It was 1978, I was 10 years old and I was on the “March With Ally’s Army”. Scotland was representing Britain in the World Cup Finals in Argentina. Ally McLeod was the messiah, the national coach, we believed.
My uniform comprised of a navy shirt, white shorts, red socks and I wore it every chance I got. The tartan scarf, usually only of use in the cold winter months, was now ever-present. My commitment was such that I even convinced my mum, who is English, to adorn her VW van with a banner for our cause. It took pride of place on the windshield. Where the windshield decals of Trevor and Sharon or Derek and Tracy adorned Ford Cortinas everywhere at the time, those who would choose to announce their love for one another on their cars, I let the world know that I was in love with my country. We were ready to win the World Cup.
The march had begun in October of the previous year, when we faced Wales away from home. Through an obscurity I have yet to fathom, the game took place at Anfield in Liverpool, (which is not in Wales), and was now the new home for Scotland’s striker, Kenny Dalglish, having just signed for Liverpool FC for a paltry 440,000 pounds earlier that year. It was more than fitting that King Kenny would score the winner against the determined Welsh team and send us on our way. At 10, I was the perfect age for football, reading about it every morning in the Scotsman, playing it every night with my pals and best of all, watching it on the telly. Counting down the days until Christmas was child’s play compared to the torture of waiting some 9 months for the first match in Cordoba to take place.
BBC 1 Scotland would show all the games live. Commentator, Archie Macpherson, most definitely Scottish, was doing his auditory duties, keeping our excitement at fever pitch levels. The wait was over. Finally, our first battle arrived.
I along with the rest of Ally’s Army fully believed this would be no more than a skirmish with the Incas, a way to announce our arrival on the battlefield. Nothing to worry about, at all. On the couch, eyes and ears glued to the telly, scarf around my neck, my uniform on. Ready. I wasn’t privy to too many swear words at that age, however I was rather perplexed at the Scottish teams choice of shorts, navy blue!! What the….?
We started well enough and it wasn’t long before we scored the inevitable first goal, striker Joe Jordan, 1-0 to Scotland, march on. Penalty to Scotland!! Should be 2-0 now. Game over! March on. NO!!! Penalty saved.
The remainder of the match is still too harrowing an experience to relate, even 33 years later. A search on Google will let you know we lost 1-3.
The defeat in our first match was a shock to Ally’s Army, however, we would re-group and continue our march to destiny stronger than ever.
All I can bring myself to write about this shocking debacle is the final score, 1-1 and that the Scottish team, again, wore navy shorts in total contradiction to my uniform.
My mum still had the banner on her van as we went into our final match against arguably one of the best teams in the world, Holland. Our objective: slaughter the Dutch, win by three clear goals. Keep marching….
The Scottish team came out onto the pitch, wearing navy shirts, red socks and WHITE SHORTS. The Dutch scored first and until the 44th minute, it seemed our tartan scarves would be replaced with the white of surrender. King Kenny Dalglish equalized to make it 1-1 at halftime. We now had 45 minutes left to get our three goals. When Archie Gemmill scored his second and one of the greatest World Cup goals EVER to put us up 3-1, the whole country went daft. One more and our march to destiny would surely be fulfilled.
Alas, Dutch legend, Johnny Rep, scored a not unusual 40-yard screamer and our march came to an abrupt end. They and not us then went onto reach the Final for the second time in a row. However, on the day we beat them 3-2, I was not the only one wearing white shorts.
Andrew Linton was raised in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. He is a Liverpool FC supporter, a moderate drinker and teller of tales. Designer for things people need.