The route to that 1960-61 final was paved with controversy, though, as Hibs ran them close in a two-legged semi-final before being steamrollered in the play-off which was staged in front of a partisan Roman crowd.
May 27 marks the anniversary of that decider, which saw Roma thrash their Leith rivals to move into the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the forerunner to the UEFA Cup, and now the Europa League.
The fact the Scottish side were able to push it that far came down to ability, grit and a wileyness that proved as effective as the more industrial tactics employed by their counterparts over the course of the original two legs.
Hibs had pulled off the surprise of the quarter-finals when they eliminated defending champions Barcelona to reach the last four and although Roma enjoyed the best of the first leg, which was played at Easter Road on April 19, a goal from John MacLeod eight minutes from the end allowed Hugh Shaw’s men to level the scoring, after Francisco Lojacono’s goals had sandwiched Joe Baker’s 47th minute effort.
The rain that fell throughout the second leg, played in the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, a week later, helped the travelling team, but so did some shrewd tactics.
The Italians had been roundly condemned in the media for their crude tackling. The press also noted that Baker, who was bound for Torino at the end of that season and had been singled out as Hibs’ danger man, had been closely attended by two Roma defenders at all times.
Hibs’ first team trainer – a certain Eddie Turnbull – had clocked that as well and came up with a canny tactic to counteract more of the same in Italy.
The Edinburgh club sent Bobby Kinloch out in the number nine shirt, with Baker wearing his number eight and, according to the Daily Record, that “numbering strategy baffled the 30,000 crowd and seemed to mystify the Roma defence”.
Granted more space, Baker grabbed a double, to add to the opener scored by a bruised and battered Kinloch as they established a 3-1 lead. But, Roma grabbed two late goals to leave the sides locked at 5-5 on aggregate. With no away goals rule at that time, they were forced into a play-off.
That was when, according to Baker, Hibs were “sold down the river by [chairman] Harry Swan and the board” who he claimed wanted the higher gate receipts that would come with the head-to-head being played in Rome.
The venue acquiescence was just one of many obstacles they faced. The conditions and a laughably limited preparation were others
By the time the match was played, over a month later, it was already the close season in Scotland and while the Italians came into it in match form, Hibs had been idling, doing little training. With no practice matches to keep them ticking over, on May 27, 1961, the out-of-condition Hibees headed into the scorching summer heat and wilted spectacularly, losing 6-0.
Roma went on to beat Birmingham City in the final. Then there was that long, long wait.