THIS year marks 40 years since Western Australia enjoyed what has become known as the State team’s “Year of Excellence.”
In a remarkable period during 1975, WA became the first Australian team to win an event in Asia – the Marah Halim Cup in Indonesia – they also had a famous 2-1 victory over Scottish giants Rangers, drew 1-1 with English side Middlesbrough, unluckily lost 2-1 to Manchester United, beat an Australian B side 1-0 and thumped an Albany X1 17-0.
Now, the Committee of the Football Hall of Fame WA is planning to honour the heroes of that astonishing season by holding a special celebratory event later in the year.
It is also hoped to produce a collector’s item brochure detailing the events of 1975.
The man who masterminded the year to remember was coach Alan Vest.
“It was a great period. We had a fantastic team, winning in Indonesia, beating Rangers and missing a penalty when we lost to Man United. It was a magical time,” said Vest.
There was little hint of the drama to come when the year started with a February date with crack Polish side Legia Warsaw, who beat WA 4-2 in a thriller at Perry Lakes Stadium. Kazimiersz Deyna, one of Poland’s greatest internationals who went on to play for Manchester City, scored two brilliant goals.
But Vest had seen enough to realise he had a special group of players to work with.
In April, the State side took off for Medan in the North Sumatra province of Indonesia to compete in the Marah Halim Cup. They played eight games, which culminated in them becoming the first Aussie team to win an overseas tournament when they beat South Korea 2-0 in front of 40,000 in the final.
They had started the prestigious tournament by beating Surabaya 4-1, followed by a 2-1 victory over Thailand and then a 2-1 loss to East Java. They got back on track with a 4-2 win over Japan, a 2-1 victory over Persija Jakarta, a 2-0 success over PSMS Medan and a 3-1 triumph when they tackled Thailand again in the semi-finals. Then Ernie Hannigan and Nick McCallum got the goals in the final win over the Koreans.
The WA squad was: Tony Witschge, Sauro Iozzelli, Denis Barstow, David Jones, Steve Stacey (captain), Bob Taylor, Gary Marocchi, Aldo Trinca, Stephen Sceats, Ernie Hannigan, Dave Brooks, Nick McCallum, Ken Morton, David O’Callaghan, Bert Kirkpatrick and Steve Pateman. WA referee Barry Harwood was named the top referee of the tournament.
Less than two weeks later, the heroes of Medan were in action again – this time at Perry Lakes in an international challenge against English side Middlesbrough, coached by Jack Charlton. It ended in a 1-1 draw, but WA were unlucky not to win after having a terrific Ray Ilott goal controversially disallowed for offside.
Manchester United, managed at that time by Tommy Docherty, were the Perry Lakes Stadium visitors in mid-June when 14,000 saw WA’s George McMillan have a penalty saved by Alex Stepney in the 2-1 loss to the Red Devils. Steve Coppell and Sammy McIlroy got the United goals. McMillan redeemed himself when he cleverly beat United’s captain Martin Buchan before slotting home the WA goal.
But a week later came one of the State side’s most famous victories – a 2-1 triumph over Glasgow giants Rangers with goals from Ilott and McMillan. WA could even afford to miss a penalty when Frank Bibby’s spot-kick effort was saved by keeper Stewart Kennedy. It was a very good Gers side with the likes of John Greig, Colin Jackson, Tommy McLean, Derek Parlane and Derek Johnstone in the line-up.
WA’s starting eleven was: Tony Witschge, Stephen Sceats, Bob Taylor, Denis Barstow, Steve Stacey (capt), Dave Brooks, Ray Ilott, George McMillan, Dave O’Callaghan, Gary Marocchi, Frank Bibby. The subs were: Sauro Iozzelli, John O’Connell, Ken Morton, David Jones, Bert Kirkpatrick, Aldo Trinca, Saverio Madaschi.
Two more games followed in 1975 – a 17-0 win over an Albany X1 in Albany (with both McCallum and Morton getting four goals each) and a 1-0 victory over Australia B at Perry Lakes, with Dave O’Callaghan hitting the winner.
PIC ONE: The Marah Halim heroes, with support staff. PIC TWO: Nick McCallum (left) with the Marah Halim Cup, Alan Vest (centre) and George McMillan. PIC THREE: WA captain Steve Stacey tries to cut out the threat of Manchester United’s Lou Macari.