They say there are two sides to every story, but it isn't often that you can identify precisely the dividing line between those two sides. When discussing the events that followed the Uefa Cup second round second leg between Lazio and Ipswich Town in November 1973, differing accounts come from either side of a locked changing-room door.

On one side, an army of Lazio supporters (including several players) raged, furious about perceived injustices during the tie, and fuming at the referee, the visiting supporters, the ambulance service and even their own stadium. Meanwhile, the victorious Ipswich team had locked themselves into their changing room and refused to come out until all fell silent in the corridor outside. As the Ipswich midfielder Bryan Hamilton put it, "We didn't know what was going on outside, we just knew it was bad." 

When they finally did emerge into the tunnel of the Stadio Olimpico, there was a smell of tear gas in the air and the pitch outside was littered with broken glass. After all the anger, resentment and embarrassment of those moments that followed the second leg, it would be some time before people were able to reflect on the fact that these teams had just played out two classic football matches, ending in a 6-4 aggregate victory for the English club.

Over the course of 180 frenetic minutes, Ipswich had taken on a group of players that specialised in histrionics and put them through the wringer, in both a footballing and an emotional sense. The drama of a crazy second leg in Rome was so intense that, had a world-famous striker sworn into a television camera following the final whistle, it probably wouldn't even have made the highlights.


Combining the pride of strutting divas with a snarling aggression, Tommaso Maestrelli's Lazio had already displayed the shortness of their collective fuse to the English football community when they brawled with Arsenal players in a restaurant following a Fairs Cup tie in 1970. Violence had broken out after some apparently hurtful gags were made by the Gunners players about a post-match gift from their hosts. Presenting leather purses to a group of sideburned, quintessentially seventies, working-class British men was not seen as the most masculine of gestures by the recipients and their amusement caused hurt feelings and then a flurry of angry fists and upturned dinner plates in the centre of the Italian capital.

The Ipswich Town side drawn against Lazio three years down the line were an earnest, restrained bunch, still in the process of being moulded by a hard-working young manager, whose coaching career had not begun well but promised a brighter future. Still just 40 years old, Bobby Robson had transformed his Ipswich side from perennial relegation battlers to Uefa Cup qualifiers over the previous four seasons. In the first round, they beat Real Madrid.



Ipswich Town 4 Lazio 0, Portman Road, Ipswich, 24 October 1973

The angst and frustration that led to the mayhem had its roots in a first-leg performance by Ipswich that would have humbled a less arrogant side than Lazio. As you might expect from a team made up of aggressive showmen, Maestrelli's Lazio were at their best when playing to a home crowd or when their blood was up. But on that cold, late-October night in Ipswich, the psychological factors that made this intense team such a dangerous opponent were absent and Robson's team took full advantage.

Lazio sat far too deep at Portman Road, allowing Ipswich to mount attacks in front of their massed backline and ceding space in wide areas. These problems were partly a consequence of changes made to what would be deemed their first XI — the line-up that ultimately led them to the Serie A title that season. 

Lazio's system under Maestrelli is best described as a 1-3-3-3. Made up of two full-backs, a stopper centre-half (Giancarlo Oddi) and, behind him, a libero (Pino Wilson), the backline was used to lying in wait, organised and well-positioned to nullify opposition strike forces. In front of them were two battling midfield players — usually Luciano Re Cecconi and Franco Nanni — who often took up old-fashioned wing-half positions, either side of a third central midfield player, Mario Frustalupi. The attacking threat came from a trident made up of two tricky wingers, Vincenzo D'Amico and Renzo Garlaschelli, who were capable of bursting past defences on the touchline or of cutting inside and shooting, and the talismanic Giorgio Chinaglia, who led the line with power, talent and clinical intent.

In East Anglia, for one reason or another, the eleven names that trip off the tongue for Lazio supporters of a certain vintage did not trot out in their usual order and the changes affected the balance of the team. The skilful left-winger, D'Amico, was named only as a substitute as Maestrelli selected Sergio Petrelli, an uncompromising right-back renowned for his robust challenges, to play in the No 11 shirt. Adding to the confusion, despite the number on his shirt, he wasn't asked to play on the left-wing — that task was given to Nanni, who moved out wide from his usual role in central midfield, where Petrelli was included to add some steel. Mario Facco, meanwhile, was the man called in to play in Petrelli's usual right-back slot, as Lazio went into the game looking to keep things tight. 

It didn't work. They were too deep and too narrow, leaving exploitable gaps. For much of the game, there were large swathes of open space for Ipswich's wide players to run loose in. Meanwhile, the Ipswich centre-forward Trevor Whymark positioned himself in the centre of the Lazio penalty area, where he could compete for the balls Lazio were effectively inviting Ipswich to cross into the box. It was not in the make-up of Lazio goalkeeper, Felice Pulici, to leave his line and claim these crosses, so the game hung on the battle between Whymark and the Lazio defence as the ball was slung into the penalty area over and over again.

Ipswich's approach play, though, was not simply a case of knocking long balls into the box. They used the left flank to particularly devastating effect that evening, as Colin Harper pushed forward from left-back frequently, making runs on the outside of Mick Lambert on the left of midfield. The movement left Petrelli, floundering in his unfamiliar role on the right of a three-man midfield, unsure which player to close down.

On two occasions in the first half, he chose incorrectly.

With 16 minutes gone, Lambert, under very little pressure in a deep position on the left touchline, was afforded the time and space to push the ball inside onto his right foot and send an in-swinging cross onto Whymark's head. Cutting a dominant figure in the middle of a crowded penalty area, he guided his header over the dive of Pulici and inside the far post to open the scoring.

Harper was the man behind Whymark's next goal, scored three minutes before half-time. The full-back strode forward unchallenged and struck a left-footed cross on the run, once again from a deep position. In truth, he scuffed the cross slightly but it was misjudged by Facco, who threw himself headlong at it, connecting with nothing but clean air. The ball evaded everyone in the crowded penalty area as it bobbled across and awkward autumn pitch before finally reaching the back post, where Whymark reacted quicker than the left-back Luigi Martini and plundered his second goal of the night off his left shin. Pulici was criticised for appearing to dive out of the ball's way as it rolled unconvincingly into the centre of his goal but in retrospect he could be forgiven for leaning to his left in anticipation of a well-struck shot towards the far corner only to be deceived by the mishit. Either way, the tame effort made it 2-0.

Ipswich had discovered Lazio's weakness and they exploited it mercilessly. The confidence of Petrelli and Facco had been destroyed before half-time by the simplest of British tactics — an overlapping full-back and winger combination in a 4-4-2. The psychological advantage was clear as, just two minutes into the second half, Harper and Lambert used the same formula again with the visitors looking a disheartened rabble on their right flank. 

Whymark claimed his hat-trick after Harper was allowed to make a driving run inwards from the left touchline, before shrugging off a desperate attempt at a tackle by Petrelli and playing a pass into the penalty area that split two Lazio players. Petrelli's challenge was almost apologetic — the attempt of a man who knew that he should try to do something but didn't know what. The pass wrong-footed Re Cecconi but Lambert, anticipating perfectly, latched onto it, before furrowing his way towards the goal line and squeezing a pass between two flat-footed defenders at the near post. Whymark pounced on the ball inside the six yard box — to a confident goalkeeper, an unthinkable outcome — and his forceful left-footed shot had too much power for the timid Pulici.

Three times Ipswich had exposed the unfamiliar Lazio right flank and the unnecessarily deep backline. The Italians were architects of their own downfall and it got worse 10 minutes later, when Whymark scored his fourth goal of the night in fortuitous circumstances. Colin Viljoen carried the ball into the Lazio half unchallenged (a recurring theme that night) and, as Frustalupi belatedly closed him down 25 yards from goal, the South African-born midfielder dropped his shoulder and cut inside to strike with his right foot. The shot hit Whymark either on the back or on the left arm, depending on whose account you listen to, before he swivelled and lashed the ball into the bottom far corner of the net.

Immediately, Lazio hands were raised in protest, appealing for the goal to be disallowed for handball and in the scenes that followed, the Swiss referee was surrounded by eight Italian players. 4-0 was an embarrassing result for Lazio and the dismay at conceding some poor goals turned into anger at what they perceived to be a refereeing injustice. It proved the tip of the iceberg.

From Ipswich's perspective, however, the tantrums of their vanquished Roman foes were merely an amusing sideshow after a rout that left not just the East Anglian town but the whole country brimming with confidence and pride. "Whymark's four goals against a panic-stricken Lazio defence sent a thrilling message racing through English football," James Lawton wrote excitedly in the Daily Express the following day. "It proclaimed in every phase of this savage beating of a top Italian side that an English team can still take on a massed defence and cut it to pieces."

The result and the performance were further signs that Robson was creating something special at Portman Road, after a fourth place finish in the 1972-73 season. The manager claimed in his autobiography to have constructed three great teams at Ipswich, reaching their peak in 1975, 1978 and 1981. As they put Lazio to the sword in front of their disbelieving supporters on 24 October 1973, he was still in the process of the building the first of those legendary sides.

Under the ownership of the eccentric John Cobbold, the club was renowned for its belief in putting the manager first and that was precisely what the future England and Barcelona boss needed as he looked to make his way in the coaching world. After traumatic experiences with Vancouver Royals and Fulham — both clubs in a state of disarray in the boardroom — Robson could have been forgiven for turning his back on management, but he applied speculatively for the job at Ipswich and was successful. What's more, he was given the time to learn and build at Ipswich and the club ultimately reaped the rewards. 

It was not a straightforward rise to prominence for Robson and Ipswich, though. In the four seasons before they claimed fourth spot in 1973, Ipswich had finished 12th, 18th, 19th and 13th, reaching their lowest ebb during the 1970-71 campaign, when Robson came to blows with two of his players after omitting them from the team. After the manager and his assistant, Cyril Lea, had gone toe-to-toe with the offending players — Tommy Carroll and Bill Baxter — the pair were eventually offloaded and the squad rallied around their beleaguered boss. Crucially, they were joined in that respect by the board.

"Our manager's name is not written in chalk on his door with a wet sponge nailed by the side," Cobbold said when Ipswich found themselves bottom of the table in the same campaign. He was vindicated in the years that followed, as Robson's network of scouts began to come good with some bargain signings — Whymark, Lambert, Mick Mills and Kevin Beattie among them — while the club won the FA Youth Cup in 1973 (they would repeat the feat in 1975). As the new faces settled into Robson's way of doing things, the club's fortunes took off.

Beating Real Madrid and then racing to a 4-0 first leg lead over Lazio must have sent confidence soaring around Ipswich but they had to ensure that their chastened opponents didn't let their appetite for vengeance spur them onto an unlikely comeback in Rome. This Lazio team came with a reputation and, having lost face in England, they were expected respond at the Stadio Olimpico.



Lazio 4 Ipswich Town 2, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, 7 November 1973

"All that stands between Ipswich and a place in the third round of the Uefa Cup is the unspoken threats of a violent second leg in Rome," claimed Jeff Powell in the Daily Mail following the 4-0 victory at Portman Road. Hindsight tells us that he understood the situation well but the proposed threat from Lazio should not have been reduced to violence and petulance alone. This was a team, after all, who had lost out on the 1972-73 scudetto following defeat on the last day of the season and who would go on to put that disappointment behind them with their first Serie A title success the following April. A 4-0 defeat away from home was bad, but Lazio, and the Italian press, refused to accept that it was terminal, particularly for a team who were so much more dangerous in their own stadium than they were on the road.

Lazio, while by no means poor travellers on the whole, did show a degree of frailty in particularly high-pressure away games during the 1973-74 campaign. They leaked a combined total of 18 goals in away games against their four closest title rivals and their two European opponents. Indeed, they had progressed despite conceding three times in the away leg of their Uefa Cup first-round tie against Sion, albeit in very different circumstances.

The Biancocelesti had arrived in Switzerland with the cushion of a 3-0 lead from the home leg, courtesy of a hat-trick from Chinaglia, who was in almighty form that season. His personal tally of 24 league goals amounted to one more than Lazio conceded in total. Never lacking in bravado, Chinaglia was brimming with confidence but it may be that a certain amount of complacency entered into the team's psyche when they went ahead in the second leg to open up a 4-0 aggregate lead. Whatever the reason, Lazio revealed a porousness to their usually watertight backline that night in Switzerland. Sion recovered to win 3-1 on the night, falling just short of a memorable comeback, although little was made of their mini-recovery.

But Lazio were more or less impenetrable at the Stadio Olimpico, where their formidable record and the aggressive atmosphere could cause opponents to wilt before a ball had been kicked. This intimidation factor was summarised emotionally in 1975 by the proudly Communist Perugia player, Paolo Sollier, after he was subjected to deafening abuse by right-wing Lazio Ultras that reached fever pitch when he was substituted. "Perhaps it is incorrect to talk about 'Lazio's fans'. 'The Lazio fascists' is better," Sollier is quoted as saying in Calcio, John Foot's history of Italian football. "They beat people up, attacked buses, slashed tyres. I had been whistled every time I touched the ball... I walked off with Sollier Boia ['Sollier Executioner'] being screamed out by those shitty people, their hands in the bastard form of a fascist salute. I went into the tunnel without doing anything... once I was inside I was afraid... shivering... I wanted a rifle to kill the whole curva."

Sollier's was an extreme case, given his well-known political beliefs, but his account gives an impression of how the Olimpico could affect Lazio's opponents when the heat was on. With such a potent psychological weapon, even when faced with a 4-0 starting deficit, Lazio's players genuinely believed they could win by the required margin on their own patch. Spurred on by baying Laziali, this fiercely proud and tactically astute force lost just one home game all season.

Ipswich's players, meanwhile, had little idea of what lay in store for them. When they landed in Rome, Robson's men were simply looking forward to seeing the sights in the ancient capital before playing out the second leg of a tie they had firmly under control. Hamilton remembers sitting with fellow Northern Ireland international Allan Hunter in Saint Peter's Square, marvelling at the surroundings in Vatican City and planning to return with his wife. However, he also recalls the atmosphere in the build-up to the game turning on an incident at the Ipswich training base: "The whole situation was hyped up out of sight at some stage, somewhere. In my mind, it was from the moment we came off the plane, but there was a turning point at one of our training sessions in Italy when a group of men came with a trophy for Trevor Whymark."

These men were representatives of an AS Roma supporters' club — the 12° Club Giallorosso — and they had arrived, with a photographer, to stoke the fires of their own rivalry with Lazio (one the Giallorossi were undoubtedly losing on the pitch at the time). Their plan worked. Several Italian newspapers carried the same photo above their match preview articles the following day. In it, a rather bewildered looking Whymark could be seen accepting a gold plate from a smiling club president, Pietro Magliocchetti, who was decked out in a patterned suit jacket that wouldn't have looked out of place on a Roger Moore-era Bond villain. A further detail acted as a twist of the knife, though: the plate was inscribed with a personal message incendiary enough to elevate the Ipswich striker to the kind of nemesis status Sollier had endured during his ordeal at the Olimpico.

To Whymark, in recognition of Ipswich-Lazio 4-0
Il Roma Club F.C. "12° Giallorosso", with affection and gratitude

Affection and gratitude. Sparked by those words, the fuse on Lazio's infamous Curva Nord was lit. 

On the same day that Roma supporters made Whymark a club icon for his disservices to Lazio, Maestrelli was making plans of his own for the Ipswich centre-forward. Alarmed by the ease with which he dismantled his defence in the first leg, the former international striker was ready to tinker with his tactics, a drastic step for a team that was rarely altered and even more rarely reacted well to such changes.

Facco, the experienced right-back, kept his place for the second leg ahead of Petrelli, who was dropped following his humiliation at Portman Road. D'Amico was recalled on the left-wing, with Nanni returning to central midfield, offering more flair going forward but, in a move considered by the Italian press to have been planned for "psychological reasons", Lazio planned to give Whymark closer physical attention to prevent him from running amok once again. In other words, the Ipswich frontman was being earmarked for rough treatment, both in the dressing-room and on the terraces. Briefly it appeared as though these plans were to be scuppered too, as Wilson, the linchpin of the Lazio defence and a strong, steadying force at the back, suffered a knock in a 0-0 draw at home to Fiorentina in the intervening Serie A game. On the morning of the second leg against Ipswich, the captain and libero was considered a doubt by the Italian press, but that evening he trotted out at the head of the team to take his usual place behind the backline. 

As Hamilton explains, Lazio made their intentions clear immediately. "At the start of the game, the first ball was played up to Trevor Whymark and he got a smack in the back of the head. That set the standard for the rest of the game."

Moments after clattering their chief tormentor from the first leg, Lazio took the lead. Just 43 seconds into the game, D'Amico, the talented winger returning to his position on the left of a three-man attack, pushed the ball inside and saw it rebound fortuitously off Hunter's knee into the path of the right-winger Garlaschelli, who gratefully drove his shot past Best. With a goal on the board inside the first minute, Ipswich disorientated and the crowd roaring them forwards, Lazio's players felt even more conviction in their pre-match belief that they could recover the deficit. 

36 years later, Chinaglia recalled the dead-eyed will to win which permeated through that team in moments of crisis. "I remember one game later that season, against Verona," he told me. "We were losing 2-1 when we went in at half-time and I said to them all, 'What are we doing in here? Let's go outside now!' So we put ourselves on the pitch and just waited for Verona to come back out. We came back and won the game 4-2. We thought it was better than sitting talking to go out there and get on with it straight away because we believed we were better than them. And the fans went crazy — they loved it — so it was good. They were shocked at first, but then they started cheering, going crazy. So the Verona team came out on the field saying, 'What the hell's going on here?' In six minutes we had scored two goals, so that tells you everything — the psychological aspect is important sometimes. After we lost 4-0 at Ipswich, we said to each other that we could beat them 5 or 6-0 at home."

Taken aback by the ferocity of their wounded hosts, Robson's team struggled to cope. Lazio continued to push forward and, after just nine minutes, Chinaglia nearly scored a second with a well-executed overhead kick that rebounded off the Ipswich crossbar. Much had been made in pre-match media discussions of the upcoming international friendly between England and Italy (a game that saw Fabio Capello score the only goal in a famous first win for Italy at Wembley). With that fixture in mind, the Azzurri manager, Ferruccio Valcareggi, was in the stands at the Olimpico and one of his key men, Chinaglia, played a leading role in a stirring opening 30 minutes from the hosts.

Every so often, a centre-forward of a certain stature and prominence appears to force himself upon the narrative of a game and cast himself as the protagonist. Like any hero, or antihero, he does so with an air of certainty that he will succeed. That night, Chinaglia was like a force of nature. When he played that way, he filled the Lazio players and supporters with confidence.

Three first-half minutes in particular did much to raise pulses in the stadium. After 24 minutes, Hunter made two goal-line clearances in quick succession to deny Chinaglia. After his second shot was blocked by Hunter, it rebounded onto the post and into David Best's arms — it seemed faintly ridiculous that the ball had stayed out of the goal but even more infuriating for Lazio was the feeling that, once again, the referee had overlooked a handball. 

Chinaglia believed that sense of injustice was the final straw for an already incensed Lazio. "I took a shot and the guy on the line parried it out with his hand, but the referee didn't give us a penalty," he recalled with a lingering sense of frustration. "That's when it all started."

Despite the disappointment of Lazio's players, they refused to yield and the momentum remained as they scored two minutes later. This time he had reason to be disappointed with himself after Garlaschelli's cross went unclaimed and Chinaglia powered it home in anger. With over an hour left, things looked ominous for Town; Lazio were performing like a team possessed. An Ipswich fanzine described the second goal as having "put the game in the melting pot" but the final meltdown was still to come.

At the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, chances were created at both ends as the game became increasingly open and increasingly tense. That anxiety then exploded into rage on one side, and fear on the other, as the Dutch referee, Leo van der Kroft, once again took centre stage with a brave, but contested, decision. On 73 minutes, Clive Woods — who replaced David Johnson alongside Whymark in attack for the second leg — tripped over the leg of Oddi as he looked to latch onto a free kick. A penalty was awarded.

It was at this point that one or two of the personalities within Robson's squad came to the fore. With the Lazio players and supporters out of control and the atmosphere on a knife-edge, teetering between intimidating and dangerous, the cool head of Colin Viljoen shone through."[Viljoen] was an outstanding footballer," Robson wrote in his autobiography, "quicksilver over the ground, smart brain, intelligent first touch... but he was not the most popular person... He had that arrogant, self-confident bearing... and it rubbed people up the wrong way in our down-to-earth dressing room."

That night, Ipswich were thankful for Viljoen's "self-confident bearing" as he converted the penalty. Most of the team trotted back to their own half almost surreptitiously, sensing the fragility of the mood inside the Olimpico and hoping not to enflame matters further. But one player failed to read the warning signs, something Hamilton will never forget: "Poor old Trevor Whymark! He made the decision to cheer and go over to Viljoen, and about four or five of their players started chasing him. He ended up behind David Best in our own penalty area!"

According to one report, a scissor kick was among the blows aimed at Whymark as he beat a hasty retreat and nobody was surprised to see Wilson booked four minutes later for flooring Woods with a hefty challenge. What they weren't expecting, however, was the pitch invader who got past a heavy police presence, a metal fence and a moat. 

With the interruption over and the game all but won, it might have been time to calm things down. Maestrelli, however, decided to make a substitution that would have the opposite effect. He replaced one of his most technically gifted players, D'Amico, with his trusty enforcer, Petrelli, who must have still been seething from the run-around he had been given in East Anglia.

One of his targets was Johnson, the Ipswich substitute, who had been left out of the starting line-up that night, in part because he had failed to recover fully from the rough treatment he had received in the first leg. According to Hamilton, it was not an easy night for the future Liverpool striker. "David Johnson, for whatever reason, had become a marked guy," he said. "He was on the bench in Rome and, I can't remember who said it, but I heard they were all sitting on the bench — and we were all very decent, sensible players — and someone apparently ran past and spat on him. He was shocked that someone would do that in a football match, a European club football match. It was just an unsavoury night, where we wanted to get the match over with and get home."

Before they could do that, however, they had finally to extinguish the fight from Chinaglia. The forward had already had a second goal disallowed for offside, shortly before Viljoen's penalty, and he refused to give up with the aggregate score at 5-2. With eight minutes remaining, he won and converted a penalty, before completing his hat-trick five minutes later, pulling Lazio to within a goal of Ipswich, although the away goals rule meant that the Biancocelesti needed another two goals for victory. 

Then, in injury time, probably the worst thing that could have happened, given the fraught situation inside the stadium, happened. Johnson, who later admitted he hadn't dared to stop moving in case the injuries he had incurred two weeks earlier were tested by his markers, scored a screamer. He chested Viljoen's cross down and struck the ball left-footed into the net to settle the tie. Then, all hell broke loose.

"Afterwards the fans went crazy — everybody went crazy," Chinaglia said. "Their players couldn't come out of the dressing-room because 75,000 people were waiting for them, and that's a difficult situation."

In the race to reach the tunnel before the supporters and opposition players could get to them, the Ipswich keeper, Best, was badly hurt by a kick and was eventually carried inside, before the changing room door was locked. It remained bolted for almost two hours. 

The Ipswich supporters on the terraces, however, had nowhere to hide. "Fighting on the terraces was rife and supporters from Ipswich were terrified," remembers Barry Collings, an Ipswich fan who had travelled to the game across Europe by car with three friends. But, having met the squad outside their hotel earlier that day, he and his friends were among the lucky ones.

"We were herded out safely by the police because we were in the players' guest area, but in the street we were set upon and jostled. We ran and merged with the host of Lazio supporters, hiding our scarves. We walked for a long time to get out of the vicinity of the stadium and eventually found our way back to the hotel."

Collings had seen the situation in the stands developing from his seat in the tribuna and his account helps to explain why the police were unable to stop the pitch invasion at the final whistle. "The playing surface was surrounded by a moat and a high fence, while the police were sitting on benches in 'V' shapes behind the goals, looking out at the crowd. When a goal was scored during the match, a coloured rocket was fired up in the air for the benefit of the people outside in the city — white or blue depending on the team scoring. However, as the match descended into chaos, the rockets were directed down at the police benches and the police were jumping around in smoke."

There was little sympathy for Lazio's players and supporters, even from their compatriots in the Italian press. In Rome, the newspapers were filled with condemnation and concern for the image of the ancient capital. "Madness at the Stadio Olimpico" read one headline; "The Night of Shame" was another, while a more philosophical sub-heading offered the sentiment, "Better to lose a contest, or not to play at all, just to save the city a defamation for which it is not to blame".

The Turin-based daily, La Stampa, went for "Thugs of the Olimpico", reporting that the referee was forced to leave via a hidden exit as the battle raged within. As he did so, an ambulance departing the stadium was targeted by a mob who believed the Dutch official was inside. They succeeded only in damaging an ambulance filled with fellow supporters.

The club would pay dearly for the violence that night. Crowned champions of Italy for the first time in their 74-year history at the end of the campaign, their celebrations were cut short by the knowledge that a Uefa ban, imposed after the Ipswich game, would prevent them from competing in the European Cup the following season.

The squad then began to fall apart, in traumatic style. Chinaglia, whose wife was American, longed to move to the United States, where he was offered the chance to play alongside Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer for the New York Cosmos, and he took the opportunity in the summer of 1976. By then Maestrelli was battling the cancer that would eventually claim his life. Tragedy also claimed midfielder Re Cecconi who was shot dead in a jewellery shop when he shouted "This is a robbery!" as a joke, not realising that the jumpy owner had recently been robbed and wasn't going to ask any questions before shooting. Years later, after Frustalupi had died in a horrific car crash in 1990, it was claimed that the team was cursed.

On the pitch, there was little to cheer about following the 1974 scudetto party. Lazio had slipped to 13th by the end of the 1975-76 season, finishing on the same number of points as relegated Ascoli in a 16-team league. With just six wins in 30 games, a team that had won the league two years earlier avoided relegation on goal difference. They wouldn't lift silverware again until 1998.

As for the victorious Ipswich players, they returned to England battered, bruised and exhausted, while the overriding emotion was not of delight at another famous European victory but relief that they had got away from the hatred and intimidation of the Stadio Olimpico that night. The team reached the quarter-final stage of the Uefa Cup that season, but their second round heroics in Rome did not feel too much like a victory in the immediate aftermath.

Robson, addressing the journalists who had gathered to meet his squad at the airport, was unequivocal in his condemnation of what had happened after the final whistle in Rome. Pointing angrily to the walking wounded among the Ipswich party, he said, "Look at my players here! Colin Harper has a serious injury to his leg, David Best has a sore shin and almost every one of them has bruises all over their bodies. It's a miracle we don't have five or six players out.

"Believe me, it was not football; it was war."