Dundee United’s Uefa Cup quarter-final victory in Barcelona 30 years ago on Saturday was an amazing achievement but not a huge shock.
So says Tangerines historian Peter Rundo, who points to his record books to back up why he’s able to make such a claim.
And the man who was among the band of Arabs in the Nou Camp in 1987 has a point.
Jim McLean’s team were underdogs, even after Kevin Gallacher’s goal in the first leg a fortnight earlier had given them a “half-time” lead.
And even three decades ago there was a gulf between what the Catalan giants could spend on a squad that included world-famous stars like Gary Lineker, Mark Hughes and legendary Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, and what the Tangerines were able to splash out.
But, as Peter is quick to raise, what United had by the late 80s was a European pedigree that was the envy of all but the very top sides.
He said: “By 1987, United had been European Cup semi-finalists and, at various points, pulled off big victories against teams like Monaco, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Monchengladbach.
“Of course, right at the start of their European adventures, they’d beaten Barcelona in the 1966 Fairs Cup and I think I’m right in saying to this day they are the only team to have knocked them out of Europe twice and by winning all four legs.
“For United, though, it wasn’t just about the odd big result. Along with reaching the European Cup semis in ’84, they were European quarter-finalist twice in the 80s as well.
“And when they won the first leg at Tannadice without conceding a goal, the feeling in the camp was there was a very good chance they’d progress.”
In fact, the only time Peter admits to having any doubts that night was when Ramon Caldere levelled the tie just before the break.
“That was a blow, largely because United had done quite well in the first half. They’d soaked up a bit of pressure but it was hardly the Alamo with backs to the wall.
“As the second half went on, we were more and more confident we could get the goal we needed.”
They left it late but United got not one but two goals to secure victory home and away. John Clark equalised in 86 minutes and Iain Ferguson got the winner three minutes later.
That produced memorable scenes as home fans waved white handkerchiefs to signify their team had capitulated. It seemed a magnanimous gesture but Peter recalls not every Spaniard was so gracious in defeat.
“I was on a bus carrying some United officials and players’ wives and, as we pulled away from the stadium, a stone came crashing through one of the windows.
“It gave us a fright but nothing was going to spoil a great night. As well as the performance, it left us thinking there was a real chance United could make the final, and so it proved.”
Returning to the game, Peter believes one key to success lay in an injury that had United worried.
“Eamonn Bannon missed out and he was a huge player for United at that time, particularly in Europe.
“Along with Paul Sturrock and Ralph Milne, he was a catalyst for so many of the goals we scored in Europe.
“Eamonn being out meant the attack was rejigged and they moved “Luggy” out wide.
“As it turned out, he gave the Barca defence a torrid time all night and that was one of the keys to the win over there.”