Glovers party, boarded a Dan air flight and into an old Comet 4 plane,  one of the last in existence,  and jetted off on the three and half hour flight  to the small Pescara Airport on the Adriatic coast. From there the squad and fans boarded a bus and set up camp in the beautiful coastal resort of Montesilvano,  a short ride North of the city of Pescara.

Any idea that the journey was going to be a jolly for players was soon curtailed as  Stan Harland always a stickler for fitness, had organised for the players to train in a local sports hall. When that was closed it would be training on the beach. 

There was one major problem the players faced though - sleep!  It transpired that the biggest team in the region,  Delfino Pescara had chosen to celebrate the arrival of England's finest Non League team by winning promotion to Serie A for the first time in their sixty-five year history!  Resulting in fans celebrating Italian style with car horns and singing all through the night! Which conjured up images of  Stan Harland marching red faced to the reception in his pyjamas to complain! 

The first match was on the Wednesday evening against a team called Teramo from the town with the same name just an hours drive inland from the Glovers's hotel. 

Teramo had sent quite a large group to England to play their games including players wifes and the local mayor.  As they ended up playing at Scarborough and Northwich the words shock and culture comes to mind! They credibly came away from Scarborough with a 2-2 draw only to find Northwich Victoria's Drill Field ground not much to their liking, losing 3-1.

Now,  Yeovil and Terama had quite a few things in common. Both small towns with similar populations,  both in agricultural areas,  both teams with a long proud history in the lower leagues . Most strikingly though was they both boasted small compact stadiums right bang in the middle of the town . 

With Terama's stadium though it could have actually been shoe horned into its compact space.  To one side of the stadium lay a school which measured just yards from the actual pitch!  In the surrounding sides were small high rise apartments with balconies overlooking the pitch,  balconies where the occupants would place Teramo flags on match days.  The locals,  as the citizen's of Yeovil were very proud of their little club, and rightly so. 

And so,  on the evening of the 22nd June 1977, Yeovil Town made their first ever appearance away from British shores! 

The teams entered the the field from the small cramped changing rooms at Teramo's stadio comunal! 

        The away changing room at Teramo

Playing in an all white strip with green flashes on their short sleeves against Terama in their 70's stylish all blood red with three white small lines down the left side of their of their shirts. 

Unlike the Turris and Bari sides that Yeovil battled with in England,  Teramo were a team of no real big names either past or in the future in the Italian leagues.  They were to a man all lower league players and employed in the various industries throughout the town. 

Teramo 1977

Probably the most famous person on the pitch was Ricardo Lattanzi, the respected Italian referee who took control of many World Cup matches during his career.  Even today the award for the annual best Italian referee is called the Lattanzi award. 

Ricardo Lattanzi 

Lattanzi blew his whistle and got the match underway.  With the temperature touching the mid 20's,  the home team took the game to the Glovers from the off and Yeovil struggled to match their Italian counterparts.  Teramo taking the lead in the 35th minute through young midfielder Patrizio Minnozi.  Much to the delight of the vocal Teramo fans behind the north goal and on the balconies. 

Patrizio Minnozi 

Yeovil kept the score down to 1-0 at half time, as they headed into the changing room. The break seemed to rejuvinate the Glovers and they started off the second half with more of an attacking sense.  This was rewarded with Yeovil scoring their first ever goal in a competitive match abroad.  As striker Doug Hickton added to his two goals from the English leg of the tournament. 

For Teramo having any chance of making the final, a win was a must though and Teramo manager,  Maurice Bruno sent on Leo Spina in the 63rd minute. A player who had been struggling for a place all season. His impact was immediate and the young Spina regained the lead for the home side. 

Yeovil, pressed forward though but again were undone and again Spina scoring on the break  to make it 3-1 in the 71st minute!  In typical Italian fashion, Teramo shut up shop, the Glovers minimised to half chances. That's how it ended, a good game played in good spirit. Afterwards the team were entertained at a banquet in their honour. As players from both sides drank ate and sang songs together. A far cry from the antics of Turris and Bari in the UK. 

Teramo have had a turbulent time since those days, after a series of  relegations they  found themselves at level seven in a Italian football, the equivalent of the Southern Premier league in the UK. They crawled their way back though. The old characteristic and beautiful stadium, like Huish, replaced with a purpose built eight thousand capacity stadium on the edge of the town. 

Teramo's new stadium 

The club, again like Yeovil finding themselves promoted to Seria B the second tier of Italian football. Teramo's place was denied , infamously they became tied up in the 2015 Italian match rigging scandal. They were refused their place, demoted to Seria D and fined €300,000. Today again finding themselves in Seria C. 

On the return to the their hotel in Montesilvano, the news came through that Bath City had pulled off a great result and had beaten Parma by a solitary goal. Thus putting them top of the English group, meaning Yeovil needed a win in Parma three days later.

The fitness routines continued in the beach and gym with the additional time spent relaxing by the pool. Some choosing to sample the historical delights of the area. 

Saturday came, and a long six hour bus journey North was called for to reach Parma. Not the ideal preparation for a must win game. 

Parma, the previous season had been managed by Bruno Maldini, Father of one the greatest defenders in World football, Paulo Maldini. They had finshed runners-up in Seria C, and had a fine mix of experience and youth. Included in that experience were players with past Seria A appearances . Included in their ranks were Michele Benedetto, a former Juventus player,later going on to manage Parma. 

Michele Bendetto 

Also, playing against Yeovil was central midfielder Roberto Furlan previously with AC Milan, a fans favorite with the Parma fans. Unfortunately during the season he had been diagnosed with Leukemia but bravely carried on. Unfortunately losing his life to the illness just one year later. 

Roberto Furlan

Parma played in the iconic Stadio Ennio Tardini and still do. With its famous art-deco entrance. A stadium that hosted Italian international matches. 

The entrance to the Stadio Ennio Tardini 

Parma played in their again iconic shirts with the cross of St George emblazoned on it, a few years later to be one of the most recognised kits in European football. 

Parma 1976-77

The match was evenly contested Yeovil needing to win, for Parma the match was a dead rubber having already lost against Scarborough in the UK and Bath City a few days earlier. 

Yeovil attacked but came up against typical Italian defences. In the 56th minute of the second half, a young eighteen year old was introduced by Parma. Playing just behind the front men. Making his first appearance in senior European football  against no other than Yeovil. His career later wasn't too bad in Europe, winning the  European Champions league as a player and manager on numerous occasions. His name was Carlo Ancelotti. 

Carlo Ancelotti for Parma

The Glovers had one moment that could have sealed a final place, late in the second half. The ball falling yards out to Stan Harland with the goal at his mercy. He blazed it high into the night sky. Despite chances on either side, the referee from Milan, Signore Tonoloni blew up for time and Yeovil's Anglo Italian experience. Teramo had actually battered Bath City 4-0,however by virtue of Bath's three wins out of four, it was they that would head to the final to contest Lecce. 

After another banquet laid on by the Parma board, it was a long late night trip back to Montesilvano, the team arriving back as sun was past rising over the Mediterranean. 

Parma went from strength to strength. Within the next twenty-five years they'd won two UEFA Cup finals, UEFA Cup-Winners and UEFA European Super Cup. It couldn't last, financially problems dogged them when their sponsor Parmalat went bust. The club becoming declared bankrupt in 2015 and forced to start again in Seria D. Three straight promotions saw them back amongst the elite of Italian football. 

With the tournament over for the team, it was spent relaxing, by the pool and beach and after a long hard season a party was organised amongst the players. Who could blame them, their season had not been the best, however they were with their team mates, in one of the most beautiful parts of Italy and had done the club proud. During the party however two players in a case of high jinx decided it would be fun to despatch Stan Harland into the hotel pool. Harland's reaction to the potential dunking, was reported to be both shocking and dangerous. Killing the party stone dead. The atmosphere on the flight home not being the best!

Bath City lost the final to Lecce 3-0, although forming a friendship between the two clubs that exist even to this day with Bath fans visiting the city to play the Lecce fans. 

As for Stan Harland he lasted another eighteen months, the following season seeing the Glovers perform worst then the Anglo Italian Cup year. The 2-1 FA Cup defeat at Frome Town for those Yeovil fans that witnessed it being one of the lowest points in living memory. He in turn throwing out the  usual mutterings regarding the pitch and players performances. Finally he packed his bags and was off to Portsmouth to manage their youth team. There were not many queuing up outside Huish to wish him 'arrivedeci and Bueno fortuna' 

As for the Anglo Italian Cup it continued in various disguises right up to 1996. The final game being played at Wembley no less between Port Vale and Genoa. Genoa taking the Cup back to Italy by 5-2.

For all its faults, brutal and controversial matches, it was for those lower league teams on both sides of the divide a wonderful competition. A chance to pit yourself with at least some continental opponents. It raised some eye opening situations, like George Hagi performing for Breschia against Notts County. Future World Cup winning manager Marcel Lippi, masterminding a defeat of Merthyr Tydfil! 

What a tournament and what an experience. I doubt that we will ever see the likes of it again! 

Happy days! 


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