Sunday, 8 October 2017

The end of a dream

Back in 1996 I saw all three of Scotland's European final games. A creditable scoreless draw against the Orange machine that included Bogarde, Davids,  Seedorf and Bergkamp set us up for that fateful 2-0 Wembley defeat where Gazza scored in his pomp and Alan Shearer administered the coup d'etat. We trekked back to Villa Park to take on Switzerland needing a win and England to wallop the Dutch. Ally McCoist's rifled home a 25 yarder at the Holte End to put Scotland in front and whilst we needed to improve our goal difference by five over the Dutch to qualify, the Swiss kept us out in the second-half. Meanwhile the Gods were having fun as England scored again and again and got to 4-0 over the Netherlands.  I know this because a tidal wave of noise and chaos swept around Villa Park. It was then that the Gods threw Patrick Kluivert into the fray at Wembley and he scored the consolation goal that put Scotland out.

It had been a hectic eight days and my mates and I committed to France '98 on the back of it. We hired a large place in the countryside outside Bordeaux and based ourselves there for a fortnight. It was a fantastic time as we travelled up to Paris for the opening match of the tournament when "we near-ly beat Brazil, we near-ly beat Brazil." An extraordinary day that lives long my memory. Walking across the Seine at 11am and hearing the strains of "Flower of Scotland" coming from way below on the river. I was staggered to see a fishing boat from my small hometown chugging upstream just to be there.

A 1-1 draw with Norway in Bordeaux left us needing a win against Morrocco in St. Etienne. I drove the minibus across France and back after a demoralising 3-0 humping. It was the end of another finals but we were hooked and all looked forward to many more adventures in the years to come.

I lost count of the qualifying matches I have traipsed around Europe to see since but I threw the towel in last year when I admitted defeat and said I couldn't muster the enthusiasm for another campaign. A couple of others also eased off but tonight there are five of them in Slovenia drowning their sorrows once again. Goal difference,  bloody goal difference! If only Armstrong had booted that ball out of play in the last seconds against England.......

I wouldn't have gone to Russia even if Scotland had qualified and, as for Qatar, you are having a laugh. The corruption of FIFA visited on the world's football fans for eight years. I will be in my 60's before there is any chance of seeing Scotland again in a finals. Who'd a thought it?

3 comments:

jan Robertson said...

Yet another disappointing night. We really should be used to it by now and expect nothing else. But still, we hope.... Jan x

Dave said...

Jan - there's always the Six Nations! Hope all well with you and the family. Dave x.

david nixon said...

Think you could have put your mortgage on it being on goal difference, is there any other way. I watched the game thinking why the hell would you sit so deep trying to defend a lead ,just asking them to come at you.All so inevitable and I'm afraid predictable.