As part of the club’s ongoing relationship with Forth Valley College, Digital Media Student, Ellis Wilson, is writing a new series “The Played at The Falkirk Stadium” for the Club website.
Falkirk in Europe
For many Bairns, Falkirk in European competition is a distant memory. Pounding the streets of Falkirk for the past ten weeks supporters have had every opportunity to be alone with their thoughts and reminisce of the club. Having last played on March 7th for the strong Falkirk following it may be the first time in their life whereby the ambition to watch Falkirk will be put on hold in one’s lifetime.
While we eagerly await the return of football, let’s look back at two historic matches for Falkirk. Falkirk versus FC Vaduz in The Bairns inaugural European showdown.
It was 7:30pm on a mild summers night as Vaduz were the guests at The Falkirk Stadium, as Falkirk geared up for the clubs first ever Europa League second qualifying round match. The start of Eddie May’s tenure, the Scotsman would have been jubilant as Ryan Flynn struck history, netting the Bairns first ever European goal with a deflected drive rippling the back of the net resulting in euphoria as the stands of the stadium burst into hysteria.
A game of mixed play, the Lichtenstein based outfit could have felt undone as their assured play should have elicited an all-important away goal. Thankfully, Flynn’s history making goal stood as the first-leg decider as the Bairns European record stood as having an impressive 100% European win record.
A sense of anticipation was building for the away leg, for Bairns old and young, this first experience of a European away day was as good as they come, playing with fire, Falkirk was one win away from advancing in the elite competition.
On the banks of the Rhine river with the peak of Schesaplana on display from the Rheinpark Stadium, Falkirk’s first European destination didn’t disappoint. The stands of the stadium filled, and the very best of Falkirk’s home and away made the journey to Lichtenstein’s national stadium.
Unfortunately for the travelling Bairns, Vaduz proved a difficult opponent with home advantage paying dividends for both teams. Applied pressure from the home side resulted in an early equalising goal scored by Emil Noll on the 23rd minute within the first half. The enigmatic Bobby Olejnik helped force the tie to extra time.
Many Bairns may recall the war cry from then manager Eddie May about the importance of not sitting back and defending the clubs slim yet profound advantage in the second leg. However, the chosen formation did not back his comments with May favouring a cautious and more defensively intent 4-2-3-1 formation which ironically forced the squad to play defensive forcing Falkirk’s skeleton attack to sit deeper.
Falkirk’s best chance came when Marc Twaddle got a rare break in the oppositions box from O’Brien’s corner, but Twaddle fired the header past the post. Goalscoring hero Flynn then had a sublime effort saved by Vaduz keeper Peter Jehle’s, his first of the match. Falkirk’s confidence was evidently growing, the traveling Bairns moods were lifted as the team started to probe the oppositions goal. However, in true emphatic European antics, a mere thirty seconds before extra times midway, Burgmeier rattled the winner past the impressive Olejnik from 18 yards ending Falkirk’s only European stint since.
Although Falkirk hasn’t been in such competitions since, the glamour and pull of the short-winded spell in Europe’s elite competitions will live in the memory of The Bairns for years to come. The Falkirk faithful may need to wait for the next European clash. However, with stable growth, The Bairns will see the famed navy-blue battle it out in Europe once again.