For Chelsea supporters like Stephen Benjamin, who had been in the stands as a child alongside his father to watch us win the First Division in 1955, it was a momentous occasion merely to see the club competing on the European stage, let alone reach the final, and he was determined to make the most of it.
‘It was huge,’ remembers Stephen, who was 24 years old in 1971. ‘The Cup Winners’ Cup was a big competition at the time, it was almost as big as the European Cup, so Chelsea getting to the final was huge.
‘I watched every game leading up to it, I was with them all the way through when they played the Greek team Aris, CSKA Sofia from Bulgaria, Manchester City in the semi-finals, but the best game was the quarter-final against Club Brugge. We were 2-0 down after the first leg, got it back to 2-2 at home and, when it went to extra-time, we won the second game 4-0 by the end.’
However, all that success was leaving supporters with difficult decisions to make as they tried to follow us across to continent, with even the final being scheduled for midweek, on Wednesday 19 May, in an age before international travel became commonplace.
‘When we got to the final and it was against Real Madrid, who were just the most successful team in Europe at the time, I decided to go. I was in my last year studying for my finals for a BA in art and design, and it fell right at the beginning of my exams. The exams were on the Friday and I flew out on Wednesday.