Socrates MacSporran

Socrates MacSporran
No I am not Chick Young, but I can remember when Scottish football was good

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Winning Meaningless Games - A Scottish Speciality

WHEN Scotland beat England 3-2 at Wembley, 50-years ago, I wasn't there – I was playing rugby back in Scotland, but, I was aware of the game – naturally, we Scots were all aware. Back then the annual encounter with England was the only one that mattered.

Sure, I relished Jim Baxter's bit of keepy-uppy. I laughed at the thought of the gallus Fifer inviting Bobby Moore to: “Come and try to take the ba' off me fat boy”. While the thought of the slim one and wee Billy Bremner ganging-up on Allan Ball and dubbing him: “Jimmy Clitheroe” (a popular North of England comedian of the time) as they nutmegged him, still makes me laugh.

The fact that wee Ballie bore his tormentors no ill-will and was great company whenever he met Scots thereafter, speaks volumes for the man.

Any way, as all the Scottish football writers who were not even alive when the game was played were bigging it up, I was thinking – don't you know our football history.

Had we not blown a one-goal lead against Poland at Hampden, we would have qualified for the 1966 World Cup finals. Back then, we had the players capable of going a long way in that competition – we blew it. The 1967 Wembley game was pay-back, but, that one was a no-win for England.

All they had to do was draw and they would have been Home International Champions, we simpy HAD to win it to take the title. Also the game was a European Championship qualifier, unlike the 1928 game – the Wembley Wizards – this one mattered. We won, we were in pole position to qualify for the 1968 European Championship quarter-finals, but, we blew it.

We lost to Northern Ireland, or rather, George Best virtually beat us on his own, then we could only draw 1-1 at Hampden with an experimental England team. These results meant, England and not us qualified, thereby rendering the Wembley result meaningless.

This, of course, is par for the course in Scottish football – we have made stupid ways of losing games or missing-out on big tournaments an art form. He's tae us, wha's like us!!

ONCE again, our referees are under pressure after the weekend's Premiership games. And, needless to say, poor old Willie Collum is front and centre, after his decision to allow that Motherwell “ghost goal” against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

I only saw the goal on Sunday's highlights programme. Of course it wasn't a goal, the ball never crossed the line. But, I would be loath to criticise Catastrophe Collum – he got no help from his assistant, who should have been in position to tell him it wasn't a goal.

But, that decision paled into insignificance when compared to the ridiculous penalty which was awarded to Ross County against Celtic.

Alex Schalk's ridiculous dive must be severely punished, there was clearly no contact and the referee and his assistants were conned. Still a bad decision to give, however.

Then, the old heid-case Scott Brown emerged, with a petulant retaliatory foul on Liam Boyce and a deserved red card. Just when you think Broon is finally growing-up, he reverts to type.

And, while we are discussing silly boys who never grow-up, well done Neil Lennon, for getting Hibs back to the top flight, He will make an interesting league even more interesting next season.

FINALLY, Scottish football lost one of its favourite characters at the weekend, with the death of former St Johnstone staff stalwart Aggie Moffat. Wee Aggie had her 15 minutes of fame when she got stuck into Graeme Souness back in 1991. But, for 27-years, she had quietly, resolutely and doggedly served St Johnstone as tea lady, laundress, cleaner and surrogate mother to the players and staff.

Every Scottish club has its own Aggie Moffat, these women are some of the backbones of the game, and when one stalwart, such as Aggie, dies, the game is poorer for her loss.

THIS post began with a look back at a great Scottish win. We go full circle by finishing with another. Eighty years ago, on17 April, 1937, a still-standing European attendance record, which seems unlikely to ever be beaten was set, when 149,407 fans crammed into Hampden to see Scotland beat England 3-1. This one, like the 1967 win, was meaningless – Wales had already won the Home Internationals, but, that didn't greatly bother the Scots.

After an indifferent first half, in which Freddie Steel put England ahead, and Jerry Dawson made some big saves, Scotland got going after the break. Debutant Frank O'Donnell of Preston North End equalised, before two late Bob McPhail goals saw Scotland home to win the first all-ticket match in Scottish football history.

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